Tuesday, March 27, 2012

HHS and Religious Freedom: Lorenzo Albacete

Our Liberty and The Hearts of All

Lorenzo Albacete

            Bloggers introductory remarks: Albacete here makes the epistemological case – based on Christian anthropology – that the non-Christian citizen of the United States will/should recognize the rights of Christ, and therefore the Church, to freedom from coercion and freedom to express moral judgement vis a vis the HHS ruling on compulsory coverage for contraception and surgical sterilizations. The connection is Trinity - Christ/man - Church - everyman - universal recognition.
            If the Church is the gathering of all who have received Christ and therefore forms a single Body, a single Subject, then the Church (as Subject) has the powers of self-determination that characterize Christ. St. Paul in Hebrews 9, 11-12 writes: “…he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands… nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.” As God-man, Christ mediates between Himself and the Father by mastering His human will that the Father made to be sin (2 Cor. 5, 21) and converted it into obedience do death. In a word, He made the gift of Himself to the Father with His human will infected by sin and thereby became free: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom: he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).
            So also the Church is the Body of that single Subject and is endowed with the subjective powers to master and determine herself. As such, she demands the autonomy to determine herself in teaching conjugal morality to be self-determination to be self-gift, and will brook no interference from the secular government in this regard. The conjugal union between husband and wife demands this openness to being gift, and therefore precludes every form of contraception which is the closure of the gift. Since every person is made in the image of the Trinitarian Persons, and giftedness constitutes  the ontological architecture of human personhood, then all men and women, Christian or not, will and should recognize this right of Christ, and therefore the Church which is His Body, even if they do not recognize this to be the very argument against contraception.

Albacete’s Article: “A ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the Administration of President Barack Obama will force nearly all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, as well as surgical sterilizations. Listed as ‘preventive services for women,’ all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or any other co-sharing – regardless of whether the insurer, the employer, or any other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.

            “The heated public discussion that has followed this ruling has mostly framed the issue as one of religious liberty or even the morality of contraception. I believe, however, that t he best way to reflect on the issues involved is in terms of the liberty of the Church – as an integral part of its social doctrine. A good source to consult is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issued by the Holy See.

            “The Compendium states it clearly: ‘The Church has the right to the legal recognition of her proper identity. Precisely because her mission embraces all of human reality, the Church… claims the freedom to express her moral judgment on this reality, whenever it may be required to defend the fundamental rights of the human person, or for the salvation of souls’ (#426).

            “The Compendium lists exactly what freedoms the rights of the Church entail:

  • Freedom of expression, teaching, and evangelization;
  • Freedom of  public worship;
  • Freedom of organization and of her own internal government;
  •  Freedom of selecting, educating, naming, and transferring her ministers;
  • Freedom for constructing religious buildings;
  • Freedom to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity;
  • Freedom to form associations, not only for religious puposes, but also for educational, cultural, healthcare, and charitable purposes.

“Note that the liberty of the Church is a consequence of her ecclesiology, of her ‘identity.’ Here we face the heart of the matter. For the Catholic Church, the identity of the Church is a mystery that cannot be detached from the Mystery of Christ and His revelation of the Trinitarian God. On the other hand, political decisions are based on what appears to be reasonably possible. In classical terms, the Church/State question confronts us with the encounter between the natural and the supernatural.

“In the United States, the dominance of the Protestant way of the intersection of the natural and the supernatural makes it difficult for many to distinguish the difference between the religious rights of individual believers (the Protestant view) and the liberty of the Church as a communion of persons that can act as one subject in history.

“The intersection between the natural and the supernatural known as the Mystery of the Incarnation is the One Person of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, who acts in the world today through His Body the Church. The recognition by a human society of the rights claimed by the Church listed above are all expressions of a society open to the Presence of Jesus Christ.

“The Compendium reminds us again and again that Christ’s revelation of the Trinitarian Communion is at the same time the revelation of the mystery of the hearts of all men and women. That is why the Church is convinced that non-Christians and non-believers will recognize those rights as corresponding to the desires of their hearts. For this reason, the compendium underlines the importance of the ‘juridical experience of the Church and the State’ defining ‘stable forms of contact and suitable instruments for guaranteeing harmonious relations.’
      “It is only at this level that the HHS attach on these rights can be reversed for the good of all.”

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