It is Time to Fight Back
I have resisted using the term “war” when it comes to the struggles between religion and government in the U.S. I feel that I can no longer do that. The reason is simple. That term is being used by the various religious organizations. If they view this as a “war” then so be it. Today, I want to focus on Catholicism. The Catholic Church is out of control in the U.S. Perhaps a better way to phrase that would be that is in complete and calculating control. The problem is that most of our fellow citizens seem to be ignorant or immune to this. My purpose today is to call attention to the activities of the Church in the hopes that this gets passed around as much as possible. People, particularly Catholics need to understand what is really happening.
The Church is waging a war on women, religious freedom, and general American values. There are several main prongs to this war in 2012. The first deals with the LCWR organization of nuns. The second deals with abortion. The third deals with contraception. A fourth is the issue of same-sex marriage. When taken together the effects will be devastating. Before pulling all of these issues together we need to look at them individually. I have written a great deal on these topics recently. This post cannot possibly cover the entire scope of these issues. If you are interesting in reading other pieces I have wrote you can read them they are under the category of “Catholicism” to the right.
For those readers who are not yet aware, the Vatican has cracked down on the LCWR, an organization that is composed of 80% of U.S. nuns. The reason for this is, according to Rome after a three year study, that the group is engaged in “radical feminism” and is spending too much time on things like education and ministering to the poor and not enough time speaking out against abortion and same-sex marriage. Please read that last sentence again, it really is quite stunning. The result of this study is that the leadership of the organization is being turned over to a group of Bishops. The sisters have lost their autonomy. There is a great article written by Mary C. Johnson that appeared in the Huffington Post a few days ago, The Vatican Lays A Cunning Trap For American Nuns, it is well worth your time to read. This story is of monumental importance. The end result of this drama can be summed up in one sentence: Bend the knee to male leadership and admit that you were not able to conduct yourselves in an appropriate manner or no longer call yourself Catholic. This to women who have dedicated their entire lives to being Catholic. This to women who are responsible for just about all of the good deeds the Church does. This is coming to a Church near you. Women are second class citizens in Catholicism; the examples to illustrate this are numerous. Women beware the Church is after your rights.
The abortion debate has been around for quite a while. For the sake of brevity, I do not want to get into this topic in great detail today. It is sufficient to state that if one does not recognize a woman’s right to choose a course of action for her own body as a valuable part of the debate they are not seeing the issue clearly. There is a debate worth having, in my opinion, regarding when an abortion should be considered off the table except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake. I can understand and appreciate the difference between terminating a blastocyst and terminating a pregnancy in the third trimester (when the mother’s life is not at stake). However, there are many laws that have been and are being proposed that go way beyond that debate. Take the recent Arizona law that states that life starts two-weeks before the sexual act necessary to produce a child. This is an absurd law that seeks little purpose outside of limiting a woman’s right to her own body. It is unacceptable. The undeniable fact of the matter is that a woman should have control over her own body. She should be able to decide if she wants to be pregnant. This debate is largely fueled by religion, with the Catholic Church leading the way. The Catholic Church is not now, nor has it ever been concerned with the rights of women. Women beware.
The issue over the HHS Mandate is blowing up quite rapidly. Just this week forty-three Catholic Dioceses, schools, hospitals, and other organizations filed lawsuits against the ruling that would require health care plans to include contraception. I do not have the time to get into the entirety of this issue on this blog. The Bishops have rejected the compromise that was offered by the Obama administration that stated that the Church would not have to pay for contraceptives, that in fact the cost would be covered by third party insurance companies. Emily Dietle has written a great piece on this recently. One of her points is that professionalism must be paramount. If an organization is opposed to basic parts of health care they should not be in the health care business. I agree with that assessment. The issue we have is that the Church will not accept any solution short of their being able to deny birth control coverage to patients, employees, students, etc—regardless of the faiths of those groups. They have pushed this issue to include even non-Church run organizations. The Church is arguing that a local business, say that sells insurance in your town, can make the same determination if it is run by a Catholic. The Church is after your rights to do what you want with your own body. In fact, they are after the most basic right of all—the right to choose if you want to procreate and when to do so. This is part of the war on women. It also extends well beyond that. The Church is seeking to place itself above the law. This cannot be allowed to happen.
One of the main problems that we are facing is the dishonesty of the Catholic leadership. Under the leadership of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Dolan the Church is trying desperately to frame this issue as a violation of their religious freedom. It is not. In truth, the goals of the Church would be a violation of the religious freedom of all non-Catholics in America. The Constitution is quite clear on this issue. In order to see that, we have to wade through the lies and deceit that are being carefully and cunningly cultivated by the “holy” leaders of the Church. The Constitution makes two references to religion. The only relevant part to this conversation can be found in the First Amendment. This amendment has two clauses that relate to government and religion. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This gives us the ‘establishment clause’ and the ‘free exercise clause’. There is a long history of how these clauses have been applied. The Catholic Church is seeking to redefine all of that history.
