On the topic of politics and more specifically the HHS mandate, there is something that I want to talk about that really needs to be discussed but isn’t as often as it should be. The HHS mandate for contraception is one of the most heated political and religious discussions as of late. Catholic institutions in the country continue to fight against it as the Obama administration proceeds without giving an inch. As should be clear the conservatives have a very powerful weapon in their hands, that is, the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees religious liberty. This means that the administration violates the constitution. Therefore, insofar as the courts are going to yield to the authority of the Constitution, conservatives have something liberals don’t. Given that the Constitution so clearly prohibits the government from violating an individual’s free exercise of his religion it is of course a good idea and a necessary strategy to work with this as a tool to fight the administration. Many serious Catholics of the day, who talk about this issue, including the Bishops, will emphasize the first amendment rights of Americans. However, we should not forget to talk about the two other very important issues at play as well, the issue of religious liberty from a natural law standpoint and the issue of contraception itself.
As I stated above, the Constitution protects Americans from being coerced by the government in such a way that contradicts their religious beliefs. The Bill of Rights states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It seems as though the only rational interpretation of the first amendment, the interpretation that our country’s Fathers intended, and the interpretation that has been put into practice throughout our history is that prohibiting the free exercise of religion means violating an individual’s right to practice his religion whether it be in worship, preaching, funding, or simply what he considers righteous living. Liberals of our day would like the Constitution to read “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the private religious worship of individuals,” well actually they would rather it say “Congress can do whatever the hell they want to,” but that’s beside the point, it says neither. The private worship of individuals is part of our first amendment right to exercise our religions, however, as any reasonable person knows, practicing religion involves more than simply worship. Since the Church teaches that contraception is immoral and cooperating in sin is likewise immoral, the government would act in defiance of the Constitution if they would force anyone to buy contraceptives because this “prohibits the free exercise” of religion, namely, the free exercise of Catholicism.
The above point about the Constitution is the greatest legal weapon in the hands of conservatives, and for this reason, it should be hammered home at every opportunity. However in my post today I wanted to also consider the other two issues that I mentioned in my first paragraph. First is the issue of religious liberty from a different standpoint than the Constitution. Religious liberty is a right guaranteed by the first amendment, however, we should always remember that the government does not confer any rights, rather, it protects them. The Declaration of Independence recognizes this when it states “we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.” In other words, God gives us rights and the government uses the power of the law to ensure those rights are not violated…actually our founders would’ve thought that the law needed to protect us from the government from violating these rights. Well, how right they were (pardon the pun)! In our day, the government is in fact violating the right to a free conscience. Now, to a liberal, the notion of a government violating a right makes no sense because governments construct rights in the first place and hand them out to people (along with a number of other things liberals think the government should hand out…but I digress). However, to a conservative, the concept of a government violating an individual’s rights makes perfect sense and is a real threat given the power of the government. This is why the founders feared an excessively strong federal government. With regards to the HHS mandate, the government is violating the God-given right to a free conscience. What I am trying to emphasize here is that it is not merely a Constitutional right being violated. Liberals are not just bad politicians who misunderstand the founder’s clear as day writing. No, they are promoting an intrusive government which violates people’s God-given rights.
This is a point which cannot be emphasized enough, first on the basic level of justice and then on a more theological level. On the basic level of justice, every person, using reason alone, should understand that the government should not and cannot coerce someone to act against his conscience. I do not need a scholar on law or theology to tell me that, it’s just obvious! When the government does attempt to do this, as ours is currently doing, they overstep a boundary line, the line that marks the difference between a just government and an unjust, sinful government. By transgressing the natural law, the government offends God and should be stopped immediately. This is not merely an issue of what is most “American” or “Constitutional.” If we amended the Constitution tomorrow to throw out the Bill of Rights, it would not change what I am saying at all. This is because my argument is not founded on the Constitution. Regardless of what any document whatsoever states, what any law demands, or any politician promotes, the HHS mandate and any other similar act in which the government forces one to act against his conscience is unjust and intrinsically evil. Because of this, we have to remember that right now there are not just two political stances on this issue, there are two fundamentally moral stances, one that is evil and one that is not.
As I said there is also a theological side to the unjust government. To act against my conscience is to commit sin. To sin is to break my relationship with God which ultimately leads to suffering in hell. Now, I’m not saying that politicians should use this argument, but I am saying that it is important to realize from a Catholic standpoint what is going on. We are fighting a moral issue but behind that moral issue are immense consequences. In this fight for the soul of the country we should never forget we are also fighting for the souls of individuals. Christ died for each and every one of us, let us not stand by and watch while those whom he bought back with His blood on Calvary are lost forever.
