HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

Bill Maher, Prophecy Fulfiller or Just Another Atheist Crank in Love With Death?

Bill Maher, the aggressive atheist/talk show host, managed to fulfill a prophecy a few months ago.

Even though I doubt very much that this was his intention when he gave this interview, he comes pretty close.

Mr Maher says (jokingly) I love death. Then he goes on to list all the real-world ways that he really does support the Culture of Death.

Proverbs 8 says “Those who hate me, love death.”

That verse may be more of a direct assessment than a prophecy. Mr Maher may not have been entirely serious when he characterized himself as a death lover. But considering his consistent support for legalized murder in any form, it seems like an “if the shoe fits” deal. The shoe does indeed seem to fit. The only death he doesn’t appear to “love” is his own.

One of the points the commenter makes is that there are very few people who are both pro choice and in favor of the death penalty. People have said similar things to me, only in reverse. Mr Maher and I are somewhat mirror images of one another, at least on a few matters. He is an aggressive atheist. I am a Christian and a Catholic. He favors abortion on demand. I am pro life. He favors the death penalty. I oppose it.

Unlike Mr Maher, I don’t fulfill any prophecies, unless you want to include me among those from many nations who will follow Him.

Listen to this YouTube video (it’s a radio broadcast) and see if you think Mr Maher is a prophecy fulfiller, or just another atheist crank attacking the sanctity of human life.

YouTube Preview Image

Ohio School District Defies Freedom From Religion Foundation

It isn’t civil disobedience. It’s disobedience of bullies with a word processor.

Refuse to let them tell you what to do.

That’s all it takes to stand up to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the self-appointed United States Supreme Court in absentia who rains down threatening letters on unsuspecting government officials at laser printer speed.

Just don’t do what they tell you to do.

A case in point is the Jackson Country School District in Ohio. They’ve decided to keep a portrait of Jesus right where it is, despite receiving their personal copy of the ubiquitous FFF threat.

The Christian Post article describing this situation reads in part:

By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor
January 12, 2013|2:55 pm

Hundreds of community members hailed a school district in Ohio for deciding to let a portrait of Jesus Christ stay at the hallway of a middle school, which was threatened with a lawsuit by Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wis. who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down,” Jackson County School District Superintendent Phil Howard told WKKJ.

In a Jan. 2 letter to the district, the FFRF demanded the portrait, which hangs in the Jackson Middle School building, be removed, saying it is unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.

Howard said the portrait – placed in 1947 by a local chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association – is one of several displays in the school’s Hall of Honor. “We’re not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn’t hurt anyone.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/jesus-portrait-to-stay-at-ohio-school-defying-atheist-demands-88147/#XigDdUag7uk2vOat.99

She’s My Mother So Be Careful What You Say About Her

Monday was my anniversary.

My mother had a turn for the worse yesterday.

My doc did some “work” on Gimpy the Foot a week ago today.

I have to submit all the titles I want for the legislation I want to introduce by Friday.

I moved to a different residence and things are a mess and I can’t do nuthin’ because of Gimpy.

I’m teaching a class at a local university.

 

There are benefits to being so busy and out of it.One of them is that I miss a lot of the trendy, anti-Christian trash that’s floating around. I for sure missed the news that some guy has written a book attacking Our Lady.

I’m glad I got to not know about this for a while. To mis-quote Sara Teasdale, “for every sweet, singing hour of peace count many an hour of strife well lost.” In my situation, I think that’s Sara, saying that ignorance can be bliss.

Fortunately, the inimitable Mark Shea, who blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It, was aware and taking action. He’s written a great discussion about this book, which begins “My autopsy of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, this Christmas’ assault on the gospel from our now utterly predictable Manufacturers of Culture.”

I’m glad Mark saw it first. He’s better at this sort of thing than I am, and it sounds as if this particular book deserves evisceration at the hands of the best.

Mark’s comments here on Patheos, which are titled Not My Mother, say:

My autopsy of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, this Christmas’ assault on the gospel from our now utterly predictable Manufacturers of Culture.  Just a little taste:

In terms of content, the book is a by-the-numbers hatchet job written in sensitive, spare, and poetic diction for the delectation of UK and New York Chattering Classes and dipped in a bath of relentless, willful sadness and bitterness. The basic premise is that it has been 20 years since the crucifixion, and Mary is one pissed-off hag, sounding for all the world like a nun in iron grey, short-cropped hair and sensible shoes who has seized the microphone in a We Are Church group process breakout session and is now on the third hour of an extended free association monologue, grousing bitterly about the patriarchy.

