By Fr. George Welzbacher
February 12, 2012
"If in the greenwood it is so, what will it be in the dry?" These words of Our Lord (Luke 23:31) kept resounding in my ears as I was reading Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan's splendid response (printed here in the Pastor's Page last week) to Mr. Obama's latest violation of our Constitution's First Amendment, with its guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. In particular the very last sentence in Archbishop Dolan's rejoinder lingers in the mind: "When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation ONE SHUDDERS TO THINK WHAT LIES AHEAD." Indeed, if President Barack Obama, almost on the eve of an "up-for-grabs" election and in defiance of a protest voiced by some sixty thousand Protestant Evangelicals together with numerous Jewish rabbis and America's entire body of Catholic bishops, chose nevertheless to demand, under pain of ruinous fines, that religious institutions serving the common good -think Catholic schools, colleges, hospitals and social service agencies - must repudiate their basic convictions in order to be ALLOWED to continue to serve - if the president dares to impose such a mandate precisely now, when his hold on power is seen as precarious, what further surprises will be pulled out of the hat in the course of a SECOND term? I can think of no presidential election since that of 1860 (during the run-up to the Civil War) that can compete for importance with this November's election in terms of preserving the integrity of our Republic. One may perhaps be permitted to offer an adaptation of Marc Antony's words (from his eulogy on behalf of Caesar): "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now." Rather: "If you have prayers, prepare to say them now." The republic we have known and LOVED is under assault.
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That this is an issue of concern not merely to Catholics but to all Americans who look to the Constitution for guidance is eloquently attested in a letter to the editor that appeared in the Wall Street Journal for February 1, 2012.
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The Government's Coercion of the Catholic Conscience
The Wall Street Journal, Letters to the Editor,
February 1, 2012
New York's Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan sums it up aptly in "Obama-Care and Religious Freedom" (op-ed, Jan .25) when he states that "one shudders to think what lies ahead." The Obama administration's decision to force Catholic-related health plans to cover contraception [including abortifacients and sterilization procedures], is an astounding affront to our freedom. The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes contraception and many non-Catholics cringe at the thought of abortion-like pills that can be considered contraceptives.
I am NOT Catholic, but I highly value the freedom within MY religion to practice as MY conscience dictates. I want nothing more than that the government STAY OUT OF MY CHURCH AND RESPECT THE CONSTITUTION'S BILL OF RIGHTS. Apparently, this is no longer a concern for our current administration. What's next? Will it be unsafe for Catholics and members of other religions to speak from their pulpits about sin in America? Can secularists and conservative Christians, Muslims and Jews no longer disagree on abortion, drunkenness, adultery or homosexuality? These topics are no less controversial than requiring contraceptives be covered by a health plan.
Like many, I had high hopes for President Obama. Sadly, his philosophy seems to be that government always trumps the individual. It will no longer be an individual choice to select an insurance plan that matches one's conscience, just as it will no longer be the choice of a religious institution to function WITHIN its EXISTING faith.
Even more sadly, this destruction of individual liberties continues to feed an erosion in personal responsibility. After all, if the government tells us what to do and that it will take care of everything for us, why would we bother to be responsible? What will motivate us to take care of each other as we should when we know we have a government to do it instead? How can we make decisions about our conscience when the government DENIES OUR RIGHT to conscience?
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Food for thought comes in this report from the Star Tribune for February 3rd (from an article by Julie Pace of the Associated Press):
WASHINGTON-Blending politics and religion, President Obama said his Christian faith is a driving force behind his .... policies.... Obama's remarks Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast were his most explicit account of how his personal religious beliefs factor into his decision-making on the nation's pressing problems.... Speaking to more than 3,000 people at the annual breakfast, Obama said "FAITH AND VALUES" should play AS MUCH role in tackling the nation's challenges as SOUND decision- making and SMART policies.... The White House said the president's remarks were not meant to be political.....
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Question.- Can a faith be described as genuinely Christian if it can be changed at the government's command?
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And Peggy Noonan, with her usual wit and insight, offered her comment on this latest manifestation of that "fundamental transformation" of our society whose achievement, Mr. Obama himself has told us, is his Presidency's number one goal.
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A Battle the President Can't Win
By: Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
February 4, 2012
The big political news of the week... took place in Washington . That's where a bomb went off that not many in the political class heard, or understood.
But President Obama just may have lost the election.
The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, Catholic institutions-including charities, hospitals, and schools-will be required by law, for the first time EVER to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion- inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business.
In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore.
I invite you to imagine the moment we are living in without the church's charities, hospitals and schools. And if you know anything about those organizations, you know it is a fantasy that they can afford millions in fines.
There was no reason to make this ruling-none. Except ideology.
The conscience clause, which keeps the church itself from having to bow to such decisions, has always been assumed to cover the church's institutions.
Now the church is fighting back. Priests in an estimated 70% of parishes last Sunday came forward to read strongly worded protests from the church's bishops. The ruling asks the church to abandon Catholic principles and beliefs; it is an abridgment of the First Amendment; it is not acceptable. They say they will not bow to it. They should never bow to it, not only because they are Catholic and cannot be told to take actions that deny their faith, but because they are citizens of the United States.
If they stay strong and fight, they will win. This is in fact a potentially unifying moment for American Catholics, long split left, right and center. Catholic conservatives will immediately and fully oppose the administration's decision. But Catholic liberals, who feel embarrassed and undercut, have also come out in opposition.
The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don't want that. They will unite against that.
The smallest part of this story is political. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States. In 2008 they made up 27% of the electorate, about 35 million people. Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. They helped him win.
They won't this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.
There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney's gaffes a little bitty thing.
There was nothing for the President to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.
Enjoy it while you can, you have awakened a sleeping giant.
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[Let's pray that she's right).
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