Students, faculty, and parents of Joplin Area Catholic Schools (JACS) were among the first volunteers to help after the devastating tornado hit Joplin on May 22, 2011. Even while faced with their own tragedies, including the loss of St. Mary Church and School, they helped survivors with shelter, food, clothes, and medical attention.
Nine months have passed since the tornado, and the Joplin Area Catholic Schools continue to offer help and support. Students of St. Mary School have sponsored various drives that collected needed cleaning supplies and food. St. Peter the Apostle Parish and McAuley Catholic High students have volunteered in many different areas including assisting with clerical needs, cleaning, and general labor duties at the Catholic Charities distribution center, even wrapping presents for its Christmas Toy Giveaway. Their unselfish and continued actions serve as a great example for all of us.
Want to get involved?
If you would like to donate items or volunteer your services, please contact our Joplin office at (417) 624-3790. For updates on current projects that are underway and current news updates, or to make a monetary donation, please visit us Online at www.ccsomo.org, or call Catholic Charities administrative office at (417) 866-0841. Thank you.
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.” –Liturgy of Ash Wednesday
What comes to mind when you hear the word “repent”? One rarely hears it in normal, day-to-day conversation. It is a word that is most often used when speaking about matters of faith. Even then, perhaps we don’t speak of repentance as often as we should. It is significant that in St. Mark’s Gospel, repentance is the first subject on Jesus’ lips when he begins his public ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).
To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind and heart. It entails conversion and being transformed. Repentance is the word often chosen to translate the New Testament Greek word metanoia. In Catholic tradition, repentance also implies being sorry for past sins which led one away from God, and the penances one undertakes for them.
Lent is the holy season to repent. It is a reminder that we, the redeemed, are still weak and wounded by sin, and need to be kept on course, otherwise, we are easily deceived and lose our way. One undertakes repentance by looking at one’s life in the light of Christ and his Gospel. Who does God say we should be like? Jesus is who we should be like. What is Jesus like? We see this in the Gospels and the moral teachings of the Church; we see this in the lives of the saints. The saints are saints because they are reliable examples of what Jesus is like at different times, places, and circumstances in history.
We are saints-in-the-making. After all, that is what our baptism initiated. At baptism we were given the life of the Holy Trinity, conformed to Jesus, and thus incorporated into his mystical body, the Church. Through the grace we received at baptism, and the further graces we receive through the other sacraments, God helps form Christ and his life within each of us. This does not happen as if by magic. This is a work in progress, only possible with God’s help through grace; and only possible with our willing cooperation.
Beware of blindness
The Scriptures often speak of sin as blindness: an inability and unwillingness to see the truth and conform one’s life to it. The obvious paradox is that if one is blind and does not know it, how does one discover it? This is a danger. Jesus came to take away this serious blindness. He cured the physically blind, which was somewhat simple. He found much more resistance in the spiritual blindness he found in the Pharisees and scribes. Their blindness was harder to cure because of the power of pride that was its cause.
The same danger is present for each of us. Our pride blinds us, too. In order to repent and be truly converted, somehow we must be confronted with where we are at odds with the truth—at odds with Jesus Christ. This is where humility is needed—a sense that our own minds and opinions are suspect without the truth of God to illuminate them. Humility entails a certain distrust of oneself apart from the person of Jesus, and by extension, the light that is cast upon us by his Church.
The Church Fathers, those earliest Christian leaders following the age of the apostles, often spoke of Christ as the “sun” and the Church as the “moon.” By this they meant that Jesus is the “true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9), and the Church reflects this light, having no light of her own, as the moon reflects the light of the sun.
A friend once suggested to me that when it comes to repentance, a good place to start is with that teaching of Christ or Church that is most difficult for us, either to believe or to live by. If we never look at these matters, repentance will not happen and our blindness remains. If we humbly submit to the grace and light of Christ, we will see all things with a new vision we could never have thought possible.
Compromise (n.)—from Latin compromissus, from com—“together” and promittere—“to promise.” The sense of a settlement of differences by consent reached by mutual concessions.
