The Church Militant

In Catholic theology, the church has three components: the Church Triumphant (those in heaven), the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory) and the Church Militant. The Church Militant, of course, refers to those of us still battling sin on earth. Ephesians says it is also Christians battling “the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Could anything better describe American Christians today battling the Obama administration?

Fortunately God has provided a leader in the American Catholic Church who is prepared to do battle. Archbishop and soon to be Cardinal Timothy Dolan has risen to the task. He doesn’t seem likely to fold or fade away.

In the past two weeks priests in parishes around the country read a letter from their bishop instructing Catholics on the objections to Obamacare and urging them to write their representatives. Yesterday and today in my parish, the fight continued. This time it was a letter included in the bulletin entitled “Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate.”

Clearly, Obama’s “compromise” didn’t go over well with the Catholic hierarchy.

The document reads “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers the following clarifications regarding the Health and Human Services regulations on mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs.” Here are the six points (they are explained in some detail that I will not include here).

“1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities.
2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral.
3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception.
4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate.
5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate.
6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates.”

Whatever your thoughts on birth control, however, this is not what it’s about, despite how the administration likes to frame it. It’s about first amendment rights. It’s about the evil of compelling religious institutions to engage in conduct that directly violates their beliefs.

And it’s about Obama’s desire to remove faith from having a role in what Americans believe. If you get rid of all those pesky beliefs, man is bound to ruler rather than God. This is his ultimate desire.

Why would he do this? Phil Lawler at explains:

President Obama, on the other hand, is not averse to a political battle with the bishops. And if he is willing to risk a direct confrontation with the bishops in this, an election year, one can only imagine how blithely he would ride roughshod over Catholic protests during a second presidential term, when he would not need to worry about re-election!

He goes on to cite a memo from the bishops which

reiterated the main objections to the Obama mandate, and stressed that some questions—such as the effects on institutions that self-insure—remain unclear. They also raised a question that had not yet figured prominently in USCCB statements, regarding the effect of the mandate on non-religious employers. Although the bishops have devoted their attention to the moral crisis that would face Church-run organizations required by law to furnish contraceptives for their employees, the same crisis already faces Catholic individuals (or others morally opposed to contraception) working at secular firms. A Catholic nun running a charitable agency might qualify for some degree of exemption from the Obama mandate; a Catholic layman running a manufacturing firm would not. “This presents a grave moral problem to be addressed,” the USCCB leaders reminded their brother bishops. That brief mention of the problem is a welcome reminder that Church leaders have a duty not only to secure the rights not only of Church-related institutions, but of all the faithful. This idea was explained by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1992…
In their memo the five bishops who are leading the debate outlined three main principles driving their strategy. The first was a commitment to protect religious liberty, and the third was a determination to oppose a wider use of contraception, sterilization, and the use of abortifacient drugs. But in light of the analysis above, the bishops’ middle point is most interesting:

Second, it is the place of the Church, not of government to define its religious identity and ministry.

So the USCCB leaders recognize the thrust of the Obama administration’s political offensive. They realize that the White House has set out to divide and conquer, to separate the Catholic laity from their bishops. Now surely they see that when groups like the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA side with the Obama administration, they are contributing to the erosion of the bishops’ authority and the splintering of the Church. So this is not merely an important political battle; it is a critical test of the bishops’ overall authority.

Americans should not let the birth control issue cloud their thinking. This is another salvo in the administration’s attempt at totalitarianism. I can only hope Americans are up to the fight.

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