Confronting Religious Persecution in America: Neither Apostasy nor Dhimmitude!
Every single U.S. Catholic bishop -- 100% of America's dioceses -- has strongly denounced the religious persecution expressed in the rules promulgated January 20, 2012 by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), in connection with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly dubbed "Obamacare." Other major religious figures like Dr. Albert Mohler quickly followed suit. 1
Christians Should Fight Back, Not Apostatize
Indeed, according to these rules, health plans are obliged to provide "all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods [and] sterilization procedures," 2 some of which are de facto abortifacients.
The rules provide for a religious exemption which is so narrow that it excludes, for example, most Catholic health institutions. As a result, the ruling puts at risk the quality of healthcare in America since, according to the 2009 American Hospital Association Annual Survey, Catholic institutions comprise some 12.7 percent of the nation's hospitals. Every year, some 5.6 million people are admitted to these medical facilities.
However, not only Catholic organizations, schools and hospitals are affected by this HHS ruling but all Catholic employers. With such very limited exemptions—the survival of which is uncertain given the growing judicial activism—it is fair to say that the HHS edict affects all God-fearing Americans.
The bishops highlight that the new HHS rules place Catholics in a dilemma: either violate their consciences and the divine mandate to preach the Gospel to all peoples (Mark 16:15), or stop providing healthcare coverage thereby incurring heavy penalties. As for the first option, the bishops state: "We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law." 3 However, the second option is unacceptable since penalties may prove to be "so large they could drive some Catholic employers out of business." 4 These fines imposed on those refusing to violate their consciences are tantamount to reducing God-fearing Americans to a state of dhimmitude.
In this statement, we use the term "dhimmitude" analogously. Dhimmitude is the status of subjection applied to Christians and Jews in the countries conquered by Islam. "Adult male dhimmis were required to pay a tax on their income and sometimes on their land. Restrictions and regulations in dress, occupation, and residence were often applied." [John L. Esposito, s.v. "Dhimmi," in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) pp. 67-68.] Although in general, at present, the taxes have been abolished, Christians in Muslim countries continue to live in a state of constant restriction and persecution. [Cf. Robert Spencer, ed., The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2005).]
Rejecting these two unacceptable alternatives, the protesting American bishops are proposing a third one. They are calling upon all Catholics and men of good will to vigorously engage in the political process to reverse this unjust government diktat that subverts the First Amendment rights of all. They ask Americans to put their muscle behind the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act bill introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467).
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP) takes the issue further and urges all Americans to address the root problem and abolish socialist "Obamacare" altogether.
Secularism and Socialism
As many bishops have noted, the ideology that lurks behind this measure is secularism. It is hostile to religion and denies the spiritual life and the supernatural.
This secularism, which hails from the Enlightenment philosophies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, naturally develops into socialism, which is presented as man's complete liberation from all submission to divine authority.
In fact, socialism not only rejects God but replaces Him with the State. For socialists, the State is almighty, all-knowing and absolute. Unlike Divine Providence, which governs men lovingly, respecting their true freedom as children of God, the socialist State is dictatorial and totalitarian. It is a police state.
The new anti-religious rules implementing "Obamacare" are a natural consequence of this law's socialistic and statist inspiration. In face of the almighty State, neither individuals nor institutions, whether civil or religious, have true freedom.
Since the State is considered to be the source of everything, human liberties are seen as mere "concessions" that the State can take away as it pleases.
Broaden the Fight: Abolish "Obamacare"
For this reason, in spite of the abject failure of socialism wherever it was tried, "Obamacare" entrusts the State with healthcare in America.
Accordingly, while we ardently support our bishops' struggle for the sacred freedom to practice God's Commandments and the various well-meaning legislative bills introduced, we insist on the only true and enduring solution: eliminate socialist State control over healthcare.
We Must Fight in a Spirit of Faith
Our models are Our Lord Jesus Christ, resolutely carrying His Cross to Calvary; and Mary Most Holy who followed her Divine Son in that culminating struggle that purchased our redemption.
Marked with the sign of the Cross, all Catholics must devote their lives to bearing witness to Truth and strive without compromise to uphold the faith in the public square. This is the meaning of the commitment assumed by all at baptism and a consequence of the honor of being Christian.
The struggle is all the more imperative because the very freedom of the Catholic Church in our country is at stake, along with all the other legitimate freedoms that socialism destroys.
We must legally and peacefully fight for our rights everywhere. We must participate in rallies and demand that our elected political leaders respect our religious rights. We must fight with a supernatural conviction and courage that comes from grace obtained through prayer, the sacraments and sacrifice.
Under the Patronage of St. Michael the Archangel
Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, bishop of Peoria, Ill., took the excellent initiative of ordering the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel composed by Pope Leo XIII to be recited during all Sunday Masses celebrated in his diocese. He has asked all his priests to announce as the prayer intention "for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America."
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
"It is God's invincible Archangel who commands the heavenly host, and it is the enemies of God who will ultimately be defeated," the bishop said in a January 24 letter to the Catholics of his diocese.5
Bishop Jenky's request inspires us to place this campaign to abolish "Obamacare" under the patronage of the glorious Archangel and we encourage all Americans to recite the prayer daily.
We also ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception and Patroness of the United States, to intercede for us in this great struggle.
1. Ben Johnson, “Southern Baptist leader: Obama Contraception mandate ‘is not only a Catholic issue’,” LifeSiteNews.com, Feb. 2, 2012, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/southern-baptist-leader-obama-contraception-mandate-is-not-only-a-catholic, accessed Feb. 2, 2012. Dr. Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
2. “Affordable Care Act Rules on Expanding Access to Preventive Services for Women,” Aug. 1, 2011, http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html, accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
3. Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr, Jan. 25, 2012 letter to the faithful of the Cincinnati archdiocese, at http://www.cincinnativocations.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/hhs-response.pdf, accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
4. Archbishop José H. Gomez, “A Time for Catholic Action and Catholic Voices,” Jan. 25, 2012, First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/01/a-time-for-catholic-action-and-catholic-voices, accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
5. Kevin J. Jones, “Contraception mandate prompts Peoria bishop to instate St. Michael Prayer,” Jan. 27, 2012, EWTN News, http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=4749, accessed Feb. 2, 2012.