During the week leading up to Christmas, I received a phone message one evening from a loss-prevention representative at my credit union. In quick order, she informed me that my debit card had been compromised. As a result, they had cancelled it and would be issuing me a new one.
As I hung up, my “better half” sarcastically suggested that some kind soul had stolen my sixteen digits in order that he might purchase a Christmas gift from Macyʼs for his grandmother. What a nice gesture. Here was a grandson who thought so highly of his grandmother that he would present her with a stolen gift on Christmas day.
During the last couple of weeks, a gift of another sort has been delivered to the American bishops–a requirement for all Catholic institutions to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in their employee health coverage. To some, this has been a shocking surprise. But I wonder why this is so.
On May 16, 2009, many Catholics cheered as President Obama stood on the stage at the University of Notre Dame, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and proceeded to ask those present to join him on a journey of accommodation.
“As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate?” he asked. “How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?”
At face value, the president’s questions sounded not only reasonable but quite responsible, especially for those of us engaged in living out the American dream. But outside the convocation hall, all was not well. For there, groups of individuals commonly referred to by the mainstream media as “anti-abortion extremists” had set up signs and prayer vigils. With fervor, they attempted to point out that the “common ground” to which the president was referring compromises the moral evil of abortion. Sadly, they were ignored or arrested.
During the run-up to the eventual passage of ObamaCare, I sent an email to Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, who was a vocal advocate for this legislation. In my email, I asked her to consider the words that she herself had given in an interview:
“On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement,” Keehan said. “On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ with Right to Life.”
Did she truly believe this? And not just her, but also now retired Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) who so forcefully demanded that a “conscience clause” be placed in this massive bill aimed at taking over one-sixth of the American economy. Did he really believe that this government would honor a “conscience clause”?
In recent days His excellency, Bishop William Murphy, wrote these words about this gift to the American people:
This mandate is a radical incursion on the part of our government into freedom of conscience founded on our religious beliefs! It contravenes the First Amendment and several federal laws. More importantly, it violates the law of God who gave us life and calls us to respect all human life. The Bill of Rights assures us that we have a right in this country to obey God’s law and follow our conscience, free to live out our religious beliefs as individual persons and as institutions. Forcing all of us to buy or provide coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into our freedom of conscience and religious exercise.
In the end, my only surprise regarding this gift from the weeds is that anyone is surprised.