Monday, January 30, 2012


FRIDAY A fax was sent to the parish today from our bishop. It stated that “This week the federal government’s Department of Health andHuman Services issued a mandate which requires religious non-profits to cover sterilizations, contraceptive services, and some abortion-inducing drugs as part of their employee’s healthcarebenefits.” It went on to say that a letter was attached that was to be read at all Masses and stuffed into each bulletin.


I don’t know what stuns me more right at this moment – the blatant violation of the Constitution of the United States which is only a thinly veiled attack on the Catholic Church, or that our bishop is speaking out so boldly and quickly! I must say that it fills me with a bit of pride and excitement That he has done so.

This past weekend we celebrated the feast of Saint Sebastian and I warned the congregation that someday their faith might be put to a similar trial – particularly those who worked in the medical fields.

That day came more quickly than I anticipated.

How big will this be? Will it go out in a puff of smoke? Or will this be the beginning of a war on the Church? Will a bishop end up in jail? Will we have our tax exempt status taken away from us? (Given
in to this mandate is not an option.) I imagine much of it depends on the reaction of the populace that understands that any violation of the Constitution places the whole Constitution in jeopardy.

Wanting the parish to know that their pastor is also taking this seriously I yearned to make a statement right away. I went over to the church and said a prayer before the painting of Saint Sebastian. Tonight (around 7PM) before my next appointment, I copied and blew up the pertinent parts of the bishop’s letter, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law . . .” put it on parish letter head and stuck it to all the doors of the church.  I call the bishop and leave a message that the letter is great.

This comes to mind tonight: The Chicago Archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, remarked, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

SATURDAY I woke up this morning with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. The excitement is that there is something happening that could galvanize us as a Church. There is a cause for which we can all unite. The nervousness was about what could be in store for us if
this remains the law of the land.

Fr. Pfeiffer came home late from his retreat last night and the morning was the first opportunity to talk. How seriously do we need to take this? We don’t want to be reactionary but neither do we want to think that missed the opportunity to help bring strike down this unjust law.

It is time for the homily at the 4:30 Mass. I point to our patron Saint Sebastian and remark, “Last week we talked about how our patron stood up to a corrupt government and remarked that we should be ready to face such opposition if we encounter it. That day has come!” Then I read the letter sent to us from our bishop. “We cannot – we will not” conform to this unjust law. At the end of the letter the organ stuck up “Faith of Our Fathers” and we sang.

Faith of our Fathers living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword.
O how our hearts be high with joy
When ere we hear that glorious Word
Faith of our Fathers
Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee to death!

A Man for All Seasons (St. Thomas More)  52 seconds.  Watch it!

SUNDAY I wake up and go downstairs to read the letters to the editor of the Plain Dealer. (There is nothing in the Beacon Journal) They basically told the Catholic Church that it needs to buck up and get over it. Nobody sees that this is a blatant attack on the Constitution of the United States. They do not see that once part of the Constitution can be ignored it all can be. They feel safe because
they don’t mind this action, but what about when it recoils on them? Why is this not emblazoned on the front page of my newspapers? Have they fallen so far?

The letter was read again at the 9AM, 11AM, 1PM, and at the 5PM Mass the people clapped. One man from out of state said, “I realize that you were only reading your bishop’s words, but that was one of themost stirring homilies I have ever heard! I am taking this letter to my bishop!”

I read that in one diocese they have instituted praying the St. Michael Prayer. I write my representatives in congress. At the Chesterton we are reading book two of Napoleon of Notting Hill. The topic turns to this legislation for a while.

MONDAY I take Sebastian for a walk. We come across a man with a dog who is a regular playmate of Sebastian. He asked me how things are going and I tell him about this legislation. He states that he is for, at least in part, all the things that are included in that package. “It is about pooling money.” I state that it has little to do with any of those things. This is a blatant attack on the Constitution of the United States! Everyone no matter what they believe on reproductive rights should be screaming angry! That the conversation kept turning to contraception, abortion, and sterilization was unnerving. In this case these are all moot topics.

The point is, if you remain silent while this is done to the Catholic Church, then don’t be angry, surprised, or resentful when the government comes into your religion and passes laws and imposing
penalties forcing you to act against your core beliefs. That is what this is about.

I stand in awe that this is happening and happening so easily. We wonder how such things happened in other countries throughout history?

