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”.
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.