Jan 22, 2012
Free to be Faithful
The Old Testament reading for today speakers of creating the right environment in our community whereupon we can repent of our sins. The Gospel speaks of responding to the call of Christ who asks his disciples to free follow him and be faithful to His Message. Repentance of sins and the freedom to follow Christ's call are the bedrock of our faith. The opportunity to freely respond and be faithful to our heart's desire for God is enshrined in our American history.
Our Declaration of Independence reflects our nation's founding principles of personal and religious freedom - the freedom of one's own conscience to direct our own lives in the direction of truth. It clearly states (and we know these words, and we should know them by heart): "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
This is ironic. Although the birth of this great nation owes its beginning to a pilgrim people who sought to find a land, an environment, free from government interference in their religious beliefs, and thereupon set up this unique structure of government to protect religious freedom, during this past week in particular, with one stroke of a pen, the government in Washington has now turned off the oxygen on religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
This is dangerously reflected in a decision by President Obama's Administration now demanding that sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and artificial contraception be included in virtually all and every health care plan. Take, for example, the health care plan offered by a religious institution, such as a Catholic school or a Catholic hospital. Our Catholic institutions are now being forced to provide coverage for abortion drugs and sterilizations. The administration's edict gives one year for religious institutions to revise their health care plans. In the words of the archbishop of New York, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."
And these are the words of our former metropolitan Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahoney, and he spells it out load and clear. He says, and I quote,
"For me there is no other fundamental issue as important as this one as we enter into the Presidential and Congressional campaigns. Every candidate must be pressed to declare his/her position on all of the fundamental life issues, especially the role of government to determine what conscience decision must be followed: either the person’s own moral and conscience decision, or that dictated/enforced by the Federal government. For me the answer is clear: we stand with our moral principles and heritage over the centuries, not what a particular Federal government agency determines."
The Cardinal continues, reminding everyone that clergy, of course, do not recommend political candidates. He also adds, and I personally concur, when he says, "My vote on November 6 will be for the candidate for President of the United States and members of Congress who intend to recognize the full spectrum of rights under the many conscience clauses of morality and public policy. If any candidate refuses to acknowledge and to promote those rights, then that candidate will not receive my vote."
And I agree. I would also add, that when these issues are brought up in the public square by a clergyman or a religious institution, you can expect that many of those who are opposed or indifferent to the protection of vulnerable human life, and especially many of those who might benefit financially by sponsorship or endorsement from abortion-providing organizations, will cite the "separation of church and state." This has nothing to do with the institution of the church and the state. This has everything to do with the individual and the state, the pregnant mother and the state, the rights of very man, woman, child and baby, regardless of their religion, and the state.
The crisis in our nation is not an economic crisis. It's a moral crisis, the crisis of a great nation that came into existence and is held together by religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
After receiving an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, President Obama stood in front of the graduating class of 2009 and said, referring to health care reform, "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause". A couple of months later, the president reiterated, “.. my underlying position has always been consistent, which is I’m a believer in conscience clauses. I was a supporter of a robust conscience clause in Illinois for Catholic hospitals and health-care providers. I discussed with Cardinal George (the archbishop of Chicago) when he was here in the Oval Office, and I reiterated my support for an effective conscience clause in my speech at Notre Dame.” It is my observation, sadly, that the president has broken his word and went back on his promise.
As a pastor of souls, I would suggest that all of us, from the holder of the highest office in the country, to the priest in this pulpit, to every Catholic in the pew, as recorded in the Gospel today, to take heed and respond to the very first word uttered by Christ as he began his public ministry, ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel".