Theologian Fr. Edward Richard poses the question to Catholics facing the decision forced on us by the contraception mandate:
I Came to Bring Division
Recently, I have been in conversation with business people concerning the latest proposals on the Health and Human Services Mandate. Representatives from good-sized businesses in this state and other states have contacted me to discuss what the owners must do concerning the mandate requiring their employee insurance to cover contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. As things stand, there is no conscience protection that excludes individual business owners from the requirements to cover the immoral actions. This law is now in effect for these businesses. It will come into effect for Catholic schools, hospitals and agencies next year. Any business that employs over 50 employees has to provide insurance coverage, and any business that provides insurance coverage has to provide the immoral coverage. What is at stake here is the rights of conscience of individuals and business owners who do not want to participate in these acts. There are many good Catholics who find that providing contraceptive and abortifacient drug coverage would indeed violate their conscience. Moreover, knowing that these acts contradict and offend against God's teaching, they do not wish to be implicated in sin.
In a certain way, this situation is reflected in the Gospel, when Jesus tells us that no prophet is accepted in his native place. Elijah, the greatest of the OT prophets worked no miracles in Israel, but went to one widow in Sidon. Elisha cleansed one leper, a Syrian. Jesus' message to his Jewish hearers was that they refused to welcome the truth. On that account they could not witness its power. For them the truth remained hidden. For those righteous persons who follow God's law, there is a divine recompense in which God comes to their aid. Though they might suffer persecution, The Lord, in His time, comes to their rescue. The wicked, however, perish in their sins. As the psalmist says, God is their stronghold and fortress, their hope and their trust.
I am anxious about this situation. I think it is very serious. One of the worst aspects of all this is that we have some nominal Catholics, such as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, requiring other faithful Catholics to do immoral things. I am not quite sure what is going on from the government's point of view, but I would contextualize it this way. If the government wants to provide these anti-life drugs, it would be a simple thing to do. It could subsidize the pills and anyone could walk into a pharmacy and pick them up for, say, $1. Not that I think that's good either but, one has to ask why is all this being done this way? Why force the Catholic Church to violate its own teaching and individual faithful Catholics to violate their consciences when this could be done some other way? One could hardly rationalize that this action is not being directed specifically against the Catholic Church.
The government seems to be forcing our hand. You can either obey the government or God and His Church, but not both. If I am to be a faithful Catholic, I am going to be punished for it. This is now the reality. Some companies are already being threatened with enormous fines. My anxiety then, is for us, even our own parish and Church at large. How will this divide us? At then end of the day, will our politics overshadow our faith? Will brother be pitted against brother, bishop against bishop, priest against priest, father against son, mother against daughter, as we hear of in the Gospel? If the Church is forced into civil disobedience, I ask you, in your heart of hearts, will you stand with her? If you are a business owner with insurance coverage for your employees, what will you do? If you are not a business owner, are you concerned that your inaction might make the brother or sister in the pew next to you, violate his or her conscience?
I make you this promise and prophecy in regard to the Church. I echo the words of The Lord to Jeremiah: “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass against the whole land; against ... kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”