So, You Call Yourself Catholic…

Last night, while I was relaxing in my easy chair catching up on the news of the day and touching base with my friends in social media, I read something on Twitter that completely blew me away.

A friend of mine made reference to the U.S. Health and Human Services insurance mandate, claiming he was sick of hearing about this “war on religion”. He insisted that President Obama had attempted to compromise on the issue, and he added that women deserve rights too. In other words, he was complaining because the Catholic Church was not backing down, not letting go, and not compromising its position on this highly controversial insurance mandate.

To say I was appalled at his words is an understatement, not because we may disagree on issues politically, but because we are both Catholic. Being Catholic does not mean we always see eye to eye, it does not mean we understand everything without studying it, nor does it mean we have to agree with each other all the time. However, it does mean that we believe first and foremost that the Church is truly the Church founded by Christ and we agree to follow, and live by, the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Although this is not the first time this has happened, I was saddened as I stared at his words on the screen. In the past I have watched him cross the line between common sense and political servitude, but I had never seen him blatantly turn against the doctrines and teachings of the Church, let alone attack the Church’s position on matters that are concretely established through Holy Scripture, Church tradition, and the Magisterium.

Everything Catholics believe is expressed in the profession of faith, also known as the Nicene Creed. In the Nicene Creed, we profess:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

When we recite the Nicene Creed during Mass, we are professing our faith in God the Father, Jesus Christ his son, and the Holy Spirit. We are professing our belief in the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. But most importantly, for this article, we are standing together as one universal body, professing our belief in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

As members of the one, holy, catholic (or universal), and apostolic church, we believe in the “deposit of faith”, which consists of Holy Scripture and Tradition. All true Christians, on the authority of God, must accept the deposit of faith. As Catholics, we rely on the Magisterium, or the teaching authority of the Church. In Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus commissioned the disciples,

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

The Magisterium, which consists of the Pope and all of the Bishops of the Church, guides us and authentically interprets the Word of God. The Magisterium affirms the dogmas of the Church and declares the doctrines of the Church. A dogma is a specific tenet, established opinion, belief, or principle that is authoritatively passed down by the Church. A doctrine is a particular principle or policy which is specifically associated with, or inseparable from, the body of works and knowledge (or dogmas) of the Church.

The library of the Catholic Church was so vast it was nearly impossible for the common layperson to review each document, let alone study it, or to discern the teachings of the Magisterium. This obstacle was eliminated in 1985, when the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops submitted a request to Pope John Paul II. The bishops requested that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals be composed.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II commissioned twelve Cardinals and Bishops to prepare a draft, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church was presented to the world in 1992. The publication of the Catechism brought the teachings of the Catholic Church directly to the laypeople. This forever changed the lives of the Catholic faithful who now had access to, and the ability to research, the official teaching of the Church.

We, as Catholics, reaffirm these beliefs, as well as our faith, each time we celebrate Mass and receive the Eucharist. As we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and we say “Amen”, not only are we saying that we believe that we are truly receiving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we are also saying that we believe everything the Catholic Church believes, from everything in Holy Scripture to the earliest teachings of the Church. We are re-affirming our faith in God, the importance of Mary’s role in our lives, the authority of the Pope, the existence of Purgatory, and much, much more. When we say “Amen” we are re-committing ourselves to living a Catholic life, attending Sunday Mass, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, raising our children in the Catholic faith, and following all that the church teaches through Holy Scripture, tradition, and the catechism.

This is not to say you must understand everything the Church teaches, but you must be open to studying and learning the teaching of the Church. If you find yourself in a situation where you are confronted with choices that conflict with the teaching of the Church, you must assent to Church authority whether or not you understand or fully agree with that teaching.

My friend began his tweet stating he was sick of hearing about this “war on religion”, which references the U.S. Health and Human Services insurance mandate that states that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.

To understand whether or not this is an attack on the Catholic faith, or a “war on religion”, we need to take a look at the position of the Catholic Church on each of these issues.

Paragraph #2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.” The Catholic Church views contraception as intrinsically evil.

Paragraph #2399 states, “The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception)”. The Catholic Church views sterilization as intrinsically evil.

Paragraphs #2270-2271 reflect the Church’s position on abortion. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” The Catholic Church views abortion as intrinsically evil.

Because the insurance mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will force Catholic organizations to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception the mandate is a technical declaration of war on the Catholic faith. My friend was correct when he referenced this “war on religion”.

My friend also referenced President Obama’s attempt to “compromise” with the Catholic Church. In this “compromise” President Obama shifted the responsibility from religious organizations to the insurance companies providing coverage to those religious organizations. If the religious organization is self-insured, they are still paying for the coverage directly, and if not, the insurance companies will be charging for the coverage, and they will be paying for those services indirectly. The Catholic Church finds those services to be intrinsically evil and could never, and would never, support paying for them. In other words, there will be no compromising. When it comes to Church doctrine, there is no compromise. The Church has never compromised her beliefs, and she never will.

The one part of my friend’s statement that I found hard to reconcile was his insistence that this issue, the insurance mandate, was an attack on women’s rights. I honestly don’t understand how the Catholic Church’s position against sterilization, contraception, and abortion, is an attack on the rights of women, specifically the women who are members of the Catholic Church.

The women of the Catholic Church, those who practice their faith and believe in the Catholic Church as I described earlier in this article, should be proud of the Catholic Church, her Pope and Bishops, her priests and her laypeople, and all of those who uphold the beliefs, teachings, and traditions of the Catholic faith. If a woman claims to be Catholic and believes all that the Catholic Church represents, how can she insist on the “right” to sterilization, contraception, or abortion? Isn’t the Catholic Church, by objecting to the insurance mandate, actually standing up for the rights of every Catholic woman in the United States? By remaining firm in our beliefs we, as Catholics, are upholding the rights of every woman, man, and child (born and unborn). It doesn’t get any more universal than that.

Today’s first reading at Mass from the book of James could not have been more appropriately timed. We should be doers of the word not hearers. If we think we are religious and do not bridle our tongues but deceive our hearts, our religion is in vain.

As Catholics we cannot allow ourselves to hear the Word of God, the tradition of the Church, and the teachings of the Church, only to disregard what we have heard and do nothing. As Catholics we cannot stand idly by while the secular world destroys the very fabric of our faith. In Matthew 22:21 Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s“. While universal health care could benefit a vast number of people across our great country, it should not come at the expense of our religious liberties and through the compromise of our Catholic faith.

As a Church, we will not violate our consciences, not now, not a year from now, not ever. We will not compromise our doctrines or twist our faith to fit the confines of the secular world. For over 2,000 years, Christians have paid a price for not rendering to Caesar what is God’s, so what makes today any different than any day before? We must stand up to defend our faith, defend our beliefs, and defend ourselves as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

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