Tuesday, February 07, 2012

At the Crossroads

I am in a tricky spot these days. Our diocese is about to undertake a huge reorganization of parishes (still in the consultant phase) which is meant to cut the number of pastors in half, reduce the number of extraneous pieces of real estate, join parishes together in fundraising and Mass attendance, and reduce redundancies (aka... STAFF!). Suddenly a large part of my job is getting the word out about these plans (much more to it than I'm listing here) to our parishioners and gather feedback. So I find myself in this weird position of trying to communicate the possible future to people, all the while knowing that possible future might mean that my job is gone.
On top of that, last night in a meeting at the parish someone mentioned the conscience laws that are being challenged by the president, which would insist that all companies (except church/parishes) would have to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Already the law change would not apply to me or my fellow co-workers, and honestly I don't even know anyone who would want that kind of coverage from the parish for whom they work. But this week, the Cardinal published a letter with a threat included that if the law passes, the Church will be forced to either go against their own conscience or to STOP PROVIDING HEALTH INSURANCE TO ITS EMPLOYEES.
Remember, this rule already doesn't apply to me and my colleagues. In Fact, Cardinal Sean's threat is empty: it's against the law for Massachusetts citizens to go without health insurance, so if the Church doesn't provide it, its employees will have to turn to another source. By law, of course, any alternative source will have to cover things like contraception. Far from barring his employees from contraceptive coverage, Cardinal Sean will be forcing it upon us.
To me, it's a clear sign that the Cardinal doesn't trust that his employees, even if offered this benefit, wouldn't necessarily use it. (Of course, he's probably right about that!) And it's also a sign that he doesn't have any confidence in his ability to persuade his employees to do the right thing through teaching the Truth of the faith. He doesn't believe that what the Church teaches about contraception will bear any weight, and he doesn't believe that his word has any weight. He is only able to find persuasive power in threats. If he's right about that, then we are indeed in bad shape.
My husband and I will not be able to pay for our own health insurance, and will have to end our ministries in the Church. In fact, I don't know anyone who works for a parish who could pay for their own insurance for the rest of their ministerial careers.
So last night, there I was leading a parish meeting when this bill was brought up, and the parishioner who mentioned it urged us all to contact our representatives. Was it wrong for me to mention the Cardinal's threat? Or to urge them that while they're contacting the government, they might also call the Cardinal's office and remind him how wrong it would be to cancel the insurance and therefore the ministries of the employees who sat before them?
I don't know. I am not sure what my right response is to all this. And I do want to do what's right. If I'm going to lose this job, I want to leave it having fought for justice. I don't want to bite my tongue to keep my job, like I have done in varying degrees for so long. I want to do the Lord's work. I know that in this archdiocese, it's risky even blogging about this, exposing my own opinions. I guess we'll (pray) what happens.


HerMajesty00 said...

Every day we all pay taxes, all of us, and plenty of that money goes for goods and services which are moeally abhorrent....weapons of mass destruction, paychecks for corrupt politicians, policies that give no regard to native peoples or the environment.It is our moral imperative that we protest, work for change, make our voices heard and be a PART of that change. It is not our job however NOT to pay our taxes!
Why healthcare?...my concern is, what a great cost saving measure for the archdiosese.
Should all Catholics move out of their homestate if that state has capital punishment? Would it not be better instead to get into elected office, offer protest, etc?

On A Windy Night said...

Thanks for posting about this, Margo. I have been thinking about it all week.

It's been reminding me about the uproar after the Boston Globe broke the news that Boston Catholic Charities had allowed a small number of children to be adopted by same-sex couples after Massachusetts allowed gay marriage. Cardinal O'Malley's demand that this no longer be allowed led to the resignation of seven CC board members, but ultimately led to the adoption agency ceasing completely, since MA adoption agencies were required to abide by anti-discrimination laws. It was shocking that instead of trying to work within the system, the service would just be completed abolished.

Threatening to completely remove insurance for church and church-affiliated organizations seems like such an extreme threat, especially since as you mentioned, it is an empty one and would actually force employees to get private insurance elsewhere which would cover contraceptives.

And interestingly, in the state of Washington, an almost identical law exists at the state-level which requires birth control in most health plans that include prescription drugs, and has been in place since 2002. Churches can be exempt, but all the major Catholic colleges, hospitals, etc. are not, and therefore places like Seattle University offer health plans which cover contraceptives for their employees. So this has already been in effect for a decade here. That leaves it up to the employees of these organizations, then, to decide whether or not to use birth control.

Although I can see valid points on each side, I have been worried about how the rhetoric has so quickly elevated to high stakes threats, which would most hurt the employees who do so much to help their local communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic...

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Margo!