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Divine Impatience Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 23 January 2012

Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus. Martin Luther King Jr. writing from Birmingham Jail that justice cannot wait forever. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s contention, in the very face of the Gulag, that one word of truth outweighs the whole world. Wherever oppressive regimes have existed, a single individual standing up for what’s right has often changed the arc of history.

Patience, perseverance, and civility are all indispensable human virtues. But a kind of divine impatience, sense of urgency, and civic activism are also, at times, crucial. This year’s electoral campaign is shaping up to present all of us with the need for heroic action in defense of the first of rights:  religious liberty.  

In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court notoriously ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that an until-then unknown constitutional “right to privacy” meant that the sale of contraceptives (to married couples) could be permitted. No one at the time, or until very recently, could have predicted that, in 2012, a secretary of Health and Human Services would rule that, in private insurance plans, even at religious institutions, provision of free contraceptives – including possible abortifacients like Plan B and Ella – would be required.

But that’s what happened on Friday afternoon, the usual time in Washington (the senior editors are gone for the weekend) to put out controversial announcements so as to draw the least media coverage. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (whose Wikipedia page once listed her religion as “heretical Catholic”) added, however, that her department would allow religious institutions, who complained about short Obamacare deadlines, an additional year to figure out how to comply.

Sebelius explained:  “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” A cynic might think, instead, that the president and Sebelius don’t much care what religious groups believe, so long as they do what they’re told.

It remains to be seen what Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions that thought they could dialogue with Obama will now have to say. Or William M. Daley, another nominal Catholic, who just resigned from his post as the president’s chief of staff.

As I wrote here two years ago, Daley accused Chicago’s brilliant Cardinal Francis George of “dividing his Church” by merely mentioning in passing the problem of Obama being honored by Our Lady’s university. At least the good cardinal was a knowledgeable Catholic in a position of authority. Will Daley have anything to say about Federal interference in the Catholic Church – and every other religious body that has fundamental moral objections to the administration’s healthcare policies?


         Obama’s “Catholic” brain trust: Salazar, Daley, Vilsack, Sebelius

Don’t hold your breath – or hold on to much hope that the year grace period means anything more than putting off ugly government compulsion until the presidential campaign is decided – one way or another.

Today the thirty-ninth March for Life will take place in Washington. I think I’ve been to almost thirty of them and I’m prepared to say that if you want to see a truly selfless way to Occupy DC, the march is it. No one is there for personal or collective gain. The only benefit to marchers is that they hope someday to live in an America less coarse and more alive to the dignity of all human life.

In many ways, the march is a story of patience and perseverance. And slow success. Public opinion has miraculously moved to the point that a slight but absolute majority of Americans now call themselves pro-life.

But this year something new is in play for everyone in America who knows what is at stake in the pro-life struggle. And it demands urgent action. As the heavy-handed HHS regulations show, unless many of us begin to act – very soon and outside our comfort zone – we will be living under another form of government.

This site is not in the business of partisan politics. If you are a Democrat who thinks the current administration can be made to see reason, by all means, do everything you can towards that end. And good luck with that.

But there are many other things that now need to happen and people all across this country need to act between now and November so that religious liberty in this country is not reduced, as in the former Communist countries, to formal guarantees in theory – that are crudely overruled in practice.

I want to suggest a practical step. Talk to one person, anyone, at work, school, the gym, maybe even in your parish. Ask that person one simple question:  is it fair/right/American to force religious institutions to do things that violate their beliefs? We’re not talking about outlawing human sacrifice. We are talking about unnecessary and offensive regulations about contraception – as if contraception were not already easy to obtain, even for free, at all sorts of outlets all over the country. The overreach here is clear and palpable – and it’s only the beginning.

If you convince that person, ask him to talk to someone else. And so on. These are not easy conversations. But unless a lot of people – and I mean a lot – move out of their comfort zones – energetically and fast this electoral season – we will be living in a different America in just a few years, an America no longer built on the bedrock of limited government and religious freedom.

That’s not a prediction about the future. The change is already upon us.  
      

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is
The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

© 2012 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Manfred, January 23, 2012
This issue is not as straightforward as it appears. If you go to the Cardinal Newman Society website, they will say, that by using the criteria they have selected, only about ten percent of the 231 colleges and universities in the U.S. which claim to be Catholic are truly Catholic. Many Catholic hospitals have been performing tubal ligations, etc., prescribing contraceptives and abortion referrals for years. In an unrelated case, Manhattan College was found by a court to not in fact be a Catholic college as it met none of the criteria of a Catholic institution other than to claim a "Catholic tradition". You see, the governments, both State and Federal, will look in our windows and see what has been known for years-that so-called "Catholic" institutions are massive frauds. The Vatican has known this for years. First Sapientia Christiana in the early 70s and the Ex Corde Ecclesia in 1990 were both issued to bring these colleges/universities back from being merely commercial enterprises to being truly Catholic in word and deed. The Vatican/hierarchy have largely failed as Obama at Notre Dame in 2009 proved conclusively. Whether it is predator priests or secular schools/hospitals posturing as "Catholic", governments will come in and point out the Church's failures. A truly Catholic school, Belmont Abbey College, has retained the Becket Fund and is suing Health and Human Services (HHS). The College is insisting that in the event they lose, they will either drop their group health plan or close the school. THAT is integrity. What a rare quality in an institution calling itself Catholic.
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written by Jim Thunder, January 23, 2012
Nearly every news report and commentary fails to mention that the regulation includes sterilization.
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written by Robert Royal, January 23, 2012
Manfred: Don't you think you are being just a bit too precious about this question. For the sake of this political decision, it doesn't much matter what failures have existed within Catholic institutions. The point is that the federal government now thinks it can tell religious institutions where their moral limits are. An LA Times editorial that I saw after this column was written praised the "balance" of the decision: individuals get to decide whether to use the immoral services - and the Church institutions get to pay. That's the moral idiocy to which our public discourse is reduced by this political flimflammery. Maybe the Supremes will step up, as they did last week, and enforce not only ministerial exceptions but moral exemptions for religious institutions. But it's a sad state of affairs when the first of human rights may hinge on a swing vote or two among a handful of judges.
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written by Chris in Maryland, January 23, 2012
It does seem undeniably true that millions of Catholics are content to have the government impose fiats against the Church, to legitimize under the veneer of legal 'compulsion' what so many of these Catholics already truly hold, an 'anti-life' ideology.

