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(Mis)understanding the Hobby Lobby Ruling

supreme courtOn Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a controversial ruling exempting craft store Hobby Lobby (as well as three other businesses) from a portion of the HHS mandate of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). SCOTUS said that due to their religious objection, they do not have to provide employees with insurance coverage for certain abortifacient drugs and devices (Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUDs). The internet was abuzz with comments about this decision. Some of the ones I saw were so outlandish that they made me laugh out loud (before I cried). A common element was a complete lack of understanding. As is standard in today’s social-media-saturated world, people seem to be parroting what they read or hear, without any facts to back up their impassioned viewpoints. It doesn’t help that the news media and the President himself also have been spreading misinformation.

At first, I wanted to write a post making fun of the crazy comments I encountered. I was in disbelief as to the level of ignorance (ie lack of understanding/knowledge) people were displaying. In response, I was full of snark and was ready to unleash it on the world through this post. However, mean-spirited snark is not really our style at CS. So, instead of making fun of people, I want to call on our readers to pray for the ignorant. I want us especially to pray for those who are willfully ignorant because honesty with themselves and others would be too painful. I want us to pray for those whose intellects have been so darkened by the sin in their lives that they truly are unable to have a rational conversation about contraceptives and abortifacients. Most importantly, I want us to pray for people whose hearts are full of hatred and violence over this issue. Some of the comments I read were far from funny – they were chilling. People sincerely want to bring harm upon Hobby Lobby’s CEOs, and those who support them, simply because they are defending conscience rights. Apparently, it’s a heinous, unforgivable transgression to stand in the way of women getting their abortifacient drugs for free. This ruling has revealed a lot of darkness in a lot of hearts, and it is truly scary.

I also want to look at this in a practical way, addressing some of the misunderstandings (or perhaps lies) that are being bandied about. The following are the ill-informed notions about this ruling that I saw expressed most often, and my responses to them

1. This decision is about all birth control. This is by the far the biggest inaccuracy being presented as fact. Most of the hysteria over the decision stems from people thinking (or pretending to think) that the SCOTUS ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to provide coverage for any contraception. This is simply false. Hobby Lobby has no objection to most forms of birth control. Their insurance provides coverage for 16 different types of very common contraceptives. This ruling was about certain drugs and devices that have a high probability of preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. These are abortifacients because, regardless of what they are now teaching in medical school in deference to the abortion industry, life beings at conception (not implantation). The owners of Hobby Lobby are not Catholic and do not take the Catholic position on contraception; they do not acknowledge that hormonal contraceptives have the potential to prevent implantation. Therefore, all the foaming at the mouth about women not getting coverage for their birth control is unwarranted. We do hope that in future religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, religious employers will be exempt from providing coverage for all contraceptives, in accordance with their beliefs. But we have not yet crossed that bridge.

We need to make sure we keep this fact at the forefront of any discussion about this ruling. When people complain that Hobby Lobby is willing to cover Viagra and vasectomies and is therefore discriminating against women for not covering their “sexual health needs,” we need to understand how this is off-base. Viagra and vasectomies do not disrupt the development of an already-conceived child and are therefore completely incomparable; and Hobby Lobby’s insurance covers tubal ligations.

2. This means women who work for Hobby Lobby will no longer be able to use contraception. This is an off-shoot of the Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Case Challenging Affordable Care Act
misunderstanding that this ruling is about all contraception. But let’s pretend for a moment that it is about all contraception. This ruling does not prevent women from obtaining or using any drugs or devices – not even the ones that the ruling was actually about. Just because Hobby Lobby does not want to pay for a certain drug or device does not mean it is unattainable, or that they are policing employees’ bedrooms to make sure they are not using it. Women are free to use whatever birth control, and even abortifacients, that they want – on their own dime. Is it really such a horrible prospect that people pay for their own sexual choices, especially considering how today’s mantra is that it’s no one else’s business what people do in their bedrooms? (By the way, if you don’t want your boss in your bedroom, then stop demanding that he subsidize what goes on in there).

Some related inaccurate notions are that the SCOTUS is allowing employers to force their religious beliefs on employees, or to force them to bear unwanted children. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. It is the government (and enraged feminists everywhere) who want to force people to do something, ie., monetarily participate in something that they sincerely believe to be immoral.