(Read more here.)

 

 

Christian Persecution: Are Atheists Vampires?

I haven’t written about the recent flap over the 9/11 Cross. I’m not going to say much now. I just want to share a theory I have that might clear up a small mystery.

For those who don’t know, the 9/11 Cross is a cross that formed by two pieces of rubble falling together amidst the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001.

The 9/11 Cross has great meaning for many people, and so far as I can see, harms none of those who do not find it meaningful. However, the American Atheist Foundation disagrees. They filed suit against use of the 9/11 Cross, which was dedicated to the World Trade Center Memorial.

According to a September 11 article in Charisma News, their claims of the “damages” they have suffered because of the 9/11 Cross include,

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, contends that atheists are experiencing horrible physical reactions after seeing the rubble cross, such as “inter alia, dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish.”

The atheists claim that the cross makes them “feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack.” (Read more here.)

As they used to say on the old Laugh-In show, “let that percolate through your being.”

These folks are seriously taking the position in a court document that the mere sight of a cross causes them to experience, among other things, “dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish.” 

Atheists aren’t very hardy people are they? It makes one wonder how such delicate little flowers managed to survive millions of years of natural selection. One would think that they’d have just dyspepsiad away some night after witnessing an unshielded baptism.

I’ve thought about this. Not a lot. But I have thought about it. I can only come up with two possible conclusions.

1. Atheist organizations are set on harassing, insulting and attacking Christians at every turn in an attempt to drive us underground and silence us.

or ….

2. Atheists are vampires. I mean, who else reacts like that to the sight of a cross? 

These not-so-well-thought-out conclusions, if followed to their own conclusions, lead us inevitably to two possible plans of action.

1. We can fight back. Maybe sue them for harassment or wanton stupidity or something. 

or ….

2. We can try putting a couple of them in front of mirrors.  See if they have a reflection. If they don’t, well, we’ve all watched enough vampire movies to know what comes next.

Whichever way we go on this, I think it’s important to never invite an atheist into our homes. You know what happens when you invite a vampire in, don’t you?

Anyway, I guess that’s all for now. Remember: Next time you see an atheist, whip that mirror out. And keep your garlic, backup holy water and crucifix handy. Even if they don’t turn to ash or anything, the crucifix alone is documented to produce crippling dyspepsia.

The Existential Reality of Unbelief and Atheist Anomie

“This is My Body.”

The priest says this, then holds the wafer aloft. The bells ring and the church falls silent.

This is My body.” This bread, that, in the words St Faustina gave us, is the body and blood, soul and divinity” of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is My body … the body He spoke of when He said, “he who eats of my flesh … shall never die.”

If this is true, then nothing else matters.

If it’s a lie, nothing matters at all.

A few years ago, an atheist friend of mine leaned over the lasagna on the dinner table between us and said, “Life is nothing, really. You’re born. You live. You die. None of it matters.”

That is the existential reality of unbelief. That simple statement represents our ultimate reality if we are nothing but animated matter. Unbelief is not the liberating viewpoint its proponents like to claim. After those who fall prey to it get past the ‘freedom” to use and be used, to break all the rules and kick over all the barriers of passé Christian morality, they inevitably arrive at the great alone where life without meaning, living without hope defines their reality.

The question of whether or not the priest’s words are true when he proclaims “This is my Body” and elevates that wafer involves a lot more than whether or not there is more to us than they can take apart in an autopsy. It is more than the gift of life after death. What it represents is life, not just after death, but before it, as well.

I lived about 17 years of my life in rebellion against God. I had my reasons. Even now I think they were rather good ones. During those years, I lived as my own god. I decided what was right and wrong. I made my own rules. And I lived by them.