Like this.


Anonymous said...

dear father----please clarify--i need further understanding of what is happening here---for instance--if i live in canton, ohio--(i have a dear grandaughter who currently resides there)--and i am finally able to secure a job at mercy medical hospital--a wonderful Catholic hospital--and i am working in the cafeteria---and i am poor--part of the 90%--and i am not a catholic employee--what am i to do?--i can't afford to buy my own individual insurance--i am poor---and yet i choose to secure health care benefits that this hospital does not provide--i can't get another job, i was completely lucky to get this one--and i am grateful--but i need health care benefits just like the folks at akron general hospital--father, what is the answer?sincerely, nancy ulrich

Fr. V said...

Don't be side tracked by these issues. The fact is that many so called Catholic institutions are offering these benefits. That is not what this is about (but should eventually be a topic of converstation.) The point is that the United States Government is violating its own constitutin forcing religious institutions to use its funds to do something against which it is fundamentally opposed. If you get that job, your Catholic employer will have no say, a Catholic insurance company will have no say, and you as a Catholic will have no say in your resources being taken to fund these things for to believe and act otherwise would be a breaking of a federal law.

You ask what is the answer? In your letter is a desire for freedom and rights. This unjust law denies those same rights to others. We must stop this now before future rights are placed at stake.

W.C. Hoag said...

The course on the Nineteenth-Century Papacy that I am teaching this semester focuses on the French Revolution this week. I see so many parallels between the situation of the Church in the USA today and that of the Church in France during the 1790s. (BTW, the course dates the nineteenth-century from 1789 to 1914--politically, socially, culturally the nineteenth century)

Will our Catholic priests be required to swear an oath to a civil constitution for clergy? Our Catholic holy days are already being replaced with secular celebrations!

Cynthia Cook said...

Anyone who fails to see this as anything but a full frontal assault on religious liberty in general and the Catholic Church specifically is at worst willfully blind and at best, foolishly optimistic. Although I too am heartened by the response I have seen from our bishop and other bishops around the country, I am astonished at the brazen actions of this government. History shows us that there was no more compelling reason for the establishment of the American colonies than that of religious freedom, and our founders enshrined that principle in the very first Amendment to our Constitution for good reason:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Here is a news flash for people who may be confused or cloudy on this point: the Catholic Church is vehemently oppposed to contraception, abortion and sterilization. Those practices violate the very heart of our beliefs, teachings and traditions which seek to recognize the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life. For the mighty federal government of the United States to MANDATE that we must now PAY FOR (and by logical extension, thereby ENDORSE) these practices is nothing short of a deliberate attack on the very basis of our religion. The RU-486 abortion pill, birth control, etc. are not on the same footing as cancer surgery or treatment for diabetes. They are just not. If you are a Catholic, you should be angry and you should be alarmed by this. If you find yourself agreeing with the Kathleen Sebelius (who should be INSTANTLY excommunicated), then you should face the reality that you are no longer Catholic and that somewhere down the line you and the Catholic Church have parted ideological ways. What's next for our intrusive federal government? Does anyone really think that next week we're going to see a ruling come down MANDATING that Islamic mosques and Orthodox Jewish synagogues stop segregating the sexes based on sexual discrimination laws? I don't think so, either. No, to really see how things will progress, we have only to look at events in Canada over the last decade. It's clear which religious groups are being viewed through the crosshairs of liberal governments. Anyone interested can learn more about the Canadian government's persecutions of Christians, particularly Catholics here:
And if those stories seem far-fetched, remember that it all started there with one ruling, one mandate, one piece of legislation that went unopposed by the majority of citizens.

crazylikeknoxes said...

I must admit that the episcopal response to the HHS decision fills me with a bit of pride and excitement. And it takes alot to move my political consciousness. But I am nervous that the response of the faithful to the bishops' leadership with be indifference. On the issues of contraception/sterilization, I am given to understand, a majority of the laity would stand with HHS. I perceive that is why it is important to present this as freedom of conscience issue.

Anonymous said...

dear father--i must respectively disagree--when you ask me to not be sidetracked be "these issues"-i am lost since it is my understand ing that these are the issues--when i read the law it tells me Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from guidelines- but Catholic Hospitals, Colleges, and social services fall under the umbrella of institutions covered by the decision.---so the the paid personel working for St. Sebastians would not expect to receive insurance coverage that is contrary to catholic beliefs---while i am certainly not advocating for any catholic to utilize such benefits provided under this law--i don't feel it infringes upon my right to act in accordance with my catholic teaching--i simply would not be using these particular benefits --once again--most sincerely, nancy ulrich

Cynthia Cook said...

