EARLIER: MY WORD: Catholics' message doesn't mesh with government

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By Raymond Broussard

In the June 3 edition of The Courier-Journal, there was a story on the front page about Louisville Archbishop Kurtz and others protesting outside the federal courthouse. The group led by Archbishop Kurtz was protesting the recent federal mandates requiring coverage of contraception costs for most employees.

Archbishop Kurtz and his group refuse to accept the fact that the mandate does not “force” anyone, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, or any other faith to use contraception. The mandate only levels the playing field for anyone not Catholic and Catholics to have the same insurance coverage as those working for, say, a secular organization.

Perhaps the Archbishop fails to understand the Catholics do not have a corner on the morality market. In addition I fail to see how living in West Louisville dictates whether a person is “out of control, completely emotional, do whatever [they] feel, then…get mad…then we complain” about the violence. Perhaps this is a separate issue! I live in Shelbyville, and I was incensed by Mr. Heuser’s insensitive comments.

Catholics may also choose to use contraceptives in spite of Catholic dogma and ecclesiastical rules. The issue is not the mandate but an internal issue with Catholics and their beliefs systems. If the Catholic Church and the bishops are concerned about contraception within the Catholic faith, then gear your religious fervor within you faith.

On the streets public demonstrations only call to others how the church has gotten too big and powerful. The issue of Roman Catholic martyrdom during the middle ages really has no bearing on the issue at all.

This is a 200-year-old democracy that has gone through ups and downs to ensure its citizen’s rights at every level. St. Thomas More had a great deal to say about faith and philosophy that led our Founding Fathers to this land and our system of laws.

Perhaps Karl Marx had a point when he stated: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” There are rational approaches to solving the problem within the church without interfering with the human rights of others. How would the archbishop feel if the U. S. military told the church that it could not distribute communion because it fosters cannibalism since transubstantiation is believed by Catholics to turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

More realistic, suppose the government submits to the social and political pressure of the church, then it would also be fair and justifiable for the government to withdraw the tax-exempt status for all Catholic organizations. The church and its bishops in the United States cannot and should not have it both ways; in other words “situational ethics.”

My argument is the government stays out of the nuts and bolts of the many religions in the United States. Similarly the Catholic church should stay out of the nuts and bolts of protecting our citizens’ rights. Kurtz and other activists on this issue must understand that they do not speak for all persons who are Christians and walk on their side of the street.

Kurtz and other bishops should get together to decide how Catholics should handle the government’s contraception mandate. Those who are not Catholics and those Catholics who make the choice to use the insurance benefit for whatever reason should feel comfortable to exercise their right to choose. Also those who are Catholics and those non-Catholics should also have the right to choose not to exercise the use of the contraception mandate.

Finally, I am disheartened by the bishops and their use of the contraceptive mandate as a social and religious issue. I do not think that politics is the primary area of study in the seminary.

However, there is a controversial example of politics in Rome, thus the priest should return to ministering to their flocks. When Jesus was the scribes and Pharisees with their legalistic interpretation of the Torah attacked him by asking what the greatest commandment was. Calmly and deliberately Jesus responded that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and spirit and to love one another as he loves us. As the bishops draw “the line in the sand,” some of us will undoubtedly not have the love of the bishops.

When Jesus installed the sacrament of Holy Orders, according to Catholic tradition, he did not mean for the priest to take social and political sides. The quotation by Jesus in response to the scribes and Pharisees, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s; and render to God what is God’s.”

The bishops are not rendering to “Caesar,” but usurping “Caesar’s” authority this time given to him by a mandate of the people. Priests, whether bishop, archbishop, etc., must minister to all of us during this moral and divisive crisis or any other non-secular crisis. There are an untold number of Catholics in addition to other faiths who are troubled by this controversy while bishops are hiking up their pants, tightening their belts, drawing lines in the sand, and creating as well as fostering a gross misunderstanding.

Jesus warned us of false shepherds. Choosing sides goes against Jesus’ “greatest commandment.”


Raymond Broussard lives in Shelbyville.