Thursday, February 2, 2012


The debate and battles over the new federal healthcare mandates are likely to go on for five years (before the Supreme Court hears it) and the real fallout only hitting in about one year when all institutions and individuals will be forced to adhere to the new laws (conveniently after the November elections.) So much for pro-choice in these matters. As you enter into these discussions it will be tempting to be sidetracked into other discussion that, while worthy, are not helpful in the healthcare debate. In order to assist you in these discussions, a couple of talking points are suggested.

1. Others (and perhaps you will be tempted) will try to move the topic of conversation to abortion or contraception or universal healthcare for the poor. Do not be so mislead or tempted. As worthy as those topics may be, that is not what this debate is about. Nor is it about the Catholic Church. It is about the Constitution of the United States being blatantly violated. Because of this, it is a cause of concern for all citizens, not just Catholic citizens.

2. This is the part of the Constitution about which we are concerned:

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

This new law severely undermines this amendment. Core beliefs of a faith are not only being trampled upon, a religious organization is now forced to spend its funds on matters to which it is fundamentally opposed. That it focuses on Catholics today is one thing. But what about when for the “common good” other rights of other faiths can be ignored and its freedoms abused because of the precedent begun with the Catholic Church?

3. The amendment does not say that laws may not be passed except for those that are very popular, or except for those laws that are deemed for the common good, but that no law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

4. Catholics cannot “opt out” as many people suppose they can. “Catholics do not have to avail themselves of these services if they do not want to” is not a worthy argument. Catholics will be forced to pay for these services even if they have no intention of every using them. We become material agents in acts we see as totally morally corrupt. That is not opting out.

5. Most American would see a new federal law with accompanying penalties that required permits for
assembling at which an official representative of the government must be present a horrendous trashing of the Constitution. Whether one’s rights are being violated or not by this new federal mandate, one should see this action as a similar disregard for the Constitution and for the freedom of the citizens of this great nation.

6. Catholics, practicing Catholics, are equal citizens as all others. We are deserving of the same protection of our rights as all other citizens.

ADDENDUM:  The first commenter reminds me of this other important fact.  The establishment clause is not only about the right to worship, which we will still have of course.  IT IS ABOUT THE FREEDOM OF RELIGION.  There is a subtle difference here but it makes all of the difference in teh world.  There has been a shift in wording and that wording has significant ramifications.  One only concerns what we do for an hour on Sunday, the other is far more reaching and is what is protected by the Constitution.

ADDENDUM II:  Maybe this will help:  Suppose everybody in the nation - your place of business, was forced to pay to keep up Catholic Churches.  Many would scream, "You can't use my money to fund something that I don't believe in!  That is a violation of my rights!"  And what if I said in return, "This does not change what you do on Sunday morning.  You do not have to participate in Mass."  That would not be a satisfactory anwer.  Perhaps that will help some to see why this is such a mess.

Remember these points.  Print them out and hold on to them until you here a better stating of them.  Great things are at stake here.


Anonymous said...

Father, perhaps you can explain how my religious freedom, as a Catholic, ha been violated here. I still have a right to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, to go to confession, etc. There are wats to protest laws that we deem to be unjust and unconstitutional, and possibly get them changed or struck down. But until such time, we have an obligation to obey them, as American citizens (or non-citizens for that matter). Being Catholic does not exempt us from this obligation. I don't like this law either, but your reaction seems to be bordering on hysteria. Do you want to have a "Holy War" over this? Public discourse in this country has become far too polarized - most issues are far too complex to be addressed in the black and white terms you seem to be favoring here. Whether or not the first amendment has been violated is astute for the courts to determine, not you or anyone else speaking on behalf of the Church. Or are you legal scholar as well as a priest?

By the way, I'm sure you're aware that most Catholics, at least in the U.S., use contraception, and do not agree with the Church's teaching regarding it's use. Yes, I know - they're all in "Mortal Sin".

Leave this mandate to be worked out by the judicial and legislative processes that the Constitution provides - work to get it repealed if you can, but please Father, stop the hysterical and inflammatory rhetoric - it is detrimental to the Church's cause.

Fr. V said...

Dear Anon.
I could not dissagree with you more first as a citizen of U.S. and then as a Catholic. NOBODY MUST obey an unjust law. That is like saying, "We must all go along with slavery for the next five years untill the Supreme Court says otherwise." I find your possition untennable and inconsistant with the founding principles of this nation and to the mandate we have as Catholics to be good citizens - NOT nice citizens.

And as to your second point it does not matter if individual Catholics dissagree with this position. Once again you are missing the point. The point is that a religious body officially has a position and the government is forcing it violate those tennants by taking it's funding to support those tennant.

Two days ago I was speaking with a Unitarian Universalist trying to make this point. It finally dawned on him, "What if the government forced our Church to fund a campaign to make it illegal for us to recognize same sex marriage and make it illegal for us to give benefits to partners? I would be angry beyond belief!" Well, now he understands how Catholics should feel.

Pat said...

Even HHS acknowledes that this mandate violates our religious beliefs because they authored a religious exemption.

But the exemption is so narrow that not even Jesus and Mother Teresa could function within it:

 Only Catholics are employed;
 The primary purpose of the institution or service provided is the direct instruction in Catholic belief;
 The only persons served by the institution are those that share Catholic religious tenets. (Try to fit this in with our local Catholic Charities that serve thousands every year without discrimination according to faith. It would be impossible!)