The idea that this ruling should be acceptable because it excludes actual Churches from its authority is ridiculous (besides, that will be coming next year if we have a lame duck administration). To force Catholic universities, hospitals and other affiliated organizations to provide and pay for services that it not only actively opposes but is sworn to prevent is an outrage. What better way to undermine the authority and teachings of the Church than to force it to do so? The RU-486 abortion pill, for example does not prevent a pregnancy from occuring, it terminates a viable pregnancy as late as the 7th week. By the 7th week of development the baby has a growing brain, organs, eyes, ears and limbs. Quite simply put, mifepristone ends that baby's life. By subsidizing even 1 cent of that abortant's cost the Catholic Church would become just as complicit in the death of that innocent human as anyone else involved. This ruling is no different than mandating that the Catholic Church not only begin conducting same-sex marriages but send out the invitations and host the reception at its expense as well.

crazylikeknoxes said...

"Yes, I'd give the devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake."

This is a wonderful scene from a wonderful movie ... But, it has always struck me as ironic that the faith More placed in the law fails to save him. He trusted in the law, but it did not deliver him. I mention this whenever I see this clip posted, as it often is, on Catholic blogs, but apparently the irony (if any) doesn't provoke much interest.

Bear Paw said...

No one, Catholic or otherwise, will be forced by this mandate to use contraception. Catholics who oppose this law have a right, also under the Constitution, to oppose it through the democratic process. To imply that religious freedom for Catholics and/or other Christians is being violated and that martyrdom may one day be the outcome is extremist and inflammatory, as is Bishop Lennon's threat to disobey this law. When the church starts expressing this level of outrage over the increasing rate of poverty, to name one of many injustices to be found in the United States these days, I start believing it has it's priorities in order. The hysteria expressed in this blog over an insurance regulation is what I find to be a serious cause for alarm.

Anonymous said...

"i don't feel it infringes upon my right to act in accordance with my catholic teaching"?

The problem with this Freudian slip is that too many of these "Catholics" voted for an administration that has no problem "infringing" and imposing its agenda upon those who believe differently. Not the change most people hoped for. Sadly, for the likes of Ms. Ulrich even such blantant disregard for the beliefs of others can't change her mind.

Lastly, her comment "i simply would not be using these particular benefits" resembles the pro-abort bumper sticker philosophy "If you're against abortion, don't have one!" A mentality which completely ignores the issues at stake.

You can't sit back let evil go unchecked & you shouldn't call yourself Catholic and be an apologist for those implementing these policies. Wake up and recognize that the political party, which you hold so dear, and its leaders within the government are coming after your faith. You will be called on in this life and the next as to which you will show your fidelity.

Anonymous said...

"When the church starts expressing this level of outrage over the increasing rate of poverty, to name one of many injustices to be found in the United States these days"

These people are sooooo predictable. I guess 'ol Bear Paw never heard of incrementalism. Of course it doesn't "force" anyone to use contraception it just forces the Catholic institutions to go against their beliefs. Oh, that's okay, huh Bear Paw? Read a little history and you'll find many examples of how chipping away at fundamental rights slowly eliminates all rights and leads to people of faith being killed.

Also, the Church, yes the Catholic Church, does more for the poor and marginalized than any institution on earth. So spare me the self-righteous indignation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Valencheck, the amount of angst that the Bishop's letter has caused is to be lamented. Even you are unduly upset. Stop punishing yourself. Just do what the Bishop says; I'm doing it. I sent a letter of protest to Senator Brown today. What else can I do?


View from Cleveland said...

How bizarre to presume that Father V is "punishing" himself. I can't speak for him, of course, but it's plain to see that he is relishing the fact that the Church is standing up for itself in this instance. And don't kid yourself; the angst is not being caused by the Bishop's letter, it's being caused by the actions of a government agency that has been ceded far too much power over American citizens' lives and whose head believes that she can circumvent the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Fr. V said...

