Do you know where political careers go to die? Upon the rock that is the Church. God Himself said that, “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” So if anyone needs to blink in this game of chicken the President and his Administration are playing, it is the Administration, and not the Church.
Maybe in another country, see, one without a strong tradition of the rule of law, or one where cults of personality and the “strongman” were honored instead of “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” this would take a very long time to play out. But this isn’t another country like that; this is the United States of America. As Gerald Russello notes in his article at the National Catholic Register this morning, it is highly likely that the Founding Fathers would be supportive of the US Bishops in the fight against the HHS Mandate.
Some critics lament that the US Bishops are playing partisan politics, and therefore their stance is lamentable. Such a belief flies in the face of the Christian tradition the Church proclaims and protects, as well as the reality of the current situation. Our shepherds have not deviated from the course that the Church has plotted, because the Church is a lighthouse on the issue of religious liberty.
This isn’t top-secret information, or anything, because it is all laid out in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published back in 2004. If the Administration would like to adopt policies that provide an “integral and solidary humanism” for the polis, that would be a great place for them to start coming up with ideas.
Skipping up to Chapter 8, we find exactly the thoughts that provide the foundation for the fight against the HHS Mandate. Thoughts like,
-The failure of kingship on the historical level does not lead to the disappearance of the ideal of a king who, in fidelity to Yahweh, will govern with wisdom and act in justice.
-Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (cf. Mk 10:42) and rejects their pretension in having themselves called benefactors (cf. Lk 22:25), but he does not directly oppose the authorities of his time.
-Jesus, the promised Messiah, fought against and overcame the temptation of a political messianism, characterized by the subjection of the nations (cf. Mt 4:8-11; Lk 4:5-8).
– Submission, not passive but “for the sake of conscience” (Rom 13:5), to legitimate authority responds to the order established by God.
-When human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission; it becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev 17:6).
-The biblical message provides endless inspiration for Christian reflection on political power, recalling that it comes from God and is an integral part of the order that he created. This order is perceived by the human conscience and, in social life, finds its fulfilment in the truth, justice, freedom and solidarity that bring peace.
Those are just a few of the highlights from the first section of that chapter, but already a picture should be forming in your mind as to why we, as a pilgrim people, must fight the gross injustice that the President is attempting to bring down upon us, and our posterity, for the sake of his own narrow, opportunistic, agenda. For as the Bishops made clear yesterday,
This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive. . . . This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the bishops’ somehow ‘banning contraception,’ when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is, instead, about the federal government forcing the Church . . . to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
-Authority must be guided by the moral law. All of its dignity derives from its being exercised within the context of the moral order,“which in turn has God for its first source and final end”.
-Authority must recognize, respect and promote essential human and moral values.
-Authority must enact just laws, that is, laws that correspond to the dignity of the human person and to what is required by right reason.
And when it doesn’t? We have the right to object conscientiously. Which is the whole enchilada with the HHS Mandate, and several other provisions of Obamacare, that strike at the conscience protections of both the Church as an institution, and the Church as a home for the faithful.
c. The right to conscientious objection
399. Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel. Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse. Besides being a moral duty, such a refusal is also a basic human right which, precisely as such, civil law itself is obliged to recognize and protect. “Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane”.
It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).
That was my use of the bold there. And that duty to not cooperate is why the Church, as guided by our Bishops, will not budge from this matter. It is also why we are actively resisting the mandate, see? Because we must. Again, this isn’t classified information,
c. The right to resist
400. Recognizing that natural law is the basis for and places limits on positive law means admitting that it is legitimate to resist authority should it violate in a serious or repeated manner the essential principles of natural law. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that “one is obliged to obey … insofar as it is required by the order of justice”. Natural law is therefore the basis of the right to resistance.
There can be many different concrete ways this right may be exercised; there are also many different ends that may be pursued. Resistance to authority is meant to attest to the validity of a different way of looking at things, whether the intent is to achieve partial change, for example, modifying certain laws, or to fight for a radical change in the situation.
And so, on this 15th of March, immortalized by William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as the pinnacle of the ill portent, “Beware the Ides of March,” I’ll end this little post with what I call the Parable of the Prideful Sea Captain, also known as the “The Lighthouse Joke.” Here it is, brought to life courtesy of YouTube
p.s. I know that the “parable” above is a tall-tale that has been discounted, and discredited as false long ago. But the likeness between the Obama Administration (the USS Montana), and the USCCB (the lighthouse) is too good to pass up. Here’s a memo the White House will be sending soon though:
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Update: Academics on the HHS Mandate .