Maccabees and the insurance mandate

Good stuff from the Book of Maccabees, as applied by John Garvey, president of Catholic University on why he is suing the federal government over the Obamacare contraceptive/abortifacient mandate:

A wonderful story in the second book of Maccabees describes the martyrdom of the old scribe Eleazar. It occurred during the Hellenizing campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes. He forced the Jews “to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God.” Eleazar was ordered on pain of death to eat pork. He refused.

The men in charge of the sacrifice, who had known him for a long time, took him aside and offered to spare him if he would just eat something that looked like pork. “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion[.]” And so they killed him.

This is a story about religious freedom, and it has two points. The first is that we should put our duty to obey God’s laws above our obligation to the state. (And it is cruel on the state’s part to force people to commit sinful acts.) The second is that, quite apart from our own failure in forsaking God’s laws, we do an additional wrong in leading the young to believe that this is acceptable.

I have found myself thinking a lot about Eleazar in the past few months, as we have looked for a way to escape the dilemma the Department of Health and Human Services has posed for The Catholic University of America with its mandated-services regulation. The regulation orders the university, in its student and employee health-insurance plans, to cover surgical sterilization, prescription contraceptives, and drugs that cause early-stage abortions at no added cost to the subscribers. If we fail to do this, we will have to pay a fine of $2,000 per full-time employee, or roughly $2.6-million per year.

The Catholic Church believes that married couples should be open to the possibility of new life, and that artificial interventions to prevent or terminate pregnancy are wrong. News coverage of the dispute has observed that many members of the church dissent from this teaching. Many of the Hellenized Jews in Judea went along with Antiochus’s decrees, too. That division of opinion did not make the treatment of Eleazar any more liberal.

Like Eleazar, our university has been ordered by the government to do something it views as morally wrong. America, unlike the Seleucid Empire, has traditionally taken a tolerant view toward folks in that predicament. When West Virginia ordered the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag (an act they viewed as sinful), the Supreme Court said, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official … can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Like Eleazar, we are not concerned only about the uprightness of our own behavior. We are worried that we will do an additional wrong by leading our students to believe that the actions the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to promote are acceptable. Our mission, as a Catholic university, is to see that our students grow in wisdom, age, and grace during their time here. We teach that virtues like chastity, fidelity, and respect for life are not just ideas worth debating in philosophy class, but also ideals worth living. Compliance with the government’s mandated-services regulation would make that a lesson in hypocrisy.

via A Matter of Faith and Freedom – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

By the way, though most Protestants don’t consider the Apocrypha, those histories of the Jews between the Testaments written in Greek, to be canonical (Catholics do), all of the old theologians say they are profitable to read.  Luther included them with his translation and the Confessions sometimes quote them.  So you might be interested in The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, a new offering from Concordia Publishing House.

 

Are contraception opponents anti-science?

Journalist Laura Sessions Stepp at CNN says that people who oppose contraception are anti-science.  They are among those conservatives who have no faith in science and oppose Darwin’s theory of evolution.

via Anti-science and anti-contraception – CNN.com.

First of all, how can science (which is concerned with “is”) determine a moral principle (which is concerned with “ought”)?

Second, who are these people who oppose contraception?  The most defined group would be “Catholics,” not “conservatives” or even “the religious right” as such.  Certainly some conservatives and non-Catholics also oppose contraception, as do some environmentalists and nature advocates on the left.

Third, she lumps together religious liberty advocates, pro-lifers, and a wide array of health activists as being against contraception.

Fourth, what’s this about Darwinism?  Isn’t his theory of evolution about, you know, propagating the species, with the best adapted having more offspring than the unfit and so passing along their genes?  Doesn’t contraception get in the way of that?  Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that contraception goes against the theory of evolution?

HT:  Rebecca Oas

Gendercide foes called racist against Asians

The bill to ban abortion for the purpose of sex-selection was defeated in the House of Representatives.  Because of a procedural move by Republicans (which tells me they weren’t serious about trying to pass it) the bill had to get 2/3 of the votes.

So guess how Democrats are spinning this?  Gender-selection abortions are  common in Asia, especially in China and India, where there is a strong cultural preference for boys over girls.  This is also happening with at least some Asian-Americans.  So Democrats are saying that the Republicans who favored the bill are racist against Asian-Americans!  Really!

