Thursday, August 13, 2009

Abbey Road

Laws have a way of being turned on their heads by zealous public officials aided by equally zealous attorneys. I saw it happen firsthand as a young(ish) healthcare lawyer. Physicians who were concerned that complying with a dying patient’s wishes in removing supportive care refused to do so because of the fear of legal liability. A law was drafted, intended to protect a physician from liability if he acted in accord with patient directives in particular written form: a “living will.” It was a liability limiting statute designed to free physicians from lawsuits so that they could care for patients in the way the patient determined was best. It compelled nothing.

Give lawyers and the courts a few years and a free hand, and a remarkable thing happened. What was intended to be a liability-limiting law that actually freed individuals to act in accord with their consciences (whatever they happened to be) suddenly became a rights-limiting statutes. Patient wishes for directing terminal care could not be honored UNLESS they were in the prescribed from, no matter how clear they otherwise were, and how much in accord physician, patient and family were. What had been intended to free, now imprisoned.

A few more years, and the Schiavo case came along, and all of a sudden, on the backs of that inversion of law, the courts interceded to usurp the role of the physician, dictating what care was to be given to a patient,and, even more menacing, forbidding that patient even to receive the Eucharist because it constituted providing food and hydration in violation of the court’s order. What was meant to protect physicians from lawsuits was now being used to deny the sacraments to a dying woman--who was herself dying because the court decided she should.

The same thing has happened with the First Amendment to the Constitution. Intended to free churches from the interference of the state, it has been turned on its head to free the state from the interference posed by religious people of conscience. We are entering what will someday be called the Great Constitutional Persecution of Christians--starting, as usual, with the Catholic Church. There have been many warning signs along the way: a wedding photographer sued for refusing a job to photograph a homosexual “wedding,” pharmacists mandated to provide contraceptives, private homeowners (read that “little old ladies ” if you wish) seeking to generate a little extra income by renting a room or a family home being forbidden to advertise that only female or married or Christian boarders are acceptable.

It appears that the only conscience to be respected is that of those in charge of social institutions, a group not particularly known these days for having well formed Christian moral compasses.

Recent months have seen an increase in number and aggressiveness of the campaign against Christian values, disguised as the relentless search for “equality.” Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts were forced out of business because they refused to provide adoptions for homosexual couples. The claim: that they discriminated against homosexuals, depriving them of the right to adopt--despite the fact that there were dozens of other agencies in the state that were willing to aid homosexuals if they wished to adopt. It wasn’t about access to services, it was about uniformity of thought and action in accordance to what the lawmakers and jurists in charge decreed to be right, proper, and desirable. The losers were the hard-to-adopt children in Massachusetts that the Catholic agencies helped to place, with great success. A law that was designed to open doors slammed them shut with what can best be termed a vengeance.

And it is happening again at Belmont Abbey College. A small Catholic school in North Carolina, a few years ago, it determined that it had inadvertently been subsidizing insurance benefits for abortion and contraception, in violation with its mission as a Catholic school and its institutional Catholic conscience. It removed those benefits, and sent out a letter to employees explaining the moral imperative for the action. Now they are the subject of a discrimination action by the EEOC, which claims that they discriminate against women. (The fact that vasectomies and condoms are also not covered apparently escapes their attention. Contraception is significant only from the female perspective.)

Belmont Abbey will now be engaged in an extremely expensive struggle for its very life. If the EEOC prevails, and a Catholic employer can be mandated to provide abortion and contraception coverage, the implications are staggering. Only a few potential options would remain, none of them particularly attractive: eliminate coverage altogether (and cripple recruiting and leave loyal employees without necessary health care); find a way to pay disgruntled employees more so that they can purchase their own coverage (an expensive break-the-bank proposition that is also inequitable to those of conscience who are happy with current coverage) or find a way to structure a health savings account that sufficiently distances the college from the funding of abortion to be acceptable to the conscience of the monks and the administration. Or--and this may actually be the nefarious point of this exercise--go out of business altogether.

Expand this notion to its logical conclusion. Parochial schools, Christian schools, churches, religious-based hospitals, charities, conventions, and dioceses may also be forced to do the same. What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander, indeed, and this particular flock is very, very large.

No one is obliged to work at Belmont Abbey. There are many, many alternative employers that offer abortion and contraception coverage in the area--Belmont Abbey is very much in the minority in not doing so. People make employment decisions based on benefits packages (how much vacation, structure of pension plans, stock options) every day, and part of the American economic and social model is to provide latitude for choices in how to approach and live out life, including in the workplace. This is no different, but for the fact that it transgresses the Culture of Death and its insistence that abortion and contraception are more than rights. They are a much-desired good to be fostered in any possible way.

It’s also a result of the narcissistic posture of modern society and especially modern gender-feminism. The Culture of Death goes hand in hand with the Culture of Outrage, that insists the petulant desires of any interest group be honored no matter how it may affect the life, desires, or conscience of another. The modern feminists behind the action at Belmont Abbey will not rest until the actions of every single human being are brought to heel to its own narrow agenda. If the individuals involved desire abortion and contraception benefits, they are available--again, not a question of access, a question of forcing the conformity of another’s morals with ones own.

Whether or not one agrees with Belmont Abbey’s decision, all fair minded individuals should be outraged. The First Amendment is designed to protect the religious conscience, not only in the church, but in the public square.

Moral indignation is not enough this time. Christians--indeed, all people of good conscience, regardless of faith--should be prepared to draw a line in the sand and say “No more!” Permit a few suggestions:

Invest two dollars in paper and postage and write to your senators, and congressman, supporting Belmont Abbey and calling on their assistance in redressing the situation.

Talk about the situation. This isn’t getting much coverage in the mainstream press, and won’t until and unless the EEOC and the courts find against Belmont Abbey. The reason is obvious: the mainstream press agrees with the EEOC; this kind of conscience in action cannot be permitted. So, instead of discussing last night’s dinner, or the kids’ play or whatever else you generally discuss, tell your friends and neighbors, and ask their help, too. Grassroots voices are very powerful. And don’t forget to talk to people at church and your pastor.

Check out the link to the story , which can be found at at or at for all the details--and commit to following the story, not letting it die in your mind or the minds of those in a position to affect the outcome of this action.

Write a letter to the editor to your local paper to raise general awareness. You can do it! Ask the Holy Spirit to help --I can tell you from experience, He’s got the words.

Write the Belmont Abbey’s administration expressing your support.

Most importantly, pray. Pray just as you would for persecuted Christians anywhere. Pray that the administration stands fast and witnesses to Catholic teaching, regardless of the cost. Pray that we might do the same, and join your Christian heart to your brothers and sisters at Belmont Abbey. Pray daily and often for the Abbey, and do penance for the conversion of heart of those who seek to compel them to violate their consciences, and continue to do so until this is resolved and the smoke of this particular battle clears. Pray for the administration, for good lawyers to help them, for a change of heart by the EEOC, for any and every grace and victory to permit the free exercise of Christian conscience in all aspects of life. And pray for courage for those who are now suffering because they dare to stand up for Christ.

Can we do less?

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me." (Martin Niemoller)


  1. You're right about the financial strain. In addition to prayers, I think they will need funds to fight this battle and hold their stand for Christ! Folks should go to their website and make a donation --

  2. yes!!!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" [Edmund Burke]