At the end of Sunday mass at the church this writer attends in Washington, D.C., the pastor asked the congregation to remain for a few minutes.
Then, on the instructions of Cardinal Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the pastor proceeded to read a letter.
In the letter, the Church denounced the Obama administration for ordering all Catholic schools, hospitals and social services to provide, in their health insurance coverage for employes, free contraceptives, free sterilizations and free "morning-after" pills.
Parishioners were urged to contact their representatives in Congress to bring about a reversal of President Obama's new policy.
Now, not only is this a battle the Church must fight, it is a battle the Church can win if it has the moral stamina to say the course.
In forcing the Church to violate its own principles, Obama has committed an act of federal aggression, crossing the line between church and state to appease his ACLU and feminist allies, while humiliating the Catholic bishops.
Should the Church submit, its moral authority in America would disappear.
Now, undeniably, the church milquetoast of past decades that refused to discipline pro-abortion Catholics allowed the impression to form that while the hierarchy may protest, eventually it will go along to get along with a Democratic Party that was once home to most Catholics.
Obama's problem today is that not only is he forcing the Church to violate her conscience, he dissed the highest prelate in America.
In November, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, held what he describes as an "extraordinarily friendly" meeting with Obama at the White House.
The president assured the archbishop of his respect for the Church, and the archbishop came away persuaded Obama would never force the Church to adopt any policy that would violate her principles.
Ten days ago, Obama sandbagged the archbishop.
He informed Cardinal-designate Dolan by phone that, with the sole concession of the Church being given an extra year, to August 2013, to comply, the new policy, as set down by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, will be imposed. All social and educational institutions of the Catholic church will offer health insurance covering birth control, or face fines.
"In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," said Archbishop Dolan, who went on:
"To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. ... This represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."
Where do Obama and Sebelius get the power to do this?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, the colloquial name for which is "Obamacare."
NARAL Pro-Choice America is celebrating the new policy. Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, calls it a "health care issue ... based on what's best for women's health." Others have argued that many Catholic women practice birth control.
But that Catholics choose to ignore doctrine does not justify the U.S. government imposing on Catholic institutions a policy that violates Catholic teaching.
Even Washington Post liberal E.J. Dionne, in a Jan. 30 column titled "Obama's Breach of Faith," charges that the president "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus. ...
"Speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government ... the Church's leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings."
Why did Obama do it?
Facing a close race for a second term, Obama chose not to antagonize his left. Yet he must have known that siding with them meant leaving Archbishop Dolan with egg all over his face. Obama, calculatedly, came down on the side of those he believes to be more crucial to his re-election.
This affront should tell the Catholic hierarchy, if they did not already know, where they stand in the party of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Kathleen Sebilius. And where they sit -- in the back of the bus.
Yet if the bishops will look upon this crisis of conscience, this insult, as an opportunity, they can effect its reversal and recapture a measure of the moral authority they have lately lost.
Not only should the bishops file suit in federal court against the president and Sebelius for violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, they should inform the White House that no bishop will give an invocation at the Democratic Convention.
Then, they should inform the White House that in the last two weeks of the 2012 campaign, priests in every parish will read from the pulpit at Sunday mass a letter denouncing Obama as anti-Catholic for denying the Church its right to live according to its beliefs.
If Obama loses the Catholic vote, he loses the election.
The White House will come around, fast. Rely upon it.
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