Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#Fathers4Daughters, praying for @PPact

As much as I tell teens that it’s important not to say things on the internet you wouldn’t say in person, sometimes I forget this myself.  Especially these last few weeks-- feelings about abortion, the HHS Mandate, Planned Parenthood, even Susan G. Komen and Nikki Minaj—have been very strong.  

Like many, I follow Planned Parenthood’s twitter-- @PPact—to stay up to date on what they’re up to, and as a sort of evangelizing, I occasionally tag them in tweets when I want to respond to something they’ve said.  It’s the beauty of social media, that everyone has a chance to speak up.  

Yesterday, as I was responding to yet another tweet that I disagreed with, it occurred to me that @PPact is one of the few accounts I frequently tag that I don’t actually know in person.  And then, I began to think that it’s not Planned Parenthood tweeting, per se.  It’s a person.  Well, probably a team of people, but a person nonetheless.  

I started thinking about this.  Wondered about them.  I’m friends with a lot of people—both on twitter and in real life—who I don’t agree with.  I wondered if I met the @PPact tweeter, if we’d get along.  If we could make small talk about shoes and movies, outside of this huge issue that is at the forefront of our disagreements on twitter.  Anne Marie Cribbin and I even invited them to meet up with us for happy hour.  

After reading Unplanned by Abby Johnson, we’re all more aware of the importance of prayer in bringing about a culture of life.  In the middle of 40 days for life, let’s recognize the social media workers behind @PPact and pray for them, specifically.  Not as a nameless organization, but the tweeters, specifically.  They’re just as passionate as we are.  They do their job with a great deal of tenacity.  Their role in promoting Planned Parenthood is critical.  They need our love and prayers. 

There is a great presence of priests and fathers in social media.  Anne Marie Cribbin and Joia Farmer had the great idea to ask priests and fathers to specifically pray for the women behind @PPact.  Priests, who have the special privilege of celebrating mass, are asked to offer masses for @PPact… and announce it on twitter!  Use the hashtag #Fathers4Daughters—stating the truth in love—that God the Father has a plan for each and every life.  That fathers matter.  That spiritual and biological fatherhood changes lives in an earthly and heavenly way.   That the women of @PPact are known, loved and awaited by God.  

I’m praying, specifically, that the women of @PPact encounter the love of God the Father in a real way.  I’m praying that as I continue to speak up in my own little way, protesting what Planned Parenthood does and says, that I do it in charity—with a desire not to win arguments but souls.  

And, I’m praying that that happy hour happens.  Why not?  It’s Lent.  Go big or go home.  

Will you commit to pray for @PPact?  You don't have to follow them, but tweet them when you do.  Remember, love wins.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First Serve God

Originally published in The Bluffton Packet, February 15, 2012:

One of my favorite films is A Man for All Seasons.  Released in 1966,  it is an adaptation of the play by Robert Bolt and based on the life  of St. Thomas More.  If you haven’t seen it, the cliffnotes version is that King Henry VIII wants to divorce the queen to marry Anne Boleyn.  Furious that the Pope won’t grant a divorce, King Henry VIII demands  that his subjects take an oath declaring him the head of the Church of England.  St. Thomas More—a good friend of the King—refuses and is eventually beheaded for treason stating, “ I die his Majesty's good
servant but God's first.”

As everyone in England signs the oath, More’s colleagues see the danger in his refusal.  The Duke of Norfolk beseeches: “Thomas, look at these names! Why can't you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!” to which More replies, “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

What exactly is More talking about here, and with such strong language?  For a simple explanation of conscience, let’s remember what we learned from Pinochio:  it tells us  what’s right and wrong.  A more poetic description is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, describing it as “a law…not laid upon himself but which he must obey.   Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at
the right moment…  For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God”  (paragraph #1776).

