After the events of recent days, have Roman Catholics — or at least the ones who go to Mass regularly and try to live by the historical teachings of their faith — finally realized that President Barack Obama doesn’t care what they or other traditional believers think about him?

True, the disdain that hard-core leftists — the kind the president has as his top advisers, “czars” and Cabinet officers — express for traditional Christianity has been obvious for a long time.

There’s nothing like getting slapped in the chops with a frozen flounder, however, to offer a needed dose of reality.

To recap briefly, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including the Catholic Church, must offer their employees health insurance that includes contraceptives, sterilization and drugs that kill fertilized embryos.

Many people who do not consider preventing fertilization to be immoral would nevertheless reject abortifacient drugs that prevent embryos’ implantation in the womb, but their moral concerns count for nothing where liberal dogmas about “choice” are enshrined.

Pity Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who met with President Obama last November and came away thinking he had reached an understanding about respecting Catholic concerns about moral issues.

Now, as Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson said in a Jan. 30 piece headlined “Obama Plays His Catholic Allies for Fools,” the president has displayed “radicalism and maliciousness” in “an edict delivered with a sneer.”

In fact, Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh told his diocese, “The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To hell with you!’ There is no other way to put it.”

The ruling was even criticized by überliberal columnist E.J. Dionne of The New York Times, who said liberal Catholics were as much betrayed by Obama as traditional ones.

Dolan now says he, too, feels betrayed, but he has no justification for that belief. Obama has long made it clear where his priorities lie, and they have nothing to do with protecting the religious liberties of traditional Christians or other faiths that don’t toe the liberal line.

Catholics have given the Democratic Party overwhelming support almost from the day immigration from traditionally Catholic nations swelled in the 19th century.

Seen as the defenders of the working man, the party benefited greatly from formal and informal Catholic support in untold elections at all levels from well before the New Deal into the present day.

But things changed when leftist radicalism triumphed with the nomination of George McGovern in 1972. Working-class and middle-class Democrats were pushed to the curb by the party’s monolithic support for abortion rights, unlimited welfare programs and unrestrained tax and spending programs that repudiated their values and interests.

Thus arose the Reagan Democrats, who, like their popular president, didn’t think they had left the Democratic Party, but that “the party had left them.”

How will faithful U.S. Catholics respond after being told by Pope Benedict XVI that their nation is being gravely harmed by such actions as the denial of the right of Catholic adoption agencies to place children with traditional couples; federal opposition to laws that defend male-female marriage; and the prosecution (actually, persecution) of individual believers who want to live out their faith in their lives and work.

The pope made that observation during a visit to Rome by U.S. bishops on Jan. 19, telling his guests that some U.S. trends are “a threat not just to Christian faith, but to humanity itself.”

Among those trends, he said, is a “radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of (church) life.”

Benedict continued, “Many of you (bishops) have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholics with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”

Changing “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship,” a phrase used recently by the president himself, aims to restrict religious liberty to what occurs inside a church, with the government in control of everything outside those walls.

So the pope called for “an engaged, articulate and well-informed Catholic laity … with the courage to counter a reductive secularism” that is increasingly influential in American life.

That’s why more than 100 bishops, including Maine’s, ordered a letter read at Mass last Sunday alerting Catholics that their freedoms (and the liberties of other orthodox believers across many traditions) are under fire from a very powerful enemy — the federal government itself.

How will believers react? We could find out in November.

 

M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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