(From the 2/19/12 parish bulletin of St. Peter's Church in Bellville, New Jersey, where Fr. Sciberras is the pastor. www.spnj.org)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I do not normally write two weeks in a row about the same topic, but given the gravity of the matter I wrote about last week, namely mandated birth-control coverage, and the ―compromise‖ that was offered a week ago by the Administration, I feel impelled to offer a follow-up.
Let me say from the outset that the ―compromise offered to the Catholic Bishops is nothing less than a farce. This is what the Administration had to offer: Catholic-run institutions that in conscience object to offering birth- control, sterilization and abortifacients to their employees would not be obligated to do so. The insurance company (or HMO) would, however, be obligated to provide such services free of charge to all subscribers, regardless of who the employer is. And how would insurance companies fund such coverage, since we cannot expect them to offer it from the generosity of their hearts? Only by raising the premiums paid by the employers, including those who in conscience object to offering such coverage (who are not limited to Catholic institutions, but include other employers and corporations whose religious freedom is imperiled by such a mandate).
Not only does the mandate violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was approved almost anonymously by both the Senate and Congress, and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. The law states that only in cases where the ―furtherance of a compelling government interest‖ dictates so may the government ―substantially burden‖ a person‘s ―exercise of religion,‖ and only by using ―the least restrictive means.‖ Here it is clear that the government can use one of many different ways to promote its ―anti-life‖ agenda, other than castigate employers for disagreeing with said agenda.
When Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was nothing short of prophetic. The great pope predicted four consequences stemming from the widespread use of contraceptives: (1) a general lowering of morality (one does not need to be a rocket-scientist to detect it); (2) a rise in marriage break-up and illegitimacy (a quarter of marriages in the U.S. ended in divorce in 1968, compared to over 55% today); (3) the reduction of women as objects to satisfy men (pornography is now all over, with human trafficking and sex-slavery growing exponentially) and, finally (4) government coercion in reproductive matters. Those who did not want the Church to dictate what they do in their bedrooms are now happily letting Big Brother tell them whose conscience they should follow!
How right was Pope John Paul II when he said that the attacks against human life are receiving ―widespread and powerful support from a broad consensus on the part of society and that ―we are in fact faced by an objective ̳conspiracy against life.‘‖ If we allow a president define a pregnancy (ie. human life) as a disease (hence the need to fight it through mandatory health care) rather than as a precious gift, then we only have ourselves to blame when the diabolical attack against life becomes more evident.
Maybe this assault on life and religious freedom has been providentially timed. As we enter into the Season of Lent this week on Ash Wednesday, we are all invited to make a mea culpa for the ways we have all disregarded God‘s Plan and have placed our own comforts and compromises ahead of Divine Law. May this be a season of repentance, ultimately culminating in Christ‘s victory over sin and death on Easter Sunday.
Please check the bulletin for different ways we can draw closer to Christ this Lent. I particularly call your attention to the Day of Recollection we will hold this coming Saturday, February 25. Our internationally- acclaimed speaker, Dr. Dianne M. Traflet, will definitely steer us into the right direction. Consider also attending daily Mass whenever possible, pray the Stations of the Cross with the parish on Fridays, and making a pledge to the Archbishop‘s Annual Appeal so that others may benefit from our excess.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Ivan Sciberras