It is sobering to face...the war for life is a civil war within the church.
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written by Manfred, January 23, 2012
Dr. Royal: Since I was a lad I have heard from both ecclesial and secular quarters that "Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach." How much more important is this than in an Institution which claims Divine Origin. We are witnessing the failure of the Church and Its leaders to enforce discipline among Its members. Abp Bruskewitz of Nebraska excommunicated anyone who was a member of Planned Parenthood, Call to Action or the SSPX. Whether one agreed with him or not, you knew Church discipline was important to him. Abp Nienstedt is also trying to enforce discipline in his diocese. One can count the Ordinaries enforcing discipline on one hand. The primary reason my responses on TCT are so sharp is that after fifty years, I am tired of witnessing the stupidity and the venality of so many Church leaders and faithful. The secular world no longer takes us seriously. We have six Catholics on the Supreme Court. It is surely time they started acting as Catholics.
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written by Ray Hunkins, January 23, 2012
Well said Dr. Royal. Thank you for helping to shine a light on this regime's war against religion generally, and the Catholic Church specifically.You have framed the question well.
Alexis de Tocqueville said that, "Every fresh generation is a new people". I believe we forget the necessity of repetition in the learning process. We must, as a society, teach our citizenry First Principals continually. In a democracy this is essential. You and your colleagues at The Catholic Thing are doing just that.
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written by Louise, January 23, 2012
What would happen if . . .?

What would happen if Catholic institutions simply did no comply. If, as a unified coalition, they just said "no"?
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written by Louise, January 23, 2012
Never mind. Just found out when I read the headline, "Catholic Health Care West Cut Its ties to the Catholic Church."

And, I guess I forgot for a moment what happened in the Archdiocese of Boston.
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written by Chris in Maryland, January 24, 2012
Louise's example is pointing out the problem: secular left-wing ideology is the Trojan Horse inside the Catholic Church.

The institutions captured from within have now grown so big, that they can 'speciate,' and break away, having grown themselves under the protection of the church, they now throw the Church under the bus. Like so many so-called 'Catholic' colleges, which are the next set of institutions to proclaim their 'majority' from Mother Church.
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written by Graham Combs, January 24, 2012
On Monday morning, I attended the 6:30AM mass which on that day was the special pro-life mass as approved by the bishops' conference. For the first time monsignor took the occasion to speak clearly and emphatically about "religious liberty." I was somewhat surprised but reassured. By the time I graduated from law school in 1994, it was clear that the legal establishment -- of which the current president is a member in good standing -- was hostile to the Christian faith in general and the Church strongly in the particular. I appreciate Robert Royal's suggestion but it has been my experience since my conversion in 2009, that 9 out of 10 Catholics I speak with are "wobbly" on Catholic teachings regarding human life and naive about the decades-old threat to religious freedom in the U.S. There is a disposition for liberty that may not always be founded on an intellectual understanding but which possesses a gut instinct for freedom. This has been our strength since 1776 and before. It is the invisible crisis in this election year. I hope that Robert Royal and other Catholic writers will make this the focus of their thoughts and writing in 2012. The stakes could not be higher.
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written by D, January 26, 2012
There are those of us pro-lifers, who believe that abortion and birth control are necessary in today's society just like it was necessary and often performed in "biblical" society. The church doesn't have to abide by the new rules as long as they expect to not have any federal, tax-payers $$$ go into their hospitals and clinics. No more medicaid, medicare insurance pay-outs, no gov't subsidies, and tax breaks ever. NOTHING!
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written by Robert Royal, January 26, 2012
D - You're simply wrong, even at the factual level. The "new rules" specify huge fines for any institution that chooses not to offer health insurance any longer because of the moral conflict. The University of Notre Dame, for example, would have to pay $10 million a year in penalties, just for starters
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written by atheist, January 26, 2012
I think one aspect of this debate that was overlooked by the article is that employees of a Catholic institution are not necessarily Catholic. Insurance is a benefit earned by employees. In America many people have no other way to get insurance than through their employer. The government is protecting the people from religious interference from their employers who in this case would enforce their views on them against their own interests. They are happy to take their labor though.

I think Catholics should focus on leadership and persuasion. If they are right then they should be very successful. In addition they could lobby to get employers out of the insurance business altogether. Why is the insurance system set up such that employers are wrapped up in healthcare decisions anyway?

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