Announcing his support for Commissar Sebelius’s edicts on contraception, sterilization, and pharmacological abortion, that noted theologian the Most Reverend Al Sharpton explained: “If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we’re going to have a separation of church and state.”
Thanks for clarifying that. The church model the young American state wished to separate from was that of the British monarch, who remains to this day supreme governor of the Church of England. This convenient arrangement dates from the 1534 Act of Supremacy. The title of the law gives you the general upshot, but, just in case you’re a bit slow on the uptake, the text proclaims “the King’s Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England.” That’s to say, the sovereign is “the only supreme head on earth of the Church” and he shall enjoy “all honors, dignities, pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity,” not to mention His Majesty “shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts, and enormities, whatsoever they be.”
Welcome to Obamacare.
The president of the United States has decided to go Henry VIII on the Church’s medieval ass. Whatever religious institutions might profess to believe in the matter of “women’s health,” their pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, and immunities are now subordinate to a one-and-only supreme head on earth determined to repress, redress, restrain, and amend their heresies. One wouldn’t wish to overextend the analogy: For one thing, the Catholic Church in America has been pathetically accommodating of Beltway bigwigs’ ravenous appetite for marital annulments in a way that Pope Clement VII was disinclined to be vis-à-vis the English king and Catherine of Aragon. But where’d all the pandering get them? In essence President Obama has embarked on the same usurpation of church authority as Henry VIII: As his Friday morning faux-compromise confirms, the continued existence of a “faith-based institution” depends on submission to the doctrinal supremacy of the state.
“We will soon learn,” wrote Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “just how much faith is left in faith-based institutions.” Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s vicar on earth, has sportingly offered to maintain religious liberty for those institutions engaged in explicit religious instruction to a largely believing clientele. So we’re not talking about mandatory condom dispensers next to the pulpit at St. Pat’s — not yet. But that is not what it means to be a Christian: The mission of a Catholic hospital is to minister to the sick. When a guy shows up in Emergency bleeding all over the floor, the nurse does not first establish whether he is Episcopalian or Muslim; when an indigent is in line at the soup kitchen the volunteer does not pause the ladle until she has determined whether he is a card-carrying papist. The government has redefined religion as equivalent to your Sunday best: You can take it out for an hour to go to church, but you gotta mothball it in the closet the rest of the week. So Catholic institutions cannot comply with Commissar Sebelius and still be in any meaningful sense Catholic.
If you’re an atheist or one of America’s ever more lapsed Catholics, you’re probably shrugging: What’s the big deal? But the new Act of Supremacy doesn’t stop with religious institutions. As Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it: “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by this mandate.” And so would any of his burrito boys who object to being forced to make “health care” arrangements at odds with their conscience.