The Catholic Church in the U.S. is beginning “A Fortnight for Freedom” on June 21, 2012. Its primary intention is to bemoan the fact that new federal health care rules require employers to provide birth control along with many other medical services.
Pity no one is going to go for my simple solution to the health care crisis.
But let’s take a closer look at the subject of religious freedom.
The Catholic Bishops decided to kick-off their campaign on June 21, because that’s the night when a vigil would typically be held for the saints celebrated on June 22, which include Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, who were executed for refusing to acknowledge the king, instead of the Pope, as the head of the Church of England.
King Henry VIII hatched that scheme because the Pope refused to annul his 16-year marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, a younger woman who he hoped could give him a son.
Most people went along with the change, because to disagree with the King was treason, and the punishment was death. Bishop Fisher was executed on June 22, 1535. Two weeks later, Sir Thomas More went to the block. It is reported that he paused on the scaffold for a few last words, saying to the gathered crowd, “I die the king’s good servant but God’s first.”
It’s important to remember that, prior to their imprisonment, both Fisher and More were involved in the prosecution and execution of “heretics,” generally Protestants.
Fast forward to 1553. After the death of Henry VIII and his only son Edward VI, Henry’s daughter Mary ascended to the throne. Mary, the daughter of Henry’s first wife and a devout Catholic, reconciled with Rome, and during her five-year reign, she is said to have ordered the deaths of nearly 300 “heretics.”
Now that you have the background, here are my thoughts:
1. How many of the Catholics who’ll march with signs over the next two weeks would willing walk up a short flight of stairs to have their heads hacked off in defense of their beliefs?
2. Why does it matter so much that birth control pills and/or abortions would be covered by the insurance? Good Catholics would never consider availing themselves of those options, right?
3. The cost of birth control pills and/or abortions is miniscule in comparison to the cost of pre-natal care, post-natal care, and pediatric care for a healthy child, and even cheaper than a birth with complications.
The purpose of separation of church and state — and the abhorred secular government — is to keep people from being jerked around by people like Henry VIII and Queen Mary.
I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I’m more or less a Christian. I think the Pope back in Henry’s time had it right. Divorce or annulment shouldn’t be granted on a whim. How many of the marching militants would have to hide behind their signs in shame if I walked by and asked how many are divorced? Or single parents never married? Or read out the Biblical passages against tattoos?
Christians of all persuasions, and very likely people of other religions as well, are very selective in the tenants that they follow. Many people are opposed to the Affordable Care Act for different reasons – some because they just don’t like President Obama or they can’t accept anything proposed by a Democrat, some because they don’t like that health care becomes mandatory, some because they fear for their jobs or are worried about insurance costs going up. So, the religious groups decided to get on board and whip up a frenzy among their sheep on that particular issue.
When the Catholics (or any religious group) takes a stand against something that individuals can control in their own lives, like getting a tattoo or having a child out of wedlock, give me a call.
Otherwise, stick to shepherding your own flock and stay out of issues that affect the wider population.