November 15, 2013 – The Fight Continues

Just a couple of odds and ends to start this week.  When I got home from work today I spent a little time in the yard taking down a hanging plant, tomato plant, and pulling flowers out of the bed that were zapped by frost.  Of course I did all of this keeping in mind that the highs this weekend will be in the 70’s!  You gotta love Southern Illinois!

Those of you who are not Facebook followers may not know what our Pastor was doing this past week during his vacation time.  Fr. Gene had the chance to meet and chat with Cardinal manager Mike Matheny.  A photo of this has spread like wildfire on social media.  Here is a photo of these two fine gentleman together:

frmatheny

 

Now the two look very cordial in the photo, but I understand that things got  little tense when Fr. Gene questioned him about why he didn’t pitch Shelby Miller in the World Series, and why they continued to throw fat pitches to David Ortiz.  (I’m kidding of course,  Fr. Gene was thrilled to meet him and was very impressed with how he conducted himself.  And I am still very jealous!!!!).

Well I better get to church business.  As I talked about last week, the Bishops of the United States met in Baltimore for their annual Fall Assembly.  As expected, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville was elected as President of the Bishops’ Conference and will serve a three year term.  He replaces Cardinal Dolan, whom I think was a great spokesman for the church in the United States for the past three years.  Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal Dolan were both interviewed on EWTN.  Here is a video of that along with some other Bishops’ impressions of Pope Francis:

Much of what I talked about last week took place at the meeting, so I won’t rehash it.  One of the intriguing questions going in, however, was what sort of message the Bishops would deliver concerning the HHS mandate that religious organizations include coverage for birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans, especially now since Obamacare is more or less the law of the land.  This question was answered on the final day of the assembly.  The Bishops met behind closed doors for the first time on this day, and emerged with a “Special Message” concerning the HHS mandate and protection of our religious freedom.  USCCB regulations regarding statements and publications define a “Special Message” as a statement, only issued at general meetings, that the general membership considers appropriate in view of the circumstances at the time. This message was passed unanimously.  To read the statement, you can go to the following link:

http://www.usccb.org/news/2013/13-210.cfm

The Bishops are urging us to read this statement and to share it with everyone that we can.  As I’m sure you can gather from the statement, the resolve of our Bishops remains strong on this serious threat to our God-given rights.  Our grievances as Catholics should be clear – that we can never, in good faith, support such a liberty-crushing law. The message of the Bishops to the Obama administration is also clear – that they would rather pay fines, no matter how much they would be, before they comply with the HHS mandate that compels groups to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

So now what?  January 2014 is the Obama administration’s official deadline for compliance with the HHS mandate by Catholic non-profits — though church-affiliated institutions actually have individual deadlines based on the date their healthcare plan is updated. Some grandfathered plans will allow Catholic non-profits to stretch things out further, but not indefinitely.  The Bishops’ statement reaffirms their continued commitment to “resist” the federal law.  Quoting from the statement:  “As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation.”

There are ongoing court cases against the mandate which hopefully will be judged in favor of our religious freedom.  Also, as Cardinal Dolan suggested in his interview on EWTN, there are other internal strategies that may come into play.  From what I have read the past couple of days, the Bishops are hesitant to reveal the details of what these might be, but there were a couple of interesting general comments.  Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that deliberations were on-going. He put the bishops’ primary concerns in stark terms, saying that “two things are at stake: We don’t do anything that contradicts our basic moral beliefs and we don’t do anything that would scandalize our people.  If we tell our people: be faithful and not cave in, it’s important that we do the same.  There are differences from diocese to diocese in the way that our charitable arms are set up — how they are legally constituted. Some bishops could decide to give employees money to buy their own insurance. It is way too early to point to what might happen.”

A few bishops have suggested shutting down non-exempt Catholic organizations.  However, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston — who ended Catholic adoption services in Boston rather than comply with a state law requiring the church to arrange adoptions for gay parents as well as heterosexual ones — said that “closing the institutions down is also an evil for us.”  And yet, he said, there is a danger in allowing any erosion of religious liberty.  So we continue to face very difficult questions, but I am proud of our Bishops for continuing to stand up for our religious freedom.  Our prayers are desperately needed as this deadline fast approaches.

Finally, our prayers are also desperately need for the people in the Philippines as efforts to recover from Typhoon Haiyan continue.  Catholic Relief Services has set up a website which gives the latest updates on the effects of the storm and a means to donate money to their relief efforts.  Here is that link:

http://crs.org/typhoon-haiyan/

Thanks again for reading.  Have a great week.  Peace.

 

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