Will Obama really retreat over his edict that Catholic institutions must provide contraception? Probably not. And how will US Catholics vote then?

Why does one bother? In the wake of Rick Santorum’s recent hat-trick and the reports of his splendidly eloquent onslaught on Obama’s recent edict—that under his administration’s Health Care Act any provider of health care (including Catholic institutions) must be prepared to supply artificial contraception (including drugs which, though labelled contraceptive, are in fact abortifacient)—I came across, googling around, the following attack on me on an American website. The attack was provoked by my pointing out the absurdity of Santorum’s saying that the NHS had “devastated” the UK and that its economic effect was partly responsible for the collapse of the British Empire. I called this “deranged”: it might have been better to say simply grossly ignorant. However, I also made it clear that I rather liked the cut of Santorum’s jib (American politicians, after all, don’t need to know much about the UK, and rarely do). I also said what every informed US commentator also says — that he’s unelectable: I regard this as unfortunate, since the re-election of Obama, given the sheer awfulness of Mitt Romney (who everyone assumes will get the Republican nomination) is probably now an inevitable disaster, not only for the US but for all of us. This general assessment attracted the following, from an American website called QED:

Odd William Oddie

Catholic Herald UK had a hit-piece on Rick Santorum today where the author says that Santorum cannot win the election against Obama because he is too free-market, and is “deranged” {his word} about the National Health Service in Britain. Mr. Oddie seems to think that socialized medicine that kills people by delaying surgery is right in line with orthodox Catholicism, just as how most American bishops think destroying the American economy by flooding it with illegal aliens is right in line with orthodox Catholicism. The odd William Oddie seems to think a pro-abortion liberal like Romney or Obama, so long as they pay for your substandard healthcare, is preferable to a pro-life conservative who would have you make your own healthcare decisions.

I didn’t, of course, say Santorum was unelectable because he’s too free-market, nor indeed did I say almost anything else this person says I said (he seems to have just made most of it up): but what the heck? It’s just another loony blog, so what does it matter?

Meanwhile, back to Obama: he, unfortunately, is a continuing reality which does matter. There are now reports that he is trying to find a way of retreating from his anti-Catholic stance, fearful of losing the Catholic vote. One site, The Week, reports that “President Obama is taking flak from religious institutions and Republican presidential candidates over his decision to make employers, including Catholic universities and hospitals, cover contraception in their employees’ health insurance plans. Hoping to avoid a backlash, White House aides are promising to look at ways to make the policy ‘more palatable’ to religious-affiliated institutions”. That doesn’t mean, however, that Obama is going to change the ruling substantially, and I bet he doesn’t.

The fact is that if he does, he will offend US liberals, who also have votes, and actually rather like Obama’s anti-Christian, and especially his anti-Catholic, policies. The Week suggests the following four reasons why Obama’s birth control ruling “might actually help him secure a second term”: in other words why he couldn’t care less about what the US bishops, let alone Rick Santorum, have to say about anything:

1. It exposes Mitt Romney to fresh flip-flopper charges

Romney, Obama’s most likely Republican rival in the fall, has blasted Obama’s plan as an “assault on religion.” But that “wasn’t exactly Flipper’s position back in 2005,” says John Aravosis at America Blog. Back then, a strongly pro-choice Romney was already “demanding that insurance companies cover contraceptives.” Team Obama argues that “it’s the ultimate hypocrisy that Mitt Romney is hitting the president for the same birth control policy he oversaw and protected as governor” of Massachusetts….

2. Republican candidates are infighting over the issue

Instead of focusing on Obama, Republicans are wounding each other over the contraception mandate. Rick Santorum has used the issue to “level one of his harshest attacks on Mitt Romney,” says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. According to Santorum, Romney “trounced on the fundamental right to religious freedom” with similar measures in Massachusetts….

3. It could help Obama win over women voters.

Team Obama probably has good reason to believe that “any political damage will be limited” if the president says he’s “on the side of women’s rights,” say Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons at the Los Angeles Times….

4. And many Catholics actually agree with Obama

While more than 150 Roman Catholic bishops have criticized Obama’s birth control mandate, a recent Public Religion Research Institute study found that says Lauren Fox at U.S. News & World Report. In fact, six in 10 U.S. Catholics support the requirement, making it even more popular among Catholics than in the general population.

That last assertion is what makes my heart sink most: is it true? There have been claims that whatever ilberal Catholics think on the issue of artificial contraception, all US Catholics are now standing shoulder to shoulder over what they see as Obama’s anti-Catholic attack and will therefore vote against him in the Presidential election: but is that true? Or is it just whistling in the dark?

Seen from this side of the pond, it’s difficult to tell. All I have to go on are the internet and Fox News (which though I find it terrifically enjoyable I suspect may not be entirely dispassionate). So I appeal for information from American Catholics: how will you all vote? Is it really true that US Catholics “overwhelmingly support the new rules”? If so, the re-election of Obama is the least of the Church’s worries. Life in this world will always be a vale of tears, one way or another, with Obama or without him. But what about the next?