On Feb. 13, Pres. Barack Obama announced what he termed a “compromise” in the dispute arising from his administration’s mandate to force Catholic and non-Catholic religious, charitable, health-care, and educational entities to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization as part of their health care to employees. The same mandate requires individual employers to do the same. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that all of these “services” are gravely immoral.
The so-called compromise appears to be a concession by the administration of nothing, other than an administrative shifting of labels so as to give the Church the appearance of not providing the immoral services. In effect, the insurance companies will be required to provide the mandated services, but the Church will still be complicit in their provision. Furthermore, the president’s compromise does nothing to address those Catholic entities that self-insure, or those individuals who provide health insurance to employees, and who also object on moral grounds. In the end, this is still a grave attack on religious freedom—the state mandating what religious institutions and individuals must do, even if it is directly opposed to their beliefs.
Typically, when a compromise is reached, the parties with a dispute come together, at their own initiative or through an arbiter, and reach an agreement they both can accept. In this case, the administration did not consult with the Catholic bishops, the official teachers and representatives of the Catholic Church, but rather appears to have met with a few select people involved with Catholic charitable and health-care organizations. It is notable that the administration released these persons’ statements of approval before announcing the “compromise,” and before the bishops had been given a chance to see it.
Only the beginning
I get the sense that the administration is attempting to marginalize the bishops’ voice, and to divide the Catholic faithful along partisan lines. This dispute was not brought on by the US bishops, but by the unnecessary and unprecedented action of the government. The problem remains. Catholics of all political preferences, and all Americans of good will, should insist that the mandate be fully rescinded. Otherwise, freedom of religion will be further eroded, and we can expect more government mandates which violate our consciences in the future.
For more information on what the Church in Missouri is doing on the HHS mandate or how to respond, log on to www.mocatholic.org, or contact the Missouri Catholic Conference at (573) 635-7239.
Legislation currently pending in the Missouri General Assembly, SB 590, undermines America’s tradition of treating citizens fairly and equally and welcoming immigrants to our country. America has always been known as the country of opportunity for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the outcast. If we were to trace our own lineage, all but those who are Native American can attest to the fact that our ancestors came here from another country.
Senate Bill 590 requires a birth certificate for all children enrolling in public schools. This requirement is not the problem, since many schools already ask for birth certificates. But SB 590 goes further: If the child’s birth certificate reveals that the child was born in the US, and is thus a US citizen, but his or her parents were born outside of the US, then the parents must provide additional proof that their child is a US citizen. No such additional proof is required if the child and the parents were both born in the US.
By requiring some citizens to provide additional proof, but not others, SB 590 violates the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. The 14th Amendment provides that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It does not say only persons whose parents were born in the US are entitled to equal protection.
In addition to discriminating against immigrant student citizens born in the US, SB 590 threatens to deny public education to these citizen children by targeting and harassing their parents, discouraging them from enrolling their children in school. Yes, by passing this law we might identify persons illegally in the US. But do we really want to pass an unconstitutional law that will create an inhospitable climate for the parents of legal resident children such that these children would not obtain an education?
Denying children access to public education, as one federal court stated, “imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status. … By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.”
Senate Bill 590 is an overreaction. Concerns about illegal immigration are understandable in states bordering Mexico where drug-running and other problems have arisen due, in part, to large influxes of undocumented persons. But Missouri is not Arizona. The Pew Research Center estimates Missouri has between 35,000 and 75,000 unauthorized immigrants (2010 survey data). In contrast, Arizona is estimated to have between 275,000 and 500,000 unauthorized immigrants.
Catholic teaching recognizes the right of nations to protect its borders, but also recognizes the right of people to migrate even without legal sanction when facing violence, persecution, famine, or extreme poverty. Pope Benedict XVI has said: “Migration and the problems to which it gives rise must be addressed humanly, with justice and compassion.”
The US Catholic Bishops have made it clear that the Church will respond to the needs of persons regardless of their legal status: “Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country. …” (“Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity,” US Catholic Bishops, 2000).
McClay is general counsel for the Missouri Catholic Conference.
