Catholic Online will soon launch our effort to support the Bishops and the lay Catholic Catholic efforts responding at this urgent hour. It will include a call to fasting, protracted prayer and Catholic Action. That response must be undertaken on multiple fronts; on our knees, on Capitol Hill and in the Courts
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic online) - Over the last two weeks Catholics have heard read letters read at Mass which were written by the Catholic Bishops of the United States. We have been asked to rise up in prayer, fasting, Catholic Action in response to an unjust Edict issued by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, on January 20, 2012.
This mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception in their health care plans. The "exemption" provided for religious employers does not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission.
Catholics understand 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.
This HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion which is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is an unjust law in the clearest sense of the expression. 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 do so will bring punitive measures upon the Church and her institutions. This will occur 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.
The claim that such an edict is an unjust law is rooted in the western understanding of the nature of law. It is the same firm foundation upon which the American founders grounded their insistence that there are inalienable rights, endowed upon us all by a Creator, which cannot be taken away by any civil government. Positive law must reflect the Natural Law or it is unjust.
Saint Augustine said of an unjust law, "For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all." Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, "Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right reason: and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence." In doing so, they echoed Cicero, Aristotle and Plato and the entire Natural Law Tradition.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave a this explanation of how one determines whether a law is unjust, "How does one determine whether 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."
This Edict from Secretary Sebelius came one day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of US Bishops during their ad limina visit. He warned them of the growth of radical secularism in the United States and the accompanying threats to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom so integral to the American experiment.
This Pope has repeatedly warned of the growth of a "Dictatorship of Relativism". Relativism is a philosophy which denies the existence of any objective truths to guide human behavior. This kind of philosophy expresses itself in this way: "your truth" is not the same as "my truth."
When there is a denial of the existence of anything objectively true - which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life - there can be no secure foundation for true freedom and solidarity. Instead, we teeter on the brink of social anarchy.
There has been an effort to paint all the moral positions we hold as Catholics as "religious". Then, in this increasingly anti-religious culture laboring under a mistaken application of the separation of Church and State, an attempt to force us to stay behind our Church doors. It is virulently anti-Christian. The Christian faith may be personal, at least in the sense that it invites a personal response. However, it is not private - it is profoundly public.
Our positions, for example our insistence upon protecting the Right to Life and the Right to Religious Freedom, are not just our "religious" positions. They are rooted in our conviction of the existence of a Natural Law which must inform any truly just positive laws.That Natural Law can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason.
On January 24, 2012, Cardinal designate Timothy Dolan shared these words in an address at the Fordham Law School, "Natural Law is a concept of objective truth, known by anyone with the power of reason -- a truth not relativized by the special interest of religious preference, class, gender or individual bias. "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
He continued, "It is a question of endowments that are intrinsic to us by the very fact of being human. And thus the rights appropriate to us are "inalienable." They cannot be taken away by any state or power or law or choice of individuals.And what specifically cannot be takenaway? Our life, our liberty. No human institution or individual has given us these rights. They have been given by us by God."
It is increasingly 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. However, this recent Edict has given rise to a Catholic tide of resistance and a New Catholic Action.
There is a legislative response underway. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). It would 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."
We urge you to read this legislation by visiting the Library of Congress site here. We urge you to write to your member of Congress and call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. We urge you to send an E mail through the covenient vehicle offered on the US Bishops on their web site here.
Next week, Catholic Online will launch our own effort to support the Bishops and the many lay Catholic Catholic efforts in responding at this urgent hour. It will include a call to fasting, protracted prayer and Catholic Action. We believe that the proper response to such an injustice must be undertaken on multiple fronts; on our knees, on Capitol Hill and in the Courts. This is a very serious threat to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom. It requires a very serious response from all Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will.
On another vital front, two major Catholic ministries announced that they have - or soon will - file Federal Lawsuits seeking to have the implementation of this unconstitutional and unjust Edict enjoined. In addition they will ask that the Court declare the Mandate to be unconstitutional.
The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) issued a Press release which can be read in full here: EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw explained: "We had no other option but to take this to the courts. Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice: either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable."
EWTN is being represented by lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Mark Rienzi, Kyle Duncan, and Erik Kniffin from the Becket Fund explained, "We are taking this action to defend not only ourselves but also to protect other institutions - Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and secular - from having this mandate imposed upon them. The government is forcing EWTN, first, to inform its employees about how to get contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, a concept known as forced speech."
"To make the matter worse, the government then will force EWTN to use its donors' funds to pay for these same morally objectionable procedures or to pay for the huge fines it will levy against us if we fail to provide health care insurance. There is no question that this mandate violates our First Amendment rights. This is a moment when EWTN, as a Catholic organization, has to step up and say that enough is enough. Our hope is that our lawsuit does just that."
In addition, Priests for Life announced it will file a Lawsuit. Priests for Life has retained noted civil rights attorney Charles LiMandri of San Diego to represent them in their lawsuit.
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said of the HHS Edict, "It's unthinkable that President Obama would force Americans of any faith to violate their consciences. Yet here he is, arrogantly imposing these regulations that clearly discriminate against Catholics and all Christians, as well as people of any faith who believe in the sanctity of innocent human life. This has clearly become a human rights case - and is no longer just a partisan political football."
I am sure this is only the beginning of similar lawsuits.Catholic Online is committed to doing anything and everything we can to support Catholic organizations who take this courageous and necessary action. We will announce our own plans in the near future.
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