Since returning from Rome and a visit with our seminarians there, I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of the season here in God’s Country – blue skies, Fall colors, perfect temperatures, and farmers in the fields – an absolute delight. Hard to find anything troubling in a season that seems so serene, right? Well, unfortunately, we do need to revisit some troubling signs that continue to poke at us in terms of current “man-made” events. We still have some worries that dog us regarding government interference in our lives and liberties.
As we all know, the Catholic Church is committed to safeguarding the right to life and is vigorously supportive of the defense of our first amendment rights concerning religious liberty and conscience protection. I am concerned that many Catholics, however, have either given up on our struggle, thinking: “This is a lost cause, anyway,” or even more unfortunately, have never gotten involved.
For the past two years, “Fortnights for Freedom” rallied many Catholics and fostered widespread awareness that our religious liberties, guaranteed by the Constitution, were in jeopardy. The continuing debate and multiple lawsuits against the government by dioceses, charitable organizations, and privately owned Catholic businesses, have left us with little time to change some policies in Washington and offer support for those who are friendly to our cause in Congress.
The HHS mandate stating that “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” still remains a toxic piece of legislation that frustrates the just application of the first amendment rights of all citizens and is particularly odious to Catholics and all people of faith. The government continues to maintain its stand in favor of the HHS mandate and the “reproductive rights” guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act despite having been told over and over that these pieces of legislation violate citizens’ first amendment rights and, more seriously, transgress the moral commandments of God. The case has repeatedly been made to protect the integrity of the Constitution, and to convince those responsible that following these policies will violate our consciences and open us up to deliberate cooperation with evil.
I invite you to support a new opportunity to stop this attack on our liberty. Members of Congress who stand with us in favor of the integrity of the American Constitution and who also stand with us in support of the value of human life are putting forth an amendment to the Affordable Care Act called H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. This amendment would affect the ACA ensuring that the federal government cannot require individuals, charities, or businesses to buy insurance coverage that includes items or services against which they have deeply held moral or religious objections. It would also ensure that the federal government, or any state or local government receiving federal financial assistance, does not discriminate against any health care entity or worker for abiding by his or her conscience and refusing to provide, train, or refer abortion services. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would guarantee a private right of action for victims facing discriminatory practices.
This is still a time of action. The Administration needs to know that the policies and mandates of the Affordable Care Act and the law being put into effect on January 1, 2014 are offensive and objectionable, especially to Catholics. I think Washington sincerely believes that we Catholics are indifferent or are downright abandoning the call of the American Bishops to take action in this area.
It is time for Catholics to rally. Please call your member of Congress and urge support of H.R. 940. The beauty of autumn reminds us that the seasons are changing. There is an awareness of winter close at hand, but there is always a hope of new life and a springtime that will come again. I encourage you to be a part of the new life that we as Catholics and as Americans must deliver to our leaders. I sure hope you will consider this invitation and respond positively.
Fill October with love for life, and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.