Monday, February 6, 2012

When You Get in Bed With The Devil…

Roman Catholic bishops and institutions have in the last several months vocally opposed the new mandates from the administration in implementing the new healthcare law.

As currently crafted the policy would mandate Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to provide insurance for their employees covering contraception. This, say church leaders, is a conflict pitting law against church teaching and conscience, which they see as a violation of their religious freedom.

James Carney , press secretary for the White House states the government’s position clearly; In a recent press briefing he is quoted as saying;
“The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services…”.
Catholic leaders in letters to be read by every priest at weekend celebrations see the mandate in a different light to be sure! It is a government intrusion into their religious liberty! Among other things the letter states;
"Never before has the government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience."
Let me be clear on this! As a Christian in a free society I do not agree that the government should dictate policies that force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs! As an Episcopalian, contraception for me is a matter of personal choice, one which many Catholic women choose despite their church’s doctrinal stance. However, it is one thing to disagree with your church’s teaching on a subject matter, quite another for the government to seem to infringe on a religious institutions right to practice their faith and do business accordingly.

Many years ago, when working with a particular church community which desired to open a safe house for families in transition, the pastor and leadership of that community rejected federal grants that would have made it easier for that project to be accomplished! Even as I voiced my complete opposition to that stance, someone made clear their position with the words;
“…when you go to bed with the devil, you may wake up scorched…”.
The concern in that story was that money from the government comes with strings attached! To this small church, even though engaged in a purely social program, there was a risk of their mission being compromised or restricted by accepting funds from a government agency.

It was hard to see then, but seems a lot clearer now! I do not see the governement as the devil,but clearly there are times the imperatives of a given administration can come into conflict with the tenets of a religious community! Catholic institutions have accepted money from the government to fund part of their charitable endeavors, now there are demands placed on how they exercise their mission!

It is a sad day when a religious institution has to choose between its deeply held beliefs and its mission in order to comply with a government mandate! Hopefully the administration will relax its rules and allow religious institutions to be exempted. On the other hand, churches may need to bite the bullet and to be true to mission and faith , forgo government funds altogether. The ability they have to offer services to those in need will be limited but there will certainly be less risk of …waking up scorched!



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