Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

2/24/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is whether we are to have a politics and a nation under God, or a politics and a nation that is God

Underlying the HHS mandate and the Obama administration's lack of accommodation is an attitude, or perhaps better, an ideology that touches and concerns the relationship between man and God, between man's politics and God's reign.  It involves, in fact, warring political philosophies, a Christian and a Hobbesian.  It's a war of the Olympians against the upstart Titans, if you will.  It is whether we are to have a politics and a nation under God, or a politics and a nation that is God.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/24/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: secularism, liberal secularism, radical secularism, Hobeesian, Catholic Social Doctrine, HHS Mandate, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services compelling Catholic charitable and educational institutions, either directly or indirectly, to provide or pay for insurance coverage for preventive health care defined to include contraception, sterilization, and abortions may be for secularist liberals as well as Catholics, a "teachable moment," to use the phrase President Obama used after Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his home in 2009.

We can frame the issue confronting the Church and the federal government in various ways.  We can say, for example, that the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.  We can go beyond that statute to argue that the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Such arguments are being made, and in both cases are probably right.  But only courts-probably ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court-will decide unless the Obama administration backs down from the mandate, which it does not seem to want to do.

More vaguely, one can argue, as some have done, that the HHS mandate violates the "rights of conscience," and the Church understands that the State ought generally to recognize the right of conscientious objection to an unjust law, and certainly when the law requires a person to violate the natural moral law.  (see Compendium, No. 399)  This is certainly correct as far as it goes.

But the issue really is deeper than a federal statute, the U.S. Constitution, or conscientious objection.  Underlying the HHS mandate and the Obama administration's lack of accommodation is an attitude, or perhaps better, an ideology that touches and concerns the relationship between man and God, between man's politics and God's reign.  It involves, in fact, warring political philosophies, a Christian and a Hobbesian.  It's a war of the Olympians against the upstart Titans, if you will.  It is whether we are to have a politics and a nation under God, or a politics and a nation that is God.

The Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer perceived our nation's traditional and Christian political foundation through his wire-rimmed glasses in Nazi Germany shortly before he was arrested and executed much better than our modern liberal secularists.  "American democracy," he wrote in his unfinished Ethics, "is founded not upon the emancipated man but, quite the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and upon the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God." 

The liberal secularists--liberal secularism is the ideology driving the HHS mandate and the Obama administration's insensitivity to Catholic religious liberty and the natural moral law which finds contraception, sterilization, and abortions to be intrinsic evils and anti-life--believe differently than Bonhoeffer.  They believe that American democracy is founded upon "emancipated man."

The Catholic Bishops, on the other hand, believe, like Bonhoeffer, that American democracy is founded--indeed must be founded--on the "kingdom of God and upon the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God."

It should be pointed out that the American founding Fathers and our fundamental and organic law--read, if you wish, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers where it is apparent enough--do not believe in "emancipated man."  Our political traditions presuppose the "kingdom of God" and "the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God."  That's the meaning of the Jeffersonian phrase that we are answerable to the laws of Nature and Nature's God.  Bonhoeffer is absolute right from a historical standpoint.

The Catholic Bishops are therefore acting within sound American political tradition in taking issue with the HHS mandate.  The American political principles, after all, have been informed by the Gospel, though secularist liberals prefer to forget that fact.  That's why when the Catholic Bishops cried foul at the HHS mandate and the Obama administration, they were in the main supported by a whole host of religious as well as politically conservative leaders.  "We are all Catholics now," said the former Baptist preacher and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.  The Mormon Glenn Beck launched a "We are All Catholics Now" movement.  Such as these would be odd bedfellows if this were a uniquely Catholic matter.  But it's not.

Those outside the Catholic Church which have voiced support see that this is a skirmish--a very important skirmish--between those who believe that American Democracy is founded upon "emancipated man" and those who believe that American Democracy presupposes the "kingdom of God and "the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God." 

Huckabee and Beck and others like them are on board in support of the Catholic Bishops because what is involved here is an American matter.  It involves the American soul

No, it goes beyond that.  It is a human matter, the human soul, since it involves human politics, human law, and human governance wherever and whenever they may be found.

Traditionally, the West--influenced by Christianity--divided history into B.C. and A.D.  We must also remember that politics is divided into B.C. and A.D.  There is a politics before Christ.  There is a politics after Christ. 

The liberal secularists who want to found their politics on "emancipated man" want to go back to the time of politics B.C., when Caesar was all there was.  The only difference is that Caesar's imperium--instead of being tied to the will of one man--is tied, often just by fiction, to the will of many.  But whether it is one Caesar or many Caesars, if Caesar is all there is, it is tyranny all the same.

Though Christ was not a political leader, and though the New Testament is not a political document, what the Son of God did while on earth changed politics forever.  He unhinged it from God.  Something utterly new, utterly freeing, utterly emancipatory happened when Jesus rejected the blandishments of Satan in the Third Temptation and refused--for his part and on the part of his Body the Church--all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor.  How did this emancipation from the earthly powers come?  By worshiping the Lord God of Israel, and serving him alone.  (Matt. 4:8-10)  This, of course, meant also keeping the natural law which is reflected in the Ten Commandments and in the love of God and love of neighbor.  (Matt. 22:37-40)

In unhinging the Church from any State, Christ hardly intended to make the Church a pawn of the State.  Quite the contrary.  He rejected any suggestion that Caesar was divine.  "Render to Caesar those things that are Caesar"--one of which things was Caesar's vain claim to divinity--"and to God those things that are God's." (Matt. 22:21)

What is it that Christ, through his acts and through is teachings, wrought in politics?  It is what Eric Voegelin in his The New Science of Politics called the "de-divinization of the temporal sphere of power."  This "de-divinization" of politics is one of Jesus Christ's great gifts, though Caesar has never been happy with it because it comes at his expense.  Centuries before the First Amendment, there was separation of Church and State, and it finds its principle, it seed in the Gospels. 

