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Making Reparations for Obamacare

Last week the Obama administration staged an Obamacare rally in the Rose Garden of the White House. The president and his team celebrated a mysterious “7.1 million” sign-ups, or registrants, or enrollees, or something or other. The precise make up of these individuals and how exactly they found themselves among this number is an arcane unknown. Nonetheless, right on cue, the partisan crowd rounded up for the ceremony roared in applause when the president sounded the magic number: 7.1 million.

What should Catholics make of this? The Little Sisters of the Poor, no doubt, find no comfort or saving grace in the exalted “7.1 million.” They’re still being forced to support services they will not use, that violate their conscience, and that their Church deems intrinsically evil.

Likewise taking no solace is a good friend of mine who is a Catholic entrepreneur. I’d like to share his story, because it isn’t uncommon. Many reading this article know Catholic business owners mired in the same dilemma.

I will not share details of my friend’s business. Like many of us, he has come to fear the coercive arm of the federal government: the IRS. It is truly frightening that the same IRS that has pursued individuals opposed to President Obama’s political agenda is also the enforcement mechanism for Obamacare. So I’ll keep my friend anonymous.

My friend started his business from nothing – rock bottom. He worked extremely hard, devoting his time, his money, his resources, his heart and soul. He views the business as a chance to loyally and morally serve his customers and to provide for his family and employees. He’s not in it to get obscenely wealthy.

To make a long story short, the business now thrives. Throughout the process, the community and Church have benefitted greatly from my friend’s success. He is very devout and has never failed to be extraordinarily charitable. He doesn’t boast or speak of his good works, but they are obvious. If Pope Francis wants an example of the good of free markets, my friend is it. He has brought hundreds of jobs to people who otherwise wouldn’t have them. If my friend didn’t have this business, some of his current employees would be among the staggering 47 million Americans on food stamps right now under President Obama.

In response, my friend’s employees are grateful. They adore him. He treats them with respect, which boosts their self-worth. He epitomizes the Church’s teachings on labor. He could be a poster boy for John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical On Human Work.

Unfortunately, my friend remains mired in a moral dilemma that continues to cause him great distress. Because a majority of his fellow Catholics twice elected Barack Obama president, his company is at the mercy of the HHS mandates. He has happily provided his employees with healthcare benefits. Last year he spent $500,000 on healthcare. This year, his provider jacked up the cost by 35 percent to comply with new Obamacare regulations.

Consequently, I can only imagine that some of these employees will have to be laid off, sending them into the government’s vast unemployment rolls, possibly on to food stamps, and ultimately into the uncertain, mad maze of Obamacare. They will go from having a nice job in the private sector to, instead, joining the ever increasing ranks of wards of the state.

My friend doesn’t want to violate his conscience and the teachings of his Church by funding contraception and abortion drugs for his employees. The Obama administration is telling him he must. He has no good options. He can pay a massive fine that will severely hurt his business and force him to lay off employees or he can drop all their health coverage and dump them into the Obama-care exchange.

Neither is a good option. He has watched how people who want Obamacare can’t even sign up. He can’t take the risk of dispatching these people into the labyrinth of the federal healthcare bureaucracy. His employees have family members with cancer and heart disease. Some can’t read. They literally wouldn’t be able to navigate the incompetence of the Obamacare website.

In short, then, this loyal Catholic businessman is a victim of Obama administration incompetence and coercion. He says, “I’m being forced to violate my conscience under duress from the state.”

He sure is. And here’s the saddest thing: it was made possible by Catholics who voted as they did in 2008 and 2012. They are complicit.

To that end, I conclude with a genuinely sincere question for these Catholics: Are you doing anything to make amends for this? There are decent Catholic businessmen and women who are struggling right now because of the policy actions of the people you voted for. I’m sure that wasn’t your intention.

But now that such has occurred, are you doing anything to try to help? Have you written even one letter or email to the White House or called your member of Congress? Have you lifted a finger to help? Have you made any reparation for this?

There truly are Catholic brothers and sisters who are suffering for your choices.

Paul G. Kengor is an author and professor of political science at Grove City College, a private Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is the executive director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom, a Grove City College conservative think tank/policy center. Among his books are The Devil and Karl Marx and A Pope and a President, about the relationship between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.