Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bishop Duca of Shreveport: "Speak Out Against This Coercive Mandate"

Bishop Duca

From the Easter Reflection of Bishop Michael Duca of Shreveport, Louisiana:

This past Lent was a hard Lent for me, not in my personal acts of penance or commitments of charity, but in having to face the realities that MAY come our way if the new HHS mandates do not restore our freedom to exclude birth control and other morally objectionable abortafacients and procedures for sterilization from the health insurance we offers our employees.  I have had some ask, “Why are the bishops being so difficult? It is not that big of a deal.” But IT IS A BIG ISSUE. I ask that you take the time to carefully read the statement of the American bishops on the next page that gives a succinct explanation of the issue at hand.  Facing this as a bishop is challenging, but it has been difficult also on a personal level. I have always, from my first moments of awareness, always believed that being a good Catholic and being a good citizen were not only compatible but also mutually beneficial.  I have always been proud of the history of our dioceses and religious communities who brought medical care and hospitals to remote areas in a time when we were still a developing nation. I am proud of how we cared for immigrants and created an education system of Catholic schools and colleges that still excel academically. I have cherished and thankfully prayed for the freedom we enjoy as Catholics to worship God without interference and to administer our Catholic institutions in light of that same faith.  It is personally difficult to consider the possibility of having to decide between being a good citizen and being a good Catholic. This is the possible BIG DEAL that we are confronting as a Church.
Of course all these challenges to the Church bring to us an opportunity to consider the priority of our Catholic faith in our lives. This challenge to the freedom of religion, as big as it is, is nowhere near as big as the hope we proclaim in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, who was raised from the dead to save us from the darkness of sin and to take away the sting of death. In Jesus we have the true hope that gives our lives an eternal meaning, a hope that not even death can destroy. This same Lord comes to us in the celebration of the Mass as Eucharistic food, His true body and blood to strengthen us to become more like Christ each day.  This is the heart of the Church, it is our proclamation, our hope and our witness in the way we live our lives.  This is a freedom no one can take away.  So as difficult as my Lent has been I am not in any way without hope.  If it comes to a choice, I choose Christ.
Maybe the difference in the Easter greetings gives us some insight. Happy Easter is a good greeting but a somewhat generic one that can come off the tongue almost without thinking, and is certainly not expecting a substantial response.  Whereas the greeting “CHRIST IS RISEN!   HE IS RISEN INDEED!” can not easily be said without us being pulled into the mystery of our faith, without giving a public witness of our faith, without considering what I truly believe and how it is reflected in my life.  The greeting expects a response that ties us together in that faith, that unites us in the Church.
The challenges before the Church today are calling us to consider whether our Catholic faith is just a generic title that has little influence in our lives or whether our Catholic faith is something that we embrace with a love that influences our whole lives and that we give witness to in the way we live.  Speak out against this coercive mandate.  Do not be pulled into the media downplay of the issue but continue to speak out against it.  Give witness to your faith in your life.  Do not just hope for a Happy Easter, but rather pray for a faith in Jesus Risen from the dead and in His Church that moves us to proclaim:

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