At parish missions, I like to tell the story of a couple who invited their pastor to dinner. When Father arrived, the couple invited him into the living room, where they visited. Then the wife said, “We’ll put dinner on the table. Make yourself at home.” Father enjoyed looking at their family photos, and then saw a calendar. On the date of his visit was a notation: “Pastor for dinner. Dust all Bibles.”
In last month’s column, I talked about how, at the beginning of a New Year, we are called to glorify God by letting Jesus live in us. With St. Paul, we should say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). An important step in doing this is reading and praying the Bible. We should be using our Bibles often enough that they never need dusting!
We come to know Jesus primarily through the Bible. The Old Testament is the family book of Jesus. Everything in it leads up to Jesus. In the Gospels, we meet Jesus. We listen to his voice. We learn who he is. Elsewhere in the New Testament we discover how the first believers came to know Jesus as God and man, as the one who gave life, meaning, joy, and the hope of eternal happiness. Catholics must read the Bible if we want to know Jesus. As St. Jerome said 16 centuries ago, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
I’ve been working on a new set of talks with a Bible theme for the retreats and parish missions I’m invited to lead. This gave me the idea of writing a series of columns on the Bible, which I’ll be doing over the coming months. The Bible is the best-selling book in the history of humanity. This is not surprising, since God is its author. We should be familiar with God’s book, and I hope that this new series will help us grow in our understanding and love of the Bible.
Tuning in to God
Whirling all around us are sights and sounds, newscasts and sporting events, music and talk shows, photos and conversations. Transmitted from television studios, radio stations, and phone towers, these sights and sounds can be seen and heard when we turn on a TV set, a radio, or a cell phone.
Whirling all around us are other sights and sounds, messages of love and truth, images of power and beauty. Flowing forever from the Creator of the universe, we can see these sights and hear these sounds when we turn our hearts and minds to God.
How does God send messages, and how do we receive them? God communicates with us through nature, daily life, other people, prayer, Mass, and the sacraments. We listen to God by tuning our senses, intellect, memory, will, imagination, and emotions to him.
The quality of the pictures and sounds we pick up on a TV or a cell phone depends on many factors. A defective antenna or cable or a faulty tuning dial can distort the picture and sound. Likewise, the quality of messages we receive from God can be clouded. Our hearts can be blinded by sin. Temptations and lies from Satan and secular society can confuse our minds. Our senses and intellect, memory and will, imagination and emotions may be so burdened with earthly pursuits that we find it difficult to direct our attention to heaven.
Technology has made it possible to overcome many of the obstacles to good reception on TV, radio, and phones. Signals are bounced off satellites. Cable gives a direct line to a transmission source. Events and movies recorded on DVD can be played back with great clarity.
Technology can’t eliminate obstacles hindering communication between God and us. However, God’s inspiration can. In Jewish-Christian history, there have been people who searched for God with such devotion that they saw God’s face and heard God’s voice. They were inspired.
Their experience of God in nature, people, events, and prayer may have been similar to the ways in which we encounter God. They may have been inspired in scholarly research without realizing that God was working through them (2 Mac 2:19-32 and Lk 1:1-4). Or they may have received God’s inspiration in dramatic revelations, like Isaiah (Is 6).
The Jewish or Christian community to which they belonged recognized their perceptions of God as authentic, recorded them, and treasured them as sacred. In time, under God’s guidance, the community gathered such sacred writings into books which expressed its beliefs and helped shape the beliefs of generations to come. These books in turn were put together as our Bible.
We can, and should, communicate with God in personal prayer. But we struggle. Like a television set with a faulty antenna, we might receive an image clouded by the interference of conflicting voices or garbled by the static of sin. The Bible is like a DVD we can insert into our awareness and unmistakably receive a message from God.
In the Bible the words of God are handed on to us by Abraham, by Moses, by the Jewish community. In the Bible are words of God given to us by Luke, by Paul, by the Christian community. Through the books of the Bible, our ideas of God are clarified and our ability to speak with Him is improved. The Bible puts us in touch with God in a unique and powerful way.
