Monday, June 18, 2012

The Courant And Catholics


The magisterium of the Hartford Courant -- its editorial board -- has issued a pronouncement on the matter of an interpretation of a federal bill by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that would require Catholic institutions to assist in dispensing birth control pills and abortifacients.
The ex-cathedra pronouncement from Courant editors opens with the following lede:
“Roman Catholic protests against certain requirements of the health care reform law, though heartfelt, are misplaced. No one’s first amendments rights are being compromised, and – despite loud cries to the contrary – religious liberty is not in jeopardy…”
There are at the moment numerous suits filed by Catholic prelates and institutions challenging the constitutionality of Ms. Sebelius’ interpretation of the Obamacare bill. The Supreme Court is due to rule on the bill before its session closes at the end of June. The Obamacare bill very well may be unconstitutional, in which case the entire bill will be overthrown – because the Solons who wrote the law did not include in it a severability clause that would have permitted its authors to retain portions of the bill not deemed unconstitutional by the high court.
While the Courant’s obiter dictum that “no one’s First Amendment rights are being compromised” certainly is heartfelt, it is premature. A late Associated Press report advises that the Obama administration is taking precautions should the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional.

One of the objections made by Catholic bishops to Ms. Sebelius’ interpretation of the Obamacare bill is that the state should not be permitted to determine the mission of any Christian Church.  And by “church” the bishops mean “both clerics and laity united in the faith.”
In connection with the Catholic Church, G. K. Chesterton speaks of the “democracy of the dead,” and it is a common belief among Catholics that their “church” includes all who, from the beginning of the world, have believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace, a very large assembly indeed
Since pre-Civil War days, churches and the American state have developed a tender political ecology that leaves both state and church unentangled in a church-state alliance, so that churches could enjoy the wide door of liberty vouchsafed to them by that clause in the First amendment that prevents the state from restricting the free exercise of religion, as determined by religious institutions. As soon as one allows the state to fix in law the mission of a church, this organic political accommodation is overthrown, and the authoritarian state then is permitted to determine the boundaries of religious expression, a commonplace occurrence in all fascist authoritarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union or present day China.
Brave Courant editorialists do not fear to enter—with hobnailed boots -- where the better angels of our natures, not to mention those of the founders of the nation and the U.S. Constitution, fear to tread.

 “When operating colleges and hospitals,” the Courant magisterium writes, “Catholics step out of a purely religious setting into one that must comply with the laws of the country, which may not necessarily be the laws of the church. The Church of Rome, for example, admits only men to the priesthood; but when Catholic colleges or hospitals hire administrators, they must adhere to federal laws forbidding employment discrimination on the basis of sex.”

No one has yet suggested to Courant editorialists that since for purposes of law Catholic administrators consider priests to be independent contractors, the Roman Catholic Church SHOULD be forced by the civil authority to hire women as priests. Nothing in its editorial interpretation would forestall such a use of force.

What the paper is saying is this: In any Catholic institution – a university or a hospital, to mention but two instances – in which Catholics mix with non-Catholics,  the Catholic layperson loses his or her Catholic character and therefore is no longer entitled to the constitutional protections afforded Catholics who find themselves in an unadulterated religious setting such as a mass.
This view not only radically redefines the mission of a church; it redefines the meaning of the very concept of a church – which, in the Catholic understanding, is the unity of clergy and laity in the faith.  Under the Catholic definition of a “church,” a Catholic non-cleric is not less Catholic than a priest. And religious obligations weigh upon him or her no less heavily than they weigh upon church administrators.
It is absolute nonsense – a radical categorical mistake, a form of linguistic anarchy – to say that a Catholic cannot be Catholic in a partly secular setting. It would be like saying a Courant editorialist ceases to be an editorial writer when he is not writing editorials or that the sun ceases to be a sun at night or that blue is really red when it is found beside red in a child’s paint box.

Catholicism, which is an articulation of the historic church, inheres in people, not buildings. A Catholic does not become less Catholic when he leaves a church service and goes forth into the world to live his faith by establishing Catholic universities and hospitals and services for the poor. And the radical secular, anti-Catholic, re-interpretation of a church -- the operative principle of Obamacare -- applies not just to Catholics, but to all religious laypersons, whatever their creed. Obamacare severly punishes Christians and obliges them to abjure the precepts of their faith when they work in a Christian institutions that has in it one non-professing Christian.

