“That our own government is knowingly displaying such a lack of tolerance for faithful Christians is outrageous”

“That our own government is knowingly displaying such a lack of tolerance for faithful Christians is outrageous” July 26, 2013
Still at it, I see…

So says attorney Erin Mersino. I agree. I’d also agree if our government displayed a lack of tolerance for the teachings of  faithful Jews, Muslims, Quakers, Mormons, Hindus, et al, too.

So a couple of lawyers are throwing another log on the HHS Mandate lawsuit bonfire. Catholic News Service has the skinny,

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jul 24, 2013 / 08:04 pm (CNA).- Michael and Shaun Willis and their Michigan-based law firm filed a lawsuit seeking to have the HHS mandate declared a violation of the Constitution and of federal law over religious liberty concerns.

“That our own government is knowingly displaying such a lack of tolerance for faithful Christians is outrageous,” Erin Mersino, a lawyer at the Thomas More Law Center, and the lead attorney on the case, stated July 24.

“The HHS mandate must be ruled unconstitutional or there will be no end to the federal government’s intrusion on the religious liberties of Christians.”

Michael Willis is Catholic, and Shaun is Protestant. The brothers operate their firm in a way that reflects the teachings and values of the Christian faith. Both gravely object to providing abortion and abortion-causing drugs in their employees’ insurance coverage, as required by the federal contraception mandate.

The mandate was issued under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and its final rules on religious freedom accommodations, which were found unacceptable by the U.S. bishops, were released June 28.

The suit was filed in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia July 24, and lists the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor, as well as their departments, as defendants.

Because the mandate forces employers and individuals to violate their consciences and their religious beliefs, the suit argues that it is a violation of the Willis’ rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The Mandate … subverts the expression of Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs” the suit argues, by forcing them to “fund, promote, and assist others to acquire services which Plaintiffs believe involve gravely immoral practices, including the destruction of innocent human life.”

The suit demonstrates that Willis Law is “formed by a mission of Christian service,” supporting several faith-based organizations and encouraging its employees to give a tithe of their time to providing pro bono legal services to homeless persons.

The Willis brothers also established a foundation in memory of their brother Christoper, a Marine corporal who was killed in a car accident. The foundation provides college scholarships to the children of military parents who have been killed or disabled in combat.

Willis Law employees have received health insurance with a specially engineered policy which specifically excluded contraception, abortion and abortifacients, in keeping with the consciences of its owners.

The suit notes that the Obama administration has offered “highly selective” and “arbitrary” accommodations for conscience protection and religious belief.

Read the rest.

You know what else is outrageous? The fact that our elected representatives (the President, Senators, Congressional Representatives, etc.) are routinely legislating over our constitutionally guaranteed rights like some slipshod homeowner slapping wallpaper over an intricately painted masterpiece of a fresco, and then hoping we don’t notice. But that’s old news (language warning!).

Here’s the antidote: a little something Pope Francis says about the role of we, the laity.

Luca Zennaro, PoolLUCA — AP Photo

“What do I hope for from World Youth Day? I hope for a mess, such a mess: that the Church takes to the streets. That we defend ourselves from comfort, that we defend ourselves from clericalism,” the Pope told a group of pilgrims from Argentina during this week’s World Youth Day.

Learn more.

You’re as young as you feel, and given the length of eternity, we’re all pretty young.

H/T to Fr. Steve Grunow for reminding me of this little clarification regarding what Pope Francis means when he speaks of “clericalism.” Fr. Roger Landry shared the thoughts of  then Cardinal Bergoglio on this issue in a Register piece he wrote back in April,

In a 2011 interview with an Argentinian Catholic news agency, he said this contagious spiritual sickness comes from a clericalism that passes from clergy to laypeople.

“We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap — it is a sinful complicity.”

Clericalization means focusing fundamentally on the things of the clergy and, more specifically, the sanctuary, rather than on bringing the Gospel to the world.

Clericalism ails the clergy when they become too self-referential rather than missionary. But it afflicts laypeople worse, when they begin to believe that the fundamental service God is asking of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at Church rather than to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond.

