One of the benefits of having been among the first wave of Monty Python fans when the BBC comedy first hit these shores is that some of their skits, such as the one about Déjà Vu, hang around in the dim recesses of one's memory.
Then, a modern-day news article pops up to bring this to the forefront.
My thanks, then to the Washington Post for reminding me of a funny bit of comedic brilliance. Sad to say, brilliance is not the word that comes to mind when reading their recent report on a group of Roman Catholic business owners suing to block an Obama administration rule it claims would force Catholic doctors and hospitals to perform "gender reassignment" surgery in contravention of church teachings.
From the article:
Gay and transgender rights groups said the health rule offers critical protections for transgender people because they often struggle to receive appropriate care from physicians and hospitals.
“What the rule says is if you provide a particular service to anybody, you can’t refuse to provide it to anyone,” said Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. That means a transgender person who shows up at an emergency room with something as basic as a twisted ankle cannot be denied care, as sometimes happens, Warbelow said. That also means if a doctor provides breast reconstruction surgery or hormone therapy, those services cannot be denied to transgender patients seeking them for gender dysphoria, she said.
To its credit, the Post doesn't introduce the pro-directive side until the fifth paragraph, but the HRC attorney gets to share their viewpoint before the Catholic side gets its spokesman heard.
Couple that with a photo of trans-rights protestors leading the online version, and it's not difficult to imagine a soupçon of "Kellerism" (click here for more on this GetReligion term) had jumped on the Amtrak Acela express train from the Manhattan quarters of The New York Times to drop in on the Post's offices. One gets the sense that the only "right" approach here is to accept what the Obama administration wants done. Right now.
At least the Post allows readers to hear from the Catholic Benefits Association, one of the plaintiffs in this latest case:
But the Catholic groups contend that the rule forces doctors to provide services that may conflict with their religious beliefs or professional judgment. Douglas Wilson, chief executive of the Catholic Benefits Association, said in a statement that Catholic hospitals already care for patients in a way that does not discriminate.
“Catholic hospitals provide compassionate care to everyone, regardless of status. Patients experiencing gender dysphoria deserve no less,” said Wilson, whose group includes 880 Catholic hospitals, colleges and businesses. “The prime ethic of any healthcare provider is do no harm. These regulations do the opposite.”
The groups also allege the rule will force doctors and hospitals to perform abortions against their faith.
As the story notes, transgender issues are a hot-button topic, having inspired lawsuits against an Education Department regulation on bathroom access earlier this year, and a pending Supreme Court case of a Virginia high school student who wasn't permitted to use the boy's bathroom.
But what the article doesn't note is either the Catholic theological positions at play here, any explanation of why the Catholic groups believe that performing gender reassignment surgery, for example, violates the "do no harm" clause of the Hippocratic oath. There's no questioning of whether, or how, Catholic teachings on gender and sexuality come into play here, no chapter-and-verse, no reaching out to any Catholic theologian -- pro or con -- on these questions, no relevant quote from Pope Francis (and there are many). Oh, and religious-liberty issues are in the news these days, as well.
The reader -- well, this reader, at least -- is left with the impression that Catholics aren't much more than killjoys, out to repress individual choice and gender identity. Doesn't the pope read National Geographic, for pity's sake?
The funny thing is, there's this whole enclave of press-friendly Catholic thinkers not all that far from the Post's precincts -- the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Not to mention the Catholic Information Center, whose website helpfully has a press resource page. Or the Catholic University of America. Or the Archdiocese of Washington. Or ... well, you get the idea.
Surely someone, somewhere among these four institutions (among others in the vicinity, let alone the nation) could offer a soundbite or two as to why Catholics (and others) might not want to accept the healthcare rule because of a spiritual principle or doctrine at issue.
Leaving this out, while setting forth the assertions of one side in the argument, deprives readers of key facts that might influence their own reaction. As your GetReligionistas frequently note, this approach resembles public relations more than journalism.