By Fr. George Welzbacher
April 26, 2009
In the era described by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles the supreme religious authority in the Jewish world was the Sanhedrin, a mixed group of priests and laymen, Sadducces and Pharisees, traditionally 71, in number, over which the High Priest presided. This was the council before which Peter and John were arraigned very soon after they and the other apostles, under the impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit, had begun to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem.and to testify to Christ's resurrection in the flesh. The Council strictly enjoined Peter and John to cease and desist from their teaching at once. The response of Peter and John was respectful but forceful.- "Judge for yourselves whether we should obey you rather than God."
These words would provide the mandate for twenty stormy centuries of opposition, principled and determined, on the part of the Church to the efforts of various and sundry secular authorities to impose upon their subjects commands and "obligations" that contradict God's law, both the law revealed and the law that is implicit in the very nature of Man. Such is the ground for an unyielding opposition by the Church today to our government's promotion of the destruction of innocent human life through abortion and the destruction of human embryos. Whether it happens to be the judiciary or the legislature or the executive power that at any given moment is championing the destruction of innocent human life is irrelevant to the fundamental issue: Murder is murder and it is eternally wrong because it absolutely violates man's uniquely sacred nature. To use alternative language, it violates the natural law, the same law that demands the condemnation of Hitler's mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and Poles and Stalin's murder by starvation of millions of Ukrainian farmers ( the so-called "kulaks'). Every believing Catholic is compelled by that same natural law, clarified and reinforced by revelation, to condemn the mass murder, authorized by Roe v. Wade, of some fifty million of our compatriots, our fifty million "missing Americans".
That is why a recent vote (on April 6th) in the U.S. Senate is so appalling. Not simply appalling, it is scandalous in every sense of that word.
Sixteen U.S. senators who describe themselves as "Catholic" voted AGAINST a proposed law that would have PROTECTED the freedom of conscience of medical personnel by AFFIRMING their right to REFUSE to participate in medical procedures that VIOLATE the sacred nature of Man. The spirit of St. Thomas More, England's courageous chancellor who paid with his life for taking his stand as "the King's good servant but GOD'S SERVANT FIRST", is notably absent from many of today's politicians who, though perhaps professing at election time their love of God. and of His Church , give, once elected, their first allegiance to secular interests.
The following account of the April 6th vote in the U. S. Senate appeared in a Catholic News Agency report that was reprinted in The Wanderer, issue of April 16th.
* * * * *Catholic Senators Vote Against "Conscience Law"
From: The Wanderer
Date: April 16, 2009
A majority of CATHOLICS in the U. S. Senate on April 6 REJECTED A CONSCIENCE PROTECTION LAW proposed by Senator Tom Colburn that would protect health-care workers who object to abortion from participating in the procedure.
Conscience protection has become a topic of debate after President Obama announced that he was reviewing the law and could possibly eliminate it. Colbum's amendment was worded: "To protect freedom of conscience for patients and the right of health care providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions."
The amendment was voted down by a margin of 41-56, in which a majority of Catholic senators voted AGAINST the amendment by 9-16. The failure to pass this legislation now leaves the door open for the Obama Administration to rescind the law by EXECUTIVE order and to FORCE health workers to compromise their moral convictions. In March, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed deep concern that removing the conscience rule would be "THE FIRST STEP IN MOVING OUR COUNTRY FROM DEMOCRACY TO DESPOTISM."
"No government should come between an individual person and God-that's what America is supposed to be about," he commented. "This is the true common ground for us as Americans."
Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the USCCB, also commented on the possibility of conscience laws being revoked.: "[It] raises a real issue, because the statutes are intended to protect human rights-rights of conscience and rights of freedom of religion. So why should everyone be concerned about this? Because if one person's rights can be compromised, everybody's rights can be compromised."
Bishop Murphy called on all Catholics to respond together to protect these basic human rights.
"The lay men and women of our churches, of our parishes and dioceses across the country have to be the voices of the Catholic Church today. Their voice is stronger than ours in many instances because they are the constituents, because they vote and because the politicians know they need those votes to be re-elected."
16 Catholic senators voted AGAINST the protection of these human rights: Mark Begick (D., Alaska), Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), Ted Kauftnan (D., Del.), Richard Durbin (D., ILL.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Mary Landrieu (D., La.), Susan Collins (R., Maine), Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) John Kerry (D., Mass), Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Jack Reed (D., R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), and Patty Murray (D., Wash.).
The nine Catholic senators who voted FOR the amendment were: Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), Mel Martinez (R., Fla.) Jim Risch (R., Idaho), Sam Brownback (R., Kansas), Jim Bunning (R., Ky.), Dave Vitter (R., La.), Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), George Voinovich (R., Ohio), and Robert Casey (D., Pa.).
* * * * *As we were about to go to press we received good news indeed: Pope Benedict has named Bishop Robert Carlson, former auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis and subsequently bishop of Sioux Falls, then for the past several years the bishop of Saginaw in Michigan, to succeed Archbishop Raymond Burke as archbishop of St. Louis. I hail the decision-and I believe that I speak here for loyal Catholics everywhere-because Bishop Carlson, like his predecessor in St. Louis, is afearless spokesman for the cause of Christ, and, while a man of unfailing courtesy, he is not intimidated by the politically high and mighty. Those are exactly the qualities needed in a diocese whose bishops have on occasion been elevated to cardinalatial status. Bishop Carlson has also enjoyed an extraordinary rapport with his priests and seminarians. During a three-day visit with Bishop Carlson at his home in Sioux Falls at his invitation in the summer of 2000 I saw at first hand repeated instances of the respect he shows for his priests and seminarians and the respect that they return to him; while maintaining with quiet dignity his persona as "the general", he makes sure that his clergy are consistently aware that they are honored and trusted members of his "general staff." And when he was asked by Pope John Paul to assume leadership of the much troubled diocese of Saginaw in Michigan, he made the encouragement of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life (to no one's surprise) his number one goal. When he arrived in Saginaw there were only two seminarians studying for that diocese; as he leaves for St. Louis there are now twenty.
As we rejoice with the Church at this most welcome appointment let us add Bishop Carlson's name to our prayer list. His characteristic virtues of kindness, good judgment and courage will he very much in demand in view of the rising tensions between Church and State on issues that cannot much longer be evaded.