Will the law allow us to be Catholics?

Every week, we participate in the Liturgy. We reassert the core values which define us as Catholic.  Every week, we are reminded, we do this in memory. We eat His Body and drink His Blood.  We are the Church. We reflect Christ by what we do and fail to do.  Every week, we say "Amen."  What is happening the other 167 hours of the week, is something of a problem we are going to have to address.

Currently, practicing Catholicism is under assault by the law. In 2004, the California Supreme Court ruled Catholic Charities was not entitled to an exception the law grants to churches or "religious employers."

Because Catholic Charities assists people of all faiths, it is not a "religious employer," the court said. The group is therefore distinct from a church that is formed to promote religion, the court ruled. Catholic hospitals had to allow their employees to acquire birth control. The court in Massachusetts mandated that Catholic Charities facilitate adoptions to gay and lesbian couples, causing the charity to pull out of providing adoptions in the state.

In the past few years, in over fifteen states, legislatures have crafted laws demanding that Catholic hospitals administer RU-486 as a post trauma means of birth control to victims of sexual assault, claiming that such medications have no abortive effects but are merely a safety precaution against unwanted pregnancy.

The fact that the Church believes it to be a means of abortion is deemed irrelevant by these states.  In other words, the Church can say whatever it wants, but in practice, it must abide what the state will tolerate with respect to how its surrogates live out that faith in active mission work. These same states have also declared the moral objections of the Church and those working to manifest the mission of the Church, to be irrelevant to the health needs of the individual being treated.

All of this has happened incrementally over time. The Councils of Bishops and Catholic Defamation League have been fighting against the popular tide of legislation and courts that declare contraception is a legal right of the employed that cannot be trumped by an established value system of an institution. They have not had much success.

The incremental erosion of the Church’s ability to provide corporeal acts of mercy sans an embrace of secular values continues unchecked. Any opposition to the promotion of liberty in personal responsibility by the Church has thus far been deemed tantamount to wrongful discrimination and thus disallowed by the government.

How long before the same forces that demanded RU-486 be administered and birth control be paid for via the budgets of Catholic Charities and Catholic run hospitals, demand the performance of abortions or referrals to clinics for such procedures be put into place? The proposed repeal of the "conscience clause"   and passage of FOCA would take us a step closer. Does anyone think advocates of same sex marriage are going to not demand that the Catholic church hire or retain people who have participated in one of these "ceremonies?"

No one ever listens when the clarion call is sounded because the idea of people not being allowed to practice their faith in their lives, in their professions seems antithetical to the very core ideals of our Nation, but look at Connecticut.  Look at Massachusetts.  Look at California and Iowa. Look at the footnotes of the Homeland Security memos discussing the possible threats of Pro-life organizations.  Look at how at Georgetown, we must cover up IHS to allow a President to speak.

How long before those same forces demand schools affiliated with the Catholic Church not to teach about sexuality in the context of sacraments and the values of chastity and self discipline? San Francisco tried to brand the Arch Bishop a poor leader and demand that the Catholic Church rewrite its core tenets so as to not offend the gay community. Based on the current trends, the law will eventually insist the Catholic Church give lip service to all values or provide no services to the needy that are not couched in neutral or politically correct and government vetted terms.

At some point, we will have to stop pretending that there is some line which the laws of the land will not cross in an attempt to reduce any moral stance taken by the Church in the realm of personal responsibility to a mere symbolic recommendation.

At some point, as Catholics, we will have to recognize that governments which disallow the practice of a religion via demands of its institutions to ignore its own core tenets eventually disallow the religion itself.  At some point, the establishment of values contrary to a religion via law becomes the establishment of a religion itself. At the tipping point, being a practicing Catholic in the 21st century will by default become one long march in conscientious objection.

Alternatively, we will have to allow our Faith to become a watered down variant of itself, where the bread and wine are just that, and the values are just personal choices, and the good, the true and the beautiful, are only, in the eyes of the beholder. Either we are people of Truth or people who believe there is no truth.  To which master shall we say "Amen?"

Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti