Saturday, May 26, 2012

Religious Liberty: How Times Have Changed - NOT!

Guy Petroziello
Bucks County Courier Times
Tullytown, Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. Petroziello,

A Man for All Seasons, which won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Picture, concerns events that happened "across the pond," nearly six centuries ago.  Perhaps, a feeling that the setting and events were so alien contributed to the film's popularity in the mid 1960s.

Frustrated with being unable to pressure the Pope into granting him an invalid declaration of nullity of his marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII declared himself to be head of the Church in England in 1530.  Though he'd been trying to avoid a public rupture with the king, Henry's former chancellor - Sir Thomas More - was indicted for high treason in 1534.  His "crime"?  Refusing an oath to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church.  Sir Thomas More - the Man for All Seasons of the film - was eventually beheaded with the immortal words: "I die the king's good servant - but God's first."  Sir Thomas More's bravery became a source of inspiration to people of all faiths, who acknowledge the value of religious freedom.
With regard to religious liberty, how times have changed - NOT! 

Archbishop Charles Chaput has noted that "Our national leadership in 2012 seems deaf to matters of religious freedom abroad and unreceptive - or frankly hostile - to religious engagement in public affairs.... Freedom of belief & religious practice used to be a concern that Americans had about other countries. Now it's a concern in ours."  As per a May 25th letter to the Department of Health and Human Services from Dr. Robert O'Hara,
  • "On behalf of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), the public affairs arm of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, I respectfully submit comments concerning the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ('ANPRM') on preventive services. 77 Fed. Reg 16501 (March 21, 2012)....

    "The ANPRM does not remove contraceptive services from the list of mandated preventive services and now that the mandate is a final rule, it is apparent that the objections of PCC and others have been ignored.....

    "The ANPRM does nothing to change what the government has mandated, namely, that religious employers/ministries which are insufficiently religious in the view of the government will be required to provide coverage for services to which those employers/ministries object....the Administration has embarked on a course which undermines the very foundations of freedom of religion upon which this nation was constructed.....

    "PCC urges that employers, charitable, health care and educational facilities, insurers and individuals with religious or moral objections are excluded from the mandate. Further, PCC urges removal of the inclusion of prescription contraception including abortifacients, surgical sterilization and counseling from the list of preventive services."
As per an article in Jewish World Review,
  • "the nation's Roman Catholic bishops are trying to refocus Americans on the threats to their religious liberty....this is exactly the sort of project in which all faiths ought to participate....the rights of Catholics not to support activities that contradict their faith is under siege. The issue, as the bishops rightly put it, is not so much whether Catholics are allowed to gather in their churches or pray as they like at home but whether they and their institutions are to go on being permitted to participate in our national life....The bishops write, 'To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other.' The same sentence applies to Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons and any other group including atheists who should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Catholics in defense of religious freedom" (Jewish World Review, 4/16/12).

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