I sure do wish Sister Carol Keehan would quit subverting the Catholic bishops.
I understand and appreciate her concern for keeping Catholic hospitals and clinics open no matter what — but when that goal comes into conflict with a fascist regime, priorities may have to change. We are not living in ordinary times.
Evidently, Sr. Keehan does not realize that, with Obamacare, we are dealing with tyranny — a “soft” tyranny that is well on its way to becoming hard tyranny… if people keep caving to it.
THE COUNTDOWN: According to the article linked above, “religious employers” now have a “safe harbor” until January. We shall see.
Judie Brown, founder and president of the famously no-compromise, no-soft-pedal American Life League, has a very provocative piece at Renew America this week. Brown contends that the Catholic Church has a lot of work to do with respect to its own pro-life witness. Just as a house that is not defended against termites is vulnerable to erosion by them, the Church, by failing to clearly proclaim the truth and hold its own members accountable to it, has weakened its own moral authority and thus made itself vulnerable to those who would do it harm.
On June 28, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final rules pertinent to the Obama mandate that “collides with religious freedom and the rights of conscience.”
Soon after the final regulations were issued, an open letter signed by religious leaders was written decrying the regulations. The letter, entitled “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” includes the signature of USCCB representative Archbishop William Lori, who has been at the forefront of the battle against the mandate since it began.
During a July 2 press conference Lori said, “As the Catholic bishops have said from the very beginning, the underlying issue with the HHS Mandate is not about any specific teaching. In fact, other signatories on the letter do not share our view on contraception and probably disagree with us in many other ways, but they understand the core religious freedom issue at stake here.”
Yet a simple law protecting conscience rights may not correct the situation.
Several weeks ago, on April 25, Archbishop Charles Chaput told an audience:
The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us—all of us, clergy, religious and lay—when we live our faith with tepidness, cheap compromises, fear, routine, and hypocrisy. . . .
I ask you to please pray for . . . the bishops of the United States—and the leaders of religious institutions across the country—that they may show the same kind of courage Henri de Lubac not only spoke about, but also witnessed by the example of his life.
I found Chaput’s words riveting because, as he so eloquently points out, we Catholics are the enemy; we need to be courageous, even when persecuted as de Lubac was. The “law” is not the answer to the current problem. We are!
My dear friend Joe Tevington brought this point home to me in a powerful way when he shared a copy of his letter to Archbishop Chaput in which he praised the prelate for his courageous words, writing:
Your Excellency, wouldn’t it be a hideous irony if we gain true, codified protections for conscience, but have Catholic healthcare disregard Catholic medical ethics? I have written repeatedly about the troubling state of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Catholic hospitals, namely:
- The paucity of NFP [Natural Family Planning]-only physicians;
- “Privileges” for IVF [in-vitro fertilization] specialists;
- “Privileges” for associates of practices involved with “fetal reduction” [“selective” abortion];
- Provision of information on “advance directives” which fails to specify that Catholic teaching must be honored—particularly with regard to the provision of nutrition and hydration. (This in the home archdiocese of Terri Schiavo!)
Of course, these violations of basic Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life are not particular to one archdiocese; they are scandalously common in Catholic dioceses all over the country.
Moreover, the situation in Catholic hospitals is merely a symptom of a broader problem: the failure of the Church as a whole to live by its own teachings. Millions of people who regard themselves as “faithful Catholics” believe that the Church’s teachings on matters of life and death are merely “optional” and can therefore be disregarded. But in many cases, Catholics simply don’t know what the Church’s teachings are. The sad fact is that the Church has largely failed to teach and make known its own life-giving, life-saving doctrines. Just to take the first point listed above as an example, relatively few Catholics even know what Natural Family Planning is (hint: it’s not the rhythm method of yesteryear!), much less know how to practice it. But then, how would they know about it? How often do priests preach about it? How often do marriage-preparation programs mention NFP, much less actually teach couples how to use it?
