Sunday, February 5, 2012

Religious Liberty, Catholic Institutions and the U.S. Government

After graduating from Catholic University with my new degree in Social Work in 1990, I went to work at NYC Catholic Charities Family Services office in the lower east side of Manhattan. There were four to five MSBTs working there. We offered some counseling to families and individuals (non therapeutic), advocacy, budget advice, direct services, food and much, much more. 
People knew we were Catholic and that we served everybody for free. Sometimes a woman would come in and tell me they were pregnant and couldn't handle another child for some reason. I would say to her, you came here to this office. Please tell me the name of this office. They would answer "Catholic Charities". I would then say " what do you think I'm going to say to you about your pregnancy?" Sometimes the woman would smile and say "I know sister" or say "I'm going to need help with getting what I need to have this baby" or "I need you to talk to my husband, boyfriend, mother, father, etc." We would always work with them to get the help they needed to have their baby and get the needed services be they counseling, financial assistance, referrals, etc. 

Our clients were smart they knew if they were looking for services regarding birth control and abortion they did not go to Catholic Charities. They knew where to go for what service.

Many such Catholic agencies and Institutions are staffed by lay people now. It seems to me that the days of such Institutions  are numbered. I believe the new guidelines about Medical, Educational and Service Institutions having to provide birth control services in employee health plans will mean big changes in Church run services.

Recently in Philadelphia there was an announcement that many schools will be closing next year.
The factor behind these closings is money. Not enough of it. But I wonder how many such Institutions will need to be closed now as Catholic Schools, Hospitals and Agencies will need to choose between disobeying Federal Law or God's Law.

Secretary Sebelius said  "This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty," she said. "I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services."
Well they may think it's an appropriate balance but I disagree. I think the disregard for religious liberty in this matter is unbalanced and will have significant consequences.
I wonder if this means there will be fewer educational, health and service institutions run by religious groups? Maybe this will mean Church resources will have to be removed from such institutions and spent on more explicitly religious services such as religious instruction of children and adults. 
Now I know many people think we Catholics are wrong if not crazy about this issue. But don't we have a right to honor what we know to be right? If you work for a religious organization don't you expect the organization to be run according to certain values and beliefs. 
I think religious liberty is being severely challenged in the United States today. I know for myself I an not comfortable in either of the main political parties of the U.S. My beliefs about how I treat undocumented people is considered illegal in some states and now this Health Insurance & birth control issue forces institutional behavior which I consider wrong. What's next I wonder?

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