The reform that’s needed, he continued in that interview, is “neither to clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layperson is a layperson and has to live as a layperson with the power of baptism, which enables him to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself, to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And, like all of us, the layperson is called to carry his daily cross — the cross of the layperson, not of the priest.”

One of the wild grapes that flows from the vine of clericalism, the future Pope said in El Jesuita, is a hypercritical spirit that leads some Catholic priests and faithful to expend most of their energy censuring others inside and outside the Church rather than seeking to live and share the joy of the Christian faith.

This is a problem not only for priests,” he said, “but also for laypeople. One isn’t a good Catholic when he is looking only for the negative, for what separates us. This isn’t what Jesus wants.

Read the whole thing, and remember to love the culture enough to not just be a “sour faced saint,”and a scold. Start small and be the pinch of salt, the measure of yeast, and the little light, that we are called to be.

Freebird! Freebird!


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  • Many American Catholics ignore the teachings against birth control and papal infallability. I do not see these teachings changing, but the Church seems to tolerate a great deal of variance in regions of the world. Am I correct?

    • The Church tolerates no variance at all when it comes to doctrinal and moral teachings. But yes, different bishops and different organizations put more emphasis on some teachings than others, and have different ways of enforcing discipline among officials – that is, those employed by or having some institutional connection to the Church.

      When it comes to the members of the Church, well, she tolerates any and every sin. She calls every one of us sinners to repentance, as well as to growth in virtue and even to heroic virtue. The Church is, in that sense, the most tolerant community in all history.

  • stefanie

    There is so much good in what Papa Francisco says, I’d forgotten he said this and it is a good lens on what his Marshall plan is.
    I’ve often noticed that the parish doesn’t expect this of those who serve in the ‘liturgical’ ministry (often because the need for volunteers is great) — but it certainly does expect it of those who are on the staff. It is rare to find a staff member who is not firing on all cylinders, so to speak — part-office work, part-teaching the faith, part hospitality, part-liturgy, part-counselor, part-party-planner. Like Pope Francis, we need prayers, in order to have the trust in our Lord that our work really does have an effect on people. Sometimes, all we hear are complaints and ‘where-is-Father-when-we-need-him?’
    That being said…
    I also know of quite a few folks — totally Church volunteers — who have fulltime or part-time secular jobs or a houseful of kids — and yet give, give, give of their ‘outside’ time so that others are drawn to the Christian life. Today, this would also include Catholic bloggers, such as yourself, Frank.

  • Jim Dallen

    My suspicion is those who object are as much (or more) concerned about the bottom line and political ideology as about points of morality. As a matter of fact, traditional moral theology regards paying for such insurance—which is itself something good—as remote or mediate material co-operation in an action regarded as evil and therefore acceptable morally. (See Pruemmer and other standard manuals.) This is especially the case since in our current system (beginning during World War II) such insurance is regarded as part of the employee’s compensation. The employer is no more responsible for the “evil” action than if the employee used wages to pay for it.

    Objections would be more credible if the individuals involved (and the bishops) had objected to taxes being used for an unjust war criticized by two popes.

  • Should Jehovah’s Witnesses be allowed to opt out of insurance that provides medically necessary blood transfusions for their employees?

  • Michael Ostrom

    Should a business or hospital operate profitably in a plural and democratic society and not be subject to the laws of that society? If you want to function as a sect are you not free to do so?

  • billwald

    If the 2nd American Revolution had not given us a constitution that changed the United States into the United Provinces and if Lincoln’s War had not put the final nail in the “state’s rights” coffin then maybe no one would care if Utah was an LDS state, Maryland and Louisiana were Catholic states . . . .

  • Like my friend Joseph Bottom puts it,

    “Mike Astrue’s full-time avocation is writing poetry, which he publishes under the pen-name Michael Juster. But he does have a small sideline in law and economics, and for a while held a minor, little job as merely the chairman of the Social Security Administration. And in the new issue of the Weekly Standard, he uses that extra-poetical expertise to worry about privacy in government databases.”

    Read his thoughts on the matter here. Me? I’ll stay focused on the antidote, and not the host of “small laws” whom some pretend are “just” or that make any sense at all.