My Catholic priest, Father Larry Swink, delivered a homily on Sunday that I told him would make headlines. In the toughest sermon I have ever heard from a pulpit, he attacked the Obama Administration as evil, even demonic, and warned of religious persecution ahead. What was also newsworthy about the sermon was that he cited The Washington Post in agreement—not on the subject of the Obama Administration being evil, but on the matter of its abridgment of the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
What is happening is extraordinary and unprecedented. The Catholic Church is in open revolt against the Obama Administration, with Fr. Swink noting from the pulpit that priests across the archdiocese were joining the call on Sunday to rally Catholics to resistance against the U.S. Government. He said we are entering a time of religious persecution and that Catholics and others will have to make a final decision about which side they are on.
The issue is what the Catholic Bishops have called a “literally unconscionable” edict by the Obama Administration demanding that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans.
At a time when the media are full of reports about who is ahead and behind in the polls, and who will win the next Republican presidential primary, this incredible uprising in the Catholic Church is something that could not only overshadow the political campaign season, but also may have a major impact on the ultimate outcome—if Republicans know how to handle it. This matter goes beyond partisan politics to the growing perception of an unconstitutional Obama Administration assault on religious freedom. To hear the Catholic Bishops and Priests describe it, our constitutional republic and our freedoms hang in the balance.
The administration claims there is a religious exemption in the mandate, but the bishops say it is so narrow that it fails to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals, universities and service organizations that help millions every year. “Ironically,” they say, “not even Jesus & his disciples would have qualified.”
The bishops go on, “Now that the Administration has refused to recognize the Constitutional conscience rights of organizations and individuals who oppose the mandate, the bishops are now urging Catholics and others of good will to fight this unprecedented attack on conscience rights and religious liberty.”
Interestingly, The Washington Post, as Father Swink indicated, agrees with the bishops. The paper said, “In this circumstance, requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views. Having recognized the principle of a religious exemption, the administration should have expanded it.”
So why would the administration pick a major fight with the Catholic Church? There are two main reasons. (1) The administration wants to please its progressive and feminist, secular pro-abortion base. (2) The administration believes Catholics are divided on the issue and will ignore their leaders and follow Obama.
Support for the latter explanation comes in the form of the Obama Administration’s efforts to co-opt the Catholic Church, primarily through appointing nominal Catholics to high-level positions in government and keeping funding going to the church for “social justice” causes. Another player in this effort is the hedge-fund billionaire George Soros, an atheist who nevertheless has found groups that are “Catholic in name only” to accept his financial largesse. These groups, including Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, are designed to give the impression that Catholics are less concerned about issues like stopping abortion and protecting the sanctity of traditional marriage than passing government health care. The Obama/Soros gamble may be backfiring.
It’s true that the bishops went along with Obama’s health care scheme, even lobbying on its behalf. But now they seem to be realizing that the plan was a Trojan horse designed to force population control measures on the people of the United States. It will be difficult for the bishops to continue working with the administration on other issues, like immigration. They have drawn a line in the sand. They cannot back down.
Father Larry Swink of Jesus The Divine Word Catholic Church in Huntingtown, Maryland, is not alone in his tough language. Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik posted a letter on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s website that said, “It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you!’ There is no other way to put it.” He added, “This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself. In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.”
You know it’s serious when the bishops are talking about heaven and hell.
Indeed, Fr. Swink opened his discussion of what he described as the evil nature of the Obama Administration by reading from scripture about Jesus casting out demons. He saw the order on health care coverage as the start of religious persecution. The congregation joined him in calls of “Amen” when he challenged them to stand tall with the church.
You cannot expect the secular Washington Post to go along with such rhetoric. But even its liberal editorial writer saw the ramifications of the health care order, perhaps anticipating the confrontation that we now see developing. From the point of view of this liberal paper, the Obama Administration is not only undermining religious freedom but risking a major backlash to its overall “progressive” agenda and even a second term in office.
Some may see this battle as just another church-state dust-up that will be resolved through litigation. But when apocalyptic imagery is used, such as what I heard at my church on Sunday, one must wonder if there is an awakening on the part of the Catholic community and if there is something else going on here besides politics as usual. In short, is the Catholic Church beginning to finally recognize the real nature of the Obama Administration?