by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
A couple weeks ago on a Saturday morning, I had just boarded a plane to return to Kansas City from Dallas, when I received a text from my niece Dee Dee.
Her message informed me that her 5-year-old, who also happens to be named Joseph Naumann, had prepared breakfast for himself.
Joey’s breakfast consisted of a “Pop-Tarts bar sandwich and 4 Donettes.” The text came complete with a photo of Joey proudly displaying his breakfast. The conclusion of Dee Dee’s text read: “It (Joey’s breakfast) looked like something any Joe Naumann would like!”
Joey and I do share in common a genetic sweet tooth. On my mother’s side of the family, many of my ancestors were bakers. My maternal grandfather concluded his career as the manager of one of the Continental Bakeries in St. Louis, which at that time was the parent company for Wonder Bread and Hostess pastries.
Throughout my childhood, my mother, brother and I lived in the upstairs unit of a two-story, twofamily residence with my grandparents living in the downstairs unit. Most evenings, we would eat supper with my grandparents in their dining room. My brother and I were always delighted to welcome my grandfather home from work, because frequently he would bring packages of cupcakes and Twinkies.
I have been dismayed with the news in recent weeks of the uncertain fate of Hostess baking products. I hope the Twinkie, cupcake and Ding Dong can be rescued from a threatened extinction because of the bankruptcy of the current parent company.
Beginning with the Advent season, I have made a personal commitment to fast from all sweets and desserts, as part of my intercessory prayer for the revocation either by the courts or the president of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandates. As you are aware, the HHS mandates require Catholic employers to violate their conscience and church teaching by providing contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations as part of their employee health plans.
The first group to be subjected to these onerous mandates is privately owned businesses. Beginning this past August, at the time of the normal renewal date for their employee health programs, privately owned businesses are required to include these morally objectionable “services.” For many businesses, the renewal of their employee health plan will occur in January.
The HHS mandates, which were not specified by Congress in the Affordable Health Care Act, are the creation of the Obama administration under the pretext that they are preventive health care for women. Of course, for contraceptives and abortifacients to be preventive health care, one has to define fertility and pregnancy as diseases.
Several Catholic employers have contacted me, asking what their moral options are. If they refuse to comply with the HHS mandates, their companies will be subject to crippling fines that could put them out of business and leave their employees with no health insurance. If these Catholic employers comply with the mandates, they will be forced to help fund actions that are at odds with their deeply held convictions.
This coming August, many church entities, e.g., Catholic Charities, colleges, hospitals, etc., will also be subject to these HHS mandates. Many people do not seem to realize or to care about the serious repercussions of the HHS mandates. This is one of the most difficult moments in history for American Catholics. How will we resist this unprecedented trampling on religious liberty and conscience rights by our own government?
There are those within the current administration who would like nothing more than to force the Catholic Church and faithful Catholics out of the field of health care. If the government can define abortion, sterilization and contraception as essential preventive health care services, what will impede that same government from requiring doctors and other health care professionals to provide them?
Our first response to this crisis should be to turn to God through prayer and fasting. We must pray for a change of heart by the president and his administration. We should pray that the courts will declare unconstitutional the HHS mandates. We must pray for wisdom and courage on how to fight most effectively this unjust law. We should pray for the conversion of many Catholics and of other Americans to recognize and resist the grave evils that have been embedded by the administration in health care reform.
I ask that every member of the Archdiocese consider adopting some additional practices of penance and prayer. If you do not abstain from meat every Friday of the year, I encourage you to begin to do so. If you do not pray the rosary as an individual or family, I encourage you to begin this beautiful devotion and offer it for a restoration of religious liberty and conscience rights. You also might consider spending additional time in eucharistic adoration or participating more frequently in daily Mass for this intention.
If something does not change soon, some of us may be called to participate in civil disobedience in one form or another. Of course, this would be a very serious step and one that should only be employed as a last resort. However, the possibility for other solutions to this crisis appears to be dwindling. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may propose some common prayers and penances for American Catholics to adopt. In the meantime, I encourage you to make your own personal commitment.
As a church, we are delighted that more people will receive health care because of the Affordable Health Care Act. However, this good could turn into an economic disaster if we do not have a realistic means of funding it and paying down our existing national debt. Moreover, this good of providing more people with a greater level of health care can never justify the trampling on conscience rights and religious liberty.
Actually, my fast from sweets and desserts will be a very good thing — not only for my prayer life, but also my health. Perhaps in this twisted way, Obamacare is working to improve my own health. However, sadly, I will not be able to enjoy a breakfast created by Joey until the HHS mandates are rescinded.