Baseball and the Bible
It’s worth noticing how our own personal experiences of God in prayer, nature, and other people can be fine-tuned by the Bible. A few weeks ago, I visited with friends whose daughter had attended the sixth game of the 2011 World Series, one of the best games in baseball history, at least to any Cardinal fans! She said it was exciting, but she had missed some of the most dramatic plays. In the ninth inning, with the Cards losing 9-7, two outs, and two strikes on David Freese, she had covered her eyes with her rally towel because she just couldn’t bear to watch. When she heard all the screaming at his triple that drove in the tying runs, she couldn’t see what was happening because everybody in front of her had jumped out of their seats. After dinner, we watched the Major League Baseball DVD of the sixth game, and she saw what she had missed.
That’s how the Bible can bring us to God: up close and personal. We can and should be in God’s presence every time we pray, every time we recognize God’s creative hand in nature, every time we experience his love among friends and family. But we can miss a lot of the action because we cover our spiritual eyes, not with a rally towel, but with a blanket of distractions. The Bible allows us to replay God’s meetings with humanity as often as we read our Bible. And just as modern high-definition cameras can capture events like David Freese’s home run more clearly than we could see it at the ball park, so great saints like Paul, Luke, and John can present to us the greatest events in human history as vividly as possible.
Open your eyes to God’s inspired words in the Scriptures, and you’ll see the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection more clearly than did the people who were alive when these wonders occurred. Most people in Bethlehem were unaware of Christ’s birth. Most people at Calvary were there to mock Jesus. The soldiers at Jesus’ tomb were asleep. We’ve got something better than a DVD of these events. We’ve got God’s inspired word in the Bible that will open our eyes, our mind, and our hearts to the reality and the full meaning of these great miracles.
So get out your Bible. (Dust it off if you need to). Then get ready for action even more exciting than the 2011 World Series!
A Vincentian priest in Perryville MO, Fr. Lukefahr directs Catholic Home Study Service (CHSS), sponsored by the Missouri Knights of Columbus and their Religious Information Bureau. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? …”
—Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, Sun., April 24, 2005
These above questions from Pope Benedict pretty much sum up my thought process during high school when I was seriously grappling with the idea of a vocation as a religious sister. I loved the Lord since I was a little girl and wanted to please Him by doing His will, but at the same time, I was petrified at what He was asking of me. My questions surrounded much of the following: Be a nun? Leave my family? Never get married? Looking at what I had to “lose” in the choice left me unsure that being espoused to Christ could even begin to make up for it. Oh, but how far I was from the truth.
I first felt the call when I was in the fifth Grade but the bulk of my discernment occurred in high school. When I was a freshman in high school my mother, older sister, and I took a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a Marian pilgrimage site in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The idea of religious life was stirring in my heart at the time though I was less than excited about it. However, I was excited about this Marian pilgrimage because I had a great devotion to and deep love for Our Lady.
While I was in Medjugorje, I felt her softening my heart to the idea of religious life. Through her, the tug on my heart from the Lord to belong exclusively to Him grew stronger. But I was not ready to say yes. I was not convinced that religious life was what I desired or that it would fulfill me. I still didn’t like the idea of ‘giving up’ so much of what I loved. Later on in high school, I dated a great Catholic guy whom I met through a youth group. But as much as I enjoyed being with him and as beautiful as I knew the vocation of marriage was, there remained a growing ache in my heart.
I longed for something more.
I felt confused.
Then I heard that steady, soft, familiar voice ask me, “Will you be Mine, beloved? Will you be My bride?” This time something in me changed. This time I focused on the One Who was asking me those questions instead of everything I would have to ‘let go of’ or ‘give up.’ With my eyes focused on the person of Christ, joy bubbled from deep within me and I gave Him a resounding, “Yes!” And with that yes, I gave Him permission to pursue my heart. I embraced Christ as my spouse and entered the Franciscan Sisters, TOR of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, in August 2007.
So to all young women who are discerning a possible call to be a beautiful bride of Christ: first, I commend you. It can be scary. But do not be discouraged by the questions or the hesitations, the fears or doubts that can plague your mind. Embrace the struggle. Run to the Lord in prayer everyday. Focus on falling in love with the Lord and let Him woo your heart because He will. I encourage you to allow the Lord to pursue your hearts. Let Him love you, as you are, wherever you are.
