We knew it would come to this, but we weren’t sure until when until the Obama administration announced the contraception mandate; even then, we weren’t sure when exactly it would be explicitly spelled out by the leadership of the Church. I am referring to the U.S. bishop’s recent statement declaring, among other things, the following:
It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.
It is essential to understand the distinction between conscientious objection and an unjust law. Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience—conscription being the most well-known example. An unjust law is “no law at all.” It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal. (Emphasis added)
In making this statement, the bishops have echoed Pope Leo XIII’s statement in his encyclical Libertas: “But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”
I was deeply disappointed with the bishop’s support for Obamacare, and I still reject the wholly prudential argument that a national healthcare scheme is required to secure some sort of “human right” for people in this country. I especially reject the notion that a militantly secular regime such as Obama’s could ever be entrusted to secure such a right. One can only hope that the lesson was learned, and that it is not too late.
Turning to the President himself, by going down this path he is waging a campaign of political and ideological brinkmanship. I think it is pretty clear that the bishops, not to mention other faithful Catholics who will resist this unjust law, are prepared to suffer for their principles. The question is, will Obama become a (manifest) tyrant to enforce his? If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, the issue will be moot. If it doesn’t, he still has an election to win. I’m not sure whether caving on this issue would hurt him more than attempting to force it as far as his electoral prospects are concerned: I’ll leave that for another post (and the com-boxers: have fun).
Finally, I hope that those “out there” in secular and Protestant America who have concerns about or who actively oppose Obama will come to realize what I came to realize not long ago: that the Church, contrary to being some kind of enemy of political liberty, is actually one of its greatest benefactors. Even if you cannot appreciate the spiritual mission of the Church, the fact that it divides men’s loyalties and gives them something other than the will of the state to share their obedience with has been irritating tyrants for ages.