Now, in the beginning of the post I also said that besides the religious liberty issue the contraception itself was part of the problem. I feel as though this is seldom mentioned, at least in comparison with the religious liberty dispute of the HHS mandate. However, it is very, very, important. The Church teaches that contraception is gravely immoral because it violates the natural law. The short reason why the Church opposes artificial birth control is that it acts contrary to our human nature in the marital act. Given that God is the author of nature, it stands to reason that such a thing is offensive to God and also harmful to man because God created nature good and our perfection is in the fulfillment of our nature. It might seem at first glance like manipulating nature is no big deal, however when we take a step back and look at what contraception does, we will find how it truly is a corrupting poison. In our culture, we have promoted a sterile, unloving, childless world. Marriage has been transformed from a self-giving bond to a bond all about “me,” “true love” (code for me being emotionally satisfied), and “soul mates” (which if you don’t get it by now that is also about “even more me”). Pregnancy is seen as such a disease that four thousand children are murdered every day in their mothers’ wombs. I won’t go on about the evils of contraception, that is a post for another time. The point here is not why birth control is evil but that it is. The government is also promoting an evil and harmful practice, that of artificial birth control. The government is funding a drug which acts against nature and thus offends God. They are forcing us to pay for a pill which destroys the crowning gift of marriage and sexuality, that of fertility. This should be a wake up call to Catholics. It is one hundred, no, one thousand percent accepted by our culture to offend God, destroy marriages, and reject children. It is no shock we have people like Gosnell who have the audacity to call themselves “Dr.” or show up in public without utter humiliation.
To summarize, in addition to the problem of violating religious liberty, there is the major problem of a government which calls it “good” in any way, to do something that is so evil. We need to fight against unjust laws but we also need to fight against the culture of loveless, sterile, death. I want to try to wrap up with a few conclusions that we need to be mindful of when discussing the mandate. Here they are in no particular order:
- Although the Constitution is our most powerful political weapon right now, it is not because of the Constitution that the mandate is fundamentally unjust. The mandate is unjust because it is the government violating the natural law in a profound way. Vatican Council II states “This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others”
- This is not merely a political battle or an argument over which path is most prudent. It is a battle between good and evil. Because of this, America, which we love and respect (and I say happily that I am proud to be an American) is not the ultimate arbiter. We must be Catholic before we are American. Maybe a post on this another day, but I want to remind everyone that while the Constitution has protected us for a long time, and hopefully will continue to do so. There is no guarantee this will be the case. Practically, America will never be a “Catholic Country,” at least not in our lives. Yet still, we are to fight for a better relationship between Church and state, one that at least recognizes the natural law, the existence of God, and the good religion brings to a society. Our founders of course believed this, and Vatican Council II reminds us that men and societies have a duty towards the true Church of Christ.
- While fighting the battle we should remember the ultimate consequences of people going against their consciences. Hell is real and people do go there. Do we remember this? Let’s pray for Priests and Bishops that they remember this so that they may fulfill their duties when preaching about this topic. Some say it is not expedient to inform people of the last things. The saints say it is necessary.
- We are not just fighting for religious liberty. We are fighting a culture of death which uses contraception as a weapon. That’s the problem; we don’t believe what we teach. We should know contraception is evil and contributes to the destruction of our culture. Mother Theresa wasn’t afraid to say “Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily. […] We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion.” Blessed Mother Theresa, pray for us!
- Sometimes I get the sense that we come across like this: “Dear Mr. Obama, we have this, um, awkward rule that we hope doesn’t offend anyone that birth control is bad. Of course we think sex is cool and birth control isn’t really that bad but still it’s a rule and we can’t throw it out. Please read the constitution and interpret it favorably. You are a nice guy, and we like your stance on the environment and the civilized undocumented immigrants.” Instead our tone should sound more like this “Dear Mr. Obama, birth control is bad for marriage, bad for women, and we have a conscience so were not going to pay for something just because you and your democrat buddies want us too. We will fight tooth and nail to make sure we receive our God-given right of freedom of conscience as protected by the Constitution (which we have right here to read to you since you either didn’t read your copy or shredded it after you got to the part where it says “Article 1”). By the way, unlike many others, we don’t really think you’re a nice guy. Butchering children in their mother’s wombs (or drowning them outside of there for that matter) is not a woman’s right and the fact that you invoked God’s name to “bless” Planned Parenthood shows you are one screwed up SOB.” That’s a better approach. I exaggerate but the point is we have to really believe we are right and not give an inch to evil.
Well that post got long, but remember what we are fighting for and why. Yes it is a Constitutional issue but it is more than that as well. It is a battle against an unjust government and the culture of death. It is the battle between good and evil, heaven and hell. Let us pray with the words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in reparation for our country and our own sins lest we should forget our own in this battle against the evil of our day. “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world”