There would have been no First Amendment without the Gospels.  There would have been no First Amendment without Christ.  The rights of the First Amendment are not something the State gives to us.  The rights of the First Amendment are something God gave to us.  It is doubtful pagan man would have come to this awareness without the revelation of Christ.

There are two other things that may be learned from this skirmish. 

First, one ought not to be misled by the federal government's use of such innocuous or clinical terms such as "preventive care" and "women's health."  Any person who suggests that pregnancy is an illness which requires "preventive care"--i.e., contraception, sterilization, and abortion--stands outside the world of reality, what is, and has his feet planted in the world of ideology, what one wants regardless of what is.  And ideology, not reality, is exactly what drives the liberal secularist.

Second, we should recognize that there was, and is, grave danger in allowing a government that believes in "emancipated man" and disdains the "kingdom of God" and any "limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God" to make decisions on behalf of all of us when it comes to health care, or anything else for that matter.  It is not necessarily a good to have Caesar oblivious to the limits of his power involved in health care.  It in fact presents a very grave danger.

In this regard, it is salutary to remember that the pagan Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, when he sought to overthrow the Christian Church, established hospitals and orphanages and other charitable institutions-and diverted to them considerable monies from the public treasury.
Julian established these pagan institutions to rival those of the Church.  But Julian's ultimate aim was not to help his people.  Julian's aim was to go back to politics B.C.

What, in summary, is to be learned in this teachable moment?  That there is a politics B.C. and a politics A.D.  That the former believes in "emancipated man," and the latter in "the kingdom of God and upon the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God."  That there are those who always want to go back from a politics A.D. to a politics B.C., and this we must resist. 

That, in advocating "emancipated man," the liberal secularists are touting a philosophy or ideology that is foreign to the better angels of our political traditions.  That the American Bishops, in making their stand, are soundly within the best of our American political traditions.  And finally, that at this most important skirmish between two views of the world and political life, we the Christian faithful, ought to stand behind, or better, arm-in-arm, with our vanguard Bishops

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Supreme Court 'unwrote laws of nature' GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saying that the Supreme Court tried to "unwrite the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God" when it legalized gay marriage across the nation last week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also pointed out the fact that President Barack Obama himself ... continue reading


'They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is': Donald Trump fired from NBC for controversial immigrant statements Watch

Image of Donald Trump retired from The Apprentice after announcing his presidential bid.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

NBC has made the decision to cut ties with Donald Trump, over his political view and controversial statements regarding immigration made during his presidential announcement. Donald Trump and NBC have had a relationship, including Trump's produced Miss USA and Miss ... continue reading


When is the best time to take out Social Security? Watch

Image of 100-year-old woman.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Financial advisers usually advice their clients to take Social Security benefits at the age of 70 for maximum growth. However, it is found that most people don't take that advice, as they are likely to withdraw what they have saved up as soon as they hit retirement. A ... continue reading


IT'S NOT OVER: Freedom of Religion may trump same-sex marriage victories Watch

Image of

By Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena, CNA/ETWN News

Friday's Supreme Court ruling against the traditional understanding of marriage may pose huge obstacles to the free exercise of religion and conscience across the U.S., the nation's bishops have said in response to the decision. Washington D.C.(CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


Decisions on same-sex marriage, power-plant emissions now in the hands of Supreme Court Watch

Image of Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court. Decisions regarding same-sex marriages, power plant emissions and execution methods will all be rendered by either Friday or early next week. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett's family has strong communist roots, files prove Watch

Image of Valerie Jarrett's father, pathologist and geneticist Dr. James Bowman, has been found to have had extensive ties to Communist associations and individuals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does the apple truly fall far from the tree? Recently uncovered files show that Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama and trusted confidant has family ties with those with communist leanings. These uncovered files prove that Jarrett's ... continue reading


Donald Trump surges in popularity polls in New Hampshire Watch

Image of Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a "novelty candidate," there's no denying Donald Trump's surge in popularity in opinion polls in New Hampshire. The billionaire developer and reality TV show star comes in at second among ... continue reading


Terrorists who pose as journalists will no longer have protection from the U.S. new Pentagon manual states Watch

Image of The new manual from the pentagon is designed to reflect the fact that many fighters do not wear military uniforms or pretend to be trusted civilians to hit targets.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Pentagon has released new instructions on dealing with terrorists, or more specifically, terrorists who pose as journalists or journalists who work with terrorist groups. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The "Department of Defense Law of War Manual" is a ... continue reading


Offensive or not? University of California issues bizarre speech police to tell you what not to say Watch

Image of The University of California administration issues handout that recommend students refrain from using some words.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

University of California is providing suggestions on what to say and what not to say within the campus grounds. However, the words and statements they deem as offensive, sexist and racist are not simply explicit words with direct negative connotations. According to ... continue reading


President Obama applauds Pope Francis' stance on climate change Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be traveling to the United States September for the first time. His itinerary begins in Washington, where he will meet Obama and speak at Congress.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United State President Barack Obama has lauded Pope Francis' encyclical,  "Laudato Si," and says he wants fellow world leaders to acknowledge its message about climate change. Published last week, the encyclical calls for humanity to change its approach to ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 12:1-11
1 It was about this time that King Herod started ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 I will praise Yahweh from my heart; let the humble ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 16:13-19
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi ... Read More

Reading 2, Second Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
6 As for me, my life is already being poured away as ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for June 29th, 2015 Image

St. Peter, First Pope
June 29: Simon Peter or Cephas, the first pope, Prince of the Apostles, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter