The U.S. Catholic Bishops are preparing Catholics for what some are saying may be the largest wave of civil disobedience since the Civil Rights Movement.
The Catholic Church last week sued the Obama Administration over President Obama’s decree that all employers must pay for health insurance that covers abortions, sterilizations and contraceptives, all of which violate Catholic moral teachings. The pope himself has spoken on the issue and pointed out the threat posed by Obama’s attempt to force Catholics to cooperate in “intrinsically evil practices.”
Despite the lawsuits whose 43 plaintiffs include the New York and Washington Archdioceses and the University of Notre Dame, President Obama indicated in campaign speeches last week that he plans to go ahead with enforcing his mandate, part of Obamacare, beginning in August.
“We don’t need another political fight about ending a woman’s right to choose, or getting rid of Planned Parenthood or taking away affordable birth control,” Obama said. “We don’t need that. I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same economic opportunities as my sons. We’re not turning back the clock. We’re not going back there.”
(Obama’s use of the phrase “my sons” has been noted by numerous pundits. Given that he has no sons that we know of, and given the context of opposing the Catholic Church, could Obama have been deliberately trying to strike a pastoral tone, to establish himself subliminally as being on equal footing with religious authority? The possibility is more than a little chilling.)
First lady Michelle Obama was the first out of the gate, however, saying in a speech only three hours after the bishops announced their lawsuits, “You can tell people how, because we passed health reform, insurance companies will now have to cover preventive care — have to,” said Mrs. Obama. “Things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care — and they have to do it at no extra cost. People have to understand that’s what that fight was for.”
The bishops aren’t backing down. They have developed a lengthy document explaining their position and a shorter one to be inserted in parish bulletins in June. Both are available at www.usccb.org.
“Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free,” the bishops wrote in the long statement on their website.
“Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified,” they said in the shorter bulletin insert. “Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”
The website lists other ways in which the Catholic Church is being attacked by government at all levels, from state laws about “harboring” immigrants that have prevented churches from caring for needy people, to discriminatory acts against Catholic students, and attempts by local governments to interfere in church organization.
“Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?” the bishops wrote. “Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences.”
But President Obama’s decree is the top issue.
The bishops cite the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which wrote in a separate statement, “Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its ‘religious’ character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles.”
The bishops added, “This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.” (The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops — which represents all 65 Orthodox bishops in the U.S., Canada and Mexico — back in February threw its support to the Catholic Bishops.)
The bishops have called for “A Fortnight of Freedom,” from June 21 to July 4. The beginning date marks the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, both of whom were executed by King Henry VIII for not acknowledging him as the spiritual head of the Church of England when England broke from the Catholic Church.
With the Fortnight of Freedom ending on July 4, the bishops cite several Founding Fathers, including George Washington, who wrote, “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle.”
They also cite Thomas Jefferson, whose statement in a letter about a wall of separation between church and state is so often misrepresented by liberals. They cite Jefferson’s written assurance to the Ursuline Sisters in Louisiana that the Constitution ensured their organization would be free “to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”
The lines have been drawn. Do you really want this Civil War, Mr. President?