Catholics and the Duties of Religious Freedom
This right is not exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it exclude Catholics
The Health and Human Services mandate puts us in a fiendish dilemma: it tells us that for us to serve Our Lord in the sick, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we must rebel against the same Lord in supporting acts that are intrinsically vicious. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God." The HHS mandate is clearly and without question an unjust law. It is a law against the common good.
This right is not exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it exclude Catholics.
Yet in January of this year, in an unprecedented move, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a federal mandate which requires all employers-including Catholic hospitals, colleges, schools, adoption agencies, and other of the Catholic Church's charitable institutions -to provide and fund practices that go against the Catholic Church's moral teachings, and not only against her teachings but against the natural moral law that binds all men.
In effect, the federal mandate requires that the Church-if she is to continue her ministry to all peoples-to fund, support, and facilitate access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to the employees employed in her charitable institutions.
The move by HHS is fiendish. It seems calculated to put the Church on the horns of a dilemma, to force it into a moral quandary.
It is a fundamental principle of the natural law that one is never to do evil so that good may come. This is particularly true for intrinsic evils. Nothing justifies an act of murder, of rape, of genocide. These are intrinsic evils.
The Church, of course, whether you agree with her or not, sees the things it is being compelled to support, to fund, to promote by the HHS mandate in the same category. We may never, never, never do an intrinsic evil-something against the natural moral law-no matter what the good we may think may come of it.
This is not a matter of prudential judgment. We are not utilitarians where everything is up for compromise. This is an absolute, exceptionless norm.
So the HHS mandate as currently written compels, under the force of law, Church-affiliated organizations to do something intrinsically evil, something not only against The Church's religious doctrine, but something against the natural moral law, something universally wrong, something clearly against the common good, something inhuman.
It puts us in a fiendish dilemma: it tells us that for us to serve Our Lord in the sick, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we must rebel against the same Lord in supporting acts that are intrinsically vicious.
Confronted with such a dilemma. What are we to do?
Now the New Testament does not have a lot specifically to say about politics. But it does provide us two principles that stand in constant tension. There are two "poles" between which we must sail.
The first: St. Paul states that Christians should be subject to the governing authorities, "for there is no authority except that which has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Rom. 13:1) We are a lawful people.
The second principle we find in St. Peter: "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) We are a Godly people
When do we obey man? When do we obey God and not man?
Scripture gives us an intermediating principle: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God." (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
So we have to figure whether the HHS mandate, is clearly and without question a usurpation by Caesar.
And it is. It is an unjust law. It is a law against the common good.
How do we know?
We might here invoke Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famed Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which in a nutshell states what persons of conscience should do when confronting an unjust law:
"I would agree with Saint Augustine that 'An unjust law is no law at all.' Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law."
Following Reverend King who enunciates perennial principles, the HHS mandate is no law. It is not binding on the conscience.
Indeed, it is an anti-law, an act of raw usurpation by a Leviathan state. It must be resisted.
We have a duty, on behalf not only of the Church, but on behalf of all Americans to resist it.
Now, this is a fight the Church did not seek. HHS drew first blood. It is a fight that has been foisted upon her and through the Church upon all Americans.
How are we to resist this anti-law?
In his play on St. Thomas More, "A Man for All Seasons," the playwright Robert Bolt has St. Thomas More say the following:
"God made angels to show him splendor-as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind! If he suffers us to fall to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and yes, . . . then we may clamor like champions . . . if we have the spittle for it. . . . . But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to that extremity! Our natural business lies in escaping-."
The Church has made substantial efforts to serve God "wittily," in the "tangle" of the law, to "escape" the confrontation that the Obama administration thrust upon her.
Compromise was sought from the Obama administration, but ultimately that proved fruitless. The Obama administration said, "No, this is our plan."
So the Church decided to say "no" to the Obama administration's "no," and to resist through the Rule of Law.
The Church turned to the legislative process. The Church supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have essentially undercut the mandate. Unfortunately, largely along party lines, the Senate voted 51 to 48 against the Blunt Amendment.
So the problem went unsolved through the legislative process.
The Church then sought recourse from the Courts. In May, a number of groups sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alleging that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
That is where the matter now rests. Until the various courts decide, or until the whole thing becomes moot if the Supreme Court finds the ObamaCare unconstitutional.
There also remains the election in November. We can-to quote the Texas politician Bob Gammage-"throw the rascals out" that are responsible for this. That will send a message to Washington that this sort of governance will not be tolerated.
But what if these efforts are successful? What if ObamaCare passes Constitutional muster? What if the HHS mandates are sustained by the federal courts? What if legislative relief is not available? What if the current administration wins another term so that the mandate cannot be changed through the election process?
It is then that we must "stand to our tackle as best we can, and yes, . . . then we may clamor like champions." We take heart in the words of George Washington, who said that it was "the establishing of . . . Religious Liberty [that] was the Motive that induced me to the Field [of battle]."
But this is a contest not to be prayed for.
Let us rather stand with our bishops, put confidence in our Courts, and in our electorate to side-step the problem.
Let us also make all Americans aware, in peaceful demonstrations, that Catholics, that Christians of all stripes, that believers of all colors were not born with "saddles on their backs" so that they could be ridden where they will not go, where they ought not go, where conscience forbids them to go, by "a favored few booted and spurred," bureaucrats in Washington, "ready to ride them legitimately," by the genius of a godless Caesar.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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