Now, girls, I am going on my husband's holiday to Rome tomorrow, so I won't be around after tomorrow morning. I am uncertain as to how much email access I will have, so if you are in a terrible, terrible social fix call your mother, your favourite aunt or any other favourite mother substitute. You all know my pastoral education stopped at my M.Div., so most of what I say could be said by any sympathetic older Catholic woman with a lot of life experience and the gift of gab. And if you feel like you need some reading material, you cannot go wrong with Edith Stein: Essential Writings.
the religious freedom of Americans. I am not an American myself, but I come from a long, many-stringed line of Americans dating back to the late 17th century (joined to lines of Irish and German migrants in the 19th century), and I am very conscious of how very important is the concept of religious freedom in the United States.
American theologians' ideas about freedom of religion shaped certain documents at Vatican II. Also, because the first English-speaking settlers of the Thirteen Colonies were Non-Conformists, Christians who wanted to practice their religion free from the dictates, restrictions and punishments of the English state, religious freedom really is at the heart of what the United States of America is all about.
Of course, there have been unfortunate moments in American history when some Americans have struck at the heart of American religious freedom. I will provide just a few examples. Four Quakers were executed for their faith in 17th century Boston. In the 19th century, there was intense suspicion of, harassment of and attacks upon Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic institutions. In the first half of the 20th century, there were attempts to keep Jews out of fancy clubs, top law firms and other blue-chip institutions. In 1961, there was the terrible precedent set by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he settled anti-Catholic fears by assuring voters that, in short, his Catholic faith was just for Sundays. His example has been followed in recent years by American soi-disant "Catholic" politicians who will throw the Gospel of Life under the bus, either because they do not believe in the sanctity of life or because they wish to attain high office, and yet claim they are Catholics and even speak for the Roman Catholic Church.
HHS Mandate. This mandate proposes to force all employers with health plans for their employees to pay for their employees' artificial contraception, including abortion pills and sterilization. Currently it exempts laughably few employers on conscience grounds.
Forcing employers to provide employees with anything more than a living wage is already controversial. But forcing them to pay for artificial contraception and chemical abortions is, of course, particularly repugnant to Roman Catholics who, whatever we might choose to do (in our weakness) ourselves, naturally balk at being forced by the state to fund what we believe to be wrong. But it should be repugnant to all Americans because it is a clear and unprecedented example of the state interfering with both the private property and the freedom of conscience of Americans. And Catholics are not a negligible part of the American population: they make up 25%. They are the largest single denomination in the United States. Religious Catholics are also, particularly since Vatican II, the natural allies of other religious Christians and other religious groups in the United States against secularism, particularly the tyrannous secularism of tyrannical states.
America is about freedom. And as we all know--and I don't think we should turn this statement into a joke--freedom isn't free. We all live in a fallen universe, one in which people love having power over other people. This is a tendency many of us can find in our own hearts and either cultivate or strive to conquer. But knowing this, we also know that we have to fight people from having undue power over us.
And this is why I am encouraging all my American readers currently living in the USA, of all religions, to take part in the "Stand Up For Religious Freedom" rallies on Friday, June 8. Here is a list of cities. The HHS Mandate is, of course, particularly horrible for Roman Catholics, but I can not stress enough how deeply insulting it is to the deeply American value of religious freedom.
And that is all. Have a good week-and-a-half.