The year 2013 ended with U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ordering a temporary halt to the enforcement of the U. S. Health and Human Services birth control mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor. This is an organization founded by Saint Jeanne Jugan in France in 1839 to take care of the poor and has had a home here in Cincinnati since 1868. The number of people they care for exceeds what the Sisters themselves can do, so they have employees. The Obama administration insists that the Little Sisters provide any current or prospective employee with “free” birth control of whatever kind they might want. The Little Sisters operation in Denver is the subject of the litigation, but the judgment will apply to all locations as well as to similar religiously based organizations.
As believing Catholics, the Little Sisters believe that the practice of contraception is immoral and do not want to facilitate it. The HHS has proposed what it calls an “accommodation” for Catholic organizations. They don’t have to pay for the contraceptives directly or even directly pay for the insurance to provide it. The Wall Street Journal (Jan 3) explained it this way:
“The problem is that to qualify under the ‘accommodation,’ religious organizations must sign a legal contract with their insurer certifying that the religious organizations refuse to subsidize contraceptive services. ‘This certification is an instrument under which the plan is operated,’ the contract notes, then informs the insurer of its ‘obligations’ under the rules.
“Those include a command that the insurer ‘shall provide’ contraception to all enrollees, supposedly independently and for free. The political point of the accommodation was to pretend that the costs of contraception or abortifacients are nominally carried by a third-party corporation, but the insurers are really only the middle men. The Little Sisters thus argue that signing the certification contract directs others to provide birth control in their place and makes them complicit.”
The contract that HHS insists must be signed is not just a piece of paper. It is an acknowledgement that the State has the right to force Catholics and others to contradict their religious convictions under pain of severe penalties. As the WSJ concluded, “This case is simply a raw assertion of state power directing the religious to follow orders. Thus ObamaCare forces women who have taken a vow of chastity and minister for the dying to implicate themselves in what they consider to be grave moral wrongs.” For the entire article, see http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304325004579298542674477308
Such raw power has been used before by a State power that will stop at nothing to compel Catholics to abandon their faith. Two egregious examples suffice. In 1534 subjects of King Henry VIII were required to accept his Oath of Supremacy that recognized the King as the supreme head of not only England but also of the Church in England. For refusal to sign this piece of paper, Saints John Fisher and Thomas More were beheaded in 1535.
The French Revolution provided the context for those terrorists to attempt to exterminate the Catholic Church in that country. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed on 12 July 1790 to completely subordinate the Church to the French government. Hundreds of non-subscribing Catholic priests were imprisoned on ships at Rochefort. I don’t know how many of these died, but 64 of them are recognized as having died a martyr’s death there in 1794-1795. Not only priests but infants and children were killed by the French revolutionists. For more on this, see http://newsaints.faithweb.com/martyrs/MFR06.htm.
Every President wants to be remembered for his legacy. So that his legacy does not include such visible persecution of faithful members of the Catholic Church and others, please pray for the conversion of President Obama, his Cabinet, and the Supreme Court Justices who will ultimately have to judge the constitutionality of the HHS birth control mandate.
John F. Kippley, also at www.nfpandmore.org