Being a religious sister is first and foremost about being in love with the Lord, letting Him love you and letting that love be the driving force behind everything you do. Once I gave myself fully to Him, I found that I lost nothing, absolutely nothing.
“… Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life. Amen.” –Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, Sun., April 24, 2005
Sr. Beussink attended Immaculate Concepion Parish, Jackson, MO. She is now a member of Franciscan Sisters, TOR of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother.
“I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” –St. Thomas More
A choice between mandates
These words of St. Thomas More, spoken before he was beheaded by King Henry VIII for refusing to violate his conscience and submit to the King’s wishes, have been on the minds of many Catholic Americans these days. It is a reminder that people of faith in every age cannot take for granted the precious gift of religious liberty, and staying faithful to one’s beliefs may one day come at a price.
What this episode brings into sharp relief is something our ancestors in the faith knew well. We have set before us two mandates: that of “Caesar” and that of Christ. The earliest Christians were told that they must offer the customary sacrifice of some small act of worship to the image of Caesar, who was considered a god by the Roman state. Often, this took the form of burning a bit of incense before the emperor’s image. To refuse to do so would often carry a death sentence. Many Christians did refuse and gave witness to their faith in Christ by shedding their blood.
Catholics today have been given the choice between two mandates. The first, issued by the Obama administration, says that people of faith who serve those who are not also of their faith, or churches which employ those who are not of its own faith, must provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization as part of their health plans. This is a serious violation of Catholic moral beliefs. The second mandate is that of Jesus Christ issued to his Church to heal the sick, feed the hungry, teach the ignorant, and care for the poor—no matter what their creed. The Catholic Church and her faithful are committed to the latter mandate: that of Jesus. We respect our elected officials and are committed to be good citizens, but God’s mandate is first.
The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. We operate a quarter of all hospitals in the US which, because of the mandate of Jesus, serve as crucial providers of health care for the poorest of our citizens. Catholics operate the largest non-governmental school system in the nation, even though we pay taxes and our schools receive few of the benefits in return because of anti-Catholic Blaine-like amendment laws, such as that in Missouri. We do these things because not only do we love our neighbor, but we love Jesus and we want to serve him as our Lord and God.
Caesar has handed us an ultimatum in the form of the recent HHS mandate. We must follow the example of good St. Thomas More, even if it means getting our heads chopped off.
The following letter was issued to Catholics in Southern Missouri by Bp. James V. Johnston on Jan. 31, 2012. The letter was to be read at all weekend Masses Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. It is also available on the diocesan Web site, www.dioscg.org.
January 31, 2012
Feast of Saint John Bosco
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are facing a grave and unprecedented attack today on the religious freedom we enjoy in the United States. The Obama Administration, through the US Department of Health and Human Services, has recently imposed a nationwide mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures.
For over 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taught that abortion, sterilization, and contraception are wrong. In fact, less than 90 years ago, all Christian congregations morally objected to these practices. However, sadly today, and despite the fact that the Church’s position has never wavered on these issues, the views of many Catholics on them is no different than those of most non-believers. Perhaps this is why the Obama Administration has chosen this moment in history to try to force the Catholic Church, as well as other communities of faith, to act against basic moral convictions. Given the fact that many of our own people do not subscribe to what the Church teaches, does the Administration assume that most of our faithful will not care? I hope you prove them wrong.
First, I invite you to examine whether you have fairly considered, and are living, the Church’s consistent teaching on the moral issues of abortion, contraception, and sterilization. The Catholic Church will never yield in her defense of both the sacredness of human life and the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love. This is a moment where each of us will be called to take a stand either for or against the Church. My prayer is that this will be a moment of recommitment, deeper conversion, and reconfirmation of our faith by the Holy Spirit; a period of grace which always accompanies times of difficulty in the life of the Church.
