"It is a freedom of religion battle.It is not about contraception. It is not about women's health. We're talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented, radical intrusion" into "a church's ability to teach, serve and sanctify on its own". The cardinal warned of a secularized culture which "seems to discover new rights every day.Now we hear there's a right to sterilization, abortion and chemical contraceptives."
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In a powerful speech delivered to over 1,000 people engaged in public policy activism, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York again showed his mettle. We are fortunate to have him at the helm of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops during the growing conflict with the contemporary Caesar called the Obama Administration. Any Catholic commentator complaining about the Bishops somehow not showing courage needs to get a new script.
The Cardinal spoke to a Diocesan convention at Holy Trinity High School held in preparation for the annual lobbying day in Albany New York on March 13, 2012. He reminded them, and all of us, "We are called to be very active, very informed and very involved in politics." He spoke of the Federal Governments current effort to compel the Church to provide contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization in their social outreaches or face punitive measures:
"It is a freedom of religion battle.It is not about contraception. It is not about women's health. We're talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented, radical intrusion" into "a church's ability to teach, serve and sanctify on its own." The cardinal warned of a secularized culture which "seems to discover new rights every day.Now we hear there's a right to sterilization, abortion and chemical contraceptives."
He affirmed what the Church has taught since the Second Vatican Council that the lay faithful are called to the primary role in this struggle. He explained that while priests and Bishops "stick to principles.we leave a lot of the messiness of politics up to you." In his characteristically self deprecating manner he told the crowd, "In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over."
Cardinal Dolan is one of the great communicators of our age. In "The Gospel in the Digital Age" he recently posted "I Owe You an Update." He summarized the struggle: "Over the last six months or so, the Catholic Church in the United States has found itself in some tension with the executive branch of the federal government over a very grave issue: religious freedom. Can a government bureau, in this case the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised? Can government also coerce the church to violate its conscience?"
He warned of tough times ahead and affirmed another brave Bishop, Francis Cardinal George: "So, we have to be realistic and prepare for tough times. Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to "give up for Lent" our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some want us to engage in civil disobedience and be fined; some worry that we'll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel."
In a February 26, 2012 column in "Catholic New World" the Cardinal from Chicago wrote: "This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must "give up" her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice. It is the consequence of the already much discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year.
"Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church's mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience."
"So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That's what we've meant by freedom of religion. That's what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we "were foolish to believe so."
"What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down."
"In the public discussion thus far, efforts have been made to isolate the bishops from the Catholic faithful by focusing attention exclusively on "reproductive" issues. But the acrimony could as easily focus next year or the year after on assisted suicide or any other moral issue that can be used to distract attention from the attack on religious liberty. Many will recognize in these moves a tactic now familiar in our public life: those who cannot be co-opted are isolated and then destroyed. The arguments used are both practical and theoretical."
"Practically, we're told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn't determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin."
"Theoretically, it is argued that there are Catholic voices that disagree with the teaching of the church and therefore with the bishops. There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church. Perhaps this is the time for everyone to re-read the Acts of the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don't claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic."
" The provision of health care should not demand "giving up" religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society."
"The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn't tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn't begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It's up to the government to stop the attack."
St. Paul wrote to the early Christians, "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound - who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). The bugle has sounded and it is time for all of us to get ready for battle. Our Bishops are speaking with clarity, courage and conviction. It is time to engage in Catholic Action, each according to our distinct and complimentary role. These may be tough times, but they are our times. One of my favorite writers is Fr. Dwight Longenecker. He recently referred to Cardinal Dolan as a "happy warrior". The "happy warrior" needs our help.
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