Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
February 13, 2013
The greater peril: the loss of religious liberty or the loss of religion?
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

Front and center contesting our government's recent Health and Human Services Mandate stands the Catholic Church, not on political grounds but on higher moral principles that contraception and abortion are abhorrent to God and humanity. The mandate requires that all for-profit employers provide contraception, abortion and sterilization services in their employee health insurance policies with no exceptions. Catholic employers, their businesses and other for profit organizations are not excused from the mandate while the government considers an "accommodation" for Catholic and other churches opposed to the unjust mandate.

Acceding to any accommodation which does not include all Catholics, lay men and women, business people, medical practitioners, teachers, truckers and ordinary church goers would gravely weaken the unity of the Church. We are in Christ "one Body, one Church, one Lord." The exercise of our faith and religion does not depend on the Church's cooperation with the state. Our faith ultimately resides in our hearts, minds and willingness to practice our faith and oppose cooperation with evil whatever the cost. From the beginning, the Church grew during persecution and continues to grow under duress in other parts of the world.

The greater peril would be to forfeit our religion and strengthen schism within the household of the Church. Some would be scandalized by the Church not championing the moral dignity of all its members, one Body, one Church, one Lord. Some have argued that many Catholics support contraception, abortion and sterilization. That would be an argument for greater church militancy not cowardice which undermines and weakens the Church's moral authority in its own household and in the nation "and to the country for which we also stand". Yes, it would take the moral courage of the Beatitude, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Lost in the contest would be justice, reverence of human life for a political "accommodation," a compromise of moral values which will cost the lives of many more of the unborn. Whatever the relationship in Christ, clergyman or layman, churchman or citizen the life of the one influences the life of all and defines the love we have for each other. Love is indivisible. For Saint Paul our "more respectable members" should treat our "less respectable members . . . with greater respect . . . that there be no dissension within the body" – and defines love in the church. (1 Corinthians 12: 23-25 ).

Not only is our faith and hope at risk but our love for our unborn brothers and sisters jeopardized. When our governments, federal and state, advance a culture of death by unjust laws we are obliged by a higher law, love of God and neighbor, to resist evil with our whole heart, mind and strength including civil disobedience. There is no eternal honor or profit in doing nothing.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

 

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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, in 2006 at age 69. After graduating Saint John's University, New York, B.A. (1965) and M.A. (1967) in English, I taught a year of high school and a few years of college... (more)

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