Back To: Why The Religious-Freedom Argument Doesn’t Work

[Many bishops, including Bishop DiLorenzo, have encouraged us Catholics to contact our elected officials and assert the religious freedom of the Church. We insist that all Catholic institutions should be exempted from the federal-government contraceptive mandate. I have no expertise in how to arrive at the best practical way to address this crisis. Everyone should do what the bishops encourage.]

When asked why a Catholic university should not be required to provide artificial contraceptives to its employees, one official replied, “One would hardly expect to be served pork at a Jewish barbecue.”

The kosher Jew holds that God prohibits eating pork.

I do not put myself forward as a student of the question, but I imagine that many knowledgeable nutritionists have debated the health merits of keeping kosher, with strong arguments on both sides.

So the prohibition against eating pork could, in itself, be called arbitrary. But one never acts arbitrarily in obeying God. Obeying God always makes sense.

So, if any agent of the government—using any pretext whatsoever—tried to force the kosher Jew to serve pork at his barbecue, the kosher man responds:

My right to exercise my religion, recognized in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, prohibits you from fussing at me about this in any way. Back off.

Praise God. Justice and peace reign in this scenario.

We have nothing but respect for our brother’s right to obey what appears to be an arbitrary commandment, and nothing but esteem for his obedience to his conscience.

That said, our religion does not work this way.

The Catholic faith, and the exercise thereof, stand on two un-prove-able tenets. 1. There are three divine Persons in the one Almighty God. 2. The second Person took our human nature to Himself and became the divine man, Jesus Christ.

Perhaps some would say that these two fundamentals seem arbitrary. Many reasons could be given, though, as to why these divine facts are beautiful and fitting. But they cannot be proved. If they are taken for granted, every other belief and practice of the Church can be explained with solid reasons.

So for a Catholic administrator to assert the Jewish-barbecue analogy to an employee who requests health-care coverage which, at least in certain circles, would be regarded as standard—to give this response, i.e. “Look, it may be arbitrary, but we are allowed to be arbitrary, because we are obeying God, and the First Amendment protects our right to obey God’s arbitrary commands–” This response might very well fall within the scope of the First Amendment, for all I know. Strictly speaking, this response stands to reason. “After all, no one forced you at gunpoint to come to this Jewish barbecue. You could have gone to work for a contraceptive-friendly employer.”

But: Is this the way that the Spouse of Christ speaks to Her children? Does She say, “Love it or leave it!” when her babes make earnest requests for Her succor?

No. She always loves. She always sympathizes. She always gives the benefit of the doubt, and She meets Her children where they live (which is always in this world of confusion and strife.)

Why will we not give you a contraceptive? Because we love you. Because contraceptives are bad for you. Because we want something better for you–and for everyone.

We refuse to comply with the HHS mandate, not because God is arbitrary, but because the mandate is arbitrary. Arbitrarily inhuman. Arbitrarily corrosive of genuine health and well-being. And here’s why…

The Why must be addressed further. I promise to come back to it, once I have studied some interventions kindly offered by my esteemed readers.

In the meantime, let me say what a priest must say.

The Lord gives us enormously wide latitude in how we spend our time. But He prohibits the use of artificial contraceptives. This has been taught by the Church in a definitive manner. We have the duty of inquiring into this, in order to explain it. We also have the clear duty of obeying it, whether or not we understand it.

One thought on “Back To: Why The Religious-Freedom Argument Doesn’t Work

  1. Father Mark,

    Analogy time: when a young child attempts to run out in the street, LOVE demands a rapid arm grab (or any other surface that presents and prevents the rush to disaster) and a swift swat on the posterior. Explanations can come later; the lesson is NOW. LOVE sometimes demands that we scream in the halls, not reason and rationalize.

    The [standard, as are all things Catholic] pastoral letter indicates three options: 1). Cease providing health insurance; 2). Serve only Catholics; 3). Violate our beliefs by supporting contraception financially. I’ve arranged them in this order because I believe that is the order of pursuit — with certain qualifiers. Number 3 is not to be undertaken. Number 2 is the one that probably seems to fly the most in the face of LOVE, and is certainly an impediment to ecumenism. Number 1, then should be the path we follow. Not fair to the workers for Catholic Institutions you say? Not so!

    The Catholic Church (both corporately and as individuals) SUPPORTED Barack Hussein Obama for President [don’t think so? remember to object weakly is to support], and SUPPORTED the “health care initiative” promoted by him [ditto] — all in the name of humanistic interests. By this latter, ALL people now have access to “free health care” [to quote the former Speaker of The House of Representatives — a Roman Catholic, so say she]. So, there couldn’t be ANYTHING wrong with this approach — RIGHT? Besides, we’re only talking about MONEY, right? That is, the Church could provide enough additional salary to its workers to allow them to purchase health insurance. And, in Maryland, that should be enough, since the rates are supposedly set by statistically-established costs by age grouping alone.

    The good news is, the health care initiative, as passed, did mandate nationwide standards for insurance companies which SHOULD make it possible for individuals to obtain health insurance at the same rate as employers — WE SHALL YET SEE. The bad news is that the provision would be without a tax break. BUT, governments have already almost universally removed the tax break on health insurance for many people, based on income and/or position within the organization. It is probably only a matter of time until they remove the exemption from taxation on this “BENEFIT: in their rapacious demand for tax income to fund their “programs”, AND, by extension to increase the power of those in elective office. In the event that a “flat tax” approach is enacted (not very likely; but within the realm of possibility) all benefit to the individual from employer-provided health insurance SHOULD disappear.

    Facetiousness aside, Ceasing provision of health insurance to Catholic Institution workers, and giving it to them in salary should be the most expeditious approach. Setting up a medical savings plan to exploit the current law could reduce the expense of taxation. In fact, the Church has a battalion of lawyers available, on retainer, to assist it in such measures. Militating toward a rational tax structure (the flat tax is the only one in the offing at present) would further reduce the monetary impact on the Church. Working systematically toward less governmental (especially Federal) intrusion into religious practice, and all other aspects of life, would probably be beneficial as well.

    So, no need to ponder long and laboriously: a path of action is readily available; AND we needn’t beg those in Congress (and lose something else in the process) for redress on this specific issue. Instead, let’s progress EFFECTIVELY for once, by establishing clear priorities (of which LIFE should be the first, liberty and the pursuit of happiness behind that, and “guaranteed” economic well-being a far-distant one — given the fact that the guarantor seems to be quite capable of doing what the Feds just did in this matter), and ignoring petty inflictions (as opposed to afflictions). Rid Congress of those who promulgate such un-Constitutional nonsense.



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