As far as the White House was concerned, all the Obama administration had to do was get the Catholic Health Association, a trade agency, back onboard. They signed off on Obamacare in March 2011 as the bishops’ conference sounded alarms about the lack of conscience protections and abortion-funding openings in the legislation. While the White House apparently made the mistake of not giving CHA the same sign-off they gave Planned Parenthood on their tweaking of religious freedom, the administration appeared so certain that CHA would get back on board the White House website throughout the campaign — and when I last checked a few months ago — still claimed they had the CHA endorsement of the “accomodation,” which was not true at the time.
A friend from abroad observed to me when this HHS abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate was formally introduced — after a process that had as policy drafters proponents of what Helen Alvare calls sexualityism, the poisoned fruit of the Sexual Revolution – that this would have been a radicalizing moment for him. It’s also a test for a lot of us.
It’s no secret that Catholics haven’t been for real in recent years. And that’s not just a matter of the lack of witness but the lack of catechisis. What have people been learning from watching and listening to so many Catholics, at Catholic institutions, anyway? Do Catholics even know what the Church believes about contraception and why? (There is evidence the answer is “no” even among Catholic women who attend Mass.) About the dignity of women?
In my syndicated column this week, I quoted a message I was handed by a pretty recognizable Catholic leader last fall about women and what exactly we mean to the world. In part:
You women have always had as your lot . . . the love of beginnings. . . . You are present in the mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure of death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile men with life, and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man, who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.
The God and Caesar aspect of this fight is, indeed, a crucial one. It is why the Catholic bishops don’t just care about religious liberty as it pertains to their own Catholic schools and hospitals but also how it affects the Evangelical Green family that runs Hobby Lobby, who are currently suing the Department of Human Services on account of the abortion-drug aspect of the mandate. And it may just be that the even more fundamental issue is truth and authenticity. That’s fallen victim to surrender, not to lives of Christian integrity, but to the times. This is a time of testing.
Why would we care about religious freedom, anyway, if our religious faith is but a “safe harbor”?
In remarks earlier this week in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia’s archbishop Charles J. Chaput said: “The more secular we become, the less we care about the true, the right, and the lasting. And here’s the reason: We don’t really believe they exist. Or we simply don’t care.”
Do you care about what you say you believe? Do you believe it? Do you care to know it, praying for ever-more clarity in the Light of Faith, as it were? These are the questions this HHS mandate injustice asks of us.
“Our job as Christians is to remind our culture that true and right and lasting things do exist about human nature,” Chaput said, ”and if we abandon these things, we abandon who we are, and we abandon those who need us to speak on their behalf.”
Speaking to the mood of his brother bishops last month, Cardinal Dolan expressed a shared impatience with our apparent comfort with, or indifference to increasing surrender to the diktats of secularism, as far too many religious people have internalized its values. He said: “It is time to draw a line . . .”
“We teach very well. We heal very well. We serve very well.” And, “If you tamper with convictions, the ministries are going to be deluded. . . . If you try to comply, it is a slippery slope.”
Christians are called to service in love of God. We must serve. (And that’s led to some tough decisions that have confused people in the past.) But we must serve differently than the unjust demands of the current government insist.
I pray the courts work this out for religious liberty. But what Catholics have had here in this HHS-mandate controversy, fundamentally, is a wake-up call about the necessity of the integrated life of faith. (Talk about mandates, that’s one from the Gospel.) And we have the Green family to thank for their witness. Even as the White House continues to disregard their religious liberty — and with no protest from the Catholic Health Association.