When I leave the Catholic Church, and increasingly I believe that departure is imminent, it will be because of the actions of church leaders like Robert Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Bishop Lynch has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act because the ACA regulations "would require many Catholic institutions and agencies to provide mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptive procedures and medicines."
This, Bishop Lynch, warns, would force:
"...all of our elementary and secondary schools, Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic Hospitals, Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services to name only a small sector of Church agencies affected may be required by August 2013 to provide these services and medicines under federal mandate. A huge piece of the wall of separation between Church and State has been breached and if allowed to stand, one has to wonder what the government might require next. Mandatory abortion coverage sometime in the future should not be discounted by anyone if we allow this regulatory implementation at this moment to go unchallenged."
The Bishop then attacks the president himself. As Roy Peter Clark notes the Bishop is relying on the "familiar rhetoric of Republican opposition" when Lynch writes:
"The lofty and hopeful words of the president … about freedom of and respect for the religious conscience of all have been rendered questionable at best. What a tragedy and what a shame."
Like Clark wondering where the Bishop's outrage was when "corrupt corporations on Wall Street made their bets against working class home owners," I wonder why I am hearing so much from my Church now when I heard so little from it during the child-abuse scandals that rocked so many Catholics' faith?
With the Church's house still in disorder because of that scandal, I must also wonder why Bishop Lynch is wading so deep into public affairs.
Here are some facts, according to an editorial accompanying Lynch's op-ed:
Religious employers are substantially accommodated under the new rules, and they are generally exempt from the contraceptive services mandate. But some enterprises, such as hospitals and universities, which operate under the auspices of a religious entity but are more ecumenical or secular, may not qualify for the exemption.
• These are the criteria for determining whether a religiously affiliated nonprofit employer would be exempt: (1) its purpose is the inculcation of religious values, (2) it primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets, and (3) it primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets. For example, all churches, their integrated auxiliaries and associations of churches, would be exempt as would divinity schools and probably many parochial schools. However, a Catholic hospital that treats people of all faiths and hires on the basis of professional merit — and not religious affiliation — would not be exempt.
In other words, Bishop Lynch is not only wrong to be calling out the president. He's wrong on his facts.
Bishop Lynch's foray into politics is yet another reminder of how I no longer agree with my Church. To say that married couples with multiple children are committing a sin because they rely on birth control is simply out-of-date and plays no part in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
That's why when it comes to matter of faith, I'll still look to my bishop. But when it comes to public policy, I only want to hear from my elected officials.