If the U.S. government were to pass a law that allowed Catholic institutions or businesses owned by Catholics to be exempt from the mandate it would be acting in a manner that is opposed to “make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. It would in fact be doing exactly that. It would be placing one religion above the law. This is clear as day…but becomes murky when uttered through the mouths of Catholic leaders.
If the U.S. government were to pass a law that allowed Catholic institutions or businesses owned by Catholics to not offer contraceptive services it would violate the ‘free exercise’ clause of all non-Catholics. It would, in effect, be forcing people to live under the rules of Catholicism in many areas. In many parts of the country the only hospitals are Catholic. In many parts of the country the main employers are colleges and universities affiliated with the Church. Those employees would be subject to Catholic rules. This violates their basic religious freedom of ‘free exercise’ by forcing them to capitulate to dogma and doctrines of Catholicism. This also violates the ‘free exercise’ of many Catholics. It has become quite clear that most Catholics use birth control in this country. They are choosing to be Catholic but also choosing how they wish to exercise that religious right. The Church is seeking to take this away from them. In effect, the Church is asking the government to rein in its own flock—because it has failed to do so.
The Church has tried to spin this issue as a matter of conscience. They are trying to argue that forcing Catholic organizations to offer contraception goes against their consciences. That is a false claim. The only right the Catholic Church has is to encourage its own members to not use contraception. Its conscience ends there. No one is forcing Catholics to use contraception. No one is forcing Catholics to do anything that would violate their religious beliefs. Do not be fooled by the rhetoric of Rome.
The last issue I want to discuss today is same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church is not alone in the crusade to curtail this basic human right from a group of people. Many other Christian sects are fighting alongside them. There is a key thing that must be noted when it comes to this issue. No religion has any right to impose its dogma/doctrines on our laws. No one is forcing Catholic Churches to marry same-sex couples. Yet, this organization is fighting mightily to prevent unions between homosexuals. They are fighting against civil rights. When we remove religion from this conversation, the debate crumbles. The only opposition to same-sex marriage comes from religion in this country. That is wrong. People are quite free to practice their religions in whatever way they see fit—for themselves. They do not have the right to impose their religious views on others, in this case homosexuals. If a same-sex couple wishes to get married that is their business and none of the Church’s. The Church should have no say in matters of civil rights.
When we look at the mulit-pronged attack of the Catholic Church today, we should be very concerned. This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom. As a non-Catholic, I should be able to wake up and not be affected by anything the Church says or does. I should not have to worry that one organization is seeking to curtail the rights of women everywhere (the LCWR is just one of many examples. I chose it because it is such a visible example of how the Church views women today). I should not have to worry that someone I care about will forced into a pregnancy she does not want because of someone else’s religion. (Do not waste my time with a comment about abstinence in response to this point. That is a policy that has been demonstrated as a failure). I should not have to worry that my family may lose its birth control coverage because of someone else’s religion. If I were gay I should not have to worry that I cannot enjoy the same basic civil rights as others because of someone else’s religion.
The fact of the matter is that the Catholic Church is seeking to redefine its position in the United States. It is seeking to place itself above the laws of the land. It is seeking to force all citizens of this country to bend the knee to Rome. It is seeking to redefine American values. This cannot be allowed to happen. I urge the many Catholics who are in opposition to these policies to take action. Your voice is not being heard over the clamor of Bishops. The Church is an organization that is only as strong as its members. It is time for Catholics to take a stand. It is time for Catholics to boycott their Church services. It is time for Catholics to write op-ed pieces to newspapers. It is time for Catholics to stand up for what they believe, for what they know is right. It is time for Catholics to tell the Church leadership, “If you continue in this manner, we will not be a part of it”. So long as Catholics continue to attend religious services and put money in the basket they are enabling the Church in its fight against so much of what this country stands for.
I urge my secular readers to speak out as well. You need to talk with your Catholic family members and friends and stand up for what is right as well. If we all stay silent and let the lawyers handle these cases, the terms may be dictated to us. That is not how the great advances in liberty and civil rights this country is known for were achieved. It is not how this fight will be won either.
The Catholic Church (and some Protestant groups) is choosing to label this as a war. The question I have is: Are you going to be a part of it?
If your answer is yes, there are small things that you can do. I have said it before and will say it again. Social media has become a powerful tool. When you come across an article or blog that you agree with make sure to “like” it, make sure to tweet it, make sure to up vote it. The more of those things that are done the quicker the word will spread. The more we can increase the number of people talking about these issues, the better our chances of success will be. Let me do my part in pointing you to a great opinion piece written by Maureen Dowd in yesterday’s NY Times: Father Doesn’t Know Best
Thanks for Reading. I look forward to your comments.
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