HHS mandate might awaken the sleeping Catholic conscience



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ABSTRACTOn The News : HHS mandate might awaken the sleeping Catholic conscience - Catholic Culture Membership Login RSS Contact CatholicCulture Advanced Search News Commentary Liturgical Year Resource Center About Donate Shop Latest Headlines Week Month Top Ten On the Culture On the News In Depth Analysis The City Gates Insights Reviews Off the Record Top Ten Today Calendar Month Season Prayers, Activities, Recipes Library Site Reviews What You Need to Know Catholic Dictionary Catechism Church Fathers Most Collection Mission Leadership History Donor Information Boosters Rogues' Gallery Help/FAQ Site Map Tell a Friend! Advertise Click here to advertise in this spot on CatholicCulture.org. On The News HHS mandate might awaken the sleeping Catholic conscience By Phil Lawler | February 03, 2012 3:45 PM From Our Store: Moral Issues (eBook) "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," said New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan about the Obama administration’s new mandate for contraceptive coverage in health-care policies. Sad to say, we Catholics have done it before. We have found ways to violate our consciences—or at a minimum, to still their cries. We’ve learned how to make peace with immoral policies, to accept the unacceptable. Will we do it again? Will American Catholics put their consciences to sleep? Will we discover excuses for begging out of the political battle that our bishops have now joined? Count on it: some of the best liberal minds at our Jesuit-run universities are working on that project right now. Given a year, they will produce plenty of arguments in favor of the Obama administration, and against the Catholic hierarchy. This is the story of the past 40 years, isn’t it? Church leaders take a clear stand on a controversial issue, and then dozens of dissenting Catholics—priests and pundits and theologians and even the occasional bishop—examine the argument minutely, finding difficulties and loopholes and exceptions and objections and nuances, and conclude that the Church is not teaching with authority and Catholics can safely ignore the official statements. Through all those years of dissent Catholics have grown accustomed to backpedaling, ceding ground to more determined advocates of liberal ideology. We have found, to our shame, that we can live comfortable lives in a society that allows legalized bloodshed and mocks marriage. We disapprove of abortion and euthanasia and homosexuality and sterilization, and we state our disapproval occasionally for the record. But we have reasoned that as long as we are not participating directly in those actions, we need not hold ourselves responsible. Now we can no longer fall back on those half-hearted arguments about our own ritual purity. With the new HHS mandate, Catholic institutions will be ordered to do something that Catholic institutions cannot do. Unless the mandate is reversed, Catholic institutions will face a fateful choice between the authority of the Church and that of the government. The many American bishops who have spoken out against the mandate (and God bless them for it!) have framed this argument as a religious-freedom issue. So it is. But this issue poses the question of religious freedom in a particularly acute fashion. We Catholics are not asking simply to be let alone on Sunday mornings to worship in peace; we are asking not to be compelled to do something that is gravely wrong. We are not merely asking the government to remain neutral on religious issues; we are asking the government not to intervene aggressively on one side (the wrong side) of a moral debate. Some pundits have suggested that the HHS mandate, in its effect on Catholic institutions, is tantamount to a policy that would require Orthodox Jewish institutions to buy pork for their employees. Not so. My Orthodox Jewish friends do not object if I eat pork. Eating pork is morally objectionable for them , because of the laws of their faith. Contraception, on the other hand, is inherently wrong. The Church directs Catholics to shun the use of contraceptives not because of some private in-house rule, but because contraception violates the natural law and degrades the marital act. Americans today think of birth control as a “Catholic issue,” but the natural-law argument applies with equal force to everyone, Catholic or not. Why is it, then, that so many people think the prohibition on contraception applies only to Catholics? Is it because so many other religious groups, once united with the Church on the subject, have come to embrace the contraceptive culture? No doubt. But we should be honest enough to recognize another important factor. Catholics have compromised for years on this issue. Rather than fighting against the acceptance of birth control, and protesting the use of our tax dollars to fund contraceptive campaigns, we have retreated into our denominational.......