Peter Shrugged

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Year in and year out, the Catholic Church in this country, as well as around the globe, is the largest single private provider of charitable services to the poor.  However, what if a government makes it impossible for the Church to carry out her mission? The Church in America with the HHS Mandate is facing just such a dilemma, and Francis Cardinal George of the Chicago Archdiocese tells us what to expect:

The Lenten rules about fasting from food and abstaining from meat have been considerably reduced in the last forty years, but reminders of them remain in the fast days on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and in the abstinence from meat on all the Fridays of Lent. Beyond these common sacrifices that unite us spiritually to the passion of Christ, Catholics were and are encouraged to “give up” something voluntarily for the sake of others. Often this is money that could have been used for personal purposes and instead is given to help others, especially the poor.   This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must “give up” her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice. It is the consequence of the already much discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year.

 Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church’s mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.

 So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.

 What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.

 In the public discussion thus far, efforts have been made to isolate the bishops from the Catholic faithful by focusing attention exclusively on “reproductive” issues. But the acrimony could as easily focus next year or the year after on assisted suicide or any other moral issue that can be used to distract attention from the attack on religious liberty. Many will recognize in these moves a tactic now familiar in our public life: those who cannot be co-opted are isolated and then destroyed. The arguments used are both practical and theoretical.

 Practically, we’re told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin.

 Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.

 Since 1915, the Catholic bishops of the United States have taught that basic health care should be accessible to all in a just society. Two years ago, we asked that whatever instruments were crafted to care for all, the Hyde and Weldon and Church amendments restricting funding for abortion and respecting institutional conscience continue to be incorporated into law. They were excluded. As well, the present health care reform act doesn’t cover entire sections of the U.S. population. It is not universal.

 The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

 The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack.

Catholics in this country, and all of our fellow Americans who prize freedom, have been given an opportunity this year due to the hubris and arrogance of the Obama administration.  So drunk with power, so contemptuous of those who oppose them, the Obama administration announced the HHS Mandate at the beginning of an election year and not after the elections.  It is up to us to make the most of this opportunity, or most Catholic institutions serving the poor likely will have to shut down, and we will find this merely the opening salvo from an anti-Catholic administration that will no longer have to face the voters again. 


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  1. I am so depressed in having read this. But at the recent Ignited by Truth conference in Raleigh, NC over this weekend, speaker Michael Barber of the Sacred Page reminded us that Jesus Himself lost the only election He was ever in when in the courtyard before Pontius Pilate the “peepul” cried for Barabbas to be freed. It’s interesting what Barabbas means, as Mr. Barber explained it: the son of the father. Well, we have gotten the son of the father who is the devil. The question is: will we vote for him again, crying aloud regarding Yeshua, “Crucifige Eum, Crucifige Eum.”

  2. The first step should be the admission by the USCCB that they were deceived into a pact with Satan when they thought that Obamacare would ensure that “basic health care should be accessible to all in a just society.” They should recant their support for this and assert their opposition to all State-enforced systems of this sort.

    Any political study at all outside of post-modern Progressive orthodoxy will show how programs run by The State eventually destroy all competition – even honestly charitable proragms whose only mission is relief to the poor – as it demands more and more power unto itself.

    It’s a real basic decision the Bishops have to face, but their solution is among the easiest to discern:

    Mk 12:17 – “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ And they were amazed at him.”

  3. @WKAiken: The first step should be the admission by the USCCB that they were deceived into a pact with Satan when they thought that Obamacare would ensure that “basic health care should be accessible to all in a just society.”

    How about having to publicly admit which of them voted for this monster? I’m very sure my bishop did and he still is taking the high road with not using very strong language to teach his flock about this issue. He uses words like, “more study needs to be done” and “full implications are not clear”. How much worse does it have to get for our Bishops to stand up to the President and say “We will go to jail in order to prevent you from taking away our rights.” Cardinal George did not mention that step.

  4. The only option is to disobey the order from the HHS Secretary. It is unconstitutional on its face. Make the Obumbler Misadministration enforce it. Don’t pay the “fines”.

  5. Is this the proper Catholic decision? When faced with a mandate to provide a drug to employees that may (but not necessary be used to commit a sin) the Church would rather not provide charity to the poor? I am proud of the Catholic Church’s role in providing charity and the mere suggestion that we would consider placing a higher priority on the issues surrounding contraception is horrible.

