"But when Christ came as high priest...He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God."
-Hebrews 9:11-14


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

O'Malley, Bishop Lennon, and the HHS Health Mandate: Part One

Greetings!  I realize it’s been a ridiculously long while since I posted anything; poor Elizabeth has been carrying the burden of updating the blog on a sort-of regular basis.  I don’t really have an excuse for this laxity on my part; however, in my defense, I originally started writing a post about modern romantic relationships – and have nearly finished it – but I got distracted by other stuff (read: books, books, more books – I made a trip to a used book shop in Oberlin and picked up six more volumes of the Britannica Great Books series – and a good deal of drawing).  Anyway, I was at breakfast again with my father, Elizabeth, and her parents after morning Mass on Wednesday, Feb. 1st, and I saw in the Plain Dealer that a journalist had written an article concerning the Catholic response to the unconstitutional and frankly totalitarian Health and Human Services mandate (for more on that travesty, I recommend hearing Fr. Robert Barron’s thoughts on the issue, seen here; the National Catholic Register also has a number of excellent articles about it).

Wouldn’t you know it!  The journalist was our friend Michael O’Malley: the very same man whose article in the PD spurred me to write that lengthy four-part post about women priests (Part One here).  His article about the bishops’ response to the mandate will be the subject of this post.  All boldings are mine for the sake of emphasis, with the exception of the title of the article, below:

Lennon decries U.S. rule on contraceptives
MICHAEL O’MALLEY, Plain Dealer Reporter
Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon has joined a chorus of Catholic bishops across the country in condemning a new federal requirement that employers, including Catholic institutions, offer insurance plans providing free contraceptives to their employees.
Starting next year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will require plans such as those at Catholic hospitals colleges, and charities to cover birth control without employee co-payments.
The health department sees the new rule in terms of health and medical issues.  But the Catholic Church sees it as a violation of its religious rights under the Consitution.

It’s a simple enough start; O’Malley provides a concise summary of what has happened, and he gets it right, although with one troubling omission.  I’ll address that glaring omission towards the end of this series.  With regard to the Church’s position concerning the mandate, She is absolutely correct; it is an egregious infringement on religious liberty and a shocking and blatantly aggressive move on the part of the Administration.  However, I am confused by one bit of O’Malley’s piece here: The health department sees the new rule in terms of health and medical issues.  Well, what is that supposed to mean?  Might he elaborate more?  “Health and medical issues” could mean anything, but it seems to suggest that they think the mandate to be essential to the health of patients.  Meanwhile, here I am thinking that contraception, abortion, and sterilization have almost nothing essential to do with the health of a patient and everything to do with trying to artificially manage one’s life via unnatural means.  But that’s a discussion for another time.  Onward:

“Unless this rule is overturned, Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop health care coverage for our employees,” Lennon wrote in a letter read by priests throughout the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland during last weekend’s Masses.
The bishop wrote that the Obama administration is “denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law,” the bishop wrote.
Lennon’s letter echoed statements by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

O’Malley is making one mistake here, as far as I can see.  He is misattributing the letter to Bishop Lennon, when, as far as I know, it is a letter that was read in every Catholic church in the United States.  It was not written by Lennon, as O’Malley seems to think: I’m reasonably certain that it was written by the USCCB, and U.S. Catholic bishops all had it read at the Masses in their name (with their signature at the end, in other words).  So that’s one problem O’Malley has here: a failure to properly investigate the issue.  Given the rest of the article though, I don’t think that’s the biggest problem, as you will see.

On the actual parts of the letter quoted, I am still inspired by the firm resolve illustrated in its words.  We need so badly a strong resistance to this ridiculous and unmitigated attack on religious liberty and conscience, and this letter fills me with hope that that resistance will be unflagging on the part of the bishops.  I only hope the people respond in that manner as well.

But Sister Christine Schenk, a local nun and certified nurse midwife, says the bishops are being disingenuous because the new rule does not force anyone to use contraception.  Schenk heads FutureChurch, a Lakewood-based organization working to liberalize the church.
No Catholic is being coerced into using birth control,” she said.

All right, stop.  I can just hear the thunderous whoosh as the point of the whole issue flies over Sister’s head.

The point is not that Catholics are being forced to use birth control - that's a ridiculous notion, and also not what the bishops said.  The point is that Catholics are being forced to materially cooperate with evil.  Catholics are being forced to pay for the distribution and/or administration of intrinsic evils – namely: contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization.

All three of these are unequivocally condemned by Holy Mother Church as intrinsic evils.  For Catholics to support any of them is intrinsically wrong, because they directly violate the natural law with regard to sexuality.  So for Sr. Schenk, a radical in her own right (more on that in a bit), to manage to miss that and instead say that it’s not forcing Catholics themselves to use contraceptives is just perplexing.  I mean, she is a Catholic nun, yes?  Unless one is completely ignorant of the dogmatic teachings of the Church – willfully or no – there is no excuse for this kind of oversight.

As for the fact that she heads FutureChurch…well, I’ll cover that part in a bit.  Suffice for now to say that FutureChurch is not a Catholic group in anything other than the nominal sense of the word.  Their website, and their mission statement, are what could charitably be called full of tripe - I am reminded forcefully of the National Catholic Reporter, which you will find to be anything but Catholic if you have the stomach to read the things they have to say about contraception, women "priests", abortion, et cetera.

That's all for now, but there's much more to come.  My original response to this article, somewhere in the realm of two or three pages, has now ballooned to six - I'll be cutting it up into two or three more posts as a result.  For now, feel free to tell me what you think: suggestions, questions, disagreements - have at it!  This Catholic is still in need of help when it comes to blogging - thank the Lord I at least have Elizabeth to help me out there - so input is very welcome.  In the meantime, I'll do my best to get the rest of this article up promptly.

Pax Christi,


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