The nation, as it were, held its breath for a while as the Supreme Court pondered and today issued its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court has a special role to play in our system of government. The Constitution gives it the power to check, if necessary, the actions of the president and Congress. It can tell a president that his actions are not allowed by the Constitution. It can tell Congress that a law it passed violates the U.S. Constitution and is, therefore, no longer a law. It can also tell the government of a state that one of its laws violates the Constitution.
The Supreme Court is the final judge in all cases involving laws of Congress, and the highest law of all, the Constitution. The highest court in the land, whose job it is to determine and review the constitutionality of laws, has ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional; thus bringing to closure the controversy concerning its existence as the law of the land becoming fully operational in 2014. The Court, of course, does not necessarily rule on the popular merits of the law – simply its legality.
The decision of the Supreme Court, furthermore, does not affect the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services mandate that will force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and other abortifacient procedures in their insurance plans. The HHS mandate was issued after the Affordable Care Act was made law and the case challenging it was submitted to the High Court. In other words, our lawsuit grinds on in the courts and our efforts to challenge it are now more significant than ever.
The HHS mandate still poses a threat to the cherished First Amendment of all Americans, not just Catholics, although it is particularly odious to us. Our work in awakening the consciousness of Catholics and other men and women of good will is not over and we have not been overcome by the ruling of the Supreme Court in favor of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. To lose our energy in the struggle at this point is to simply give up – capitulate – suggesting that this is a political matter only. We have never held that to be the case.
While political issues boil around us, and certainly blatant language abounds, ours is a struggle that continues. Ours is a struggle beyond political boundaries that maintains the value and integrity of personal religious liberty and the power of the Constitution; we have yet to hear the end of the story concerning the assault on the First Amendment. We must remain vigilant in our hope for a legal victory. We need to stay strong in our spiritual belief of the correctness of our position; keep our hearts steadfast in prayer remaining constant in seeking divine guidance and support, for our cause is just.
Greetings from Atlanta! We bishops are concluding our Spring Plenary Assembly and even though the meeting has been short, there have been many different issues addressed and many voices heard. We even heard from the bishop of Baghdad; and that was quite a sobering moment for me personally. He, of course, spoke to the issue of religious freedom and the absolute persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in that war-torn and impoverished country. I was touched deeply by his report and felt the fear that he communicated so vividly of his life and the lives of his people there. It is tragic, frightening, and, unfortunately, so real. It’s going to take some time and effort to process my feelings about what he said and how he said it.
Of course, the Fortnight for Freedom was center stage for our consideration and input. There is such energetic unity and support among the bishops in favor of the serious work being mounted across the country as this major historic event ignites awareness and heightens consciences of all citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Communications was featured prominently in our days together. I felt completely justified as I listened and nodded energetically to all the points that centered on the need to communicate honestly, effectively, and proactively in getting our message “out there.” I was pleased to hear that the Catholic press is alive and well, even amidst the flurry of social networking. I will wait to go further into those media once our new communications director is signed on. Nevertheless, The Catholic Times is still a great way to get our news to you!
There is much more, but I must catch a plane and get to Chicago to celebrate my niece’s wedding – and then, and I can hardly wait – to come home to our beloved diocese.
Happy Father’s Day to all the spiritual fathers of our diocese and to all the fathers of families – Happy Father’s Day, Dads. Please remain strong and give us the true image of the Father!
… and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!
These are days of great opportunity for the Church. In many ways we are being called to witness to some of our most treasured and foundational principles. The whole idea of witnessing is something done publicly; and “publicly” is something with which we Catholics have become less comfortable over the recent years.
There was a time when you ordered a cheese sandwich in a restaurant on Friday everyone knew, or at least it was reasonable to suspect, you were a Catholic. Various cultural and social “clues” have fallen by the wayside over the years and we have become more and more homogenized with the rest of humanity. Our marriages, our choices of schools for our children, our thoughts and opinions about current events all seem to “blend in” with everyone else’s. Even some priests and sisters appear more often in “lay” clothes than in religious habits or clerical collars.
It’s almost indiscernible to discover one’s religious identity in today’s society. For the most part, I think that’s just fine with the majority of folks. Everybody’s trying to get along, not “make waves,” not “hurting anybody.” This kind of “social lobotomy” might just work were it not for the concerted efforts to make it happen by those whose job it is and whose goal it is to strip any vestige of religion out of our predictable and ordinary lives.
These are days of great opportunity for the Church. She, herself, is being called forth from her own comfort zone to come forth and become a little less secure in a world where she may have settled in a bit too snuggly. Witnessing to the truth is never easy. The Church knows this better than most – probably best of all – since she has been the champion of truth, human rights, and the dignity of each and every man and woman since her foundation on Golgotha hill outside Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago.
Witnessing to the truth has cost the Church. She has paid with blood, the loss of prestige and influence, and social ostracism. She has triumphed through all these things and more – and the truth still shines as bright and beautiful as ever, undimmed and unaltered by human contrivance or interpretation.
These days call for Catholics to remember that distinguished heritage as we make our way through a new age of secular distortion and interpretation of Pilate’s provocative question: “What is truth?”
I sure hope to see you at Sunday Mass…