Put Out into the Deep

Court’s Decisions Threaten Consciences

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The Constitution of the United States is a remarkable document penned by our Founding Fathers that has kept our Union together since its foundation, and gives a spirit of equality to all citizens of the United States of America. With two recent decisions of our Supreme Court, however, we wonder how the Constitution has been used to justify two complex, yet similar, actions. Both decisions are grounded in misunderstanding of human freedom. Individual conscience has been put to the test.

The first decision of the Supreme Court last week is regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare, that permits participants to receive federal subsidies even if their states have not set up exchanges, meaning state-sponsored insurance programs. The issue is not really about subsidies, but more importantly about state’s rights in relationships to the federal government.

Overreaching Federalism has always been a danger to our Union and the correct interpretation of the Constitution. The details of this type of subsidy and the overall failure of the Affordable Care Act – which originally was to cover over 41 million un-insured Americans but has provided coverage for 18 million people – should have been considered differently.

The United States Bishops have been constantly in favor of universal healthcare. However, this disastrous act has had many unintended consequences, especially for conscience issues. All new Affordable Care Act health policies, with few exceptions, must cover sterilization, abortion and contraception, not withstanding any conscience rights of those who are required to pay for these services that are against their consciences. The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the whole law only makes these provisions more difficult to fight as they are finding their ways through the courts and even to the Supreme Court.

The second decision of the Supreme Court regarding the legalization of the so-called same-sex marriage is another example of how the Court has made individual freedom trump communal responsibility. The redefinition of marriage as a union of two persons of the same sex has had monumental consequences for our Nation. Almost 20 states have direct bans on same-sex marriage. Again, overriding Federalism trumped the rights of these states and the persons in those states who voted against something which violated their consciences.

We have heard the law praised on the basis that “love is love.” Well, love does not equal marriage. Marriage contains, by definition, something which sustains the human race. It is meant for the procreation of human life. The only interest of the State in marriage should be to regulate the care of offspring and the legitimate rights of parties entering into marriage. The State has no business in regulating relations between persons. Notwithstanding the morality or immorality of certain sexual acts between married and unmarried persons, the Constitution is silent. However, by using the Fourteenth Amendment, the purpose of which was to defend former slaves, the Court redefined marriage to extend the rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

The greater consequences for the passage of this law are for the Church and its institutions. In the arguments before the Supreme Court and two questions placed by the Justices, one question was given to the Solicitor General, “What would happen if an institution would refuse to hire someone who was in a same-sex marriage, since there was judicial precedence in a case where a Christian college refused to hire people in racially mixed marriages.”

Of course, this is not the position of the Church, but was the position of that organization. In that case the court ruled that the college could be stripped of its tax-exempt status. Given our strict labor laws in the United States, unlike those in many industrialized countries, the Church would be compelled to hire individuals who by a public act repudiate the teachings of the Church and live publicly in ways not in keeping with the Gospel. Advocates of same-sex marriage have themselves indicated that this is the “new front” to “secure equal rights.” This certainly will be an area where great dispute will occur.

We must be ready to stand for the rights of our own consciences and beliefs. In a pluralistic society, everyone has a right to say what they believe and why they believe what they believe. Unfortunately, marriage is not a matter of belief. Rather, it is a matter of natural law which has ruled our world for millenniums. It is, unfortunately, a total misunderstanding of human nature has occurred at this time in our history. Our Nation has certainly put out into the deep murky waters of unjustified interpretation of our Constitution on this Fourth of July weekend. Only as voting citizens can we ever make a change in the direction of our society. I urge you, as we come closer to the primary elections, and the presidential elections in the future, to register to vote. This is the only way in a democratic society that we can make a difference.

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