Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Separation of church and state should not block religion, Cardinal Dolan says

(EWTN) As controversy continues over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said that separation of church and state should not restrict the Church from offering its valuable contribution to society.  

In an interview on CBS News' “Face the Nation” on Easter Sunday, the cardinal described the mandate as “a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the church.” 
He emphasized that while the Church “didn’t ask for the fight” over contraception and religious freedom, “we're not going to back away from it.”

The public square, he pointed out, is enriched when people bring their religious and moral convictions to the discussion of national issues and impoverished when they are prevented from doing so.   

Host Bob Schieffer asked the cardinal to respond to John F. Kennedy’s famous campaign speech that endorsed a vision of separation of church and state “where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”
Last November, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum said that he “almost threw up” when he read the speech.

He said that Kennedy “threw faith under the bus in that speech,” which he described as “the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square.”

Cardinal Dolan said that he agreed with Kennedy that there should be a separation of church and state because such a separation benefits not only the U.S., but also the Church.

However, he said, Santorum is also accurate in noting the secularizing effects of the speech, which has been widely misinterpreted to require “a wall between one's faith and one's political decisions.”

“I don't think John Kennedy meant a cleavage between faith and politics,” the cardinal said, “but I would agree with Senator Santorum that unfortunately that has been misrepresented to mean that faith has no place in the public square.”

This view misrepresents “what the American genius is all about,” he added.

Cardinal Dolan said that the false understanding of this principle can be seen in the ongoing debate over the Obama administration’s insurance mandate, which will soon require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their conscience.
The cardinal said that President Obama had initially assured him that “the government would do nothing to impede religion” or to prevent the Catholic Church from continuing its valuable work in the areas of health care, charity and education.

However, he said, it’s hard to see how the new regulations “do anything but that.”

Cardinal Dolan spoke out against recent comments by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who said that the mandate does an acceptable job of balancing the Church’s freedom with access to free contraception for women.

While he said that he appreciates the vice president’s counsel, the cardinal firmly disagreed with his assertion.

The mandate is unacceptable from a moral standpoint because it will still force Catholics to fund or facilitate the objectionable coverage, he explained, adding that the Catholic community will continue to speak out against the mandate not only from “a religious point of view but a constitutional point of view.”

But despite the challenges facing the Church in America today, Cardinal Dolan remains optimistic. He believes that religion in the U.S. “is vibrant” and “the commitment of the people is strong.”

Catholics should also remember that “the difficulties can purify us and strengthen us,” renewing the Church as she spreads her message of “light and freedom and hope.”

1 comment:

  1. Confronted by questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith, the courts have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, torts, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/494/872/case.html http://www.aafcp.org/cplm/files/12.pdf.)

    When the legislature anticipates that application of such laws may put some individuals in moral binds, the legislature may, as a matter of grace (not constitutional compulsion), add provisions to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

    The real question here then is not so much whether the First Amendment precludes the government from enacting and enforcing the generally applicable laws regarding availability of health insurance (it does not), but rather whether there is any need to exempt some employers in order to avoid forcing them to act contrary to their consciences.

    While some may well oppose the law’s policy of promoting the availability of medical services they find objectionable, the law does not put those employers in the moral bind some suppose. Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved.
    Some nonetheless continued complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed, seemingly missing that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to many taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    In any event, those complaining made enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain, fretting that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They evidently believe that when they spend a dollar and it thus becomes the property of others, they nonetheless should have some say in how others later spend that dollar. One can only wonder how it would work if all of us could tag “our” dollars this way and control their subsequent use.