NPR Topics: U.S.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012


@Tom Quinn: Recently in a commencement  address Father Jenkins in an indirect way addressed the  tone  of current political discussions and urged  for civility, a message  with which I agree.    In the words of  President Obama, "we can disagree, without being disagreeable".      

Professor Duffy's letter has generated a debate, such as between the two of us.   In particular, I noticed that you have  tried to understand  my  objections, and I    have tried my best to  understand yours.  And we did this without insulting each other. I would say this is a positive thing.

I will try to go one by one through the various issues you raised.

1. You are right that federal law  does not mandate employers to provide  health insurance to its employees,  but once such benefits are offered, the law requires that the employer adhere to federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment..  Market laws   in a sense  encourage employers to offer such benefits or else they would not be able to  stay competitive.     The University of Notre Dame  could not be ranked as high as it is  if it could not attract  top faculty, which it could not if it  did not offer  insurance  or guaranteed academic freedom.  Moreover, the University  of Notre Dame, unlike other private entities,   benefits from the Federal Government     generosity   from  research grants, student loans and grants. (For example,  the research grants awarded  to Notre Dame faculty   added up to more than 100 million.)  This   helps the University but   it adds a layer of responsibility towards people that do not have the same beliefs as you.

Currently, about 80%   of Catholics and    and a larger percentage of non-Catholics use contraceptives. That includes  a majority of Notre Dame  employees. Should  the University stop paying salaries   because it could be used for purchasing contraceptives?    Should  the health insurance  stop paying  for a  visit to a doctor that  results in a prescription for contraceptives, even though   the cost of those contraceptive is  covered by the employee, not the insurance? Arguably, one cannot get contraceptives legally without a prescription or without paying.   Where does this prohibition stop?

2. I try to be more concrete   on the issue  of   disconnect  between  the Church and its followers.  All the  Catholics  that  I know (they are many) are appalled   at    the   sexual abuse scandals and are in favor of more transparency. They all believe that this scandal  distracts from    all the great service the Church provides to the less fortunate amongst us.

Apparently this message is not resonating with some of the higher-ups in the Church.      Also  there is an obvious disconnect  between  the Church's message  on contraceptives and the  80% of American catholics that use them.

In Europe, the disconnect is even higher.  Over the last decade  applications for priesthood in Spain, arguably one of the most Catholic  countries, dropped by 25%. This week  there  was a meeting  in Dublin of the Association  of Catholic Priests discussing precisely this disconnect.

There is a tremendous cultural change going on, and I can  observe that in my students.     They  are embracing the  cultural changes at a faster rate than the Church.  And they are the future.