The Catholic church is the single largest private provider of health care, education, and charity in the US, and the Welfare State’s largest competitor. This is exactly what Obama’s contraception mandate was designed to do – drive Catholic charities out business so that all the needy who relied on them will now be totally dependent on government services.
In the face of demands from the state of Illinois that Catholic adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, the church refused, and the state proceeded to remove all the children in their care to other agencies. In this case, there is not much the church could do since the children are considered wards of the state until they are legally adopted.
In this case, however, patients and other recipients of Catholic health and charity services are NOT wards of the state, and have a right to voluntarily go to whatever health provider or charity they please. Since the state cannot simply forbid their clients to choose their services, I hope that these religious organizations will keep their doors open, refuse to pay the fines and force the Obama administration to take them to court, so their cases can be heard and the unconstitutionality of this mandate roundly challenged.
In a missive to parishioners on the first Sunday of Lent, Cardinal George warns that the Catholic Church will shut down its hospitals, clinics, and charities before submitting to the mandate — and provides a little history lesson as well:
What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down. …
Since 1915, the Catholic bishops of the United States have taught that basic health care should be accessible to all in a just society. Two years ago, we asked that whatever instruments were crafted to care for all, the Hyde and Weldon and Church amendments restricting funding for abortion and respecting institutional conscience continue to be incorporated into law. They were excluded. As well, the present health care reform act doesn’t cover entire sections of the U.S. population. It is not universal.
The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.
The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack.
Insofar as advocates of the mandate insist that Catholic bishops are out of touch with their own congregations, Cardinal George exposes this as a big non-sequitur:
Practically, we’re told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin.
Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.
Although Cardinal George doesn’t spell this out, this is the crux of the difference between the church and the Obama administration. Membership in the Catholic Church is voluntary, as is employment in their extended organizations like schools, hospitals, and the like. If people don’t like the teachings of the church or want to work for an employer willing to give them contraception at no expense, they are free to seek those associations as they like. Obama and his HHS want to force Catholic organizations to accept the administration doctrine on contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients, and force Catholic organizations to fund and facilitate access to them — by declaring which organizations the church runs to be authentically religious and which are not, an arrogance without precedent in the US, although certainly precedents in other political models abound, as Cardinal George points out.
Steven Ertelt reports at Life News that one Cardinal estimates that the more than 400 Catholic Hospitals in the US may have to close their doors within two years:
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago complains that the Catholic Church is being “despoiled of her institutions” as “freedom of conscience and of religion become a memory from a happier past.” He says the Obama administration is saying “the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must ‘give up’ her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations.”
“So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society,” he continues. “The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.”
About the warning that Catholic hospitals may have to close up shop, he said the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012 for his area has ” a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank.”