3. Employees of Hobby Lobby who currently have insurance coverage for these drugs and devices are suddenly going to lose access. This is, once again, mostly related to the idea that Hobby Lobby wanted to get rid of coverage for all contraceptives. People are very upset to think of women suddenly having to pay for their own birth control when previously they were getting it for a small copay or for free. But even if this claim were made about the drugs and devices to which Hobby Lobby objects, it’s still off-base. I initially was under the impression that Hobby Lobby never offered coverage for these drugs and devices. However, I read today that they used to do so, but stopped in 2012, shortly before they filed this lawsuit. They claim they did not realize they had this coverage, and once they did realize, they did not want the government to force them to keep it. I have no choice but to take them at their word, and it doesn’t actually matter why they dropped it. The point is that the loss of coverage has already happened and employees have had two years to adjust to it (and if they were hired since 2012, they have never known anything different). They will not suddenly lose any coverage.

The same is true of employees of Catholic organizations who object to providing any contraceptives. They never had this coverage in the first place, and the plea of their employers is that they be able to keep the status quo, not to make a huge and sudden change to their health insurance offerings.

4. This is a violation of women’s rights. This claim is so ludicrous to me that I don’t know how to address it any other way than to say that no one has a right to free birth control or abortifacients. There is nothing in our Constitution that guarantees anyone all the sterile sex that they want to have, on someone else’s dime. You know what is a right, though? Practicing one’s religion without government interference, absent a very compelling State interest. Unfortunately, some people do seem to think that it’s a compelling State interest that men and women be able to have consequence-free sex at no expense to themselves, but I think that the SCOTUS has just blasted a hole in that argument.

Sadly, there are many more points of misinformation that I could cover, but I surpassed my target word count a few [hundred] words ago. So this will have to suffice for now.

I spent way too much time over the past few days trying to have rational conversations with people about this issue, without seeming to have borne any good fruit. These attempts at conversation served mostly to disturb my peace and cause me to think unkind thoughts about others. So I encourage you to be careful if and when you choose to engage others on this topic. If you find yourself starting to become as angry as they are, step away. If time constraints force you to choose between praying about this issue and discussing it, choose prayer. And remember that this battle is not only not about contraception, it’s also not really about abortifacients. This battle is about religious freedom, which is one of the principles upon which this country was founded but something that is becoming more and more endangered and despised. Additionally, it’s a battle against the damage done by the Sexual Revolution, which enshrined in our society the concept that birth control and abortion are as important to our lives as food and water. In this battle, our ultimate enemy is not the stranger in the combox, or even the government. Our enemy is The Enemy, against whom we’ve been fighting since the dawn of time. He’s pretty clever and crafty, so please be vigilant; but remember who was, is, and always will be The Victor.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.


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40 Days for Conscience: July 1st to August 9th

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Consciences formed in accord with Holy Mother Church, the Church that Christ Himself established, do not support HHS! From July 1st to August 9th, join Catholic Sistas in the next prayer campaign, 40 Days for Conscience.

As you may know, the deadline for our bishops to violate their consciences or face undue tax burden, lose their tax-exempt status and possibly end up in jail is August 1. If ever there was a time to fervently pray for the continued united voices of our bishops in the United States, now is it. We need you to commit to join us in prayer. Please join us by participating with us on Instagram and Facebook, where we will be conducting the campaign. Each day a new petition will be unveiled, giving you a new petition to pray with us for the day. 

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on January 20 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 seemingly ignored 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. As a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics must be prepared 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 because of their religious beliefs. 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. All that has been built up over so many years in our Catholic institutions should not be taken away by the stroke of an administrator’s pen. This order reduces the Church to a private club, destroying her public mission in society. 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.”  ~ Cardinal George

Encyclicals and Church Documents that support Freedom of Conscience:

What else can I do?

Join the USCCB in their Fortnight for Freedom starting June 21-July 4.

Review the USCCB’s fact sheet.

Send an e-mail to Congress.

Read comments by the USCCB in response to the latest mandate rule.

Text FREEDOM to 377377 to get the latest updates from the USCCB.

Ask St. Thomas More to intercede for us, as he is the patron saint of religious freedom.

Watch these videos on religious liberty.

Read 12 Things Everyone Should Know about The Contraceptive Mandate.

Read what the Church really teaches about Love and Sexuality.

Read up on HHS Mandate Legal Resources.

Add this to your daily prayers:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.