Brown sums up with words that are hard to hear (as truth often is!), but will perhaps, like the HHS mandate itself, serve as a wake-up call:
If Catholics fail to clean up their own healthcare houses and abide by Church teaching in every aspect, particularly those that impact respect for the dignity of the human being, then we deserve to live under the oppression of Obama and his cronies.
Catholics must, in this tragic age, lead by example, lead by entrusting our very lives to God, and lead by living the motto our country once held so dear.
In God, and God alone, may we trust!
THE COUNTDOWN: 24 days.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is suing the federal government over its stonewalling of the diocese’s Freedom of Information Act request.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has filed a lawsuit charging that the federal government created illegal barriers to its request for information about lobbyist influence on the HHS contraception mandate.
“We think there has been a wide variety of groups trying to influence the administration to keep the sterilization, contraception and abortion pill parts of the mandate,” Mickey Pohl, a lawyer for the diocese, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
He added that the diocese is “trying to find out what the communication has been back and forth to HHS, and the reason HHS is fighting religious organizations so hard not to change the preventative care mandate.”
The diocese’s lawsuit, filed in federal court July 1, says that federal officials at the Health and Human Services department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted $1.8 million and up to five years to respond to the attorney’s Freedom of Information Act request for the relevant records.
The correct word for that is extortion.
The demand came months after the attorney’s September 2012 request for information.Officials later changed their fee to $25,000 in processing charges, though Pohl said the offer of a three-year timeline was still unacceptable.
Um, yeah, seeing as how the deadline for compliance with the HHS mandate is August 1, 2013, delaying the request until late 2015 is a pretty obvious ploy on the part of the government.
Pohl said the federal officials’ demands for the payment and the lengthy waiting time violated legal requirements that they provide public information in a timely manner and at reasonable cost.
Oh, but when has following the law ever been a consideration for this administration? Laws are for the serfs and peons, not for our “enlightened” rulers.
Abortion “rights” groups have largely supported the mandate, and some groups used it to rally support for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Some reports have questioned [these groups’] influence on the mandate’s creation.
In November 2011, William J. Cox, president of the California-based Alliance of Catholic Health Care, told a Congressional subcommittee that the federal mandate’s original language was based on a California bill.
That bill’s religious exemption was “painstakingly crafted by the American Civil Liberties Union to specifically exclude religious institutional missions like health care providers, universities and social service agencies,” he said.
Cox said that during the debate on the California bill, the then-head of Planned Parenthood in California said the wording was designed to close the “Catholic gap” in contraceptive coverage.
Ah, now we get to the nib of it. For people whose desire to control the world necessitates control of population, the Catholic Church is the ultimate enemy. Taking down the Catholic Church is way too important a goal for them to get hung up on trivial matters such as the rule of law and the First Amendment.
THE COUNTDOWN: Only 26 days until D-day.
Hard times are coming, and soon. Are we — and our shepherds — ready?
Emily Stimpson’s eloquent plea expresses what many of us are feeling.
What Catholics Need Now:
A Letter to Our Priests and Bishops
To Our Spiritual Fathers,
Please forgive the public nature of this letter. In a sense, it goes against my personal rule of not criticizing priests or bishops in print. But only in a sense.
You see, this letter isn’t meant as criticism, although I know some will take it that way. It’s more a cry for help, a plea or a prayer. After the Supreme Court rulings on marriage, I don’t know what else to do. Or where else to go. So I’m coming to you, here, in the only way I know how.
Let me begin by telling you a little about myself. I’m not a perfect Catholic. But I am a faithful Catholic. I love the Church. I trust her and believe in her teachings. I’m also trying my hardest to follow those teachings—every last one—regardless of the cost.
