Catholics and the Duties of Religious
This right is not
exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it exclude Catholics
The Health and Human Services mandate puts us in a fiendish
dilemma: it tells us that for us to serve Our Lord in the sick, the
poor, the orphan, the stranger, the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we
must rebel against the same Lord in supporting acts that are
intrinsically vicious. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar
and to God the things that are God." The HHS mandate is clearly and
without question an unjust law. It is a law against the common good.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic
Online): The right to religious liberty is the inheritance of
all Americans. We drink in with our mother's milk an awareness
that we have a right to religious freedom. The First Amendment
states: "Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free
exercise [of religion]." And, as Thomas Jefferson stated, "[n]o
provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than
that which protects the rights of conscience against the
enterprises of civil authority. It has not left the religion of
its citizens under the power of its public functionaries."
This right is not exclusive to Catholics. But neither does it
Yet in January of this year, in an unprecedented move, Kathleen
Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human
Services, issued a federal mandate which requires all
employers-including Catholic hospitals, colleges, schools,
adoption agencies, and other of the Catholic Church's charitable
institutions -to provide and fund practices that go against the
Catholic Church's moral teachings, and not only against her
teachings but against the natural moral law that binds all men.
In effect, the federal mandate requires that the Church-if she
is to continue her ministry to all peoples-to fund, support, and
facilitate access to contraception, sterilization, and
abortion-inducing drugs to the employees employed in her
The move by HHS is fiendish. It seems calculated to put the
Church on the horns of a dilemma, to force it into a moral
It is a fundamental principle of the natural law that one is
never to do evil so that good may come. This is particularly
true for intrinsic evils. Nothing justifies an act of murder, of
rape, of genocide. These are intrinsic evils.
The Church, of course, whether you agree with her or not, sees
the things it is being compelled to support, to fund, to promote
by the HHS mandate in the same category. We may never, never,
never do an intrinsic evil-something against the natural moral
law-no matter what the good we may think may come of it.
This is not a matter of prudential judgment. We are not
utilitarians where everything is up for compromise. This is an
absolute, exceptionless norm.
So the HHS mandate as currently written compels, under the force
of law, Church-affiliated organizations to do something
intrinsically evil, something not only against The Church's
religious doctrine, but something against the natural moral law,
something universally wrong, something clearly against the
common good, something inhuman.
It puts us in a fiendish dilemma: it tells us that for us to
serve Our Lord in the sick, the poor, the orphan, the stranger,
the disenfranchised and unvoiced, we must rebel against the same
Lord in supporting acts that are intrinsically vicious.
Confronted with such a dilemma. What are we to do?
Now the New Testament does not have a lot specifically to say
about politics. But it does provide us two principles that stand
in constant tension. There are two "poles" between which we must
The first: St. Paul states that Christians should be subject to
the governing authorities, "for there is no authority except
that which has established. The authorities that exist have been
established by God." (Rom. 13:1) We are a lawful people.
The second principle we find in St. Peter: "We must obey God
rather than men." (Acts 5:29) We are a Godly people
When do we obey man? When do we obey God and not man?
Scripture gives us an intermediating principle: "Render to
Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are
God." (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
So we have to figure whether the HHS mandate, is clearly and
without question a usurpation by Caesar.
And it is. It is an unjust law. It is a law against the common
How do we know?
We might here invoke Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famed Letter from
the Birmingham Jail, which in a nutshell states what persons of
conscience should do when confronting an unjust law:
"I would agree with Saint Augustine that 'An unjust law is no
law at all.' Now what is the difference between the two? How
does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a
man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.
An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral
law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust
law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural
Following Reverend King who enunciates perennial principles, the
HHS mandate is no law. It is not binding on the conscience.
Indeed, it is an anti-law, an act of raw usurpation by a
Leviathan state. It must be resisted.
We have a duty, on behalf not only of the Church, but on behalf
of all Americans to resist it.
Now, this is a fight the Church did not seek. HHS drew first
blood. It is a fight that has been foisted upon her and through
the Church upon all Americans.
How are we to resist this anti-law?
In his play on St. Thomas More, "A Man for All Seasons," the
playwright Robert Bolt has St. Thomas More say the following:
"God made angels to show him splendor-as he made animals for
innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man he made to
serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind! If he suffers us
to fall to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may
stand to our tackle as best we can, and yes, . . . then we may
clamor like champions . . . if we have the spittle for it. . . .
. But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to that
extremity! Our natural business lies in escaping-."
The Church has made substantial efforts to serve God "wittily,"
in the "tangle" of the law, to "escape" the confrontation that
the Obama administration thrust upon her.
Compromise was sought from the Obama administration, but
ultimately that proved fruitless. The Obama administration said,
"No, this is our plan."
So the Church decided to say "no" to the Obama administration's
"no," and to resist through the Rule of Law.
The Church turned to the legislative process. The Church
supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have essentially
undercut the mandate. Unfortunately, largely along party lines,
the Senate voted 51 to 48 against the Blunt Amendment.
So the problem went unsolved through the legislative process.
The Church then sought recourse from the Courts. In May, a
number of groups sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services alleging that the mandate violates the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United
That is where the matter now rests. Until the various courts
decide, or until the whole thing becomes moot if the Supreme
Court finds the ObamaCare unconstitutional.
There also remains the election in November. We can-to quote the
Texas politician Bob Gammage-"throw the rascals out" that are
responsible for this. That will send a message to Washington
that this sort of governance will not be tolerated.
But what if these efforts are successful? What if ObamaCare
passes Constitutional muster? What if the HHS mandates are
sustained by the federal courts? What if legislative relief is
not available? What if the current administration wins another
term so that the mandate cannot be changed through the election
It is then that we must "stand to our tackle as best we can, and
yes, . . . then we may clamor like champions." We take heart in
the words of George Washington, who said that it was "the
establishing of . . . Religious Liberty [that] was the Motive
that induced me to the Field [of battle]."
But this is a contest not to be prayed for.
Let us rather stand with our bishops, put confidence in our
Courts, and in our electorate to side-step the problem.
Let us also make all Americans aware, in peaceful
demonstrations, that Catholics, that Christians of all stripes,
that believers of all colors were not born with "saddles on
their backs" so that they could be ridden where they will not
go, where they ought not go, where conscience forbids them to
go, by "a favored few booted and spurred," bureaucrats in
Washington, "ready to ride them legitimately," by the genius of
a godless Caesar.