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Secularism's Toll on Catholic Americans


FR. BARRON

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Bishops, Priests
Date:
2/10/2012

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ABSTRACTSecularism's Toll on Catholic Americans | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  April 8, 2012   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Christmas Music Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Secularism's Toll on Catholic Americans (8935) Father Robert Barron on HHS mandate: 'I would hope that American Catholics would argue against the Obama administration move, not only because they are Catholics, but also because they are Americans.' Share by FATHER ROBERT BARRON 02/10/2012 Comments (104) – Shutterstock Some years ago, Holy Cross Father James Burtchaell published a seminal book entitled The Dying of the Light . The central thesis of this study was that hundreds of universities that began under religious auspices and for religious purposes — the University of Chicago, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, to name just some of the most prominent — have undergone so thorough an erosion of their original identities that now they are utterly secular in orientation. A particularly interesting feature of Burtchaell’s book was his analysis of the slow, subtle process by which the change from fervently religious to blandly secular took place: slight changes, little adjustments, tiny concessions barely noticed at the time, but all of them conducing finally toward the inevitable secularization. The Dying of the Light was meant to be a sobering lesson and a wake-up call to many Catholic universities today, which find themselves on a similar path to compromise. I won’t follow that part of Burtchaell’s argument now (perhaps another time), but I bring up his book because it sheds a good deal of light on an analogous situation today. Decades ago, priests, religious brothers and religious sisters were colorfully visible features of Catholic hospitals, serving as nurses, chaplains, business officers and chief administrators. With the decline in vocations, this obviously religious leadership largely disappeared, but Catholic values, for the most part, still animated these institutions. What has begun to concern a number of observers is that, as today’s medical personnel, staffers and administrators at Catholic hospitals have accommodated themselves more and more to secularist assumptions, even those values are in danger of disappearing. And what exacerbates the situation is that the leaders of many Catholic health-care facilities feel obligated not to overstress their religious distinctiveness, precisely because they are so reliant upon government funding. In short, the slow but steady creep toward secularization of Catholic health-care has already been, for some time, a reality. But now the process has been given a massive push by the Obama administration’s recent mandate that all health-care agencies and institutions must pay for insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and certain kinds of abortifacient drugs — all of which are repugnant to Catholic teaching. Here is what is particularly worrisome: The state seems no longer satisfied with a slow but steady evolution toward secularity; it is aggressively forcing Catholic hospitals off the stage, for it is creating for them an impossible situation. If they cave in and provide insurance for these verboten procedures, they have effectively de-Catholicized themselves; and if they refuse to provide such insurance, they will be met with fines of millions of dollars, which they cannot possibly pay. In either case, they are forced out of business as Catholic. And this seems, sadly, to be precisely what the Obama administration wants. At the University of Notre Dame, on the occasion of his receiving (controversially enough) an honorary degree of laws, President Obama publicly and vociferously pledged that he would provide for a “conscience clause” for those who wanted, for religious reasons, to opt out of a policy they find objectionable. But with this recent mandate, he has utterly gone back on his word. The secularist state recognizes that its principle enemy is the Church Catholic. Accordingly, it wants Catholicism off the public stage and relegated to a private realm where it cannot interfere with secularism’s totalitarian agenda. I realize that in using that particular term, I’m dropping a rhetorical bomb, but I am not doing so casually. There is a modality of secular liberalism that is not aggressive toward religion, but rather .......