Having failed to convince American Catholics to follow their hard-line ban on contraception, American Catholic bishops are ignoring the consciences of those who work for them by seeking to impose their extremist beliefs on all women, Catholic or otherwise.

The current issue of course is the January 20th announcement by the Obama administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, that religious organizations could delay but not opt out of a requirement that all health plans cover contraception and sterilization in health-insurance coverage.

Catholic bishops across the United States have begun not just a spirited but a fierce anti-Obama administration campaign.

New York’s next cardinal, Archbishop Timothy Dolan feels “terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed.” In Phoenix, on January 25th, Bishop Thomas Olmsted declared: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.”

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, in a column titled “To hell with you,” wrote that the Obama administration is saying: “To hell with your religious beliefs. To hell with your religious liberty. To hell with your freedom of conscience. We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under.”

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., enlisted the aid of St. Michael the Archangel in fighting “this unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our faith.” In a January 24th letter to Catholics in Peoria, Bishop Jenky has mandated that the prayer of St. Michael be recited “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America” during Sunday Masses at every parish, school, hospital, Newman center, and religious house in the diocese. Older Catholics will remember that that prayer ends: “Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil” and “cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

What’s happening here?

Who’s view of reality is more “real”?

Who’s understanding of “conscience” is more authentic.

Where do we go from here?

With all due respect to bishops Dolan, Olmsted, Zubik, and Jenky, I find the vision of my old moral theologian hero, Bernhard Häring, much more real and certainly much more hope-giving:

“Despite a certain trend towards conservatism in parts of the church and society, I am convinced that we have moved into a new era that will be determined by people who live by their own conscience and are particularly qualified to act as discerning members of community and society…the era in which almost everyone was content to be born and to live as a member of a certain church or ‘organized religion’ is over. The people who will shape the future of believers of all religions are those who have the courage to make their own choice, whatever pain may be involved, and to do so with personal responsibility.”


7 thoughts on “American Catholics : To Hell Wih You!

  1. Every time a Roman bishop or the Vatican raises their voice over issues of conscience or freedom of religion I cringe and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. They are among the most repressive and offensive folks on the planet when it comes to these issues. Obviously, they don’t see the huge log in their own eyes as they yell and scream about the splinter in the eyes of others.
    Dear God, save us from the self-righteous, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I couldn’t agree more, both with the article and the above comment. I do not look forward to reading the bishop’s letter at Masses this weekend.

  3. This is a non-issue. No one’s conscience is being violated here. The government is simply saying that if a corporation is going to provide insurance, it has to provide for all. Bishops like Olmsted are using this non-issue to help unseat Pres. Obama. Appealing mostly to non-thinking Catholics in Ohio during the 2004 presidential campaign, the bishops told their people that John Kerry wasn’t a good Catholic, and that was enough to swing Ohio and, therefore, the entire election toward George Bush. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, I did not hear any bishop saying we should withhold the taxes that paid for the war on the grounds that, if we did, we’d be violating our consciences.

  4. That’s like saying that in pre-Vatican II days, the Bishops should have complained when eaing meat on Friday was not against the law for everyone!!!
    It would have been seen as a blatant violation of OTHER PEOPLE’S rights by the Hierarchy…
    Same thing here!!!

  5. The bishops stance is just more blind obedience to Rome interfering in U.S. politics. What makes their claim that the government is “violating the consciences of American Catholics” so ludicrious is the hierarchy’s criticism of over 80% of U.S. catholics who have followed their consciencies in rejecting “Humanae Vitae.” The Sensus Fidelium of the U.S. Catholic Church has consistently rejected the hierarchy’s teaching on artificial contraception. So now the bishops who cannot convince the vast majority of the catholic laity about opposing artificial contraception are trying to convince the electorate including non-catholics to support “Rome’s cause.”
    It is just a “red herring” to all, but a blind infallible absolutist minority of catholics who continue to support the holiness of the hierarchy in spite of the hierarchy’s crimes of sodomy against children.
    Free enterpise Insurance companies should be allowed to offer contraceptive services at all hospitals, and let the free maket choices of individuals prevail. That may not be Rome’s way, but it is the American way.

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