A few days ago Bp. Zubik of Pittsburgh issued his own strongly worded response (rather than the USCCB template) after Pres. Obama’s blatant attack on the civil and religious liberty of Catholics. You will recall that Bp. Zubik said this was the President’s way of saying “To hell with you!”, meaning that the President was saying to Catholics (my paraphrase): “Go to hell. You’ll do it my way or I’ll violate the constitution to force you.”
Bp. Zubik has a follow up to his first statement in which he writes about the feedback of disagreement he received. You can read the whole thing over there, but here is the salient part:
I found that their complaints essentially centered on the following few issues:
1. “They didn’t like the language.” Some people thought I was saying “to hell with the president.” I was not! I never would do that! I have too much respect for the office of the president to ever make such a statement. What I was saying was that the decision to retain this mandate was a complete and total dismissal of people of faith, of our freedom as Catholics and the rights of all citizens of faith to practice their faith without imposing on them immoral conditions. You and I, who wrote so many letters to the Obama administration this past fall, made that position clear. The Obama Administration effectively responded, “to hell with you.” They dismissed us. They dismissed people of all faiths. If some thought that the very use of that phrase was not appropriate for a bishop, all I can say is that’s what it felt like—to me and to many others. The mandate was presented as a bureaucratic fiat without appeal for which we have a year to knuckle under. If that isn’t saying “to hell with you,” I don’t know what does.
2. “Some Catholics use artificial birth control, so what’s the complaint?” The issue of artificial birth control use and abortion-causing drugs are a matter of serious concern to us as the Catholic Church. But what is also at stake is freedom of religion. The issue is the government imposing on the Church that which directly contradicts the teaching of the Church. The issue is the taking away from the citizens of our country our constitutional right to religious liberty. The issue is forcing every employer—those of religion and those of no religion—to pay for this mandated coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, no matter the dictates of their conscience. The issue is the right of the Church to be able to live its beliefs without contrary beliefs and practices being imposed by departments of the federal government.
3. “The Church shouldn’t get involved in politics.” For as long as our government has existed, we as citizens have had the right—and responsibility—to speak out on the issues of the day, inclusive of churches, people of faith. Churches were never required by the Constitution to be irrelevant, required to be silent, required by government fiat to engage in activities they consider immoral. This isn’t “politics.” It is an issue of fundamental human freedom, fundamental religious freedom, guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution.
4. “The Church doesn’t care about women’s health.” I think that is when my head nearly exploded. The truth be told, the Catholic Church throughout this country virtually created health care in the United States. In Pittsburgh, the first hospital, Mercy Hospital, was opened under Church auspices within a year of the founding of our diocese and long before the government responded. The Church’s health care ministry was built primarily by Catholic women and has served women of all faiths and no faith from its inception. What we don’t do, can’t do, won’t do is consider pregnancy a disease equivalent to the flu. Or to be “cured” by death.
5. “This is what happens when Catholic institutions ‘take’ federal money.” This mandate has nothing to do with the Church “taking” federal money. Rather, this mandate is about Church money, the money of citizens, being used against their will, against their conscience, against their beliefs. This mandate is being imposed on everyone—on every employer, even if they have never taken a dime of government funds. Everyone—Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and nonbelievers alike—will be forced to pay for this as an employer or as an employee, and sometimes through their free-will contributions to the Church and Catholic social service agencies. In particular, this mandate will be imposed on us as Catholics and bought and paid for by us as Catholics.
6. “This seems like the Church is just trying to impose its morality on everyone else.” No way! Rather, this is the president and his administration, the government trying to impose its morality, or lack thereof, on the Church and the rest of society through bureaucratic fiat and government intrusion on religious freedom. This action tramples on everybody’s rights!
WDTPRS expands to Bp Zubik the kudos already extended.