Friday, June 1, 2012

When to pull the trigger

Showing up in my Facebook feed was this article about one blogger's contention that the bishops are being played for fools (H/T Stacy Trasancos, content warning - language) regarding their stance on the HHS mandate.  While I have my concerns about tone, respectful dialogue, and the general attitude the question itself deserves an answer.  What I post are my own thoughts about the bishops' strategy in dealing with the HHS mandate.

Let's recap the bishops' actions so far.  The first was note the actual concern with the HHS mandate as the whole body of bishops.  EVERY SINGLE BISHOP issued a statement condemning this mandate.  In my life I cannot think of anything that galvanized the individual bishops to act as a whole, rather than just work through the USCCB.

Now we are in phase 2:  The litigation phase.  As U.S. citizens the bishops, following the example of Paul appealing to Caesar, are exercising their rights in the courtroom.  They have every right to try to fight this through legal channels and the responsibility to do so.  There is a reason for this.

As Catholics we hold that we have a moral responsibility to respect those who hold authority, be it religious or political.  The bishops to me are wisely walking the fine line, making it clear that this mandate cannot stand while exhausting all legal and political avenues.

What the author of the linked article is talking about is what I would deem a phase 3 approach.  And this is where things get tricky.  Some have argued that the bishops should shut down the services that we provide.  Others, like the author of the linked article, argue for a stance of civil disobedience and force the government to shut down the services.

I can see the argument from either side.  Both have solid points to support them in terms of principles, effects and the best needs of those who will be undercut by the shutdown of the services.  Ultimately it is the bishops who will have to make the choice, and I do not envy them that.

I will however point to two issues I have with the linked article. The first is that I think the author undercuts herself in overplaying the political perception effect shutting down the services have.  If the press is already hostile, and the people don't care, then how does civil disobedience make a difference in that regard.  As long as useful idiots continue to spin the Church as the bad guy in this, NO MATTER WHAT WE DO, politically we will be made out to be the wrong party.  So to me this shouldn't even be a consideration.

Secondly, and more importantly, civil disobedience is like war.  You don't pull that trigger (and in some respects not even DISCUSS it) until there really aren't any other options.  Should this be what the bishops decide to do, it only makes sense that this would be kept under the radar until all other options are exhausted.

So even if this were the route the bishops to take this won't even enter the conversation until AFTER the legal challenges are resolved.  We will do no favors to the litigation attempts if we demonstrate nothing but hostility and contempt for our legal system by opening declaring an intent to disobey the law.

So I advise all of us to follow those shepherds that God has given us.  Yes they have dropped the ball in the past.  Yes, there are trust issues.  But in persecution God lifts all His children.  For it is only grace that allows us to stand up for Him who died for us.  Let's give His chosen a chance, and trust Him by trusting them.

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