The Courant concludes its editorial by deploring the “various groups”  -- mostly Christians adhering to Matthew 5:16 – for having created a muddle: “The arguments over the adherence to the health care reform law is muddled by various groups’ claims that abortion is somehow involved. It isn’t. Birth control, and only birth control, is the issue.”
However, all of the arguments put forward by Courant editorialists to thwart Catholic opposition to birth control in Catholic institutions apply with event more force to abortion, which directly involves health issues. Why would a law forcing Catholic hospitals to provide patients with abortifacients not also force the same Catholic institutions to provide abortions?

Courant editorialists are not jesuitical enough to carve out an exception prohibiting abortions in Catholic hospitals that would not also prohibit such institutions from providing abortifacients or other forms of contraception. This is the next step for radical social anarchists who seek to so narrowly circumscribe religious faith that it will have no effect on the brave new world of their dreams. Once the nose of Ms. Sebelius’ the camel is in the tent, it will push out all religious based social restraints.

The authoritarian state, on its way to fascism, cannot abide such mediating religious institutions as Christian hospitals, schools and soup kitchens. All good works must either originate or be heavily regulated by the fascist or corporatist state as defined by Benito Mussolini: “Everything in the state; nothing outside the state; nothing above the state.”
The new Brave New World of Orwell awaits its administrators, its Newspeak and its radical redefinition of liberty – liberty for me, not for thee.

2 comments:

dmoelling said...

The American Catholic Church by and large is not guilty of the love of authoritarian states many of the European bishops were/are (see France, Vichy), so should be better aware of the perils to the Church of cozying up to secular authority. The Courant doesn't worry about collaborationist Bishops (the Catholic Worker Left provides plenty of those) but fears Catholic doctrine might confuse the poor sheep. The whole abortion/birth control issue takes a higher place in the Courant's thinking than the next god of single payer. The idea that you might be asked to walk down the street to CVS for your birth control pills (or Walmart) and pony up the price of a few packs of Marlboros is frightening to the Blue State.

Don Pesci said...

Right. Have you also noticed that the whole of the Courant commentary on the Catholic Church – editorials, positive stories supporting barely disguised attacks, McEnroe’s columns (He used to be the Courant’s religious editor), the columns of the recently departed Susan Campbell – is deeply marked with a kind of Nietzschean ressentiment, one of the characteristic marks of our age.

Here is Nietzsche on ressentiment:

“(T)he problem with the other origin of the ‘good,’ of the good man, as the person of ressentiment has thought it out for himself, demands some conclusion. It is not surprising that the lambs should bear a grudge against the great birds of prey, but that is no reason for blaming the great birds of prey for taking the little lambs. And when the lambs say among themselves, ‘These birds of prey are evil, and he who least resembles a bird of prey, who is rather its opposite, a lamb,—should he not be good?’ then there is nothing to carp with in this ideal's establishment, though the birds of prey may regard it a little mockingly, and maybe say to themselves, ‘We bear no grudge against them, these good lambs, we even love them: nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.’"

And even better, Kierkegaard:

“The ressentiment which is establishing itself is the process of levelling, and while a passionate age storms ahead setting up new things and tearing down old, razing and demolishing as it goes, a reflective and passionless age does exactly the contrary: it hinders and stifles all action; it levels. Levelling is a silent, mathematical, and abstract occupation which shuns upheavals. ... If the jewel which everyone desired to possess lay far out on a frozen lake where the ice was very thin, watched over by the danger of death, while, closer in, the ice was perfectly safe, then in a passionate age the crowds would applaud the courage of the man who ventured out, they would tremble for him and with him in the danger of his decisive action, they would grieve over him if he were drowned, they would make a god of him if he secured the prize. But in an age without passion, in a reflective age, it would be otherwise. People would think each other clever in agreeing that it was unreasonable and not even worthwhile to venture so far out. And in this way they would transform daring and enthusiasm into a feat of skill, so as 'to do something, for something must be done.'”