In a column titled “Making Sense of Another Ambiguous ‘Compromise,’” Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput goes to Saint Augustine to read the latest on the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization employer insurance mandate.
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
He asks for prayers that fortitude is the response, not fear or a false sense of prudence.
There are myriad problems inherent in the new rules. They still fail to protect the legally guaranteed religious freedom of religious institutions, for-profit employers, insurers, non-religious non-profit organizations, and individuals. Religious liberty is protected not only by the First Amendment of our Constitution, but also by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
They fail to understand the full nature of the free exercise of religion—that religion, whether practiced individually or by a group, requires being able to integrate one’s actions with one’s religious beliefs, especially when these don’t attack but advance the common good—here, the health and well-being of women and girls.
They trample on parents’ constitutionally-protected right to direct the upbringing of their daughters. And they reveal, still, an irrational zeal for a narrow category of drugs and devices, thus evincing a narrow and harmful understanding of women’s freedom as coincident with sexual expression.
Moreover, while the government tries to make us think that the new rules are hospitable to religious freedom, we shouldn’t overlook its continued failure to admit the bankruptcy of the mandate’s grounding “medical” claim: that unintended pregnancy is a kind of health crisis properly resolved with free contraception and early abortions.
I know most people have no interest in talking about contraception and abortion drugs and female sterilization. But I refer back to that statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on religious freedom last spring on our “first freedom”:
Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.
What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.
Those are the stakes. That’s why we should continue to oppose this still-coercive mandate and educate.