Jesus taught everyne, not just the Jews of His day (e.g., the Samaritan woman). The apostles did not take attendance at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus also healed (a social service, not specifically a teaching on the faith). He healed people who were not Jewish (the Centurian's servant; the Syro-Phonician woman's daugter; the man from Gerasene afflicted with demons).

Fr. V said...

Anon. (again)

I should have given my answer more thought and I thank you for pointing out another point that should have been included. Yes, you will still be able to worship on Sunday for an hour any way that you want, but the Constitution does not just guarantee that right - it protects religion, not just worship as many suggest today. There is an important difference here and once again the true issue is that one of the most important parts of the Constitution is being compramised.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point, Father, but I guess I'm just not as upset about this as you are. On the other hand, I don't see why any health insurance plan needs to cover contraception - it doesn't seem like a health care issue in the same way that a medication for an illness is.

Regardless, I suspect this will end up being decided by the Supreme Court (which currently has a majority of Catholic justices). It does seem to me that the government is trying hard to make religion a purely private matter. totally outside of the public realm. But I think if we want this changed, we have no alternative other than to work within the "system" to do so.

James Miller said...

I don't wish to "pile on" about the points you raise, but you said:
"Whether or not the first amendment has been violated is astute for the courts to determine, not you or anyone else speaking on behalf of the Church. Or are you legal scholar as well as a priest?"
The founding Fathers envisioned that the Constitution be accessible to all of the people, and be understood regardless of occupation or education level. That is why, if you look at the overall document, especially the Bill of Rights, you'll see that the words are few, but direct and to the point.
(Amendments made in the 20th century are much longer and more complex).
My point is that no where in the Constitution does it say, or suggest that one has to be a "legal scholar" to correctly interpret what it says. Just the opposite is true, the Framers favored the notion of direct simplicity to avoid confusion, so all of the people can understand the law and accept or reject new ones, on the criterion of its Constitutionality.

Anonymous said...

It is not up to the people to accept or reject laws based on a personal interpretation of the Constitution. That is the role of the courts. Likewise, people cannot selectively obey or disobey them, including the church. The courts will decide if this health care mandate violates the first amendment or not, period. The church is not above the law. You might want to take a look at Romans 13:1.

Fr. V said...


Thanks for the response. I guess I think "working within the system" is exactly what I encourage people to do. Calling, writing, making your opinion known is working with the system. Trying to get your position known and understood even if that means being willing to stake your freedom against an unjust law. Unjust laws pass because good citizens do nothing hoping that is will all work out in the end.

This is a wierd position for me. As a "good Catholic boy" I am a big advocate for following the rules and coloring within the lines. The majority of the time I might be giving much the same advice as you did. But looking ahead at the future ramifications of this law (not just the immediate ramifications) there just seems too much at stake.

Fr. V said...


I am assuming you are the same Anon as the other Anons. You last post came up after I typed a response to an earlier Anon.

As to your Scripture statement read on - "Do what is good and you will recieve approval from it." From a Biblical commentary in the NAB:

"Caesar has the responsibility to make just ordinances and to commend uprightness; . . . Caesar is not entitled to obendience when such obedience would nullify God's prior claim to the believers' moral decision (which) becomes clear in the light of the following verses."

Read on . . .

Anonymous said...

I have read the letter that Bishop Lennon wrote dated 26 January 2012 and I would think the Catholic Church would spend more time on cleaning up the mess with the Gay Priest, priest that are having affairs with parishioners and priest that are steeling from US the parishiners first before the Church worries about whether or not Catholics are using contraceptions or having abortions.
I wish we could go back to the old way of loving God and his teachings,the way I taught my children and my parents taught me.
May God bless us all and help us in this difficult time.

Fr. V said...

Following your logic Anon. . . The Catholic Church should clean up no other horrendous sins until it cleans up a list that you have composed? (And that is assuming that it is not - you will always find sinners - but you think she is not trying?) And as far as worrying what her people do - if she (read "we" if your are Catholic) believe that contraceptions (evidenced in the Bible as being inherintly sinful) and aboritons (the same) could lead not only to unhappiness in this life but in the next also - she should keep quiet? That is what your parents taught you? I doubt it. Thre is NOTHING old fashioned about that - That is rather modern - even John Calvin, Martin Luther, and a host of other founders of Protestant Churches were fundamentally and vehemently opposed to these things as against human nature and dignity, and the will of the One who made us. It is thoroughly modern thing to think all this Okay.

If the Church kept quiet on these matters - woe to her for she would be depriving you the fullness of the Gosepel. Give the people the whole truth and then let them decide - not mandate it for them. That is not only what the Church teaches - what my parents taught me - but what the Constitution - until this law, taught.

Anonymous said...

"Give the people the whole truth and then let them decide" I will use your quote Fr. Thats the problem, the Church tells us what we can and cannot do and they don't follow their own rules, and so does OUR government, let us decide for ourselves.

Fr. V. let be honest with you, you are one of very few priest that I can trust and I value your opioion.

I know many priest and sometimes I am ashamed to tell people that I am Catholic because of the things they do or have done and all the bad press the church is getting.

When will WE the Church get back on track and remember why WE are Christians.

May God bless us all and help us in this difficult time.

Foxie said...

Hi Father V.!
I have a different comment. In one of the last points of this post you write something like this: Imagine all the citizens would have to pay for the maintenance of Catholic churches.
Well, in my country, because of what the communists have done to the church, the state(from the taxes) actually does just that: pays the priests salaries for example. I think it would not be a good idea to talk about it this way with my friends as the debate could become offtopic.