Friday, August 24, 2012

Ask Your Bishop: "How Shall We Dissent?"

Thousands demonstrate in Phoenix against the HHS abortion mandate.
It's time to ask our bishops and other clergy to formulate a national strategy of opposition to the Obama administration's abortion mandate and other attacks on the nation's religious freedom, Father Marcel Guarnizo told the June 30 Fortnight for Freedom conference on the First Amendment held at Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia. Here are excerpts from Father Guarnizo's keynote address, urging letters to our religious leaders asking for guidance in this fight.

What Is to Be Done?
What is to be done? Our bishops have been calling for dissent.  I’ve heard and read many statements from, “This is the time of Henry VIII” to “We must do something.”  The times of Henry VIII were very difficult.  As you know, John Fisher was the one, lone bishop that survived that sort of persecution (survive morally, to stick by the truth).  But I don’t think we need to use too much hyperbole.  No one is talking about getting beheaded, no one is talking about any of these things right now.  I mean, to invoke Henry VIII in such things is not to take the question seriously.  They’ve talked about dissent and here we are talking about religious freedom. 

I think we need an educational campaign because a democracy cannot remain both free and ignorant.  There are far too many Americans who do not know what’s going on.  I think we should write letters to our bishops.  Dissent is not a strategy.  I was in the pro-life movement in the 90’s when we actually had civil disobedience and we had real dissent.  Dissent is not a strategy.  “We would like to know,” you should write your bishops, “what does dissent mean concretely?  What are we talking about when we say, ‘dissent’?  What are we going to do?  Are we going to have a tax protest?  Are we going to tell Catholics not to buy insurance?”

We need a real strategy because Obama could win the election and if he wins the election I don’t see how we will overturn this.  So, we need to clarify what we mean by dissent a.s.a.p.  It’s good that we’re speaking against the administration; it’s good that we’re speaking against this ObamaCare, but at this point we really need to figure out how we’re going to do this, in my opinion.  One good way to dissent, I would say, which would save us the trouble, is for bishops to put pressure on the governors to say, “We will not implement ObamaCare.”  So, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana has already said he is not going to prepare the exchanges, shorthand for he will not implement ObamaCare.  He didn’t say until when.  He didn’t say it was just up until November and then after November he would have to.  But in any case,  we should write bishops and tell them to write the governors to say we are not going to implement it because if they don’t implement it we won’t have to dissent.  They will do the dissent and we will support them.  They just say, “It doesn’t happen in Virginia.”  End of story.  They should go talk to their governors.  Bobby Jindal has said as much.  Bachmann and others are advocating and calling people.  Cantor is calling governors saying, “Do not implement it before November.” 
Exemption Is Not the Answer
The problem is what happens in November if Obama wins, of course.  Then you really have to make decisions if we’re really going to be paying for all of this.  I would say there will be some theologians who will try to argue that this is material cooperation but not formal cooperation and therefore it’s licit to cooperate.  I would argue that that is a complete ruse and remember that before this happened they were saying that was unacceptable.  If you later hear that it’s acceptable, morally acceptable, just go look at the articles when they said it was not acceptable.  What is also not acceptable is an exemption for the Catholic Church.  Morally speaking you can only ask for an exemption (and I told this to one cardinal who will remain unnamed, I think he didn’t like it very much) exemptions are not possible as a moral claim if the law is intrinsically evil or unjust.  So, I cannot ask as a Catholic Church to be exempt from slavery.  So you can enslave everybody else as long as we’re exempt.  You cannot ask if the Jewish people are made to wear the Star of David that we don’t say anything against that law as long as we’re exempt.  You can only ask for an exemption from a law that is just but that you have moral objections to, like war.  War could be just but it is true, the Quakers and others may have some moral objection and so they have a conscientious objection.  But war itself is not intrinsically evil.  You cannot ask for an exemption for something that is intrinsically evil if that is what we teach, and that is what we teach.  We have to fight something that is intrinsically evil.  Not only will we not accept an exemption, we will fight it.  And then we have to figure out how.  An exemption is morally incorrect for Catholic bishops. (In the beginning they were looking for an exemption and now they are not.  I am glad to see they are not.  I hope they hold their ground.) It is incorrect, because a parish could get an exemption; the pastor could get an exemption on his three employees in the rectory.  What happens to the Catholic businessman who runs a corporation, an office―he’s a dentist, he’s a doctor?  They’re as much a part of the Church as we are.  But they cannot ask for an exemption and they have to participate in intrinsically evil practices.  We’re always talking about the lay people and how important the lay people are.  No!  We stand with our people!  There’s no exemption for them, there’s no exemption from an intrinsically evil law, so there should be no exemption for us.  It’s a non-starter as a moral argument.  Furthermore, there are people who are not Catholic because the things that we’re objecting to can be perceived by any person of good will to be contrary to right reason, that they are evil.  They must be exempted.  And that means that everybody would have an exemption and therefore there would be no law.  So there’s no other choice than to fight the law in its totality, as being unjust and intrinsically evil. 

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