  6. “I am proud of the Catholic Church’s role in providing charity and the mere suggestion that we would consider placing a higher priority on the issues surrounding contraception is horrible.”

    Contraception is sin. Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin are death.” Therefore, the wages of contraception are death. A contraceptive culture deserves neither social justice nor the common good.

    Repentance and conversion, personal holiness and righteousness come before health and prosperity, never afterwards. Matthew 6:33 – “Seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God….” 1st Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

    John 6:24-27 tells about what happened when the 5000 got free handouts.

    24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27* Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”


    Note that they didn’t get a 2nd free handout.

    The purpose of the Church is to save souls from hell. Your job and my job as part of our repentance is to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, comfort the sick, etc. But the Church’s job is saving souls. We are not here to create a man-made kingdom of social justice and the common good. To think that is hubris of the worst sort. We are called to do our part to save souls from the fires of hell.

    Personally, I think that maybe God is arranging things to get the Church out of the health care business and back into the business of saving souls.

  7. The HHS mandate renders the Church incapable of accomplishing its Mission: the salvation of souls. jesus came to save souls from sin, not to end temporal suffering.

    Justice and peace fanatics insist on doing Charitable Works with other people’s money, through the coersion of government. NB: If you do it with someone else’s money, it is not Charity. Refer to the Gospel story of the “Widow’s Mite.”

  8. I’m with Penguins Fan on this – isn’t that the 5th option? Civil disobedience? Don’t offer the coverage, don’t pay the fines, and take it to the mat. Imagine the news coverage – hauling religious off to prison, students blocking entrances to universities, faculties holed up on limited rations. It would make Janet Reno look like a seasoned diplomat.

  9. I agree, T. Shaw with one exception: Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell will not prevail. So HHS mandate or no HHS mandate, God’s will is going to be done, and He will establish His Kingdom, not some self-appointed, self-described “do-gooder” who thinks that with just a bit more or your tax money and mine, we can provide social justice to all. Let’s have that story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4).


    1* He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.”


    It’s interesting that in the Gospels of both Mark and Luke , right after this parable, Jesus began talking about the destruction of the Temple. I do NOT think that is coincidental. Maybe the man-made temple of social justice is about to come down.

  10. Jaha,

    Reno! Anyone remember Waco, TX 1993?

    I can see the MSM painting the Church radical as they did the Branch Davidians and I can imagine Obama’s Reno clone killing . . .

    And I can envision Kmiec and all the rest nodding OKAY.

  11. Elm – excellent point. I am pretty sure my parish priest did as well, in that he dances all around the issue but doesn’t come out against it directly. I would wager that we could comprise a list of “first steps” that would all make very good sense. The discernment would be to find the one (or more) that starts the effort in the right direction while keeping to Church teachings about repentance, forgiveness and propitiation.

    I have family members – obviously intelligent, composed, stable and successful – who got hooked. My own wife got hooked. We still don’t talk about that. It’s no mystery to anybody with an open pair of eyes that there is only one power behind this serpent’s tongue, and we know who that is.

    The aim is to repeal this montsrosity and remove its supporters from public life, not to abase or demean thse who may have been duped.

  12. If it comes to the linking of arms to peaceably resist the arrest of those doctors, administrators and other medical people in the demosntartion that We Have Chosen Who Our Authority Is, then color me there. Martin Niemöller’s plaint will not be repeated. If they come for us first, then they will come for no more after, for they will be defeated.

    Like the song says, “We were meant to be Courageous.” The rest of the verse fits, too.

  13. Here is the evil genius of obamacare. The IRS is the punitive enforcing agency for obamacare. It should be disgusting to a free people that the health care reform act grants breathtaking powers to the IRS, not as a taxing agency, but as an enforcer of this and many other mandates now emanating from this hideous legislation. Civil disobedience in what form? If the penalties are not paid, assets are seized….plain and simple—and no arrests are even necessary save but some protesters in the streets. The goal here is for a centralized government takeover of all civil and religious institutions through tax and regulatory fiat (aka soft tyranny), and this is just the beginning.

