Bishops Fight Back

Last week the Catholic bishops asked pastors everywhere to read a letter at each Mass urging Catholics to pray, fast and write their representatives about the provisions implemented in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

While it wasn’t read at my parish, it was at my mother’s. After it was read, and the priest gave some remarks, the congregation burst into applause.

Yesterday it was read at my parish. It’s a good letter and one to share with people of all faiths. Bishop Terry Steib signed it; I wonder how much his heart was in it. In the 2008 election the normally reticent bishop made it very clear to Catholics that a candidate’s pro abortion stance didn’t have to be an impediment to voting for him. It was shocking and naive.

Anyhow, here is the letter:

“I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population – and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those ‘services’ in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

“In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamantal freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

“People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

“And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.”

In his commentary our pastor described how pregnancy in this administration’s health care laws is considered an illness. That tells you just about everything you need to know about them.

He referenced an address by Bishop James Conley of Colorado who said in a November 5 speech some important things, chiefly that

America today is becoming what I would call an atheocracy — a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious believers. And I might add — the faith that our society is most hostile toward is Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

I could list many examples to prove my point. But I think we all recognize that there is a new mentality in America, one that has grave risks for all believers — and puts in jeopardy all faith-based movements for social change and renewal.

An atheocracy is a dangerous place — morally and spiritually. Cut off from the religious moorings expressed in the Declaration of Independence, we risk becoming a nation without a soul, a people with no common purpose apart from material pursuits.

As G. K. Chesterton well understood, without belief in a Creator, our democracy has no compelling reason for defending human rights at all. He wrote in What I Saw in America:

The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal. … There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man. … Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion … always vain for the vital purpose of constraining the tyrant.

Our atheocracy has rejected what Chesterton called the dogmatic basis of American identity and liberties. An atheocracy has no ultimate truths to guide it and no inviolable ethical principles by which to direct political activity. Hence, it has no foundation upon which to establish justice, secure true freedom, or to constrain tyrants.

This has been a consistent theme in the writings of our current Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI — that belief in God is the only basis for human rights. At the recent gathering of world religious leaders in Assisi, he said again that where God is denied, human society plunges into violence. His words are worth hearing:

The enemies of religion … see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself. … The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence. … The denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.

The Pope here is describing the moral and political landscape of an atheocracy.

So was Supreme Court Justice Byron White when he called the court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion “an exercise of raw judicial power.” That’s how an atheocracy works — by raw power, by the violence of the strong against the weak.

Once God is denied, we cannot claim any divine origin for the human person. Without God, there is no basis for morality and no necessary protections for man. The strong decide what is right or wrong — even who lives and who dies.

As Blessed John Paul II warned in his encyclical, Centesimus Annus: “A democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”

That is where we seem to be heading in America today. A lot of people would argue that we are already there.

I would urge the bishops do more than just pray, fast and try to influence Congress. They need to excommunicate Kathleen Sebelius, head of Health and Human Services. She calls herself a Catholic. Clearly she is not. While they are at it, how about Joe Biden? He, too, calls himself a Catholic while supporting legislation that denies its practice.

The bishops believed Congressman Bart Stupak and the Democrats who passed the Affordable Care Act. They wanted to believe they would not be coerced into anti life practices. It’s time they did something that slaps down these opportunistic Catholics.

Archbishop and soon to be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the American bishops, has taken up the fight.
It’s good that they’ve gone to the pulpit. Let’s hope they keep the heat on and do more.

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