Catholic schools and hospitals aren't substantively different from secular ones.

What Women Really Think
Feb. 8 2012 12:02 PM

The Realities Vs. The Myths of Catholic-Affiliated Institutions

Notre Dame.
The leprechaun and cheerleaders for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish run onto the field before a game

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With all the fussing going on over the Obama administration's sensible refusal to carve out huge exceptions in their new contraception rules for religious-affiliated institutions that serve the public, I fear that there are a lot of misperceptions floating about regarding what it is that Catholic-affiliated hospitals and universities are really like, or how actual Catholics feel about this situation. Some numbers are helpful. Twenty-eight states already require religious-affiliated institutions that serve the public to offer equal insurance coverage as non-religious institutions offering the same services.The tragic results predicted by anti-choice hysterics have not come to pass because of this. The notion that Catholics as a group are offended by these regulations is also false; a poll run by Public Policy Polling found that 53 percent of Catholics support the administration on this, which isn't substantively different than the population at large.The group who actually opposes the ruling are evangelical Christians, as a poll from the Public Research Institute found. Only 38 percent of evangelical Christians want the coverage.

So the divide here isn't between Catholics and non-Catholics, but religious fanatics and non-fanatics. You might not realize it from all the wailing about how Obama offended the Catholics, but most Catholics aren't actually sex-phobic religious fanatics. They use contraception and have abortions at the same rate as everyone else, in fact. The hyper-conservative representatives of the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops cannot be equated with American Catholics, any more than the Branch Davidians can be considered representative of Texans as a group.

Advertisement

The notion that the culture of Catholic-affiliated universities and hospitals is substantively different than secular or Protestant ones, and thus deserves some kind of special dispensation from having to obey the law, is something that direct experience with these institutions should immediately disprove. I personally went to a Catholic-affiliated university, and the reason that it was a fine fit for my atheist self was that "Catholic-affiliated" is basically meaningless when it comes to the daily business of a university. Culturally, there was no real difference between my school and a secular school. We had a LGBT group, co-ed dorms, no curfews, and while I was there our school theater did a performance of The Rocky Horror Show. Half the students and staff weren't even Catholic, and of those who were, most were like self-identified Catholics everywhere, which is to say not particularly interested in the church's extremist doctrines. The cafeteria served meat on Fridays during Lent. Campus entertainment, such as free movies and parties, was exactly like at secular universites. I remember sitting on a blanket on a warm summer night watching Pulp Fiction as it was projected on a wall on campus. My friends who went to private Catholic school in high school would often joke that they had better sex ed than you get in public schools. The only thing from the secular world that the USCCB cares to take a stand on is contraception, which suggests that this isn't about religion at all, but just about controlling women. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 11:36 AM Breaking Up Countries Is Still Hard to Do
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 19 2014 11:37 AM Why Urban Outfitters and Other Brands Troll Their Customers
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 19 2014 11:32 AM Why Do Pirates Talk Like That?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 11:40 AM Apple Invented the Perfect Way to Handle Your Giant New Phone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM The Curious Incident of the Supernova in the Nighttime
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.