Feb 6, 2012

"Why would the government do this?

“Why would the government do this?” That was a simple question from a high school student last week who asked me why the Federal government has issued the mandate concerning health care offered by all employers, including those of religious affiliation of which the Catholic Church is the largest. Much ink has been spilled and some television reporting on this, likely the most controversial of the present administration.  The mandate has pushed the envelope in a direction that it has never before. This serious issue is not about politics.  Nor is it about what the Catholic Church teaches about birth control, abortion, or the sacred right to life. This is about religious freedom in this country as we have known it since the Constitution was written and established.
The question of "Why?"was asked of me during a classroom visit I made to our local Catholic High School at the request of the teacher.  She had given to all her students, freshmen through senior, a copy of our Archbishop’s letter concerning the HHS mandate and its demand that we be forced to include contraceptive and potential abortion producing drugs if requested to our employees in Catholic hospitals, schools, Dioceses, parishes and other charitable institutions.  Our Orthodox and Protestant brethren are likewise at risk. The Catholic Church has always been open to all who come regardless of religious affiliation or not.  That is the mandate of the Lord Jesus who came for all. The students, in their analysis, were all across the spectrum but they seemed open to hear some clarification. The issue concerns two essential points: conscience protection and religious liberty.

When the student asked “Why?” there really was no sufficient answer other than to say that it seemed the decision was driven by some sort of agenda to force Catholic institutions to violate our consciences and moral teachings in a way that the secular government in this Country has never before.  The American Bishops had let their voices be known for months before this mandate was issued that the conscience protection be continued. Archbishop Dolan of New York met with the President in the White House and was given the President's personal promise that the protection would be maintained. The consistent teaching of the Church is not a secret and so nothing out of the ordinary was being requested.  Only that the status quo be maintained and religious organizations continue to be respected and protected in this Country. So why has this been done?

There is no reason for this mandate.  What purpose does it serve to force this upon a religious organization that has contributed enormously to the good of society? The Catholic Church has been a giant in contributions through health care, education, charitable organizations and in good and faithful citizens serving the common good both in public and private positions. It remains a voice of hope and truth despite our human weakness but we sometimes wonder who listens? Are we that voice in the wilderness as John the Baptist?

Six things you should know:

Yet, all this good has been accomplished while we have maintained our sacred body of teachings and added our moral voice to that of society as a whole.  All this under the protection of the First Amendment which grants us a religious liberty unprecedented in human history.
As I told the students, the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom for the world since its’ founding. Like a lighthouse which shines in the dark along a sea shore, this Country has shown the world what is possible to achieve through the respect shown by a secular government for people of faith in this country – and anywhere else that same religious freedom is allowed. 

I further mentioned that we attend our Churches, our schools, our charitable organizations without a second thought and no fear of interference because our government allows us to do so.  We can worship freely and freely bring what we believe to a world that is sorely in need of some good news – some alternative set of a moral framework by which everyone can live in harmony though the natural law that our Creator has established in his creation.
But, it seems the confrontation has begun.  More than 150 Catholic Bishops in this Country have spoken out with one common voice in opposition to this offensive and unnecessary order.  The great hope is that millions of Catholics and people of all religious bodies, will speak out forcefully for freedom. There is no need for this fight but it is not the Church which has created it.  In essence the government is telling the Church, "Just sit down, be quiet,  and go along with it."  But  we say, "We must stand up and object strongly."

Click on other parts of this Blog where you can find more information on this watershed issue and a way to make your voice heard. 
Why would they do this? Feel free to comment below.