Christ’s Commission and Obama’s Mandate: A Teachable Moment

The big news in American Catholic circles is the Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate.” This latest unethical intrusion of big government stipulates that employers, including religious institutions, provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and specific abortifacients such as Ella and Plan B.

Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle summarized the situation: “If this unprecedented aggression against the religious freedom rights of Catholics is allowed to stand, then virtually all Catholic institutions — colleges, universities, secondary schools, hospitals, charities, service providers, fraternal orders, and advocacy organizations — will be forced to pay for procedures, devices, and chemicals abhorrent to the consciences of Catholics.”

The Associated Press has covered the Catholic reaction to the new ruling.

Thankfully, the U.S. Bishops have spoken out, in some cases quite vociferously, against administration’s violation of the rights of Catholics. The USCCB web site has a resource page dedicated to the issue. Our home diocese, Manchester, New Hampshire, released a statement denouncing the measure.

As dreadful as this situation is, it is a teachable moment for American Catholics. Why? Because if the Church had fulfilled her evangelical mission here, this would likely not be an issue. Instead, we have been content with a place at the American pluralist table; we have refused to make America Catholic, have become ourselves infected by the plague of contraception, and have consequently lost our savor.

We learned from a recent poll that sixty-five percent of US Catholics agree that the world is a better place because of “religious diversity,” while only fifteen percent thought that Christianity should be the one world religion. Earlier research had revealed that most Catholic women in U.S. use birth control. The issues are not unconnected. They are as interrelated as Catholic faith and morals.

While I am not inclined to believe everything the 60 Minutes, Vanity Fair, and the Guttmacher Institute say, the results of these polls do not seem off the mark. (Just talk to your Catholic friends and family, and ask what they think: The results are downright depressing — right?) Catholic religious instruction being in a deplorable condition for decades now — all throughtout the era of the sexual revolution — it is perfectly reasonable to expect that Catholics would be clueless on such issues. As for the question of religious pluralism versus Catholic conversion, the denial of extra ecclesiam nulla salus and the embrace of a contermissionary ecumenism have ensured that Catholics by and large believe the Catholic Faith to be but one among many — a nice choice, perhaps, but not terribly unique, and not necessary for salvation in any sense.

Let’s call the Obama administration’s brazen act what it is: an in-your-face offensive against the Catholic Church. It is my belief that this is a wake-up call to the Church in America. We were supposed to convert this nation, but instead we slouched into liberalism, americanism, pelagianism, indifferentism, and plain-old fat-and-happy materialism. The fact that the government is assailing our institutions on the question of contraception is condign justice. Consider the failure of Catholic institutions at every level to uphold the Church’s teaching on birth control and you will see what I mean. Watch, if you have time, the very informative documentary by Michael Voris, The Contraception Deception, which documents the complicity of such institutions as the Archdiocese of Boston and Notre Dame University in advancing the contraceptive agenda. Cardinal Cushing’s deplorable role in this business has been mentioned on our site. Note well: the same liberal hierarch that persecuted Father Feeney and publicly scoffed at a defined dogma of the Church in the forties and fifties personally helped ensure that the Massachusetts legislature voted in 1966 to end the last all-out ban on contraceptives in the nation.

I know a Catholic woman who, after giving birth to one of her numerous offspring, was handed birth control promotional literature while she was checking out of a Catholic hospital. When she arranged a meeting with the local bishop to bring the matter to his attention, this successor of the Apostles told her, “Grow up, girlie!”

Such stories are legion.

If you think Catholic universities are bad — and you’re right — Catholic hospitals are worse. The same institutional rot, caused by all the afore-mentioned -isms, is to blame in both cases.

The lesson? If you don’t think it is necessary to convert your erring countrymen, you may become just like them. Our Lord said it better: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men” (Matt. 5:13). Salt enhances and perserves the thing it is put on. That is what we have failed to do.

The present HHS ruling seems to be the mighty hand of God coming upon us. I don’t mean to overestimate his importance, but, in his own small way, Obama is the Attila, the Muhammed, the Turk, the Vandal, the Barbarian, or any other “scourge of God” sent to punish and humble bad Christians, just as God used the Philistines, Amilekites, and others to afflict the people of the Old Testament when they were unfaithful. The good thing is that God loves us enough to afflict us, to chastise us, to give us negative incentives and even “painful graces” for our conversion and growth.

This could be a time of visitation for the Church in America: “Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation: Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you” (I Peter 5:6-7)

If we get back to Catholic faith and morals, wonderful and strange things could happen.

But for the time being, what will happen? With the majority of American Catholics contracepting, will the faithful be marching behind their bishops if indeed those bishops lead the charge against the evil nanny state? The results could be embarrassing, but we cannot rule out the effects of grace.

One thing is certain. There is no salvation in politics. Politics, the way men ought to be governed, must take its lead from ethics. Without the law of God that it is the exclusive prerogative of the Catholic Church to preserve, ethics is rudderless.

Pray for our bishops, that they be given the grace not only to defend the conscience rights of Catholics and our institutions, but that they proactively advance both the conversion of America to the Catholic Faith and the reign of Jesus Christ the King in these United States.

The best defense is, after all, a good offense.