In a Feb. 26 Lenten message appearing in the Archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal George warns that unless the mandate is rescinded, the Church will be “despoiled of her institutions” - her hospitals, universities and social services - and freedom of conscience and of religion will become "a memory from a happier past.”
“So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society," he writes. "The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.”
As a result of this unjust law, a Catholic institution will have one of four choices, he writes: "1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down …" � He goes on to point out that freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union.
"You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society."
Unfortunately, liberal lawmakers and media are framing the subject in a deceptive way by focusing the public's attention on "reproductive issues" in an effort to distract them from the real issue - an infringement of religious liberty.
"Many will recognize in these moves a tactic now familiar in our public life: those who cannot be co-opted are isolated and then destroyed," he writes.
"Practically, we’re told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin," he points out.
But one of the strangest accusations in this "manipulated public discussion" is that the bishops are not respecting the separation between church and state.
"The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church."
He goes on to suggest that the faithful purchase the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012 "as a souvenir."
"On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, administrators and religious sponsors. Each name signifies the love of Christ to people of all classes and races and religions. Two Lents from now, unless something changes, that page will be blank."
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