The right to be jerks

Sam Smith

There is no doubt that on the matter of birth control – not to mention the status of women and gays – the Catholic hierarchy behaves like a bunch of mean jerks.

One of the beauties of America, however, is the right to be a jerk as long as you don’t interfere with someone else’s right to be a jerk.  In more polite circles it’s called reciprocal liberty or tolerance.

But the term tolerance has all but disappeared from the the rhetoric of both left and right. This is too bad for a number of reasons including that it diminishes people’s rights, it increases their anger, and it doesn’t work. One reason it doesn’t work is because people don’t typically move from a stupid to a reasonable position as a single act of conversion; it often takes them a while during which the most effective approach is to keep them moving in the right direction.

In the case of the Catholic Church, for example,  98% of its members in America are ahead of their leaders on the issue of birth control. Now, the tone deaf Obama administration has issued birth control regulations that play right into the hands of the tone deaf Catholic hierarchy giving it a cause around which to revive itself. And, of course, it plays right into the hands of the likes of Mitt Romney who has clearly forgotten the words of the Mormon apostle Orson Pratt:

“The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church is the great corrupt ecclesiastic power, represented by great Babylon which has made all nations drunk with her wickedness, and she must fall, after she has been warned with the sound of the everlasting gospel. Her overthrow will be by a series of the most terrible judgments which will quickly succeed each other, and sweep over the nations where she has her dominion, and at last she will be utterly burned by fire, for thus hath the Lord spoken. Great, and fearful, and most terrible judgments are decreed upon these corrupt powers, the nations of modern Christendom; for strong is the Lord God who shall execute His fierce wrath upon them, and He will not cease until He has made a full end, and until their names be blotted out from under heaven.”

Before it was run by lawyers and MBAs, politics used to be a lot more like music. It wasn’t just a matter of the right notes, but the right sound, the right volume, the right rhythm and the right swing.

Having been raised on that sort of politics, my immediate reaction to the Obama birth control regulation was, “Oh shit, they blew another one.”

Then I went and Googled how far apart the Planned Parenthood offices in my nearby city of Portland, ME, were from the fine Catholic Mercy Hospital. It turns out that if you were at Mercy – where  an inquiry on its site about contraception produces “Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here,” – the distance is 2.4 miles, which will take you about 5 minutes. Here’s a map in case you’re in the ‘hood and in a hurry:

I’ve long suspected that Barack Obama wasn’t much of a community organizer, because part of that skill is not in proving how righteous you are, but in helping others move in the right direction. This is an sad example of how not to do it.

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