Bear Paw - As I keep reminding people over and over again this is not about contraception or abortion or any of those matters. Nor is it primarily about the Catholic Church. And it will NOT be an option to Catholics to opt out. Where do you get that idea? Every Catholic and every Catholic institition will be forced to pay into this. Money will be taken from the Church to pay for these services which the Church is fundamentally, at its core against. It is violation of the constitution in the most gross manner. Many liberties that we have are interpreted from the Constitution - the establishment clause does not need this level of interpretation,. It states CLEARLY tnat the government will establish NO law that impedes the faith. None. Zippo. Nada. And now it will. If this does not concern you, I cannot imagine what it would take to do so.

No RMK, I am not punishing myself. And there is PLENTY to do! Check out the USCC website.

Fr. V said...


I thought the same thing actually. *BUT* it does in an odd way still prove the point. What happened? People did NOT abide by the law and that lead to an innocent death. If they had - all would have been fine.''Does that make sense?

Mary W said...

Great commentary Fr. V! Your sentiments about the situation and the strength shown by Bishop Lennon echo mine. The Sir Thomas More clip is most appropriate. What a rare and inspiring example of intelligence and integrity he leaves as his legacy. Might be time for a movie night at St. Sebs!

Although, I concur that this affront on religious liberty is a grave matter deserving our full attention, I'd propose that the bishops and the priests of the US take advantage of this moment to also focus on contraception and sterilization, etc.

As a priest you know how few Catholics adhere to the teaching of the Church on this matter. Giving these folks the benefit of the doubt, I'd venture to guess that a majority of them don't really know what the church teaches and more importantly, they don't know why the Church teaches as she does. Speaking as a "victim" of 16 years of 1970's-style Catholic education, I can say that I learned nothing of any use in this subject area in all those years. Many have been counseled by "compassionate" clergy to simply follow their consciences with little direction on how to form their consciences. What's more, the culture at large is utterly baffled by what it perceives to be a bizarre set of prohibitions ordered by a bunch of celibate men in Rome who know nothing of marriage, etc.

If I were a pastor, I would seize the moment, while everyone is talking about it. The Catholic Church's teachings on sexuality, are in large part why I am still Catholic today, but I had to seek out that teaching for myself. Their integrity and beauty are unsurpassed. It's time we help the faithful and the culture at large to see that Church teaching is not a bunch of prudish "no's" to be embarrassed about, but rather as a profoundly beautiful "yes" to deep and authentic love and freedom and truth, as most fully illuminated in John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

The first thing I'd do was put a link on my parish web site to something like Catholics Come Home page on contraception. But then I think I'd make a serious investment of time and money and bring in a program like one of Christopher West's Theology of the Body study series and the complementary programs for teens.

May the Lord be with your spirit as a pastor and most especially, the bishops, that the graces of your ordinations will be stirred up by the Holy Spirit in marvelous ways as you shepherd us forward down the treacherous paths that appear to lie ahead.

Mary W

James Miller said...

Crazylikeknoxes missed the point of the clip in relation to this issue and its meaning in the movie. The law did not fail St. Thomas More, the men who ignored it and who wrote the new laws based on lies, were what got More martyred.
The same thing is happening in this country with the tyrannical government Obama is developing. This gross infraction, downplayed by so many as insignificant is anything but that and is just the beginning. The Administration has been trying to undermine the Catholic Church in this country since it took office. So far it has failed, even with the help of the media's silence.

crazylikeknoxes said...

Father V. and James M.:

It has been a couple of years since I've seen the film, but as I recall More relied on his silence when required to take the oath, and the legal presumption that silence implied consent. I also recall that it was the perjured testimony of that "dangerous" man whom More allowed to walk away that ultimately sealed his fate.

It is interesting that in the movie More believed he could remain a faithful Catholic and a loyal citizen. In one form or another, that question has been a critical part of the Catholic experience in this country since before its beginnings.

James M.: I wonder how a law can be based on a lie. Laws are not statements of facts, but prescriptions of conduct. We can argue about the justness of a law, but I don't know how one would argue for its veracity.

Fr. V said...

Dear Nancy -
Once again - that is beside the point. A worthy thing to talk about but not what is at issue here. With your logic I should be able to force all Catholics to pay for abortions but not worry about it because you personally are not being forced to have one. Yet your funding makes the law, procurment, paying of those involved, the destruction of the baby, the clinic, etc. possible. You might find that Okay. I find it horrible.