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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

43 Catholic institutions sue Obamacare: Why so few?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/us/catholic-groups-file-suits-on-contraceptive-coverage.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120522

“43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies. …All the plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by the law firm Jones Day. “

At first, this seems like solidarity, but note two things: first of all, legal costs aren’t the issue because this is a pro bono case. Second, 43 Roman Catholic institutions isn’t that many.

There are 194 dioceses.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_Catholic_dioceses_of_the_United_States

There are 251 Catholic colleges that are members of the ACCU   http://www.accunet.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3489

There are more than 400 Catholic hospitals in the United States http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Number_of_catholic_hospitals_in_North_America 

It would be hard to get a count of “social service agencies and other institutions”, so it’s hard to do an accurate percentage estimate, but any way you slice it this lawsuit has only attracted a minority of the Roman Catholic entities that may be responsible for offering employee health insurance.

What does this mean?  I think we might as well start with the obvious: only a relatively small number of even the Catholic “hierarchy” have a problem with this requirement. And judging from the actual use of contraception by Catholics, it would seem like the laity as a whole would be likely not to have a problem with it.

It’s possible that the upper levels of the American hierarchy, seeing their moral authority declining with the pedophilia scandals in diocese after diocese, are looking for some litmus test to rally the troops around.  This one isn’t ideal, but maybe it’s the handiest one right now.

The fact that so few bishops (each diocese is headed by a bishop/archbishop) seem to be jumping on board seems to mean that there’s nowhere near universal agreement that this is the place to be making the stand.

At least, that’s what this says to me.