Catholics and the Duties of Religious Freedom
This right is not exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it exclude Catholics
The Health and Human Services mandate puts us in a fiendish dilemma: it tells us that for us to serve Our Lord in the sick, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we must rebel against the same Lord in supporting acts that are intrinsically vicious. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God." The HHS mandate is clearly and without question an unjust law. It is a law against the common good.
This right is not exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it exclude Catholics.
Yet in January of this year, in an unprecedented move, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a federal mandate which requires all employers-including Catholic hospitals, colleges, schools, adoption agencies, and other of the Catholic Church's charitable institutions -to provide and fund practices that go against the Catholic Church's moral teachings, and not only against her teachings but against the natural moral law that binds all men.
In effect, the federal mandate requires that the Church-if she is to continue her ministry to all peoples-to fund, support, and facilitate access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to the employees employed in her charitable institutions.
The move by HHS is fiendish. It seems calculated to put the Church on the horns of a dilemma, to force it into a moral quandary.
It is a fundamental principle of the natural law that one is never to do evil so that good may come. This is particularly true for intrinsic evils. Nothing justifies an act of murder, of rape, of genocide. These are intrinsic evils.
The Church, of course, whether you agree with her or not, sees the things it is being compelled to support, to fund, to promote by the HHS mandate in the same category. We may never, never, never do an intrinsic evil-something against the natural moral law-no matter what the good we may think may come of it.
This is not a matter of prudential judgment. We are not utilitarians where everything is up for compromise. This is an absolute, exceptionless norm.
So the HHS mandate as currently written compels, under the force of law, Church-affiliated organizations to do something intrinsically evil, something not only against The Church's religious doctrine, but something against the natural moral law, something universally wrong, something clearly against the common good, something inhuman.
It puts us in a fiendish dilemma: it tells us that for us to serve Our Lord in the sick, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we must rebel against the same Lord in supporting acts that are intrinsically vicious.
Confronted with such a dilemma. What are we to do?
Now the New Testament does not have a lot specifically to say about politics. But it does provide us two principles that stand in constant tension. There are two "poles" between which we must sail.
The first: St. Paul states that Christians should be subject to the governing authorities, "for there is no authority except that which has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Rom. 13:1) We are a lawful people.
The second principle we find in St. Peter: "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) We are a Godly people
When do we obey man? When do we obey God and not man?
Scripture gives us an intermediating principle: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God." (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
So we have to figure whether the HHS mandate, is clearly and without question a usurpation by Caesar.
And it is. It is an unjust law. It is a law against the common good.
How do we know?
We might here invoke Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famed Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which in a nutshell states what persons of conscience should do when confronting an unjust law:
"I would agree with Saint Augustine that 'An unjust law is no law at all.' Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law."
Following Reverend King who enunciates perennial principles, the HHS mandate is no law. It is not binding on the conscience. ...
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