The Corner

Why This Lutheran Defends Catholics’ Conscience Rights

My twin granddaughters were born in a Catholic hospital last December. On Christmas Eve, they were rushed back into that same hospital, fighting for their lives. For nine days, we prayed without ceasing for their recovery. Protestants don’t usually do Novenas. This one did. Happily, the twins were released earlier this month.


Our family trusted a Catholic hospital with the lives of those most precious to us. Catholic hospitals have the latest technology in their pediatric intensive care units (PICU). But they have something more: They have an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life.


The night the twins were born, the holiday lights came on at their hospital. When the girls get older, we’ll tell them the lights were really lit for Jesus. But for now, we believe those lights were burning for our stricken newborns, and for all the dear children who spent their Christmas in the PICU.


The Obama administration is threatening the very life of Catholic hospitals. This administration wants to compel these hospitals to join the culture of death by forcing them to provide insurance coverage for their employees for sterilization and drugs that cause abortions. In so doing, the Obama administration violates not only the conscience rights of practicing Catholics, but also the conscience rights of millions of “separated brethren,” protestants like us, who rely on Catholic health care to uphold the sanctity of life.


How radical is the Obama administration? Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most liberal president in our history. A Democrat, FDR would have found most Catholics practicing in those hospitals — and the patients being treated in them — among his warmest supporters.


So beloved by Catholics was FDR, and so many of them Irish, that it was said the president’s rolodex looked like the Dublin phonebook. FDR would not have dreamed of so violating conscience rights of Catholics.


John F. Kennedy was our first Catholic president. He never came close to such a gross violation of conscience. Nor did LBJ, who enacted Medicare.


Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton never did anything so radical as what President Obama is now trying to do. He’s not just out of step with conservatives and Republicans, he’s completely out of line with the best traditions of his own Democratic party.


When I served in the Washington office of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, we knew that if the Catholic Church’s conscience rights could be trodden on, our rights would not be respected long.


All Americans have a stake in this conflict. The Obama administration views pregnancy as a disease, and they want to force all of us to see it as a disease, too. They view this great human blessing as a curse. No wonder we are at odds with them over this menacing move.


This “unconscionable” move — as New York’s Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan calls it– must be resisted by all Americans who value our God-given rights of conscience. On this vital question, there should be no separation among us. The Lord we serve came that we may have life and have it abundantly. We must resist any connection with the culture of death.


— Robert Morrison is a Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council. He formerly served as Executive Director of the Office of Government Information of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in Washington, D.C.


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