Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bishop Johnston: Abortion, Sterilization and Contraception Are Wrong

Bishop James V. Johnston, Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Bishop James V. Johnston

“Have You Fairly Considered, and Are Living, the Church’s Consistent Teaching on the Moral Issues of Abortion, Contraception, and Sterilization?”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, We are facing a grave and unprecedented attack today on the religious freedom we enjoy in the United States. The Obama Administration, through the US Department of Health and Human Services, has recently imposed a nationwide mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures.
For over 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taught that abortion, sterilization, and contraception are wrong.

In fact, less than 90 years ago, all Christian congregations morally objected to these practices. However, sadly today, and despite the fact that the Church’s position has never wavered on these issues, the views of many Catholics on them is no different than those of most non-believers. Perhaps this is why the Obama Administration has chosen this moment in history to try to force the Catholic Church, as well as other communities of faith, to act against basic moral convictions. Given the fact that many of our own people do not subscribe to what the Church teaches, does the Administration assume that most of our faithful will not care? I hope you prove them wrong.

First, I invite you to examine whether you have fairly considered, and are living, the Church’s consistent teaching on the moral issues of abortion, contraception, and sterilization. The Catholic Church will never yield in her defense of both the sacredness of human life and the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love. This is a moment where each of us will be called to take a stand either for or against the Church. My prayer is that this will be a moment of recommitment, deeper conversion, and reconfirmation of our faith by the Holy Spirit; a period of grace which always accompanies times of difficulty in the life of the Church.

Second, I ask you to take action to prevent the government from punishing us for living what we believe. Many brothers and sisters of varying faiths join us in this important effort, as well as other persons of good will. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

By this rule, the Obama Administration intends to force the Catholic Church to act against its basic moral convictions. This rule will force Christian employers to offer abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. By this rule, the Obama Administration casts aside the long-standing respect our government has shown in not forcing churches to act against their religious beliefs.

We cannot—and we will not—comply with this unjust law. I call on all Catholics in our diocese to act now to seek the immediate reversal of this rule.
Contact President Barack Obama and express your profound disappointment in the new contraceptive and abortion mandate.

The Obama Compromise
The so-called compromise appears to be a concession by the administration of nothing, other than an administrative shifting of labels so as to give the Church the appearance of not providing the immoral services. In effect, the insurance companies will be required to provide the mandated services, but the Church will still be complicit in their provision. Furthermore, the president’s compromise does nothing to address those Catholic entities that self-insure, or those individuals who provide health insurance to employees, and who also object on moral grounds. In the end, this is still a grave attack on religious freedom—the state mandating what religious institutions and individuals must do, even if it is directly opposed to their beliefs.

Typically, when a compromise is reached, the parties with a dispute come together, at their own initiative or through an arbiter, and reach an agreement they both can accept. In this case, the administration did not consult with the Catholic bishops, the official teachers and representatives of the Catholic Church, but rather appears to have met with a few select people involved with Catholic charitable and health-care organizations. It is notable that the administration released these persons’ statements of approval before announcing the “compromise,” and before the bishops had been given a chance to see it.

Only the beginning
I get the sense that the administration is attempting to marginalize the bishops’ voice, and to divide the Catholic faithful along partisan lines. This dispute was not brought on by the US bishops, but by the unnecessary and unprecedented action of the government. The problem remains. Catholics of all political preferences, and all Americans of good will, should insist that the mandate be fully rescinded. Otherwise, freedom of religion will be further eroded, and we can expect more government mandates which violate our consciences in the future.

For more information on what the Church in Missouri is doing on the HHS mandate or how to respond, log on to, or contact the Missouri Catholic Conference at (573) 635-7239.

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