Henry IX?

January 24, 2012

The Obama Administration is the most anti-religious and anti-Catholic presidential administration in the history of the Republic.

Last week the Administration released health care regulations which will force Catholic schools and hospitals to provide, free of charge, sterilizations and contraceptives, including some “contraceptives” which induce abortions.  These regulations come on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in which the Administration’s lawyers pushed a line of legal reasoning, which, if followed to its logical conclusions, would have allowed the government to decide whom churches hire and fire, possibly even whom churches ordain.  Fortunately the Court recognized that if the Administration’s argument had prevailed, the First Amendment wouldn’t be worth the faded parchment on which it is written, and rejected it—unanimously.

Toward the beginning of his presidency, President Obama and his subordinates had the tendency to describe nearly every policy they implemented as “historic” or “unprecedented.”  A bit self-congratulatory perhaps, but certain aspects of this presidency no doubt made it worthy of those adjectives.  And now, sadly, President Obama has made history in another way:  no president has ever undermined the First Amendment’s promise of religious liberty in the ways President Barack Obama has.

Right now, the Catholic Church, because of its teachings on the morality of contraception and abortion, is bearing the brunt of the Administration’s assault, but undermining the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience threatens the rights of those whose beliefs put them entirely at odds with Catholicism.  If the government can force us to violate our consciences today, what is to protect your conscience when the regime changes?

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On the (Belated) Feast of Bl. J. H. Newman

October 11, 2011


Since the second annual observance of the feast of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman was trumped by the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, I feel justified transferring it to the present day (at least for readers of Whosoever Desires).  In honor of our displaced beatus, I thought I might offer a comment or two on Newman’s “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,” where he explains the relationship between Catholic conscience and papal infallibility.  He concludes the chapter on conscience with a famous “toast”:

Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.

At least in certain senses, then, Newman exalts private judgment (i.e., conscience) above the authority of the Church (i.e., the Pope); if he had not intended this in some sense, he would not have so written.  However, I would argue that these “certain senses” do not include what one would nowadays call theological dissent.

Newman’s statement easily lends itself to misinterpretation because conscience, like being, “is said in many ways.” Read the rest of this entry »