Thursday, March 29, 2012

Compulsion and Contraception

I usually make something of a point of not commenting about political issues, as most of them do not concern Church teaching and therefore are a matter on which Christians can quite legitimately take differing opinions. However, every now and again we hit something that has moral as well as political implications, and it becomes neccessary for a Bishop to make some sort of statement to uphold the doctrinal or moral teaching of the Church. One such issues is the Contraception Mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. I am reproducing here a letter that I circulated in my capacity as Archbishop of the United Episcopal Church:

February 13 2012


The Bishops of the United Episcopal Church of North America would like to express their whole-hearted support of their brethren in the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Conference, and other religious groups who have expressed their opposition to the HHS Mandate requiring religioius institutions to provide contraceptive devices, inclusing abortifacients, as part of their employee health insurance.

The HHS Mandate is problematical as it fails to take account of the Church's moral teaching concerning abortifacients and contraception. It also constitutes a thinly veiled attack on religious institutions within the United States and an infringement of the principle that the Federal Government shall not intervene in the religious lives of its citizens.

The new healthcare mandate may also have serious unforeseen consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society if it forces religious institutions to withdraw from the provision of education, health and social services.

The Bishops of the United Episcopal Church of North America would also like to express the opinion that the "compromise" proposed by the President and the HHS shifting responsibility for paying for those services from the employer to the insurer does nothing to resolve the issue.

+Peter D. Robinson, Archbishop
United Episcopal Church of North America
Six weeks on there is still no sign of any further movement on this issue. The Churches are still expressing their opposition to the Mandate, but the news cycle has moved on, and their protests are not being covered by the mainstream media. For the time being it seems that the so called "compromise" offered by the President and Secretary Sibelius will remain the last word on this issue leaving the Government and the Church in something of a "Mexican Stand-off" as neither side wants to conceed its point. From the Church's point of view, the compromise is no compromise because the universality of contraception coverage is maintained irrespective of the moral teaching of the Church providing the coverage via its insurer. In essence, the Administration is asking the Churches to be complicit in allowing the contravention of Church teaching by Church employees. On the other hand, the present administration seems to regard contraception and abortions as beneficial to society and seems to want to avoid opt outs wherever possible.

Unfortunately, the current 'stand-off' about contraception is only the first in a series which are going to occur as "Obamacare" goes into effect. There are going to be further spats over stem cell derived therapies as they become available, and, of course, over the big two moral issues in healthcare - abortion and euthanasia. One thing that is quite clear from this initial skirmish is that the HHS has little patience with outright religious opposition, and no understanding of nuanced theological and moral positions such as that taken by the 1930 Lambeth Conference on Birth Control, which did not to institute a contraceptive free for all, but acknowledged that there were certain very limited circumstances in which artificial forms contraception were admissible as, for want of a better term, the lesser of two evils.

A further difficulty with the HHS Mandate comes through its assumption that the Constitutional principle of 'freedom of religion' actually constitutes nothing more than 'freedom of worship' and that religion is something that only exists behind church walls. God forbid that it should actually be allowed to influence the morals and politics of the country. This interpretation of 'religious freedom' smacks rather more of Joe Stalin trying to make Soviet Russia acceptable in the West when trying to gain our help against Hitler than of the American tradition of religious liberty. Certainly, it is another demonstration, as if one were needed, that the secularists in the American political scene wish to make Christianity irrelevant and precipitate its collapse by confining it behind Church walls. This may seem a harsh assessment, but there are chilling parallels in their attitude towards religion between those of the political elites in the USA, and those of Stalin's Russia or Hitler Germany.

Remember - it is better to raise the alarm now than to wear chains later!

Lastly, it was something of a disappointment to me that the Continuing Anglican Churches were not able to make a joint statement on the HHS Contraception Mandate. I am sure that the opposition that has already been registered by many of our bishops would have carried more weight with the politicians had a single statement been issued over the signatures of several archbishops and a dozen or two diocesan and suffragan bishops. It demonstrates the need for a standing conference of Continuing Anglican leaders in the USA to act as an orthodox counterpoise to the liberal views espoused by TEC, and, from time to time, by the ACNA.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you your Grace!

