Friday, March 9, 2012

My Take on the News: Life; Ambition; Authority; and Saint Thomas Becket

First, the good news: Catholic bishops in America are doing their job.

Now, the bad news: The government says 'kill innocent people.'

But the bishops - all of them - are doing their job. They say 'no, that's a bad idea.'

As a result, we'll probably have a whole lot fewer hospitals, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters in America.

That's because Catholics and Catholic organizations have been quietly providing these services for generations. And now, because we won't kill innocent people, we'll be forced to shut down.

Until someone else is running America's national government.

There's an election coming up, by the way: scheduled for this November.

In this week's news:
  1. Tough Times
  2. Little Sisters Won't Kill
  3. Religious Liberty, "Straight-Jacketing Mandates," and Cardinal Dolan
  4. HHS Mandate: What's the Big Deal?
Letters, bulletin inserts, and a call to action:

1. Tough Times

"Cardinal Dolan Writes to Bishops, Outlines Religious Liberty Fight"
ZENIT (MarcH 6, 2012)
"Warns That 'We Have to Prepare for Tough Times'

"The situation in the United States regarding religious liberty suggests that 'we have to prepare for tough times,' according to the president of the U.S. bishops' conference....
I'll get back to Cardinal1 Dolan's letter, religious liberty, and what the current administration seems to have in mind, in a bit.

First, here's the sort of "tough times" we need to expect. At least in the short run.

2. Little Sisters Won't Kill

"HHS mandate threatens Little Sisters of the Poor's elder care"
Kevin J. Jones, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (March 8, 2012)

"The Little Sisters of the Poor say the HHS contraception and sterilization mandate threatens their continued ministry to the impoverished elderly. They are 'strongly objecting' to the federal rule and say it should be repealed as soon as possible.

" 'Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry - so that we will fall under the narrow exemption - or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees,' the order said on March 1.

" 'Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.'

"Their order serves 13,000 needy elderly of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. In the U.S., it has 30 homes for the elderly, accommodating 2,500 low-income seniors...."
Americans have gotten used to the idea that women are sex machines that can be fixed to keep babies from happening.

'Liberated' - From Life

Sterilization and artificial contraception is 'liberating:' according to America's dominant culture. That sort of interference with human nature is also against Catholic teachings - because we're told to believe that women are human beings. There's a bit more to it than that. I recommend reading "Humanae Vitae" for details.

Unhappily, it's not just 'preventive health care' that the Feds want:
"...The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires employers to provide coverage for 'preventive health.' It defines this coverage to include sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. The Obama administration's proposed compromise would mandate that insurance companies, not employers, provide this coverage.

"The mandate's religious exemption applies only to employers who primarily serve and employ their coreligionists and have the inculcation of religious values as their primary purpose...."
That 'compromise,' where insurance companies pay to off babies - and then bill practicing Catholics - apparently assumes that Catholics are stupid.

Killing an innocent person is wrong. So is paying an assassin to kill an innocent person, or having a third party pay the assassin. The only difference is that more people get involved in the murder.

If the Little Sisters of the Poor shared the current administration's values, they'd have no problem with offing people who were too young to either flee or defend themselves. Or 'mercifully' killing folks who were too old or sick to be useful, for that matter.

Murder isn't Love

Since Catholic values are so counter-cultural, I'd better explain. Again. If this looks familiar, skip to the next heading. Or get a cup of coffee, or whatever.
Briefly, Catholics who take our faith seriously think that killing our neighbor isn't a very loving thing to do.

3. Religious Liberty, "Straight-Jacketing Mandates," and Cardinal Dolan

"Cardinal Dolan Writes to Bishops, Outlines Religious Liberty Fight"
ZENIT (MarcH 6, 2012)
"Warns That "We Have to Prepare for Tough Times"

"...Last Friday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote a letter to all the American bishops updating them on what is happening with the Church's opposition regarding recent changes in health care regulations.

"The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explained that in spite of an invitation by President Barack Obama to 'work out the wrinkles,' the White House has now announced that the new regulations of the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been published in the Federal Registry....
I posted about Cardinal Dolan's letter on Wednesday:I've archived Cardinal Dolan's letter. I recommend reading it:

A Higher Authority

The idea that the 'better sort' are "beyond good and evil" has been fashionable for over a hundred years. Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" and all that.

I think pretending that we can rewrite natural law is as silly as pretending that Congress can repeal the law of gravity, and I've been over that before.

