Friday, June 29, 2012

Archbishop Chaput: 'It's Going to Be a Long Fight'

(NCRFollowing the U.S. Supreme Court decision June 28 on the government’s health-care reform legislation, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke with the Register’s Edward Pentin about his reaction to the news and what this now means in the Church’s battle to overturn the law’s requirement that all health-care insurance programs must include coverage for contraception.

Archbishop Chaput received the pallium this morning at a Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

What does the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform legislation now mean in the struggle to defend religious freedom?

I think it’s a disappointment on the part of many of us in the Church because we had hoped the decision would make our lawsuits unnecessary. But a decision of the court is a decision of the court, and we have to accept it in a generous kind of way. We have to do all we can to make sure the position of the Church on religious freedom is clearly articulated and that the challenge to religious freedom, as embodied in the mandates from the Health and Human Services agency,… are overturned.

The U.S. bishops have spoken in favor of a universal right to health care.

The bishops really do believe it. Health is a basic human right; we have a right to be healthy. There’s no declaration on the part of the Church that that has to be accomplished through government intervention.

There are many ways of approaching health care, and I think it’s very important for Catholics to understand the fact that the Church, seeing health care as a basic human right, does not mean [to say] there’s a particular method of obtaining that [right that’s] better than another.

How will this decision affect your work, and what should the faithful be doing in response?

It’s a lesson to us. [The battle for] religious freedom is going to continue; it’s going to be a long fight. We have to never let down our guard. We have to be calling our people to be engaged on this issue. We thought it was going to be easily obtained … but that’s obviously not the case, so it just requires more day-to-day work on the issue in our own locations.

On the positive side, the policy has been a unifying factor?

In some sense, there has been a surprising unity, at least among the bishops, if not among all Catholics. God always gives us opportunities. The message of Christ is to obtain grace and do good things. 

The Fortnight for Freedom continues until July 4. Have you been happy with the response?

One of the things I’m embarrassed about is that I’m not currently at the heart of that in the United States; I’m over here in Rome. Religious freedom and the place of the Church in politics has been an issue I’ve been interested in for many years and written about in a considerable number of ways.

So I really wish I could have been home for more of this. I’ll be returning at the conclusion and be preaching at the National Shrine [in Washington] at the very end, on the Fourth of July, Independence Day. So I’ll get back for it.

In our archdiocese, because I’ve been away and my auxiliary bishops have been with me, we’ve really placed the leadership of this in the hands of pastors and parishes, which is where the real leadership of the Church should be taking place anyway. So I’ve been pleased with the way the pastors have embraced the task.

What are your reflections on the pallium ceremony?

It’s always a special time because it’s a way of being embraced by the Pope. That’s always a very important thing for bishops.

Peter was told by Jesus to confirm his brethren, and the Holy Father does that with archbishops in the unique way of conferring the pallium, which is the fraternal symbol of our unity and love for one another. We’re literally embraced by the Pope when he places the pallium on our shoulders, so that little embrace symbolizes a spiritual embrace which is at the heart of the College of Bishops.

What is the situation like now in Philadelphia? Are matters starting to settle down?

Actually, last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve had, because we had to downsize our resources and workforces by 20% because of our financial problems. We’ve had deficit spending for many years, and we’ve run out of money.

Legal issues are another, also very expensive, matter, but it has nothing to do with this ordinary, annual budget. Then, last week, we also had a decision by a local criminal court that a former vicar of the clergy for the archdiocese was found guilty of endangering children and given a jail term. So this time is very sad for us. It was probably the worst week I’ve had since being made archbishop, but it will get better.

1 comment:

  1. I understand that some Catholics now think they and their religion are victims of the administration's implementation of the health care law and that the law forces employers to act contrary to their consciences. I think, though, that they have been duped by their bishops and are being used to serve the bishops' rather ordinary political aims. Notwithstanding the bishops' arm waving about religious liberty, the law does not force employers to act contrary to their consciences.

    Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forces employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers consider immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government (which, by the way, would generally amount to far less than the cost of health plans). 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. Solved--unless an employer really aims not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather to control his employees' health plan choices so they conform to the employer's religious beliefs rather than the law, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some have continued clamoring for such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed 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.

    The bishops are coming across more and more as just another special interest group with a big lobbying operation and a big budget—one, moreover, that is not above stretching the truth.