The State Ruling the Church
This past Sunday, January 29, Roman Catholic congregations were read letters opposing the Obama administration's demand that all Catholic universities and Catholic-based charities make sure they provide all employees access to health insurance providing artificial contraception, including abortifacients and sterilization services such as vasectomies and tubal ligations. The "morning after" pill is also included.
The clerics' fiery rebukes follow Pope Benedict XVI's January 19 speech in which he warned the Catholic Church of the increasing threats of radical secularism's intrusion into politics and culture. The Holy Father specifically mentioned the U.S. church's need to be afforded conscientious objection to the administration's demand for compliance within one year.
No serious observer can believe that the administration's real goal is to ensure the acceptance or availability of contraception.
Everyone knows that anyone who wants contraceptives has easy access to such measures even if he or she does not have a health plan that provides for them. The local friendly drugstore has aisles stacked to the ceiling with condoms and other "family planning" measures, while clinics such as Planned Parenthood hand out birth control pills and abortions with abandon -- sometimes even to underage girls, as damning videos taken by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles have shown.
No, the real issue is not birth control or the provision of it.
The central issue is government intimidation of and control over religious institutions. It is government's overriding of the consciences of Catholics and members of other denominations who oppose abortifacients and sterilization.
The 2013 deadline for Catholic institutions to conform to the health care mandate is the proverbial governmental foot in the door for controlling religious institutions -- actually, for controlling all people of faith who disagree with the administration's stance toward abortion.
For the truth of the matter is that the U.S. government's intrusion into religious organizations, if not halted at this stage, will continue to press even harder for even more sacrifices of conscience. The next step on the part of the government will almost certainly force all religious institutions to provide access to health care insurance that provides coverage of surgical abortions. The administration's demands are only the first salvo in what is bound to be a continuing battle between the federal government and churches if ObamaCare continues its trajectory and is not dismantled.
But there are even worse consequences if the government continues to try to coerce the church against its conscience and doctrines of faith and practice. If the push to force the churches into positions compromising its rules of faith and practice succeeds, and the church capitulates, there is absolutely no church or church institution the government will not seek to control completely.
By insisting that the state override matters of conscience and faith established by the Church, the U.S. federal government will have followed the examples of tyrannous regimes which have sought to seek to establish government power over the Church. It will essentially be requiring what totalitarian regimes everywhere require of the Church -- namely, no separation of Church and state. There will be only the State.
The present pope, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, has fully understood from the experiences of his youth while in Nazi Germany -- and from the experiences of his good friend and predecessor Pope John Paul II while under Nazi rule in Poland during WWII -- just what happens when the state dictates its policies to the Church. Both popes knew what it was like to live under a regime which reversed the roles of Church and state. Both saw the Church crushed under oppression.
The Christian view of the Church is that it must act in freedom. It must be free to stand apart from the government and act as the conscience of the state and its citizens. The state is never to act as the arbiter of the conscience of the church. The Church renders to Caesar what is Caesar's, and nothing more, as all else is rendered to God. The Church remains transcendent as God's kingdom, above all earthly powers.
Otherwise, when Caesar controls the Church and its entire hierarchy of bishops, cardinals, and even popes, all are forced to salute and to submit to the state, as this famous photo of Catholic clergy offering Nazi stiff armed salute to Hitler illustrates.
If they do not rise up in civil rebellion against this administration's demands, what will become of the Catholic Church and other denominations in America?
The answer to that question is as follows: they will cease to be the Church in any significant way.
And without the Church and people of good faith everywhere in all denominations acting as the conscience of our nation, our constitutional Republic will also cease to exist.
Fay Voshell holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.