Rogue Rulers

Rogue rulers wanting to have ethics rewritten to suit their ambitions are nothing new. About eight and a half centuries back, Henry II of England wanted jurisdiction over clerics in his territory. International law of the day wouldn't allow it: but Henry II figured that his buddy Thomas of London would help him defy the Pope.

Thomas had been made Archbishop of Canterbury by then, gotten a better look at the 'big picture,' and wouldn't play along. There was a little misunderstanding after that that killed Thomas of London, did little to improve Henry II's public image, and contributed to our knowing Thomas as Saint Thomas Becket. It's a long story.

Ambition, Ethics, and Religious Freedom

Details of today's run-in between secular ambition and ethics are different, but we've got the same basic issue:
"...He [Cardinal Dolan] also said that at a recent meeting at the White House between bishops' conference staff and White House staff, 'our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom--that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption--are all off the table. They were informed that they are.'

"Cardinal Dolan explained that the Church is prepared to continue to discuss these matters: 'But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching.'

"Cardinal Dolan warned the bishops that 'given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times.'..."
I'm inclined to agree: tough times are ahead.

Choosing Sides

I don't envy Cardinal Dolan, Little Sisters of the Poor, and anyone else who won't agree that the President of the United States has more moral authority than the Pope. But deciding whether or not to play along with the President is, although difficult, not a very complicated choice.

On the one hand, we've got a man who may be President of a major world power for a second four-year term, plus whatever extra he can wangle.

On the other, we've got someone who works for an outfit that's been around for two millennia, and was founded by a man who said:
" 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:58)
Any lunatic could say "I am God." What got the eleven surviving apostles' attention was that Jesus didn't stay dead.

In the long run, I think it's better to obey the Son of God, than some politician from Hawaii.

4. HHS Mandate: What's the Big Deal?

"Getting to Know the HHS Mandate"
Ann Schneible, ZENIT (March 5, 2012)
"Expert From Becket Fund Explains What Is at Stake

"The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate has fueled debates over the Obama Administration's unwillingness to grant the necessary exemptions to religious institutions, forcing these institutions to pay for medical procedures that go against their religious beliefs.

"Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Council of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, spoke with ZENIT to explain the HHS Mandate, its constitutional implications, and what kind of action can be taken against it.

"ZENIT: Could you explain for our readers what the HHS Mandate is, and what the implications of this mandate are for Catholic institutions?

"Smith: Back in August, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the mandate which requires all group health plans in the United States to pay for contraception, sterilization, and certain drugs that can cause an abortion. That mandate contains a very narrow exemption...."
The Catholic Church is, literally, universal. Long before American law made discrimination based on ethnicity or religion illegal, the Catholic Church was getting folks used to the idea that 'it's a big neighborhood:'One reason we get a reputation for being 'narrow minded' is that we're told to care about everybody: even the weak or helpless.

Universal Church, Narrow Exemptions

"...The exemption from the mandate has four prongs: the religious employer must (1) have the primary purpose of inculcating religious values, (2) primarily employ people of its own faith, (3) primarily serve people of its own faith, and (4) fall within a certain tax-code provision (that it's tax exempt, and it doesn't have to file tax returns in the United States). So, it is a very narrow exemption that basically means very few religious entities will be exempted from the mandate...."
Again, the Feds will allow an employer to not pay to get employees sterilized, or kill their babies only if the employer:
  • 1 Has the primary purpose of inculcating religious values
  • 2 Primarily employs people of its own faith
  • 3 Primarily serves people of its own faith
  • 4 And Falls within a certain tax-code provision
    • So that it's tax exempt, and it doesn't have to file tax returns in the United States
Catholics have a mandate to help everybody. We're also taught that human life is sacred. That puts us in conflict with the current administration.
"...Most faith-based institutions, like schools, universities, colleges, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or other social service organizations would not be exempt from the mandate. That's why the mandate has set off such a public outcry, because there are so many religious organizations that, because of their religious mission, could not cover these kinds of drugs and services, but under the mandate there is no opportunity for them to opt out...."
(Ann Schneible, ZENIT)
Folks having to make a choice is nothing new:
" 'Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

"3 If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.' "
(Joshua 24:14-15)
Sometimes following Joshua's example is awkward. But it's the right thing to do.
More posts about forcing Catholics to violate our conscience:
The Department of Health and Human Services vs. Conscience
Related posts:
1 That's His Eminence Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York. He's also president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (USCCB)

I've had his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, on the blogroll for some time now.


Brigid said...

Missing an ending single quote: "idea that the 'better sort are"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Found, fixed, and thanks!

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.