US Senate Denies Free Exercise of Religion, Tables the Blunt Amendment
In addition to the Right to Religious Freedom, what is also at risk is access to Catholic Health Care in the United States for those who need it the most
In the history of the United States of America, from the beginning, Catholic Hospitals existed to care for the sick. The Catholic Church is currently one of the very largest health care providers in the United States of America. If this Administration persists in its iron handed effort to compel the Church to bend the knee to a new Caesar, that service to the Nation is placed in jeopardy. It appears that the administration wants to remove the vital role of mediating institutions such as the Church in serving the Common Good of society through providing health care. One must now ask - Why?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Since January 20, 2012 when the unjust Edict issued by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, was issued, Catholics have heard strongly worded and courageous letters read at Mass, written by the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Every single US Bishop has stood up to this injustice. We have been asked to rise up in prayer, fasting and concerted Catholic Action.We have only just begun our fight.
The mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to provide sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception in their health care plans, making them available for free. The alleged "exemption" for religious employers did not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other expressions of our Catholic faith and mission. The alleged compromise later offered was simply sophistry. It accomplished nothing, except perhaps pouring salt into the wound.
Catholics believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands a response which goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister's keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic.We will not retreat from the world because we are called into it by the God who still loves the world so much that he sends his Son.We believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, continuing every aspect of His redemtive mission until he returns.
The HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion. That protection, enshrined in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, is based upon the Fundamental Human right to Religious Freedom secured by the Natural Law. The HHS Edict is an unjust law which must be opposed. The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force the Catholic Church to act against its deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience.
Failure to comply with the HHS Edict will bring punitive measures upon the Church and her institutions in the form of onerous fines. They would have the practical result of closing many of the Church's outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion. Certainly this not only injures the Church, it injures American society. What is at stake is the continued existence of many of the Catholic outreaches in the United States.
In his recent letter to the US Bishops, Cardinal Dolan wrote, "The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community." He is absolutely correct.
Concerning the purported "accommodation" he wrote "On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed "without change." The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain."
His summary of the threat to Religious Freedom reminded us, "Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government's decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations."
"Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a "privilege" arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily."
"In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our "first freedom" and respect for it must be broad and inclusive-not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is "religious enough" to warrant religious freedom protection."
The Cardinal puts the real issue forward, "This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization - although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all."
"If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded."
It is apparent that President Obama and his administration do not respect fundamental human rights including the Right to life and the Right to Religious Freedom. The Nation we love is slowly devolving into a secularist State.
A legislative response, The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, was introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that all who participate in the health care system "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions."
Language from this legislation became the "Blunt Amendment" voted on in the Senate on Thursday, March 1, 2011. Unfortunately, the opponents of the Free Exercise of Religion managed to table it by a 51 to 48 vote. Though the vote followed mostly Party line, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, all Democrats, voted with Republicans to defend the Free Exercise of Religion.
Several Federal court challenges have been filed against the unconstitutional mandate, including a recent one filed by the Attorneys General of seven States. I am sure this is only the beginning of similar lawsuits. The strategy behind the lawsuits is intended to ensure a fast track to the United States Supreme Court.
Rallies are already scheduled - with many more to follow. There is talk of a massive March on Washington. This unjust edict - and its defense by the shrill opponents of religious freedom - have unleashed a massive civil resistance movement only in its infancy.What is now eminently clear is that Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will who recognize the real threat to religious freedom, will not back down.
In addition to the Right to Religious Freedom, what is also at risk is access to Catholic Health Care in the United States for those who need it the most. Make no mistake; the Church will continue to minister healing to the sick because she must. It is at the heart of her mission.However, the current Administration seems "hell bent" on squeezing the Church out of providing health care to millions of Americans who currently receive it at Catholic Institutions.
In a section entitled "Christ the physician", the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds the faithful that "Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people" and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. (Mk. 2:17)
"His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me." (Mt. 25:36) His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1503)
The Gospel imperative catholics follow is found in these words of Jesus "Heal the Sick". (Matthew 10:8) The early Christians understood that this call to heal involved the ministry of the Sacraments as well as ministry to the physical needs of those who were ill. That is because the Church proclaims the unity of the human person, body, soul and spirit.
The Catholic Church proclaims the dignity of every human person from conception, through every age and stage up to and including natural death. In those who are sick, Catholics see the very face of Christ. The Church views those who are sick as "the poor" and in caring for them one cares for the Lord Himself who identifies with the poor.
This is the heart of the Catholic understanding of the call to give a love of preference to the poor. Caring for the sick is a part of Church teaching on our obligation in solidarity to one another. In the middle Ages in Europe, religious communities of both men and women were formed with the mission of carrying on Christ's mandate to "Heal the Sick!"
In the history of the United States of America, from the beginning, Catholic Hospitals existed to care for the sick. The Catholic Church is currently one of the very largest health care providers in the United States of America. If this Administration persists in its iron handed effort to compel the Church to bend the knee to a new Caesar, that service to the Nation is placed in jeopardy.
The excellence of the care provided by Catholic Medical Professionals and health care institutions flows not only from their excellence in training and preparation but from the very reason why the Catholic Church is involved in health care to begin with, fidelity to the Gospel. Catholic Health care is not simply about business, it is about ministry. It is about love. Now, because of an unjust edict by a new Caesar, those who need this care the most may not be able to receive it, because of the Obama Administration.
Make no mistake; the Catholic Church will not back down on this. It appears that the Obama Administration wants to remove the vital role of mediating institutions such as the Church in serving the Common Good of society. One must now ask, Why?
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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