Anonymous said...

I did not see a joint statement from the Continuing churches, but I did see this:

Archbishop Duncan Issues Statement Responding to Recent Attack on Religious Liberty

Archbishop Robert Duncan released the following statement in support of the Catholic Church’s fight to maintain freedom of conscience in the midst of the U.S. federal government issuing a preventive care mandate in violation of its teaching.

“The Anglican Church in North America stands by our Catholic brothers and sisters as followers of Christ in a nation whose Constitution guarantees ‘the free exercise’ of religion. As Christians, our faith and doctrine are at the very heart of our service to others in our community. Therefore, it is extremely troubling to see our government mandate services contrary to Catholic Church teaching. I call on all members of the Anglican Church to stand by our Catholic brothers and sisters, and pray for our elected officials to have the courage to stand up for religious freedom and overturn this mandate,” said Archbishop Duncan.


Anonymous said...

From the current issue of Chronicles magazine:

The questions are simple: Who is the head of the Christian Church, Jesus Christ or Barack Obama? Who has the authority to determine the teachings of the Church, the hierarchy of the Church or the federal government of the United States? On matters where the federal government orders Christians to violate the teaching of the Church - not simply to tolerate such violations, as in the legalization of abortion - what is the proper Christian response? When the state wields its sword - given by God himself - to wreak destruction rather than impose proper order, must the Church sheathe Hers?

By deferring to the state not simply when the state fails to do its duty but when it actively subverts the proper moral order, the Church not only does not wield Her own sword: She falls on it.

For decades, Christians in the United States have been fighting rearguard actions as the federal government has encroached on the Church's domain. It is time to move the battle onto our own ground before it is too late to do so. We need to quit begging Barack Obama to offer us a "conscience protection" clause and simply tell him that we will protect our own conscience ourselves.

In the face of widespread and meaningful opposition to the contraception mandate - not mere quibbling over details - the anti-Christian zealots who run our country would have two options: They could back down, or they could crack down. Christians whose faith is planted deep in their hearts rather than worn on their sleeves understand that either one would be a victory. (Scott P. Richert, American Proscenium: The Church's Contraception Mandate, Chronicles, April 2012, p. 5.)

Paul said...

I agree with Archbishop Robinson, and continue to pray that the final paragraph of his post will be fulfilled soon. Archbishop Haverland of the ACC made a "synonymous" statement in the Trinitarian. Separate statements by the Archbishops of the ACC and UECNA are very good. A joint statement from all the Bishops of the Conitnuum would have been even better. Fr. Paul Beutell

RC Cola said...

Excellent letter. Very well said.

Bruce said...

Not sure where our priest/bishop-elect stands on this. He was too busy explaining to us how the Trayvon Martin case demonstrates the rampant hate in our society to comment on the contraception mandate.

Canon Tallis said...

Bruce, I feel really sorry for you and totally amazed at such naivete in this day and time. Part of me wants to ask you just who he is, but another part does not want to know.

Yes, there is rampant hate in our society, but it is not expressed at blacks per se, but rather at conservatives and Christians who are engaged in defending both our Constitution and the classical expressions of the Christian faith.

Bruce said...

The sermon came from the leftist media’s talking points. We got a sermon on “incivility” with the Gabriel Giffords shooting (at the exact time when the leftist media was pushing the narrative that it was right wing “incivility” that caused the shooting ). It wasn’t much different than the sermon we got from the media.
Back to the Romans. It’s really hard to feel sorry for them. I’m told that the U.S. Catholic Bishops largely supported Obamacare. Aside from reproductive issues and euthanasia, they’re often to the left of Pelosi and Reid. The Bishops were eager to deliver the rest of us into socialism, so long as the Romans’ own (limited and selective) area of moral jurisdiction was protected.
Yes, I support their position now, but what did they think would happen?

luan said...

Almost same topic from here , in Philippines. About our RH bill.
It states ..
"The Reproductive Health bills, popularly known as the RH Bill, are Philippine bills aiming to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control and maternal care". Which is also almost same in this topic.

Anna from papier peint enfant