I did many of the things that people who attack Christianity do today. I made fun of churches when talking to my friends. I was ardently pro-choice, and that led me into an active dislike of Christianity and the power of Christian witness. I joined Americans United for Separation of Church and State and I looked forward to the day when churches would lose their tax status. My reason was simple: I wanted the voice of faith to go silent so that I could do what I wanted without anyone trying to tell me no. I was perfectly free to walk my own path, but I didn’t like the constant push back from people of faith about what I was doing.

It was as simple, and as selfish, as that.

What I didn’t reckon with was that being your own god has a peculiar price attached to it that no posturing unbeliever ever mentions. Not only can you be your own petty god, but you must be your own god. Not only can you set your own rules and define your own morality, but you must set your own rules and define your own morality. And when you do harm to others, as you will, the remorse you feel is as cold and pitiless as the philosophy that brought you here.

I never got to the point my friend described in the restaurant that night. I was still young and healthy, with my own eventual death a long way off in a future I couldn’t imagine, much less see. There wasn’t any emotional head-butting against the hard wall of my own mortality. I just failed at being a good person.

Without the “rules” I so despised, I tripped over the edge of what I knew was right and tumbled soul-first into the world of doing what I knew was wrong. The obfuscations worked for years. They tamped down the unease, silenced the questions and made me feel just fine about myself. But there came a day when the truth broke through and I found myself face to face with the fact that I had hurt other people.

Being your own god means that you will come to a day when you either have to face the harm you have done and are doing to other people and change your ways, or you will chose to ignore it and give yourself away to a life of indifference about the pain you cause. If you go the first direction, you will plunge into the pain of remorse and grief. If you go in the second, you sentence yourself to the dry living and lonely dying of life as your own useless god.

I took the first course. It was while I was on that path of remorse and grief that I reached out to the God I had pushed away for so long. I discovered that He was right there, He was real and He loved me with a love like nothing I had ever experienced before.

As usual, there were a lot of things I didn’t reckon with in that turning to God. One of the most important was that the experience of knowing Him re-oriented my view of myself and life. When you look at the world through godless glasses, what you see is what my friend described to me. “Life is nothing. You’re born. You live. You die. None of it matters.”

That is the atheist life view. It is the inevitable and unavoidable conclusion to the belief that reality has no spiritual dimension and that there is nothing to existence but the material universe. Life is nothing. We are nothing. None of it matters.

There comes a point in the life of every person I’ve known who holds this life view when bitterness and anger seem to overwhelm them. The self-portrait atheists peddle to others of themselves as urbane philosophers with a cogent and rational grip on reality doesn’t hold up when you spend much time with them. I lived 17 important years of my adult life with unbelievers as their fellow unbeliever. I know a lot of people who are atheists. I’ve seen them go through all sorts of life situations.

One of the things that is most jarring when I watch them is how their bitterness increases with time. These are tormented people who are trapped in an arid view of life that offers no hope or meaning.

Christianity, on the other hand, provides meaning and symmetry to all of life, including some of its worst happenings. Life matters when you are a Christian, all of life, every life. What you do matters. You matter.

Life for a Christian is more than eternal. Living life forever with a worldview as arid and hopeless as that of the atheist would be a sentence, not a gift. But life when it is viewed through the lens of faith, is rich with meaning and purpose.

Bad things happen to all people. But Christians can see meaning in them. We can know that God will ultimately use even the worst bad thing for good. Nothing, not even death, is the end of our story, and seen through the lens of eternity, the things that overwhelm the atheist do not overwhelm us.

“This is my Body,” the priest says and lifts the wafer, the Host, for us to see, that what he says is true. It is the Bread of Life Abundant.

Christian Persecution: Saddle Up! This is War! (Of a Sort)

I mentioned in an earlier post, Christian Persecution: In the West, Where the War is Forced Upon Us, that violent persecution of a group of people doesn’t spring fully-formed from the head of some political Zeus. It evolves in an almost invisible progression from a series of smaller things.

It almost always begins with simple criticism, some of which may even be valid. In time, this moves to unjust badgering, slanders and verbal harassment, which is coupled with agitation for changes in the law that impinge on the rights and freedoms of the group under attack. The legal discriminations begin slowly, again at first in areas that may even seem reasonable. Over time, they cut more and more deeply into the basic rights and essential freedoms of the target group. At the same time, insults and verbal harassment move into hectoring, hate speech and outright attempts to silence people.

