Friday, January 20, 2012, the Obama administration announced that faith-based institutions must cover free contraception for employees. While mainstream media tries to pass this off as merely covering “the pill,” it also includes sterilization and abortifacients. (See the AP story here.) Regardless, Catholics (and other religious denominations) are being forced to accept insurance coverage for procedures and chemicals that are mortally dangerous, both physically and spiritually. What’s more, we’re being forced to pay for others to accept such coverage also, or go without health care coverage ourselves. Of course, the administration attempted to soften the blow by allowing faith-based entities until August 2013 to make the necessary changes to their insurance packages.
The Obama administration timed the announcement perfectly – right smack in the middle of the United States Bishops ad limina visits with the Holy Father during which the threat to our religious liberty is a primary concern, and just before the March for Life in Washington, DC.
On Thursday, January 19, Pope Benedict XVI remarked about this in his address to Region IV of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
“In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.” (Read the full text here.)
The Holy Father cited this as a “grave threat” in which we’re being forced to cooperate in “intrinsically evil practices.”
Well, the USCCB isn’t going to take this lying down. They’ve vowed to fight this order as “literally unconscionable.” “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, USCCB president. “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable,” he continued. “It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.” (Read the entire USCCB statement here.)
Cardinal-designate also spoke out about the HHS ruling in a web video in which he urged Catholics and the public at large to speak out in protest. “Let your elected leaders know that you want religious liberty and rights of conscience restored and that you want the administration’s contraceptive mandate rescinded,” he said. (View the entire video here.)
Absolutely we have to do that, but we also have to do more. This is both a political and a spiritual battle. We need to educate ourselves about this issue so that we’ll really know what we’re talking about and how to fight it when it rolls out. Even more, we need to prepare ourselves spiritually by receiving the sacraments often and deepening our relationship with the Triune God. We also need to step up our prayer life, praying not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but also for our bishops in their part of the fight. We have to pray for the administration to change its ways, and for a new administration that will be able to undo the harm caused by the current one. Yet, there’s even more we can do. We can fast, make spiritual sacrifices, do works of mercy, increase our self-discipline, and offer it for a moral and acceptable resolution to this crisis because this is just a next step in the persecution of the Catholic faith in our country.
There’s much we can do, and we need to begin now. We simply can’t take this lying down.