October 12, 2012

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

One of the most important virtues is at stake in our country

Cynthia DewesWell, boys and girls, today we are going to talk about heroic virtue. You know, the term which means courage in the face of powerful adversity, especially in the case of defending the faith.

Some of us may not be familiar with the term, but older folks used to hear about it in parochial school.

Although there are still places in the world where defending the faith and the Church are physically dangerous, most Americans will never experience this.

After all, one of the pillars of the U.S. Constitution is religious freedom, the right to practice our faith without impediment or penalty by anyone, including the federal government. Actually, the Declaration of Independence says this is a God-given right.

So it is with shock and surprise that we believers are now faced with a direct threat against this constitutional right. The government is mandating that all employers are required to pay for contraceptive services to their employees, including sterilization and drugs which cause abortion, even if employers are opposed to these medicines and procedures because of their faith.

Supporters of this mandate purposely try to make this an argument about contraceptives. They say the majority of the American people, including Catholics, believe that contraception is acceptable and even necessary. They say that employees need contraceptive help because of their poverty or ignorance, and to assure their good health.

The government offers an exemption for religious employers. But it is so narrow that very few would qualify for it.

So when religious representatives publicly protested the mandate by citing this fact, the government hurried to placate them by adding an amendment stating that the contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization procedures would be paid for by insurance companies.

Of course, they neglect to recognize that many, if not most, Catholic health and social agencies are self-insured. This means that the Church is ultimately the insurer, and thus would be required to provide abortion drugs on demand to its insured clients and staff. This is not a true amendment, but rather an attempt to avoid the issue and keep the original meaning intact.

This fact is glossed over with rhetoric describing the issue narrowly as one of contraception. But contraception is not the crux of the matter, nor is it the pathetic state of poor women forced to have unwanted babies who grow up to continue the cycle of abuse, poverty and possibly crime.

Nor is it a matter of maintaining good health for such women because most women, if given proper health care, can carry babies to birth without undue incident and recover normally afterward.

Instead, perhaps the rhetoric should emphasize our public responsibility to provide education and health care.

The proposed mandate is, in fact, a way for the federal government to force Church-sponsored organizations and private employers opposed in conscience to these medicines and procedures to act against one of their most basic religious convictions. It is clearly, therefore, a blatant violation of the Constitution of the United States.

Not only that, it’s also a matter of heroic virtue. Combating this assault on religious freedom is the modern equivalent of defending religious faith and the Catholic Church in past times. In parochial school, we were sometimes urged to be “soldiers of Christ.” Maybe that’s an old-fashioned expression, but it’s something to keep in mind as American citizens.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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