This is where Christians are now in the Western World. We are bombarded with verbal attacks on our faith in the media, in our conversations, at our schools and even in our friendships and families. We must make the decision over and over to either be quiet and let this bigotry stand or engage in unsettling and exhausting battles that always seem to involve personal insults. At the same time, law-makers, government agencies and courts create laws, mandates and rulings that attempt to compel us to violate our faith or face legal sanctions, or prohibit us from the outward practice of our faith.

The HHS Mandate is an example of the government intruding on the free exercise of religion. The lawsuit against the British government over a woman’s right to wear a cross on a necklace to work without being fired is an example of how Christians are being forced to resist laws limiting the outward practice of their faith. There are many other examples of both these things that I could add.

The next move after legal discrimination and social hazing is violent persecution. Many Christians around the world face violent persecution, up to and including mass murder, because of their faith. We are not at that level in the Western world, but we have moved quite a distance down the continuum that leads to it.

When I published the earlier post, I received a few angry denunciations and ad hominem jibes, both on this board and in other venues. These comments fell along the predictable lines that I have seen over and again from people who have decided that there is a group of people that they want to persecute and attack.

In my experience, nothing makes people so angry as telling them that they may not kill, discriminate against, exploit, or attack some group of people that they have decided is outside the pale of human consideration.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m also not a theologian. But I’ve always felt that these people were influenced by the devil. There have been times in my job as a legislator that I have encountered such rage and hatred from someone who wants me to give them the legal right to kill or exploit others that it almost singed my skin when they looked at me. It was as if the devil was walking on two human feet, talking with a human mouth, and looking at me through human eyes.

It makes no difference if the people they want to kill, hurt and destroy are the unborn, Christians, immigrants, women, children, prisoners or simply the poor, their attitude of total indifference to them as people and self-righteous assurance of their right to hurt them is stone cold. There is nothing I have ever found that anyone can say to people who are in the froth of this kind of rage that will penetrate to their hearts and move them.

That is what I felt I encountered in some of the communications I received because of the post I mention above. I expect that I may receive more such communications because of this one.

That does not change my mind. To the contrary. It confirms my belief that we are living in a society in which a militant and highly aggressive group of people intends to engage in Christian-baiting and to push for increasingly unjust legal discrimination against Christians and they become enraged and abusive with anyone who tells them that what they are doing is wrong. I believe that this is our present situation in the West.

The question that flows from this is a simple one: What can we do about it?

One of my goals with this blog is to use whatever little bit of knowledge and insight I have to educate and empower my brothers and sisters in Christ about what’s happening and what to do about it. I am not claiming that I know a lot or that I have some all-encompassing Ms Fix-it Solution.  All I’m saying is that I want to share what little I do know and what ideas I have.

Mother Theresa famously said that we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. My version of that is that there is an ocean of needful things that need doing in this world and none of us can do them all. Also, none of us can control what other people will do or how they will react to our best efforts. We can become overwhelmed by this and let it defeat us before we start.

However no one of us has to do everything that needs doing. There are a lot of us, and if we all do our part, everything will get done. We also don’t have to change anyone’s mind with our faithful witness for Christ. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

I touched on it in the last paragraph. There are a lot of things that need doing, far more than any one of us can do alone, but that is not a problem.  All any one of us has to do is his or her part. That’s it. Just do your part, say your prayers and trust God.

I think one simple thing that all of us can do is to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are being sanctioned and fired for wearing a cross. I would like to see every Christian in Britain and all the rest of Europe begin wearing a cross, outside their clothes, every day. I would like to see us doing it here in America, as well.

I have a St Thomas More medal that I wear on a chain around my neck. I also have a Miraculous Medal ring that I wear on one of my fingers. When I add a crucifix to that, I’m going to be jingle, jangle, jingling with religious jewelry. But I’m going to do it, just the same. I plan to buy a cross pin to wear on my blazer, my blouse and when I’m just putzing around, my t-shirt.

Someone else might wear a cross on a necklace; another person a bracelet. Your cross might be a pin made of ribbons or even a paper cross colored by a child. It’s the statement of solidarity that counts; not the jewelry.

Will you join me? Add your thoughts and ideas about how we can do this better in the comments section. I think if we combine all our thoughts, we might come up with something really good.


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