I’m also trying to be the type of witness the Church calls me to be. I strive to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. I talk about Jesus without shame or fear in coffee shops, dressing rooms, and airports. I defend the Church when people attack her or misrepresent her. And I try to do it all in a way that’s charming, engaging, relevant, and accessible. That’s not to say I always succeed. But I am doing my best to show the world the joy, love, peace, beauty, and life I’ve found in Christ and his Church.
So, why am I writing you?
Because I need your help.
Again, I’m trying so very hard to do what the Church asks me to do and call this culture back to Christ. So many of us are trying. But it’s not enough. Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions, while not a surprise, confirmed that.
I know as a Catholic layperson I’ve got to step up my game. And I’m willing to do that. Again, whatever the cost.
But you’ve got to step up your game too.
By that I mean no disrespect. As priests and bishops you bear a tremendous burden. I don’t envy you that, and I know many of you are carrying that burden heroically.
But many of you aren’t. You’ve been weak. You’ve been cowardly. You’ve made compromises and led people astray. Souls are perishing because of that. A culture is perishing because of that. And it’s got to stop. You have been ordained as priests of God Most High, Christ’s representatives on earth. You’ve got to act like it. We don’t just need our spiritual fathers standing shoulder to shoulder with us in this fight for souls. We need you leading us into the breach.
As for how you do that, it’s not complicated.
1. Preach the Faith.
On Sundays, don’t tell me to be nice; tell me to be holy. Don’t tell me to trust God; tell me who God is. Don’t even tell me to be faithful; tell me what faithful means. Explain holiness. Explain sin. Be specific. Preach on what lust, gluttony, selfishness, laziness, pride, anger, and vanity are, why they’re bad for me, and how to avoid them. Preach the Creed. Preach the saints. Preach the story of salvation history. And preach it in all its fullness.
While you’re at it, let go of this idea that homilies are a separate thing from catechesis. They can’t be separate right now. The majority of Catholics sitting in the pews on Sunday don’t know the basics of the Faith. And the only place most will learn them is from a homily. Don’t waste your precious 10 minutes in front of a semi-captive audience repeating fluff we can get from Oprah. Use the Scriptures to illuminate Tradition, not obscure it.
Outside the homily, invest in catechesis. Hire DREs who believe, know, and can teach the Faith. Pay them a family wage so they don’t leave after three years. Invest in your volunteer catechists too. Help them get the training they need. Then, get involved in catechesis yourself. Talk to the kids. Teach RCIA. The more you let people know how important you think catechesis is, the more important they will think it is.
2. Use Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law
In other words, stop playing nice with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Deny them Communion. Their sin is grave, public, and persistent. And until they have publicly repented of that grave, public, and persistent sin, allowing them to receive the Eucharist is not only a source of scandal to the faithful, it’s a source of confusion to the faithful. It communicates to us that it’s okay to support abortion rights, same-sex marriage, contraception, no fault divorce, and other serious sins. It also communicates to us that it’s okay to vote for politicians who support the same. And it’s not.
I understand, in not enforcing Canon 915, you have been trying to not burn bridges. You’ve been trying to deal with the matter privately. But it’s not working. It’s actually failing abysmally. Admit defeat. Then change course. It’s the most loving thing to do for everyone, Nancy Pelosi included.
3. Clean House
There is room in the Church for everyone. We should welcome saints and sinners alike. But when it comes to our dioceses, parishes, and schools, we need people who actually believe what the Church teaches in positions of leadership. Open dissent on contraception, homosexuality, the all-male priesthood, and more is a poorly kept secret in countless schools and chanceries. It’s less common than it used to be, but it’s there. Even in “good” dioceses. Spend a year working for the Church and you’ll figure that out right quick.
Not surprisingly, that lack of fidelity is impeding both the flow of grace and the quality of catechesis in our parishes and schools. People cannot teach what they don’t believe. And until that changes, the New Evangelization will do nothing more than limp along.
Change won’t be easy. Uncomfortable discussions will have to take place. Feelings will get hurt. Jobs will be lost. Lawsuits will be filed. But that’s still better than a whole culture going to Hell and your own personal swimming match with a millstone.
