June 30, 2012 – What This Week’s Events Mean

Is it possible for your fingers to sweat as you are pounding on the keyboard?  I don’t need to tell you that it is hot, hot, hot!  And I certainly don’t need another weather person to tell me that it is a “dry” heat, so it’s actually not that bad.  Ummm, it’s 108 degrees.  It’s hot!  Let’s move on.  I certainly do not have it nearly as bad as those who have to work in the outdoors, or must spend their entire time at work in an area that is not air conditioned.  We must continue to pray for a break in the heat wave and for much, much needed rain.

It is amazing how circumstances can change with time.  When I first started this blog, my biggest fear was trying to come up with something every week or so to talk about.  Now over the last few months, with the concerns about the erosion of our religious freedom and other news directly related to the Catholic Church, it has been a challenge to sort through everything and narrow the focus to one or two things.  This week was certainly no different.  The most prominent news item this week was the decision of the Supreme Court that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare”, is constitutional, and that people can be mandated to purchase health insurance if they do not currently have it.  This decision was actually not a completely bad news scenario for Catholics.  U.S. Bishops have stated for many years that everyone should have access to health care, and there are some benefits in the act that take steps in this direction.  For example, people with pre-existing medical conditions must be offered health care.  Young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26.  However, there are flaws in the plan which give our Bishops pause, and ultimately lead them to oppose this decision.

The ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover these abortions, which contradicts previous federal policy.  It also fails to include language that provides protection of conscience.  This of course has been demonstrated in the HHS mandate, which would force employers, including religious employers, to cover birth control and sterilization methods in their health care plans.   The Bishops also feel that the ACA is unfair to undocumented immigrant workers and their families as they would not be allowed to purchase insurance through the new exchanges created by the ACA, even if they used their own money.

So overall, what does this mean for the Catholic Church?  Basically, it means that even though there are steps taken in the plan toward universal health care, the plan itself has fundamental flaws, particularly when it comes to protection of conscience, and the U.S. Bishops are determined to continue to fight to have these mandates removed from the plan.  Universal health care will continue to be a goal of our Bishops, but not at the price of allowing these mandates to stand.  Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia made these comments following the decision: “I think it’s a disappointment on the part of many of us in the Church because we had hoped the decision would make our lawsuits unnecessary. But a decision of the court is a decision of the court, and we have to accept it in a generous kind of way. We have to do all we can to make sure the position of the Church on religious freedom is clearly articulated and that the challenge to religious freedom, as embodied in the mandates from the Health and Human Services agency,… are overturned.  Health is a basic human right; we have a right to be healthy. There’s no declaration on the part of the Church that that has to be accomplished through government intervention.

There are many ways of approaching health care, and I think it’s very important for Catholics to understand the fact that the Church, seeing health care as a basic human right, does not mean [to say] there’s a particular method of obtaining that [right that’s] better than another.”

There was of course a ton of coverage about this decision on the major news networks, much of which focused on the political ramifications.  How much coverage was there about the ramifications to protection of conscience?  Very little that I saw.  Why is that we as a country so boldly defend our other freedoms such as freedom of speech, but take  our freedom of religion more lightly.  Well, to truly discuss this would take another whole blog, but as I’ve been reading I think there are a few factors at work.  One is that we do not see the blatant religious persecution in our country that occurs elsewhere, where Christians are murdered because of what they believe.  The threats to our religious freedom are much more subtle.  Secondly I think is the general trend of apathy toward the importance of religion and attending church on a regular basis.  It simply does not hold the place of priority in people’s lives as in the past.  Finally, I think there is a growing belief that separation of church and state means that religion should be kept within the confines of the church walls and kept out of the public square.  This of course goes against what we believe.

Religious freedom is not just about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or to pray at home, it is about our ability to do the good works our faith calls us to do without having to compromise that very same faith that we practice.  This is why the Fortnight for Freedom is taking place during this time of the feasts of many great martyrs and concluding on the day we celebrate our independence.  The martyrs of the church did not ask to die for their faith, but were willing to do it as a stand for what they believed in.  We as Catholics and Christians did not ask for this fight, but it is our duty to stand up for our beliefs as the great martyrs did.  Please continue to pray that the erosion of our religious freedom will cease, and continue to educate yourself about this issue.

We do not want to forget the good news of the week.  This past week, Pope Benedict XVI approved the heroic virtues of U.S. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, declaring him “venerable” and clearing the way for the advancement of the cause for his canonization as a saint.  He was a native of Illinois and is best known for his work as an evangelist on radio and TV, particularly his TV program “Life is Worth Living” which aired from 1951-1957.  For those of us who were not around at that time, fortunately we now have YouTube where many of his clips can be found.  Here is one clip in which he talks about why people do not go to Mass (which sounds a lot like our situation today):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=UabMF-8uXxg

Thanks again for reading.  I hope you have a great celebration of Independence Day this week.  Peace.

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