Stand with Jesus, not Caesar
Archbishop Carlson delivered this moving speech at the Rally for Religious Liberty March 27 at the Missouri State Capitol.
"He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34; Matthew 16:24; Like 9: 23)
In late January 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that almost all employers would be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and potentially abortion-inducing drugs. Recognizing this as a grave threat to religious liberty, many people spoke out against the mandate.
In response to this reaction, the Obama administration announced a "compromise" in early February. Now, instead of religious organizations being required to pay for "services" that violate their principles, the insurance companies will be required to provide them free of charge.
In fact, these drugs are not free. Somebody has to pay for them. If the insurance company has to provide them, the cost will be passed on to us one way or another.
In addition, many Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis, are self-insured. United Health Care processes and investigates our claims and negotiates rates on our behalf, but the money to pay for them comes entirely from us.
As a result, the Obama administration's "compromise" changed nothing. According to the government we are free to believe, but not free to practice our beliefs. In other words, we have freedom of worship, but not religion. To this fundamental abuse of the principle of religious freedom we say "No!"
Many of our ecumenical brothers and sisters stand with us. This is not about contraception; this is about religious liberty! They know that if the government can tell the Roman Catholic Church today which of its ministries qualify as "religious," and which beliefs can be put into practice, their heads will be on the chopping block tomorrow. We stand together so that we can say clearly to all: We will render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we will NOT render unto Caesar what belongs to God!
What are our options? We can submit to the mandate and violate our teachings. That's hypocrisy and that way is totally unacceptable!
We can shut down our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic schools and our Catholic charities. We can violate the mission that Jesus gave us: to teach, to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to cloth the naked. But that would break faith with our mission and jeopardize our salvation. We will never do that!
We can seek exemptions as religious employers if we agree to hire primarily Catholics and to serve primarily Catholics. But Jesus didn't come to serve only His own people and neither do we. We serve people because Jesus Christ commanded us to share His Good News with everyone!
The government has left us no good options. We cannot in good faith comply with the mandate as it is written. Every avenue compromises our mission and forces us to render unto Caesar what belongs to God.
So what should we do? Our situation is like that of the early Christians living in the Roman Empire. Roman culture and law provided a climate that was often openly hostile to Christianity. How did the early Church survive? How did it come to pass that the Church is still a living reality, while the Roman Empire is not?
It was the witness of believers like you and me. They understood the Good News of Jesus Christ and they bore witness to His truth. They represented the Lord in the public square as His followers!
We, too, stand with Jesus Christ, not Caesar!
Please stand with us and say, "Jesus, I will take up my cross and follow You wherever the path takes us"! Help us tell government officials that we are ready to suffer for our convictions. They can fine us, and we won't pay. They can put us in jail, and we won't care. We remain committed to the end to what our Lord has commanded us to do as His witnesses and disciples. Remember Rome. We've been here before.
St. Paul said it 2,000 years ago: Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
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