A few days ago we returned home to a plumbing catastrophe. We had been out to dinner for a little over two hours and in that time an estimated six hundred gallons of water had flowed from an upstairs bathroom into the two adjoining bedrooms. It traveled through the walls and floor to flood the kitchen on the floor below. It continued the downward trek to soak a basement bedroom and bathroom. It has been an overwhelming experience.
Facing the Devastation
We are now in the recovery phase. We have ceilings removed, drywall ripped out, carpet cut and removed and every possible surface cleaned and disinfected. We lived with the roar of industrial fans on every level of the house for six days. We are waiting for the insurance company to tell us how much of this devastation and loss they will cover.
The thing we know is that there are some things that will have to be replaced whether or not the insurance company covers the cost in order to mitigate the risk of mold or the risk of electrical fires. That may mean more money out of our pockets than I would like, but we really do not have a choice. The repair work must be done right in order to make the house safe and livable again.
This is not too different from the current situation facing Catholics as we look at the American political and cultural landscape. There is no one running for president who aligns with Catholic morals and principles or provides spiritual leadership. But the reality of good and evil does not hinge on who gets the most votes on November 8. What changes on November 8 is our degree of religious liberty. In spite of that, with or without government approval, we have no choice but to adhere to the tenets of our faith in every aspect of our lives and do what is right. The salvation of our souls depends on it.
The Price of Living the Faith
The outlook for religious freedom is grim. The current administration has declared that pregnancy is a disease and fertility a disorder so that all must contribute to the destruction of human life through abortion-inducing drugs. There is no respect for religious principles in the HHS mandate requiring all employers to pay for contraception and sterilization. The latest declaration from HHS requires that all health care providers participate in the provision of gender transition or risk prosecution and sanctions for discrimination.
The chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Martin Castro, claims that the phrases “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are mere “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian Supremacy, and intolerance.” Hillary Clinton stated explicitly that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” with regards to abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
No matter who wins the White House, the attacks on the free exercise of religion will become bolder and more numerous. How will American Catholics respond? Will they compromise their faith and allow themselves to be marginalized in order to get along, or will they stand firm in their faith and shoulder the costs? There has been little public outcry over the assaults on religious liberty thus far. What will it take to rouse American Catholics to recognize and resist religious oppression?
Real Threats to Religious Liberty
For example, many public schools are already more intent on indoctrination than on education. The United States Department of Education, as well as many public school boards, demand that teachers promulgate the view that homosexuality, transgenderism, and same-sex marriage are normal and acceptable. They call this being “value neutral”. The reach of such requirements already threatens Catholic colleges. There is no reason to think that Catholic grade schools and high schools will escape being targeted for enforcement of the recently broadened definition of anti-discrimination policies.
Yet how many of our Catholic schools are willing to give up all the strings of government money in order to be free to function as an authentically Catholic institution? How many Catholics are willing to step up and sacrificially support these schools so that every Catholic child can receive an education in an environment that promotes virtue and holiness? The Diocese of Wichita takes this quest for every Catholic child to be educated in a Catholic environment seriously. Children of active parishioners attend both grade school and high school tuition-free. Yet this is only one diocese in the United States. Why is this not the model for every diocese?
Catholic health care institutions and Catholic health care providers are similarly being pressured to provide objectionable services, including assisted suicide and abortions. Will faithful Catholics still be able to participate in health care when the government offers no conscience protection? How can Catholic patients feel confident that they will be allowed to receive health care consistent with their moral principles? In spite of this threat, too many Catholics look the other way and assume they will not be directly affected.
When a local pro-life medical group in my community tried to establish a pro-life pharmacy that did not provide morally objectionable medications, there were not enough Catholics who were willing to bear either the inconvenience or the extra expense involved in utilizing this service. This endeavor to provide a pharmacy where workers and customers alike could do business without fear of cooperating with evil as part of their transactions had to be abandoned for lack of community support.
Ready to Be Courageously Catholic?
The cloud of secularism thickens and seeks to obscure all that is true. Faithful Catholics must stand up and courageously be beacons of the light of Christ in this cultural darkness. St. Paul exhorts us:
If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us …. (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
Therefore, as faithful Catholics, we must not deny Christ and accept the limitations that a secular government and culture want to impose on our faith. We must take to heart the words of St. Pope John Paul II and “Be not afraid!” Our mandates come from God and His Church, not from government agencies and institutions. God calls us to do what is virtuous and true. He challenges us to raise the holiness of our culture without fearing the costs. Are you ready to be courageously Catholic?