Friday, September 25, 2015

Meet The New Boss

Pope Francis is a good guy.  We know so for at least two reasons.

His Holiness has criticized laissez-faire capitalism and in July equated the eager pursuit of money with "the dung of the devil."  In the view of author Patricia Miller, his call yesterday "for politicians to work for the common good was an implicit rebuke to the do-nothing, obstructionist GOP agenda that’s in service to their corporatist, Chamber of Commerce overlords."  Moreover, he noted "the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

We know, too, that Francis is a down-to-earth guy because Stephen Colbert says so (below, another of Colbert's humor-free routines, including Catholic dogma, and loved by his audiences which don't realize the joke is on them).  "Welcome, Frank!" exclaimed the sign displayed by Colbert, as the talk-show host attempts to humanize the leader of his church with a facade of irreverence to an audience which adores him for being irreverent.

Additionally,congressional Democrats loved it when the Pope reiterated his call for "the global abolition of the death penalty," a punishment Democrats may not have noticed is nearly obsolete in the USA, anyway.  No doubt mainland China and North Korea, as we speak, were so roused by Francis' words that they have already abolished the practice.

Pope Francis preceded his remarks about capital punishment by asserting "our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” obviously a reference to reproductive freedom.  In due deference to claims of the Pope as one of our own, progressives are somewhat glossing over that.  Fortunately, there is Salon's Tara Culp-Ressler to observe

During his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis extended his solidarity to a group of Catholic nuns who are currently involved in a legal battle over the health care reform law, birth control coverage, and the bounds of religious liberty.

On Wednesday, the pope made an unscheduled visit to the convent of Little Sisters of the Poor, the Colorado-based nuns who filed a complaint against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate in 2013. According to the Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s visit was meant to show “a sign of support for them.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor object to the provision in the health law that requires employers to offer birth control to their workers at no additional cost. The Obama administration has since issued a religious accommodation to that particular provision — allowing employers to submit a form informing the government of their religious objection to birth control, which triggers a workaround so the insurance company directly foots the bill. But the nuns say that filling out that form still violates their religious beliefs.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled against the Little Sisters, concluding that the current accommodation “does not substantially burden their religious exercise.” The Colorado nuns are now hoping to take their case to the Supreme Court.

In his first U.S. address on Wednesday morning, which was mainly focused on climate change, the pope gave a public nod to these ongoing fights over religious accommodations in the wake of health care reform. In the first several paragraphs of his prepared remarks, Francis implored the U.S. government to consider the beliefs of American Catholics and “respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.”

That evening, Bill O'Reilly gloated in what he considered a rebuke to President Obama. Further, it does appear that with this remark about religious liberty, an untrammeled right of Catholics (and Protestants) for generations in the USA, the Pope's visit to an outfit which refuses to lift a finger to comply with a requirement of the federal government was no coincidence.

Before the Little Sisters lost in the federal appeals court, it had been granted an injunction by the U.S. Supreme Court following its loss in a U.S. District Court.  There, the majority opinion explained "although plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieved them from complicity." The Judge noted "most religious claimants allege that a generally applicable law or policy without a religious exception burdens religious exercise."

You might think most organizations would have welcomed an opportunity to uphold their principles by merely filling out a form. That was not good enough for the Little Sisters of  the Poor, which demanded its own private exemption, an interpretation for a group which claims a particular (questionable) religious perspective.  It is not only an absurd reading of the First Amendment but a brazen rebuke to the Establishment Clause.   Admittedly, "carve out an exemption for us" is not an unusual demand of an elitist organization.

In this case, it's an elitist organization with so little sense of patriotism that, with a President bending over backwards to accompany it, it says: go suck an egg.

It is now, however, an organization privileged to have have been granted an audience with the head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. It is a reminder that when the Pope has his lovely photo-ops, including having a meal with homeless people, we can rest assured that when it comes to a basic right of half the population, it's  really the same old Vatican.

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