On the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom, there are those within the Catholic Church who are denying that the two-week observance has anything to do with the Church’s teaching on contraception and everything to do with upholding the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religious expression. That’s a false dichotomy and misattribution of the causal nature of our current dilemma.
It’s akin to those who say the American Civil War wasn’t about slavery, that it was all about states’ rights; which of course begs the question: The right to do what?
There is no doubt that the states who seceded feared the loss of self-government to the Federal Government, but the loss of liberty was rooted in the issue of slavery which was woven into the very social and economic fabric of the South. In the case of slavery (which took on a more prominent role for Northerners as the struggle wore on) it was an example of the Federal Government getting it right. The unalienable (That is, God-given) right to liberty had been denied to African-Americans for far too long. Federal troops were sent to both preserve the Union and end slavery for good.
In the current struggle, the Federal Government has sought to attack the Catholic Church over an issue that is central to her identity and mission, the teaching that all human life is made in the image and likeness of God from the moment of fertilization and is to be respected as such until natural death. Our loss of freedom is centered on the mandate by the Federal Government that we pay not only for birth control pills, some of which are known abortifacients, but that we pay for sterilizations and known abortifacient morning-after pills such as RU-486 and Ella.
Further, the Government is dictating what institutions constitute “religious” institutions and which do not. The only “religious” institutions that qualify for an exemption by the Obama criteria would be those who violate equal opportunity law by hiring most of their employees who are members of that church, and whose services go mainly to members of that same church.
Otherwise, Catholic hospitals, schools, and social service agencies are required to pay for contraceptives, abortifacients and abortions, and sterilizations. If the bishops do so, they shred Humanae Vitae and every decent moral precept undergirding Catholic Anthropology. If they voluntarily close down these institutions, they cooperate with evil by giving our enemies precisely the evisceration of our Church that they seek.
Perhaps jails overflowing with civilly disobedient Catholic bishops, clergy, religious, and laity will be the sole salvation of religious liberty in America. We’ll see soon enough how this situation breaks. The Supreme Court ruling on the HHS mandate is due out any day, and then there are the November elections.
That’s plenty of reason to pray during this fortnight.