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.