Second, I ask you to take action to prevent the government from punishing us for living what we believe. Many brothers and sisters of varying faiths join us in this important effort, as well as other persons of good will. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
By this rule, the Obama Administration intends to force the Catholic Church to act against its basic moral convictions. This rule will force Christian employers to offer abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. By this rule, the Obama Administration casts aside the long-standing respect our government has shown in not forcing churches to act against their religious beliefs.
We cannot—and we will not—comply with this unjust law. I call on all Catholics in our diocese to act now to seek the immediate reversal of this rule.
Contact President Barack Obama and express your profound disappointment in the new contraceptive and abortion mandate.
Senator Roy Blunt is the sponsor of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would reverse this mandate. Contact him and thank him for his sponsorship of this bill. Contact Senator Claire McCaskill and request that she co-sponsor this bill.
Contact your US Representative and urge his or her support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the US House.
If you would like more information on what you can do, visit the Web sites of the diocese and the Missouri Catholic Conference. Through our diocesan newspaper, The Mirror, and electronic media, I will keep you up-to-date on this important issue. I also ask that you pray and fast for a reversal of this bad decision.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr., DD, JCL
Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Bp. Johnston’s prayer intentions for February are:
For all teachers and those dedicated to the education and formation of youth.
For the reversal of the HHS government mandate which attempts to force the Church and people of faith to act against their beliefs.
“[It] is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. … Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
—Pope Benedict XVI, “ad limina” address to the US Bishops of Region IV, on Jan. 19, 2012
Late last week, just a day after Pope Benedict spoke to a group of Region IV US bishops in Rome for their “ad limina”* visit about increasingly grave threats to religious freedom, the US Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) announced that there would be no revision to a policy mandating that private health plans cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an early abortion. While those not covered by the narrowly-defined “exemption” will be given an extra year to comply, the government indicated that it will now require even religious organizations to inform employees of their policy and provide them with information on other sources for contraceptives and sterilizations (see more on this issue on pp. 6-7 of this issue of The Mirror).
With this news, the Obama administration issued a direct attack on religious liberty. It is a clear contradiction to what Pres. Obama indicated he would do in his controversial speech at the University of Notre Dame in May 2009 when he indicated his desire to “draft a sensible conscience clause” with regard to health care policies. As Card.-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), noted following the announcement, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”
Treating pregnancy as a disease
Apart from the unprecedented attempt to erode religious liberty, a morally-corrupt view underlies the HHS ruling, namely, that pregnancy is to be treated as a disease which must be prevented at all costs. Most health care plans cover illnesses and injuries, and the medical treatment of them, including disease prevention. For example, we get vaccinated for flu and tuberculosis; we have treatments for cancer and diabetes. By including sterilization and contraceptives—including controversial abortifacient drugs—among “preventive services,” the government forces its citizenry to treat pregnancy as if it too were a disease.
“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” —Micah 6:8
The third week in January has become what I like to refer to as the “Week of Marches.” It begins with the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and ends with the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision now known as Roe v. Wade and the annual March for Life in our nation’s Capital. These events that bookend the week are typically marked by rallies and marches, and have much in common.
Many cities across the nation have a march on the King holiday to not only commemorate the ideals and principles that Dr. King articulated so well in his “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, but also to bring awareness to injustices that remain in various parts of our society. For example, we are reminded of injustices within the criminal justice system, including the use of the death penalty. We are reminded of the hardships that new immigrants face through various forms of discrimination. We see the plight of the poor and the obstacles that they must overcome in order to live in peace and have all they need.
The other end of the week is also marked by events and marches. These, too, are meant to call our attention and action to the injustices directed toward the unborn—the weakest and most vulnerable among us. They, having no power over the circumstances into which they were conceived, are often referred to as “problems” rather than children. The “solution” to these problems suggested to many women in crisis is the solution of death.
This year I will again be joining hundreds of our diocesan youth, several of our priests, and many of our adult laity at the liturgies, rallies, and the March for Life, in Washington, DC.
The events of this week are moments in which Christians, and all people of faith, are called to reflect on our own role in providing just and kind options to our brothers and sisters in need. These issues are complex, but what is not complex is that some “solutions,” such as abortion, should never be option at all.