    Authentic charity is the instrument of our salvation. Church institutions provide a modus operandi for the pastoral work of saving souls. I once was privileged to hear a wise missionary say that he invites us to work with the poor, not so much for the sake of the poor, but to save our souls, the givers, through charity—that is our giving of time, treasure and talent. Therein is the true evil of statist mandates—it takes away the instruments of authentic and salvific charity and replaces it with the tyranny, disorder and a false god of of ‘public good’.

  14. There are spiritual and religious reasons for how Catholics vote. 54% of Catholics who voted in the last Presidential election, voted for the pro-abortion, pro-infanticide Democrat candidate. Not only is the economy and foreign affairs in the tank, our country, spiritually, is in the tank as well. I was not one of the 54%. I can’t understand how any Catholic could have voted for Obama…except other than he was a Democrat. The problem with our country and the threat to our Constitution is coming from the Democrat Party…abortion, gay marriage, removal of prayer and seasonal displays in public structures and institutions, etc. The key to turning our country around is in the hands of the same people who put people into office who did this to our country. The question is: Is being a Democrat more important than to being a Catholic? Obama and his administration have shown us what being a Democrat means. Is that really who Catholics are? The bishops should find out and find out quickly. They should authorize a Voter Registration drive in every parish from now to the end of Registrations for this November election to give Catholics an opportunity to state who they are in a public way, and a legal way – by who they will give their name identification to. The result of that Voter Registration drive will pre warn the Bishops what the outcome of the election will be so they can better plan what actions they will take. Implementing the HHS regulations in August will, I’m sure, be suspended by court action until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Obamacare. How Catholics choose to register to vote would also be influential in that decision. I wouldn’t look for a lot of new Republican registrations because such Catholics deciding to remain Democrats all these years couldn’t emotionally make that choice. I know; I’ve been there and know how difficult that is. But I would hope that there would be a LARGE number of those Catholics who would remove their names from the Democrat Party Rolls and register as Independent, as I did years ago. If that happened, that would indicate the outcome of this Presidential Election because Catholics are the determining voting block on who becomes the President. It would tell judges what the public sentiment is of an important segment of the population which is directly impacted by Obamacare and the HHS regulations. And it would be a gut check for so many Catholics, including the clergy, as to how honest they are to what they profess to belief and pray for in the Profession of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday Masses. Do they put God’s will before man’s?

  15. Is there a mandate in the Scripture that says everyone is entitled to health care or that everyone must be cured? I recall visit the sick, help the unfortunate and the poor. We are to treat them as Jesus would. He did not heal all that came to him. The real healing is the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

  16. @Stillbelieve:The question is: Is being a Democrat more important than to being a Catholic

    What is the first adjective that we put in front of our names? This can be very telling about our moral standing.

  17. often from immigrants

    Savvy point from his Eminence. Obama is anti-immigrant! Hit him with his base!

    On another point, it is all well and good to be up in arms about violating the conscience of religious institutions, but last I checked the First Amendment applied to the rights of individuals at least as much, if not more so. Why should individuals be required to violate their consciences with this Obamanation?

  18. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. … We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

    Oooh – the bishop obliquely named Obama a commie.

    Onward Christian soldiers!

  19. Off topic: Today’s Sadie Hawkins Day: look out bachelors!

    What do you call a leader who flaunts the law? “Hitler” or “commie” will do!

    The regime orders (you must buy health insurance with these benefits/terms, and the Church must provide with these features) people around. Big brother knows better. He owns you.

    It’s worse. Anyone know the why Argentina (educated people, rich natural resources) is an economic basket case while Chile prospers?

    America is becoming Argentina: a corrupt, banana republic where the rules for commerce and property change at the whim of the regime, e.g., HHS mandate and the recent foreclosure/”robo-signing”) confiscation.

  20. “America is becoming Argentina: a corrupt, banana republic where the rules for commerce and property change at the whim of the regime, e.g., HHS mandate and the recent foreclosure/’robo-signing’) confiscation.”

    It’s called Democracy, T. Shaw – two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner:

    Crucifige Eum, Crucifige Eum – that’s what liberty, equality and fraternity have always been about, from the time of Pontius Pilate through Robespierre’s revolution to Obama’s hope and change.

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