Twenty-first Century Recusants


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ABSTRACT Twenty-first Century Recusants: Catholic World Report HOME ARCHIVED ARTICLES EDITORIAL CWR BLOG VIDEO ABOUT US NEWS BRIEFS / RSS FREE eNEWSLETTER DONATE ADVERTISE CWR Archive:   Opinion Opinion Print   /   Share   /   Send Twenty-first Century Recusants February 07, 2012 Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate evokes bitter memories of past persecution. Matthew Cullinan Hoffman The Obama administration's recent decision to require Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives through their health care plans has been met with firm resistance from Catholic leaders, and incredulity even from the president’s own supporters, who warn that the administration is walking into a political minefield.   "One of Barack Obama’s great attractions as a presidential candidate was his sensitivity to the feelings and intellectual concerns of religious believers," writes the Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne. "That is why it is so remarkable that he utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health care law."  The president "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus," he adds. The president's allies in the press, who share his socially liberal love of all things contraceptive, have good reason to be concerned about the administration's Quixotic jab at the Catholic Church. The president has managed to offend the religious sensibilities of the largest voting bloc in the United States, and is evoking bitter memories of historic persecution in the process. Intentionally or not, the administration's policy smacks of the methods established by England's Queen Elizabeth against Catholic "recusants," who refused to participate in the worship services of the Anglican Church during the late 16th century. Although Elizabeth's regime, and those that followed for the next two hundred years, did not provide a penalty for Catholic belief as such, they found a simple and devastating way to coerce Catholics to violate their consciences: the recusancy fine, which was levied against those who absented themselves from Sunday Anglican worship or failed to receive communion once a year.  The fine, which began as a few shillings, was eventually raised to 20 pounds a month, a devastating penalty that few could afford.  After being impoverished by such levies, family members would be thrown in jail for failing to pay, and sometimes expelled from the country. Only the wealthiest Catholic families, generally of the aristocracy, could avoid persecution by paying the fines and maintaining a Catholic existence in the privacy and secrecy of their estates. Although it is far removed from the severity of Britain's old recusancy measures, Obama's policy bears an uncomfortable similarity to them. Catholics will not be directly forced to repudiate their moral principles, but some of their most important institutions will be fined handsomely for refusing to do so. For each employee not provided with contraceptive insurance coverage, a Catholic university, charity, or ot.......