Our nation has always valued our freedom to follow our conscience, making religious freedom the first in the Bill of Rights and historically respecting the individual’s right to practice their faith.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan
explained just how broad a spectrum there is in the U.S. in his recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, saying, “The Amish do not carry health insurance.  The government respects their  principles.  Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone…  Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the
government respects that principle for conscientious objectors”. 
The topic of conscience and religious freedom has been in the news a lot these past few weeks, especially with regards to the Catholic Church’s teachings on contraception and the nationwide mandate for Contraception and sterilization coverage.  While people may disagree with what the Catholic Church—or any faith—teaches, the right to follow one’s conscience is fundamental. James Madison, in defending the First Amendment, explained that “conscience is the most sacred of all property”.  The concerns currently being raised by the Catholic Church are not about imposing their beliefs on others, but about being free to follow their own beliefs and be good servants of God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

the HHS mandate: why it's not ok.

When King Henry VIII demanded that his friend St. Thomas More support his divorce and remarriage, the issue was not just the sanctity of marriage.  It was that the king had broken away from the Catholic Church and founded his own system of beliefs that would accommodate him.  Not content to merely violate the authority of God on his own, he demanded that the rest of England accompany him in his dissent.  Given the choice to obey God and his conscience or be beheaded, St. Thomas more chose death.

It seems archaic that a government like the United States of America would dare intervene in the rights of citizens to practice their faith and follow their consciences on private matters.  Lessons about Pilgrims on the Mayflower and freedom of religion come to mind and seem impossible to juxtapose with the recent decision of President Obama to uphold the HHS Mandate

It took me a while to wrap my brain around it—probably because I find insurance and law really complicated – but also the concept that someone could force a Church or individual to do what the government is proposing is so foreign to my liberated American brain.  However, let me explain why I—as a Catholic and employee of the Church—am outraged.  If I mess up the technicalities, please feel free to clarify.

As an employee of the Church I currently have benefits—like anyone else—as part of my compensation.  I have never attempted, but apparently under our current plan I would be unable to obtain funding for contraception, sterilization or abortion, which is cool by me because as a Catholic, I'm not down with that..   (I would add that, as the daughter of an insurance salesman, I know that this makes sense from a liability perspective as well.  Multiple sexual partners place women at greater risk for medical issues arising from contracting STD’s and STI’s, so it would seem that insurance companies would not want to encourage any pharmaceuticals that in turn enable such behavior and cause more expenses.  But I digress).

Under the HHS Mandate, my employer, the Catholic Church, will be required to provide benefits that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion.  As in the money that they provide that goes to give me discounted penicillin and trips to the dentist (things that we are not morally opposed to) could be used to fund abortion, contraception and sterilization—things that we, as Catholics, believe to be ineherently wrong. 

Here’s the kicker—(and what I’m hoping I explain correctly)—when the HHS Mandate kicks in, the Church will be fined if they choose to uphold what we believe to be true and what God demands of us as Catholic Christians and refuses to provide these as  “benefits”.  And, I will be fined if I choose to opt out of these benefits.  It’s a lose-lose.  As Archbishop Dolan, president of the USCCB, has said, “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights”. 

Snaps, Archbishop.

And, at the heart of it all is the same issue that St. Thomas More was challenged with.  That the government would mandate funding of abortion, contraception and sterilization is odious to us as Catholics, but more so is the fact that they would have the audacity to overstep our right to practice our faith.  We are not talking about a cult in a compound arranging under-age marriages.  We’re talking about The Catholic Church and the government mandating that we violate our consciences or be punished. 

This is not a “Catholics and birth control” issue.  This is an issue of the Government over-stepping their place and telling Churches what to do.  This is an issue that should concern every citizen—Catholic, Christian—anyone who believes in natural law, religious liberty and the freedom to form their conscience and practice their faith.

St. Thomas More stood up to King Henry VIII and was beheaded.  I think we can all call our congressmen, sign a petition and stay informed..  Most importantly, this Friday is a day of fasting and prayer for our Bishops.  Do it.  They are acting courageously and need our prayers.