The title of this post is a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that applies to Catholics today just as much as it did to the North American British Colonies in the 1770's.
President Obama has done exactly what every Catholic knew he was going to eventually do (every Catholic except Sr. Carol Keehan and the editors of U.S. Catholic), and that is he is going to force Catholics to violate a core, fundamental, bed-rock teaching of the Faith. There is a conscience-exemption in the new legislation that requires organizations to cover contraception (even the types which cause abortions), but the exemption hardly applies to anyone because it is so narrow. Organizations that employ non-Catholics will not be exempt. Even Fr. Jenkins from Notre Dame is now worried about the direction Obama is heading. All Catholics should be really alarmed when Fr. President Jenkins starts getting nervous about an Obama policy (by the way, Fr. Jenkins, how's the "dialogue" that you so proudly began going now?)
This move by Obama wouldn't even make sense to a cold-hearted power-hungry win-at-all-costs Machiavellian. As Michael Gerson notes in the Washington Post, the move doesn't even make POLITICAL sense:
"It is also politically incomprehensible. Obama’s Catholic outreach is being revealed as a transparent ploy a year before he faces reelection. A portion of the Democratic coalition — including civil libertarians and pro-choice activists — has decided to attack and marginalize Catholic leaders and institutions."
People sometimes accuse the Church of being overly-dramatic and alarmist in nature when it comes to "political" issues (this is clearly a moral issue as well, but no one calls it that). However, I will say unequivocally (and you can call me crazy all you want) but if priests and bishops don't speak out against this and make a stand, we're done. I don't mean the Church is done, but I mean, without hyperbole, that the persecution discussion will be a matter of "when" and not "if." It might already be too late now anyways.
A major part of the problem, though, is how we got to this point in the first place. Obviously this law didn't spring up in a vacuum. When I'm begging priests to do SOMETHING on this issue, I don't just mean to raise the alarm on this specific law. I also mean we have to preach about contraception to people who have never heard it preached before; we have to preach it to people who have only heard about the Church's teaching on contraception from the enemies of the Church. This is an uncomfortable vocation, but then again, I heard a lot in the seminary that we were to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
Thomas Peters quotes on his blog a member of the Catholic Democrats, Patrick Whelan, trying to defend President Obama's decision. Whelan notes - “…we know Catholic women, and by extension their families, use oral contraception at the same rate as the overall population. For over half a century, since the issuance of Humanae Vitae, Catholics and Catholic theologians have taken issue with the Church’s teaching on birth control.”
There we have it. Because a large percentage of Catholics disagree with a key teaching of the Church, it's apparently okay to force those who DON'T agree with it to violate their consciences. Note the evidence Whelan uses...it is PRECISELY the DISSENT of Catholics in the pews. It has to be preached and explained and taught from the pulpit and through classes and by bringing in pro-life doctors and experts, it has to be a NEW EVANGELIZATION. It may be too late, but we have to try anyways.
Let me share a genuine thought that crosses my mind often, and not just when stories like this continue to come down the pipe - there is a general sense of authentic dread that hangs on the horizon for me about the direction we are moving in as a society, and specifically about the way our society views the Catholic Church. The more history I read, the more similarities I see with the other eras of persecution that the Church has undergone.
So, are priests and bishops going to take a stand, or are we, as a U.S. Church, going to keep talking about happier things and continue to cozy up to those who are ever more brazenly moving our society closer to a point where the Catholic Church is underground in our country?
We will all hang together or we will all hang separately. Let's hang together!
UPDATES: Cardinal Mahony, typically found closer to the President's policies than not, has come out blasting the President's decision. Cardinal Mahony notes: "I cannot imagine that this decision was released without the explicit knowledge and approval of President Barack Obama. And I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.” Click here to read the entire story. This ought to be received as a gigantic shot over the bow of the President.
Also, Cardinal Wuerl has spoken out on the issue and believes we can still win the contraception battle. Click here for the story.
As a priest friend of mine asked, "is this the incident that finally wakes Catholics up to the reality and importance of this issue?" If the past two days are any indication, it seems that perhaps a fire has been lit in the Catholic world.