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The American Church fights back

The bishops are taking on the Department of Health over proposals to make religious institutions provide contraception and abortifacient pills

By on Monday, 30 January 2012

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stands next to President Barack Obama  Photo: CNS photo/Reuters

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stands next to President Barack Obama Photo: CNS photo/Reuters

Further to my blog on Friday, it seems that some Catholic bishops in the US are coming out in the fight against the ruling by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, that all religious institutions will now be required to provide medical insurance for employees that include cover for contraception, abortifacient pills and sterilisation.

According to CFNews, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, has ordered all the priests in his diocese to read out a letter to their congregations this last weekend pointing out that such insurance requires employers’ participation in “evil and grave sin.” He said he would be happy to join the effort to “protest most strongly against a mandate…that requires Catholics in the US to violate their consciences.” He emphasised that “we cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering which could include heavy fines and imprisonment. Our American religious liberty is in grave jeopardy.”

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha has written a similar letter. His diocesan chancellor, Deacon Tim McNeil, explained that the Bishop’s letter “will state how this order negatively impacts the Church in the US. It’s a violation of religious liberty and our First Amendment rights.”

I suspect that Bishop Bruskewitz is right and that penalties will follow. The Bishop is no stranger to strong words and actions. Some years ago he caused a national sensation in America when he issued a formal warning to Catholics in his diocese who belonged to organisations opposed to the Church – e.g. those supporting women priests  – that they were in danger of excommunication. Interviewed on that occasion by Paul Likoudis for The Wanderer, Bishop Bruskewitz stated that bishops “have a duty to maintain unity in the Church. This unity is maintained by full and obedient communion with the head of the college of bishops, the Successor of St Peter, the vicar of Christ on earth, the Holy Father.” Now that is what we want our bishops to state.

Still, there is suffering and suffering, and persecution in the free world is not quite the same as that under violent regimes elsewhere. Our parish priest mentioned on Sunday that not long ago a young priest in Baghdad, only ordained a year, was grabbed by terrorists during Mass, laid on the altar of his church and summarily beheaded – in full view of the congregation which included his elderly mother. This martyrdom by blood has been haunting me since I heard of it.

  • Nyankslawrence

    Thank you so much your Lord Ship.
    We pray for you keep it up.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your last paragraph which was a welcome rebuttal to the idea that Catholics in America are suffering like the martyrs of old. Do bishops help their arguments by ludicrous exaggeration? 

  • Miles Christi

    There are different kinds of martyrdom, Patrick Hadley, and what counts is a readiness to suffer it. I highly commend Bishop Bruskewitz for his uncompromising stance. We need many more bishops like him – and many more true Catholics who are ready to support them against the Obamas and Sibeliuses of this world.

  • Oconnord

    I’m sorry but the story told in the last paragraph is so inaccurate as be counter-productive in understanding the plight of christians in a country like Iraq. A quick but disturbing scan of news stories from Iraq gives many stories of brutal murders of christians in just the past two months. And those have the advantage of being true.

    As to the story reported, that is most likely based on events in October 2006. A 59 year old, married with children, Orthodox Syrian priest was kidnapped in Mosul, Iraq. His kidnappers stated that it was a reprisal over the anti-Muhammad remarks made by the pope. He was beheaded three days later and his body dumped in an industrial park.

    It really shows the growing unrealistic idea of persecution held by christians in the west that they need to take a brutal, horrific and widely reported story like that and spin it even further.

  • theroadmaster

    Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska has made his diocese into an unabashed beacon of hope for Christian Orthodoxy, amidst the confusion and timorous reactions to the current secular onslaught that threatens to drive the beliefs of Catholics and other Faith groups to the outer margins of U.S society.  He has shown wise, pastoral leadership with a no-nonsense approach to organizations or individuals who threaten to mislead the Faithful by heretical interpretations or distortions of Catholic doctrine and practices.  The fruits of this can be seen in the present healthy level of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and well-instructed laity who are involved in bringing the Good News of the Gospels to their parishes and further afield.

  • Oconnord

    I’m afraid I left out an important aspect to the actual kidnapping, my apologies. The kidnappers demanded a huge cash ransom. It was an oversight not to mention it, I did not mean to imply that the reason they gave for their actions was really linked to the pope. In my opinion it was a heinous crime committed with the hope of financial gain, not a religious or terrorist act, they merely wanted to  
    hide their actual motives. 

    My apologies if my omission implied, or inferred, any actual link between the crime and the pope’s comments.  

  • Rick DeLano

    May God have mercy on us.

    We have gotten it horribly wrong somehow, and we must recover the Catholic certainty, the Catholic unity, the Catholic resolution which has been cast away into the wind under the experimentations and innovations of profoundly un-Catholic “thinkers”, who have marched through the institutions and undermined Tradition.

    But the failure, in this case was not that of the “thinkers”.

    The liturgical experts, the heretics with degrees in theology, we have always among us.

    What is different this time around, is we have no defense against them, because the Bishops themselves have no clear idea of what it is we are supposed to be defending- the notion of religious liberty- that true and false religions are to be equally protected under the law?

    Or the notion that the Catholic Church is in possession of the Truth?

    We have decided to defend the former position- utterly alien to the consistent teaching and Catholic identity of generation after generation of our Catholic forbears.

    This position is in ruins.

    Are there any of us left to rally around the latter position?

    Are there any bishops left who will sound the call?

  • David Lindsay

    White Catholics have decided every American Presidential Election since 1976, but neither party speaks for them, or even to them very much of the time. There is no reason to assume that a Republican Administration would treat Catholic institutions any better.
    But it is bordering on miraculous that such facilities, controlled as they are by the products of post-1968 seminary courses, and in many cases by the hotbeds of 1970s radical feminism that are the dwindling remnants of the Religious Life for women in America (among other places), have not been handing out contraceptives, and indeed performing abortions, for decades by now, entirely of their own volition.
    Femaleness has been classified as in itself a medicable condition by means of the contraceptive pill, which is simply not a medicine at all. It is, in point of fact, a poison, designed precisely to stop healthy body parts from performing their natural functions, and accordingly attended by all manner of horrific side effects. The Pill, in turn, has wrought havoc by filling our water supply with synthetic oestrogens.
    Maleness itself has also been so classified, leading to the heavy medication of boys purely for being boys, by means of Ritalin and other powerful “treatments” for largely or entirely invented conditions. The impact of antidepressants on the rise of violent mental illness also calls for the most unflinching examination. As does the impact of cannabis on the rise of schizophrenia, and by extension also on lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, brain tumours, serial miscarriage, low birth weight, male and female infertility, impotence, and a huge number of other conditions.
    The surprisingly orthodox, often fabulously endowed Catholic medical resources in the United States obviously have plenty of work to do. Let them get on with it.

  • Guest

    Below is an insightful, explanation of the Church’s teaching on the issue of contraception.

    Personally, I think the Church’s teaching on marriage, sexuality and the
    family is incredibly beautiful, dignified, and uplifting.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees, this short essay provides a succinct
    and powerful explanation of the teaching, while leaving the open-minded
    reader with a lot of food for thought.