Republican’s abortion bill risks alienating Asian Americans – The Washington Post.

The real war on women

So are feminists and pro-choicers so committed to abortion that they oppose restrictions on sex-selective abortions, which nearly always target female babies?

Groups opposed to abortion rights are turning charges of a GOP “war on women” against Democrats who are opposed to legislation meant to ban sex-selective abortions. . . .

Now opponents of abortion rights are using the phrase ahead of a House vote Thursday imposing fines or imprisonment on doctors who perform abortions they know are motivated in part by the fetus’s gender. The bill would also require medical professionals to tell law enforcement if they suspect an abortion has been performed for that reason.

In a letter Wednesday, Americans United for Life (AUL) urged House members to “stop a real war on women — sex selection abortions” by supporting the legislation from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). . . .

“The ‘war-on-women’ language begs the question: in a war, who is dying? Sex-selective abortion kills unborn women.”

via Anti-abortion groups turn ‘war on women’ charge against Democrats – The Hill’s Healthwatch.

The hedge of separation

John Garvey, the president of Catholic University, has written an op-ed piece in which he explains why his institution is joining scores of other Catholic groups in filing a lawsuit against the contraceptive & abortifacient mandate in Obamacare.  In the course of his essay (in which he mentions also the Hossana-Tabor case involving the LCMS school), Garvey discusses the “wall of separation of church and state,” finding the metaphor’s origins not in Thomas Jefferson (who wanted to protect the state from the church) but, earlier, in Roger Williams (who wanted to protect the church from the state):

When the Supreme Court first considered the issue of aid to parochial schools in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education , it invoked separation as a limiting principle. The court quoted Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Conn.: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Jefferson was a child of the Enlightenment, suspicious of organized religion. He believed that efforts to establish an official religion led to persecution and civil war.

The metaphor was not original to Jefferson, though. Roger Williams, who founded the colony of Rhode Island on principles of religious tolerance, used it in 1644. History has shown, he observed, that when churches “have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall . . . and made his garden a wilderness.”

Williams had different reasons than Jefferson for preaching separation. Jefferson thought that religion was bad for government. Williams thought that mixing church and state was bad for the church.

These two perspectives often give us the same results. They both warn against tax support for churches and against prayers composed by public school boards. But Williams’s theological metaphor may have been more influential than Jefferson’s political one in the adoption of the First Amendment.

via For the government, what counts as Catholic? – The Washington Post.

Not just a “wall” of separation but a “hedge” of separation.  The church is a garden.  The world is a wilderness.  Making a hole in the hedge is punished by God who turns the garden into a wilderness.  Powerful metaphors.  Apply them to current issues.

And yet, is Rogers’ formulation adequate?  He was a Baptist, so we see here elements of the doctrine of separation from the world.  Is the secular arena more than just a wilderness?

Number of pro-choicers at historic low

It would seem that pro-lifers are winning the argument.  Except that a large number of pro-lifers evidently believe that abortion should be legal.

The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice” is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

A record-low 41 percent now identify themselves as “pro-choice,” down from 47 percent last July and 1 percentage point down from the previous record low of 42 percent, set in May 2009. As recently as 2006, 51 percent of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice.”

Meanwhile, 50 percent of Americans now consider themselves “pro-life,” one point below Gallup’s record high on the measure.

“Gallup began asking Americans to define themselves as pro-choice or pro-life on abortion in 1995, and since then, identification with the labels has shifted from a wide lead for the pro-choice position in the mid-1990s, to a generally narrower lead for “pro-choice” — from 1998 through 2008 — to a close division between the two positions since 2009,” explains the polling firm.

“Pro-life” identification is up among all three U.S. political affiliations: 72 percent of Republicans are “pro-life,” up from 68 percent last year; 47 percent of independents are, compared with 41 percent last year; and 34 percent of Democrats are, compared with 27 percent last year.

In terms of morality, a slight majority — 51 percent — of Americans consider abortion morally wrong, while 38 percent say that it is morally acceptable — virtually unchanged to views on the matter in May 2011.

Views on legality are slightly different: 72 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal; 52 percent believe it should be legal under certain circumstances; and 20 percent believe it should be legal under all circumstances. A quarter of the American population believes abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

via Poll: Record low are ‘pro-choice’ – Tim Mak – POLITICO.com.


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