[Updated] Bishops React to The Onerous Mandate: “The Bell is Tolling”, “Pray to St. Michael” and “To Hell With You!”By
Bishops across America are raising their voices against the onerous mandate issued by the Obama Administration through Kathleen Sebelius at HHS commanding Catholics to subsidize contraception, sterilization and abortifacient pills. UPDATE: thank you to everyone who has sent me more statements by bishops reacting to this news. They are included here.
Let’s be clear. This decision does nothing to respect religious freedom. Without change, Catholic institutions will soon be legally required to provide services which violate a fundamental principle of our religious beliefs. If plans go unchanged, the Catholic Church, acting through our Catholic institutions, will no longer have legal protection for the free exercise of religion.
…Unity has never been more important. Certainly, there is disagreement among Christians about the legitimacy of contraception. But there should be no disagreement among Christians about religious freedom. Each of us has an interest in defending liberty. Now is the time. The bell tolls for us all.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria is calling on all Catholics to resume praying the St. Michael Prayer starting at all Masses in the diocese (an excellent idea!):
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill. has asked parishes, schools, hospitals and religious houses to insert the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel into the intercessions at Sunday Mass to pray for Catholics’ freedom.
…“It is God’s invincible Archangel who commands the heavenly host, and it is the enemies of God who will ultimately be defeated,” the bishop said in a Jan. 24 letter to the Catholics of his diocese.
[...]He asked that the intention of the prayer be announced as “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.”
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has by far the strongest response:
It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!” There is no other way to put it.
… A million things are wrong with this: equating pregnancy with disease; mandating that every employer pay for contraception procedures including alleged contraceptives that are actually abortion-inducing drugs; forcing American citizens to chose between violating their consciences or providing health care services; mandating such coverage on every individual woman without allowing her to even choose not to have it; forcing every person to pay for that coverage no matter the dictates of their conscience.
Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself. In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.
Bp. Zubik also gets practical — an important step to take:
It is time to go back to work. They have given us a year to adapt to this rule. We can’t! We simply cannot! Write to the president. Write to Secretary Sebelius. Write to our Senators. Write to those in Congress.
He’s absolutely right: getting angry is not enough. We have to get active!
Here I have to part ways with CV-blogger Emily Stimpson, who asks today if this reaction to the onerous mandate is “Too Little, Too Late?”
Absolutely not. It’s never too late to stand up for religious freedom and for Catholic identity.
First of all, the issue here is not contraception. The issue is religious liberty. The issue is that Catholic individuals and institutions are being forced by the government to violate their conscience. I particularly disagree with this line:
As grateful as I am for the fiery witness of Bishop Zubick and others like him, it’s hard to make the case that our present situation is a wonder. It’s hard to argue that it is a surprise. To a large extent, we’ve made our own bed, and now we have to lie in it. And we might very well have have to keep lying in it until the Church gets her own house in order on these issues.
How is the Church supposed to get her own house in order when she is being forced by the government to keep her house out of order?! The quest to establish and strengthen Catholic identity within her own institutions can and must continue without government interference and coercion. How are Catholic supposed to stand up for not condoning and subsidizing the evils mandated by the Obama/HHS decision if the very same individuals and institutions are daily participating in it by the government?
That’s why it is so important to fight now, and fight hard. We won’t back down.
There are numerous tools at our disposal. We can lobby Congress as I’ve advocated. We can support the groups pursuing a legal recourse, such as the Becket Fund (especially because top legal scholars are already saying they believe the HHS mandate is illegal).
And, most importantly, we can continue to stand up for religious liberty and articulate to our friends, neighbors and anyone who will listen why this right is foundational to the peace and justice of our country.
To those who would shirk from this task, see Bishop Zubik’s words. To those who would ignore the gravity of the threat, see Bishop Conley’s words.
And to all of us, let us heed Bishop Jenky’s exhortation to pray to St. Michael for victory.
UPDATE — for a complete list of bishops who have spoken out against the mandate, CLICK HERE.