This year, Catholics in America were challenged. The HHS mandate, instructing Catholic organizations to provide their workers with healthcare, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion, threw religious freedom back in the face of the faithful Catholic populace, whose religious beliefs condemn these practices as grave violations of human life and love. To see how Catholics have responded to the HHS mandate, check out these political cartoons.
"Who Are We?: Catholic Faith in Light of the HHS Mandate" asks us to ask ourselves the reason for this outrageous offense, which really represents something much bigger: a cultural gravitation away from God. In asking us to do this, Pete Jermann, Crisis Magazine writer, takes us back to an unlikely place: The Old Testament.
We may sometimes see the God of the Old Testament as some kind of angry and distracted monarch who stumbles onto the scene occasionally, smiting a sinner or two, and leaving with cryptic verses about blessings and curses. What is up with this God, who never seems to get along with "His" people, and always seems to be tossing out arbitrary "rules" that no one seems to follow? In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the "mediator" who makes sense of what seems to be a mess. This is the reason why most people have an emotional attachment to the New Testament, much more than to the Old. So what of the Old Testament? Though God's rules may have appeared arbitrary, what we have to realize is that, even in the Old Testament, God is love, and as the article states, love is never arbitrary.
What does this have to do with the HHS mandate, and America today? This is explained in the second half of the article. In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, the well renowned encyclical letter that challenged birth control (if you want to go for it, you can read it here). Poor Paul VI. I think it's telling that in Star Wars and the History of Vatican II (another excellent and hilarious read, for anyone interested in modern Church history and/or Star Wars), Paul VI is analogized with Obi-Wan Kenobi, the brilliant Jedi master who was left in charge of a rebellious youth after his own master's death; whose young charge was turned to the Dark Side right under his nose. Likewise, Paul VI was left with the responsibility of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) from his predecessor Blessed John XXIII; and who obliviously let it become corrupted in the hands of a rebellious world (important note: this is not to say that the council itself was in any way corrupted, the corruption lay in what the people did with it). His Humanae Vitae was greeted with much the same air of mockery, confusion, and disinterest by many (a November 1968 Time Magazine cover featuring the past Holy Father can be seen here). Many regarded him as simply an angry old man, making up arbitrary rules…sound familiar?
Besides explaining why this view is simply nonsense, both as it applies to the God of the Old Testament, and to the beliefs upheld by the Catholic Church today, the Crisis article asks us if we should really be surprised. It particularly drives home the point of trust. We, as Catholics…no, heh, I guess I'd like to take back my opening statement (you weren't going to let me get away with it were you?). Because contraception, sterilization, and abortion aren't just "Catholic Crimes". They're crimes against human life and human sexuality, against ALL of us, whether we want to admit it or not, and thus mandates such as this recent one should shock ALL of us. But they don't. They're convenient.
So let me rephrase my statement. We, as human beings in America have not trusted our God. This is the connection the article wants us to make: like the Hebrews in the desert, like the confused disciples who left Christ over his Bread of Life discourse, like the Confederate Civil War soldiers who thought they needed slavery to survive, we cling to our own shallow desires, for fear that God won't be enough to satisfy…a strange kind of insanity called Original Sin.
Saints and sinners, virtues and vices, have shaped our country. At the moment our country is under attack like never before. An attack that has been going on, in some form, throughout our history, whether in the tyranny of England, or the tyranny of slaveholders. But now it's attacking the building block of society: the family. Separating making life from making love, recreating our bodies so they are incapable of making life, and finally ripping life from the womb of it's mother, butchering it, and using what's left (alive or dead, mind you) for "scientific" research. This is the battle. This is the battle that will be recorded in American history books, as the great battle against our most bloodthirsty enemy: the Culture of Death. This is not just a battle of religion, but a battle of and for humans…no, humanity itself.
History is being made every day. How will you change it?