4. Give Us Beauty
As Catholics, we believe that “the body expresses the person.” That’s true for each of us, and it’s true for the Body of Christ. The physical stuff of the Faith—the smells, bells, and buildings—express the soul of the Faith—her doctrines, dogmas, and disciplines.
At least, it should express the soul. The Church’s liturgy and architecture should reveal a richness of beauty and belief that robs the gruel fed to us by the culture of all its appeal. It should move us to love God and neighbor more. It should make us long for Heaven. It should make us sorry for our sins.
The music of Marty Haugen and Dan Schutte doesn’t do that. Hastily and haphazardly performed rites don’t do that. Pedestrian speech, liturgical puppets, and felt banners don’t do it either. If you want Catholics to see the beauty of the Faith, you have to show it to us. You have to make it manifest in Church on Sunday. You have to give us something extraordinary to help us realize we’re called to something extraordinary. Feed us with beauty and truth; goodness will follow.
5. Prepare for Persecution
No matter how diligently you work, no matter how faithful you are, things will likely get much worse before they get better. Hard times are ahead, and you, our fathers, have to be ready for battle. You have to be ready to give your life not just figuratively, but literally.
Communicate that to our priests in training. Get them ready. Teach them to fast and go without. Get rid of the well stocked bars in seminary lounges. Teach them also to serve. Tell the families who invite the seminarians over for dinner that it’s seminary policy for the young men to do the dishes afterwards. And teach by example. Keep your tastes simple and your expenses minimal. Look to Pope Francis to see how it’s done.
Whatever you do, in all things, help young priests and seminarians understand that the era of comfortable Catholicism has come to an end. A new era is dawning, an era where priests will be hated and reviled, mocked, and perhaps martyred. This is a time for heroes, a time for saints, a time for greatness. Make priests for our time. Be a priest for time.
Again, I know many of you already do all these things and more. There are heroes at our altars already. But we need more heroes. We need all our spiritual fathers to do what you were ordained to do. Do it and I promise you, you won’t be alone. Your children will be standing behind you, following you, helping you, dying with you.
Just lead us where Christ calls, and we will follow, right to the very end.
With love, gratitude, and prayers,
THE COUNTDOWN: One month from tomorrow, August 1, is the deadline set by the Obama Administration for religious organizations to buckle under to the HHS Mandate requiring us to pay for contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients for our employees. We have 31 days to decide whom we will serve. The time when American Catholics could serve both God and Caesar — if indeed there ever was such a time — certainly exists no more. Like it or not, ready or not, we are now forced to make a choice. St. Thomas More, pray for us! St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us! St. John the Baptist, pray for us!
The one war that nearly all Americans would agree was fought for a just cause is World War II. The Nazis were so obviously evil that our war against them has been called “the good war.” Our fighting men and women of that war, and those who supported the war effort at home, have been called “the greatest generation.”
Just as a reminder of what we were fighting against and why, I here present, unedited, a list from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum of Germany’s anti-Semitic laws, which, beginning in 1933, marginalized Jewish people more and more, gradually cutting them off from all means of making a living. You will notice that medicine was the first field from which Jews were excluded….
The following list shows 29 of the more than 400 legal restrictions imposed upon Jews and other groups during the first six years of the Nazi regime.
Decree of the Berlin City Commissioner for Health suspends Jewish doctors from the city’s social welfare services.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service removes Jews from government service.
The Law on the Admission to the Legal Profession forbids the admission of Jews to the bar.
The Law against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limits the number of Jewish students
in public schools.
The Denaturalization Law revokes the citizenship of naturalized Jews and “undesirables.”
The Law on Editors bans Jews from editorial posts.
The Army Law expels Jewish officers from the army.
The Nuremberg Race Laws exclude German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibit them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or German-related blood.”
The Executive Order on the Reich Tax Law forbids Jews to serve as tax consultants.
The Reich Veterinarians Law expels Jews from the profession.
The Reich Ministry of Education bans Jewish teachers from public schools.
The Mayor of Berlin orders public schools not to admit Jewish children until further notice.
The Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names forbids Jews from changing their names.
The Law on the Profession of Auctioneer excludes Jews from the profession.
The Gun Law bans Jewish gun merchants.
The Decree against the Camouflage of Jewish Firms forbids changing the names of Jewish-owned businesses.
The Order for the Disclosure of Jewish Assets requires Jews to report all property in excess of 5,000 reichsmarks.
The Reich Ministry of the Interior bans Jews from health spas.
The Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names requires Jews bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin to adopt an additional name: “Israel” for men and “Sara” for women.
The Decree on the Confiscation of Jewish Property regulates the transfer of assets from Jews to non-Jews in Germany.
The Reich Ministry of the Interior invalidates all German passports held by Jews. Jews must surrender their old passports, which will become valid only after the letter “J” has been stamped on them.
The Decree on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life closes all Jewish-owned businesses.
The Reich Ministry of Education expels all Jewish children from public schools.
The Reich Ministry of the Interior restricts the freedom of movement of Jews.
The Reich Ministry of the Interior forbids Jews to keep carrier pigeons.
The Executive Order on the Law on the Organization of National Work cancels all state contracts held with Jewish-owned firms.
The Law on Midwives bans all Jews from the profession.
The Decree concerning the Surrender of Precious Metals and Stones in Jewish Ownership requires Jews to turn in gold, silver, diamonds, and other valuables to the state without compensation.
The President of the German Lottery forbids the sale of lottery tickets to Jews.
THE COUNTDOWN: Only 65 days until August 1, 2013, a day that is already entered on the timeline of the Obama Administration’s campaign to marginalize and exclude from the public square all faithful Catholics and pro-life believers.
When the Supreme Court in 1992 handed down its decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey affirming the “right” to abortion created in Roe v. Wade, one of its arguments was that “for two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
It was a craven argument — completely ignoring the millions of real, flesh-and-blood human beings snuffed out by this “availability” — but, sadly, the statement itself is quite true. Similarly to the way a huge portion of the United States economy and society once rested on the institution of slavery, our present economy and society rests to a large degree on legal abortion — as a back-up for contraception — which is to say that what our current society really rests on is contraception.
Contraception is so much a part of the cultural air we breathe that those who question it are regarded by many as oddballs. But this is an extremely recent development. And for a variety of reasons, the history behind that development has remained hidden from most of us.
Take, for example, the common trope that opposition to contraception is a “Catholic” issue. In reality, the entire Christian church condemned contraception for 1,900 years. Beginning with Martin Luther and John Calvin, all Protestant denominations, relying on Scripture, condemned contraception as a serious sin. What happened in 1930? Did the Bible suddenly change?
The history of how and why Christian attitudes toward contraception changed is as fascinating as it is shocking. That history has been very elegantly translated to film in the 55-minute documentary The Birth Control Movie: How Did We Get Here? The movie was made by a team of Protestant ministers and scholars, and it is extremely well done. It’s important to note that, with the exception of Live Action founder Lila Rose, none of the men and women featured in the film are Catholic. Indeed, the story of how Margaret Sanger cunningly drove a wedge between American Protestants and Catholics in order to advance her contraception agenda was, for me, the most eye-opening lesson of a film that is chock-full of eye-openers.
I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. I would practically call it “required viewing” for all of us working to defeat the HHS contraceptive mandate. You can buy the DVD, as I did, for $14.99 (it arrived only 2 days after I ordered it!), or you can watch it online by renting it for one week for $5.99. It’s a better use of $5.99, and one hour of your time, than just about anything I can think of.
THE COUNTDOWN: Only 72 days until the deadline in the federal government’s attempt to get all of us trouble-making Christians in line.