“We are all Catholics now.”
That’s from Glenn Beck, a person I don’t listen to often, for a variety of reasons. Interesting clip, though, which I found via The Daily Eudemon. That line is towards the end and echoes something I’ve been saying for months now regarding military chaplains and the now ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of gays in the military. The Catholic chaplains have a very large, very united, very explicit Magisterium to protect them from government pressure.
That’s not to say that the government won’t apply any pressure, or won’t try to use the typical American Catholic’s unorthodox attitude against it (see the HHS Mandate controversy as governmental SOP in how to divide and conquer the Catholic Church). And it’s not to say that the government won’t win this battle, either. But if the Magisterium, that is, the teaching authority of the Church as a whole (not just the American slice of it), remains firm (as I expect it should, since it is Divinely protected), then devout priests (and lay people) will have it to cling to, regardless of what happens in the American political scene. The USCCB might lose, but the USCCB is not the Catholic Church. A priest (or lay person) might be persecuted, but in the global picture, his side will win. It is much easier to be a
martyr foot soldier, if you know you are Right (with a capital R) and have confidence that your side will, eventually, be victorious.
Conservative, non-Catholic chaplains in the military are already fearing for their freedom of religion and facing perceived pressure to not be opposed to gay marriage. Oh, the government hasn’t said – yet – that they must perform such weddings. But some are getting the message that to be openly opposed to gay marriage would be harmful to their career. And they have no Magisterium to shield them. While American Catholics can point to the USCCB, who, frankly, is unproven and unpredictable in battle against the government, and say, “They aren’t where the buck stops,” few Protestants have an international church that is as clear and consistent in its teachings as the Catholic Church. 2000 years of saying the exact same thing over and over again has a lot of weight.
The burden of protecting religious freedom in America falls on the Catholic Church. If the government can get the USCCB to submit to its demands, whether that be the HHS mandate or gay marriage or any other issue, true freedom of religion will cease to exist in the United States. And compromise equates with submission. There is no middle ground here when the government mandates things contrary to Church teaching: either we obey our God or we obey our government.
I started watching (again) a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant theologian in Germany during WWII. I only watched about 15 minutes the last time I tried (before falling asleep), but last night got about halfway through before going to bed. A good deal of the movie so far shows how the Protestant churches fell in line with the Nazis from the beginning for a variety of reasons, and how the Catholic bishops in Germany reached a “Konkordant,” an agreement where each organization would basically leave each other alone and not say anything bad about the other.
I suppose it is easy to look back now and point out their naivete. The point is that if the government can marginalize religion, remove it as a player in the political scene, then it becomes free to violate all human freedoms, not just religious ones.
My bishop had his pastors read another letter this past Sunday, and my pastor concluded the reading by asking that we be aware and informed of what is going on. The bishop asked for prayers for the Catholic groups who have filed suit against the government and the HHS Mandate, although our diocese is not one of them. I fear too many Catholics, even those who attend Mass every Sunday, do not see the big picture, don’t know the issues, or listen to the media who portrays the HHS Mandate issue as a freedom to use birth control issue, and not a freedom of religion issue. The government is banking on this. If the bishops do not have the support of the lay people, it will be a much harder battle.
Just ask any lay Catholic who has been fighting these issues for decades with no help from the bishops.