Statement from the Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Re: Mercy Healthcare, Springfield
We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God. We believe that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and strive to follow the Bible’s counsel: “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, …” (Hebrews 13:8-9).
Christian pastors and leaders who hold true to the Gospel can expect to be attacked as hateful bigots by persons who claim to be advocates of tolerance. Such hypocrisy would be comical if it were not increasingly accompanied by legal and social efforts to coerce Christians to conform to new “strange teachings.”
Among these new teachings is the belief that the government has the power to redefine marriage as including same-sex couples. In this view, marriage is whatever the government says it is. But Christians reject this as they know and believe that “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9). This happens to be Jesus’ teaching, and neither the Church nor the government can change that teaching.
I was not consulted or informed by Mercy Hospital Springfield of its decision to provide same-sex couples marriage benefits. I am deeply concerned. By this decision, Mercy Hospital Springfield calls into question its identity as a Catholic Christian institution. The statement a Mercy spokesperson made to the Springfield News-Leader is more than disappointing. Recognizing God’s plan for marriage is not a matter of “the Church’s position,” as Mercy characterized it, but rather, one of God’s own Word. And while the statement does not specify the “government regulations” Mercy claims to require this change, no believing Christian worthy of the name should violate God’s law because of “regulations.” Our ancestors refused to abandon the faith even when subjected to the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire, but in our age unspecified “regulations,” government funds, and fear of public ridicule is sufficient in order to secure the compliance of some.
As I said in an earlier public statement (“Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Freedom” as issued Sept. 30, 2014, http://dioscg.org/index.php/category/articles/local-news/press-releases/), and as the current situation at Mercy Hospital Springfield evidences, what is being sold to the public as “tolerance and protection” for some is inevitably going to be used to discriminate and coerce others, those who simply want to live what the Gospel teaches.