by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
The killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Libya as well as the attacks on the American embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11 have renewed anxieties regarding the threats posed to world peace by terrorists.
I encourage every member of the Archdiocese, personally as well as our parishes, to intensify our prayers for peace. We need to pray for wisdom for our president and all who assist him with the foreign policy for our nation.
President Obama has shown extreme sensitivity and caution in the vocabulary used by his administration in discussing outbursts of anti-American violence in the Middle East. His administration rarely uses the word “terrorism” and he has all but banned the term “War on Terrorism.”
Unfortunately, the president and his administration have not manifested the same sensitivity and verbal restraint with those who oppose the Health and Human Services mandates coercing church institutions as well as private employers to include in socalled “preventive health care” procedures (e.g., abortioninducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations) that contradict deeply held religious convictions. President Obama and his administration have no problem accusing those who oppose their policies as “waging a war on women.”
Such rhetoric is not only inflammatory and insensitive, but it is simply untrue. The president has actually turned the truth on its head. When one speaks about “waging a war,” this normally implies an act of aggression. In reality, those opposing the HHS mandates are not trying to change the status quo; we are simply attempting to maintain it. The president and his administration are the aggressors. The HHS mandates not only attempt to make contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations free, but they coerce the Catholic Church and others with conscientious objections to pay for and provide what we consider morally offensive. If there is a war being waged, it is the president and his administration’s war against freedom of religion and conscience rights.
If this matter were not so serious, the ironies involved would be comical. Those who have shrouded their advocacy for legalized abortion in the rhetoric of choice, now want to coerce religious institutions and individuals to become complicit in providing abortion and contraception. It is not enough that contraception is readily available, inexpensive, and — through hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding — “free” for the poor; the president and Secretary Sebelius want to force Catholic charities, Catholic colleges, Catholic hospitals, Catholicowned businesses, etc., to provide it.
The president has promised to accommodate the concerns of religious groups, but what has been proposed thus far by the administration are changes in bookkeeping, but not of substance. The president urges everyone to be patient, but the mandates are already going into effect for private businesses. If the administration truly wanted to solve this problem, it is not difficult. All the administration needs to do is adopt the legislative language that has been used for decades to protect religious liberty and conscience rights.
Whatever one may think about the morality of contraception, it is not preventive health care. Fertility is not a disease; it is a healthy condition. Suppressing a woman’s fertility is a lifestyle choice that often fosters behaviors that actually create health risks for women.
Fortunately, the inflammatory language of the administration has provoked thousands of women who resent the president presuming to speak for them. I encourage you to visit the website at: womenspeakforthemselves. com. So far, almost 35,000 women have signed the Open Letter to President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, and Members of Congress, which in part states:
“Those currently invoking women’s health in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of costless birth control with equality, note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more nonmarital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.
“No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. Each of us, Catholic or not, is proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage and family life. We call on President Obama and our representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to witness to their faiths in all their fullness.”
President Obama’s actions contradict his words about respecting religious freedom and conscience rights. The administration has had plenty of time to fix the HHS mandates if it wanted to do so. It is my opinion that the president will only correct his administration’s attack on religious liberty if he is convinced that it is politically to his advantage to do so. Please write or email President Obama and Secretary Sebelius and ask them to cease using the inflammatory and dishonest language that declares a “phony war on women.” Tell the president and Secretary Sebelius that you are tired of empty promises. Request real actions that will protect religious freedom and conscience rights!