27 September 2011

Catholics targeted again by Obamacare


Catholics are under fire again. Obamacare, a program that supposedly will make health care affordable for all (or at least most), comes with a high cost. That cost is to the conscience, to religious freedom, and indeed to the individual freedom held so dear by Americans. At the heart of the debate now is the issue of coverage for prescription contraceptives and sterilization procedures. In this health care plan, a good number of companies and individuals (through their premiums) will effectively be funding programs of which they object. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other institutions, for example, would be forced to choose between dropping health care for their employees or paying for procedures they find morally objectionable. This was detailed in a recent article regarding a statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What is most troubling to me in this recent episode is not even that there are aspects of Obamacare that run contrary to historic Church teaching, for we expect that the ways of the world often will run contrary to the Church. Rather, what is most troubling is that the exemption from certain provisions of Obamacare is so narrowly defined that, as the USCCB stated, not even Jesus would qualify.

The provision for exemption is only available to a religious organization, and organizations are deemed not to be religious if they meet the following criteria: (1) It serves those who are not already members of the church, (2) it fails to hire based on religion, or (3) it does not restrict its charitable and missionary purposes to the inculcation of religious values. Unfortunately this tends not to apply to any branch of the Catholic Church. Any church that seeks to follow the model of Christ violates Number 1, as our duty is to help all people, whether they are members of the Church or not. Number 2 is often violated when people are hired based on skill set rather than adherence to a particular religious creed. Similar to Number 1, Number 3 is violated when the Church does more than proselytize, seeking to make people's lives better, e.g., disaster relief in Haiti, disaster relief after other natural disasters, and inner city youth programs to teach life skills. Do any of these things, and it appears that your church is not eligible for the religious exemption under Obamacare. I agree with the USCCB statement that not even Jesus would qualify, for his ministry was to help all people. So was the ministry of the early Church, and so is the ministry of the Church today.

Some might say that this is a non-issue, given that surveys show a large number of Catholics do not agree with or follow the proscriptions against artificial contraception. I submit that this is not the real issue here. The issue is one of religious and individual freedom and of Church sovereignty. Obamacare as it stands now appears to be forcing a large number of people to go against their conscience, with exceptions available only in situations that generally occur only when they are not living up to their duty as Christians. It's a Catch 22.

What is important to note here is that if the government can do this on such a widespread scale on this one particular issue, it sets a precedent for further discrimination against and persecution of Christians. Christians are being marginalized in our increasingly secular society. Most every group of society has more rights and protections today than Christians. Most every group of society today has more right to object based on conscience, more right to say what they believe, and more right to live their lives according to their beliefs than Christians.

This outcome was predictable. As more and more immoral activities were brought into the mainstream, the voice of dissent became the Christians...and most especially true Catholics, as many Christian denominations have gone the way of the world. The Catholic Faith stands in opposition to much of what American society is currently doing. It is no surprise that society wishes Catholicism suppressed or at least rendered less effective in influencing society morality and actions.

This is the real reason why this current fight against Obamacare is so important. It's not a political matter as some try to suggest. It is simply a matter of faith. It is a matter of upholding the Faith, even against attacks. It is a matter of doing one's duty as a Christian. The price of failure will be the souls of many who are lost due to the suppression of religion by the government. We must never give up or yield one inch to the forces of darkness in the world today.