[This past weekend millions of Catholics were read a letter from their Bishop in response to the HHS mandate (partial list below). CV Blogger John White published an excellent post on how we can help our shepherds. I thought you would enjoy it, and so we are featuring it today. -Brian]
Pray for our Bishops.
Because they need it, they need lots of it.
And they need it now.
Many American bishops have publicly spoken out against the Obama administration’s recent declaration of war against the Catholic Church. So far, the response from the episcopate has been widespread, clear, and strong. We should all be encouraged by the readiness on the part of these bishops to lead the American Church in this fight for freedom.
But we ought not take this leadership for granted. So often it seems, when something Church-related gets us upset, we are all too ready and willing to focus our outrage on the local bishop. Granted, the last ten years have certainly reminded us that bishops can make poor, even seriously harmful, decisions. And the accounting for those transgressions is still underway.
But too often the bishops suffer our wrath over the fact that the state of the Church (in our parish, our diocese, or our country) isn’t just the way we want it to be. Expecting faithful leadership from the bishop is one thing. Calling up the chancery (which you have on speed dial) because Father Bob failed to mention Hell in his homily is something else.
It gets lonely at the top, or so they say.
The same thought has been echoed by high-ranking military officers, or their biographers, who speak of the “loneliness of command.” When you’re the top dog, or the top brass, or the top guy in the diocese, you get to call the shots. But that means that you also bear the responsibility, alone, for the shots you call.
In the case of bishops, it means that every day they are asked to make decisions, issue statements, and take actions with one thing in mind – the salvation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of souls. That’s a sobering dose of responsibility. And as a bonus, these shepherds carry out their vocation with the certain knowledge that no matter what they do, a good percentage of the souls they are charged with will be left disappointed, upset, or outraged. At them. That’s not a job anyone should envy. Certainly not one that we should take for granted.
A Chesterton quote, on St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we just celebrated:
His experiences included well-attested cases of levitation in ecstasy; and the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, comforting him with the welcome news that he would never be a Bishop.
Welcome news indeed. And now things just got really fun if you have “Most Rev.” in front of your name. At the end of the day (and that day, if we want to be precise, is August 1, 2013), the HHS mandate doesn’t force most of us (unless we own a small business) to do anything. The bishops aren’t so lucky. Yes, the laity have a responsibility to engage this threat wherever and however they can. The ways for doing this are numerous and varied, and have been ably put forth on CatholicVote's site.
But in most cases, the actual responsibility for the decisions that will need to be made regarding the cold hard consequences of the mandate lies squarely on the shoulders of the bishops. Thus has it been, from St. Ignatius of Antioch to St. Thomas Becket. These successors of the Apostles, these shepherds of souls, these men clothed in black cloth and human weakness have been called through the ages to stand on the ramparts of the Church under siege and take the first blow from the enemy’s sword.
Thus has it been, and thus shall it be. The bishops will be the ones who will have to stand tall, just as St. Polycarp and St. John Fisher did before them, and say, with dire consequence, ”We cannot, and we will not.” And they will be the first to suffer. One American prelate, Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, made this stark and rather chilling observation of the current state of affairs:
I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.
Pray for them.
Here is a partial list of statments released by Bishops across the country in opposition to the HHS mandate:
Bishop Thomas Olmsted - Diocese of Phoenix, AZ:
Bishop Paul Coakley – Diocese of Oklahoma City, OK:
Bishop Richard Malone – Diocese of Portland, ME:
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien – Archdiocese of Baltimore, MD:
Archbishop Allen Vigneron – Archdiocese of Detroit, MI:
Cardinal Roger Mahony – Archbishop Emeritus, Los Angeles, CA:
Archbishop Gomez – Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA:
Bishop Paul Loverde – Diocese of Arlington, VA:
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr – Archdiocese of Cincinnati, OH:
Bishop Joe Vasquez – Diocese of Austin, TX:
Bishop Kevin Vann – Diocese of Fort Worth, TX:
Bishop Kevin Ferrell – Diocese of Dallas, TX:
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, TX:
Bishop William Medley – Diocese of Owensboro, KY:
Bishop Anthony Taylor – Diocese of Little Rock, AR:
Bishop Joseph Bambera - Diocese of Scranton, PA:
Bishop David Zubik – Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA:
Bishop Patrick McGrath – Diocese of San Jose, CA:
Archbishop Thomas Wenski – Archdiocese of Miami, FL:
Bishop Daniel Jenky - Diocese of Peoria, IL:
Bishop James Conley – Diocese of Denver, CO:
Bishop Walter Nickless – Diocese of Sioux City, IA:
Archbishop Jerome Listecki – Archdiocese of Milwaukee, WI:
Bishop David Ricken – Diocese of Green Bay, WI:
Archbishop Wilton Gregory – Archbishop of Atlanta, GA:
Bishop Peter Libasci – Diocese of Manchester, NH:
Bishop Frederick Campbell - Diocese of Columbus, OH:
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan – Archdiocese of New York, NY:
Archbishop John Myers – Archdiocese of Newark, NJ:
Bishop William Callahan – Diocese of LaCrosse, WI:
Bishop Leonard Blair – Diocese of Toledo, OH:
Bishop Paul Eitenne - Diocese of Cheyenne, WY:
Archbishop Robert Carlson – Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO:
Bishop Thomas Paprocki – Diocese of Springfield, IL:
CV Blogger Thomas Peters is compiling a list of Bishops' statements against this HHS mandate at http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=25591. Is your bishop not on this list? Please check with your diocese to see if a statement has been made by your bishop, and if not, respectfully ask him to do so! If they have issued a statement, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statement from Most Rev. John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be "of, by, and for the people," has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees' health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those "services" in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration's sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.
We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protectio..., to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration's decision.