From the Chaplain’s Laptop: A Missed ChanceOctober 18, 2012
Thursdays are my day off, and last Thursday I was sitting on a beach with a pile of books. The sun went down and I was left in the dark without a reading light. So I began to wonder if I could pull up a live-stream of the vice-presidential debate on my phone. After some fiddling, I pulled it up, just in time to hear the moderator lob the bomb at our two Catholic candidates. Please tell me, she said, “what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.” This was the big moment, the Catholic moment. The question afforded Paul Ryan, a faithful Catholic, the opportunity to broadcast clarity on the abortion issue to an unprecedented degree. Everyone was listening. And so he began: “My faith informs me in everything I do.”
I groaned and shifted my chair on the beach. He had fallen into the trap that Raddatz so casually tossed before him. She wanted him to speak about abortion as a religious issue rather than a scientific issue, and he did just that. Granted, Congressman Ryan mentioned “science and reason,” but he did not drive the point home. Abortion is not a religious issue. It is a human rights issue, a civil rights
issue, based on scientific fact. A human fetus is human, and genetically distinct from his or her mother. Vice-president Biden, in his turn, of course, affirmed the falsehood of abortion as merely a matter of religious opinion.
In the days following the debate, I waited for someone to point out Ryan’s missed opportunity. On Monday, the redoubtable George Weigel did it, at National Review Online.
He imagines Ryan answering the question “what role does religion play in your own personal views on abortion?” in one word: “None
.” Weigel imagines Ryan going on to explain: “When I say ‘none,’ I’m speaking about abortion, as I assume you were, as a public-policy issue. My opposition to the abortion license that Roe v. Wade
created is based on science and reason. Biology and embryology teach us that the product of human conception is a human being — nothing more, but certainly nothing less. No scientifically literate person denies that; it’s a fact, not an opinion.” Weigel’s full commentary deserves a wide reading.
We missed a golden opportunity to point out an obvious fact, to point out the elephant in America’s living room: the human fetus is a living human person with inalienable rights. Those rights are egregiously violated 4,000 times a day in our country.
Elizabeth (left) visited by Mary, the
Visitation, by Philippe de Champaigne
Homily: The Role of the Church in Checks and Balances
St. John the Prophet
Today is an odd liturgical feast: the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. All other saints are commemorated on the day of their death – their birth into eternal life). The Church celebrates the nativity of only two other people: Jesus, on Christmas, and Mary, on September 8th. But Jesus called St. John “the greatest man born of woman,” the great prophet: not foretelling the future, but speaking God’s word in the present.
My life for the truth
John spoke the Word boldly amongst the political powers of his time. He did not fear to tell Herod that a man should not live with his brother’s wife. Everybody knewthat, but John said it, and knew that saying it would get him into trouble. The Church exercises an irreplaceable prophetic role in restraining political power. Political power is intoxicating and becomes absolute if not regulated. The founders of our country established a system of checks and balances between the three branches of government. But the authors of our Constitution also guaranteeing the free exercise of religion in the public square, to safeguard another means of governmental regulation. The churches help balance the power of the state, even as the state helps balance the effective exercise of religion. For some time now, though, Church and State have been at odds. As Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law Professor recently said, “At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.”
We are in a two-week period of prayer, study, and fasting called by our Bishops the Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4. On Friday the Church commemorated St. Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, who resisted the King’s unreasonable demand to control the Church in England in 1530. King Henry beheaded Thomas More in 1533. More went to the scaffold calmly, saying: “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
We all want to be good servants of our republic, and good citizens of our state. Insisting, even with our lives and our property, that the State has no authority over certain areas of our lives is a high act of loyalty and patriotism. St. John the Baptist was beheaded in 30 AD for insisting on a moral authority above King Herod’s authority. St. Thomas More was beheaded in 1533 AD for insisting on a moral authority greater than King Henry’s authority.
We turn to our lady, the Mother of Jesus our Lord, who saw her own son executed by the Roman government for testifying to the truth. Let us pray through Mary to her Son to grace us with the wisdom, joy, and charity of the saints in our present moment.
40 Days For Life: Many prayers, candles and
signs outside of the abortion
clinic in Modesto.
There is an accelerating “climate change” in our country. In particular, Religious Freedom in America is eroding faster than the glaciers in Greenland. The founders of our nation saw the need to immediately strengthen our Constitution with the “Bill of Rights.” The first of those Bill of Rights is the free exercise of religion. This First Amendment guarantees citizens the free practice of the faith of their choice, without the interference of the U.S. Government.
Two weeks ago the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandated that all employers will purchase insurance that provides sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing drugs. That means that our parish, for example, will have to pay for the chemical abortions of our employees, should they request it. Catholic hospitals will have to provide for abortions. In a meeting with pastors last week, Bishop Blaire stated forcefully that the Obama Administration’s decision is “an egregious—an egregious—violation of the Constitution and the First Amendment.” Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Coercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience…. This latest erosion of our first freedom should make all Americans pause. When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead.” As of this writing (February 1), 125 bishops and many other public figures of our nation have joined him in strong objection.
Which way America? What freedoms of conscience will the government still permit us in the years to come? How much more will the Church be singled out for persecution? In 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago spoke these prophetic words: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." Which way, America?