“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” ~ Cardinal George

“We must promote religious liberty for all people. Every man and woman must be free to profess his or her faith, whatever it may be. Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God.” – Pope Francis 

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The Fight for Religious Freedom Continues

From June 21 to July 4 of this year we participated in a Fortnight for Freedom led by our Bishops throughout the United States. On July 4, 2012 Masses were held around our nation to close out these fourteen days of prayer, study, and action on the topic of religious freedom. We are honored to present to you here a homily given that day by the Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer of the Diocese of Lexington at the July 4 Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Lexington, KY. Although the Fortnight for Freedom has ended, as Bishop Gainer says, the fight has not; there is much work still to be done. The following text is printed here with the permission of Bishop Gainer.

“The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance of religious freedom for society; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism as America’s official faith.”

Those challenging and so very prophetic words were spoken 17 years ago by Blessed John Paul II in Baltimore during his apostolic visit to our country.  The Holy Father foresaw the great challenges to religious liberty that were on the horizon for us and he gave us an agenda to educate and raise awareness of the importance of religious freedom for society and to act in the defense of that freedom against those who would deny or restrict it.

Our Mass today concludes The Fortnight for Freedom. These two weeks were especially dedicated as a hymn of prayer for our nation and a national campaign of teaching and witness for our first, most cherished freedom, religious liberty. It is our duty as citizens and an obligation of our faith to resist firmly and clearly the variety of unprecedented intrusions which so clearly encroach upon the freedom of religion and freedom of religious conscience that unfortunately have become almost commonplace in the laws and regulations of our nation.

It is fundamental to Catholic teaching that human rights inhere in every human being as a gift from God. They are not awarded to us. They are not given to us by the government or by our founding documents. They are natural to us. Made in God’s image and likeness, persons possess natural rights. Governments may identify certain individual rights, but governments can never be thought to be the origin of our inalienable and irrevocable rights.

Some critics of religious liberty believe that the founders of our nation could not have intended what we claim to be religious freedom. This is an untenable position and let me tell you why.  It is certainly true that some of the Founders were Deists – men like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine who doubted the inerrancy of Scripture and the divinity of Jesus. However it is clear from the personal writings of those who forged our new social order – whether or not they were personally religious  – that they understood clearly the need for religion in a free society. Because they understood human nature and believed in a God, the Founders were able to develop an understanding of liberty that is as timeless as it is fruitful.

Put simply, our Founders understood that for a democracy to succeed, citizens had to be virtuous people. The best way to foster virtue in people is the practice of religion. They understood that religious freedom was essential not only for the good of the individual but also for the common good of society.

This is our American heritage.  Religious liberty is the first freedom because if we are not free in our conscience and our practice of religion, all other freedoms are weakened and eventually lost. If our obligations and duties to God are impeded or, even worse, contradicted by the government, then we can no longer claim to be a land of the free and a beacon of hope for the world.

The history of many nations and even the history of some of our own American colonies, such as Maryland, teach us that freedom under the law and protection of God-given rights requires constant vigilance and protection or those freedoms disappear. The Fortnight for Freedom is only one response – organized nation-wide  – to highlight our duty to be vigilant, to protest violations and to defend all our freedoms, especially religious liberty.

Primary among the attacks on religious freedom is the mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services which requires employers, including Catholic institutions, to violate the moral law by providing contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. You will hear and read that the HHS mandate does grant an exemption to churches but it defines religious institutions in such a narrow way that it excludes, for example, Catholic universities, hospitals, food pantries, publishing houses, and social services. Most troubling is the administration’s underlying rationale for its decisions. They take the position that if a religious entity is not insular but engaged with broader society, it loses its religious character. Indeed, according to the federal rule, if we serve people who are not Catholic in our agencies, or educate them in our universities, or employee them in our institutions – and we certainly do – then we cease to qualify for the religious exemption. If we provide for the needs of the sick and the poor, but don’t require that they be Catholic or don’t explicitly catechize them, we do not qualify.

While the HHS mandate has loomed large in the media spotlight, be very aware that it is only one of a number of equally offensive regulations.  Other examples which clearly demonstrate that our religious freedom is endangered include: attempts by the government to alter church structures and internal governance; regulations by state’s or by individual institutions of higher learning which limit the rights of Christian students on their campuses; government regulations that have caused major Catholic foster care and adoption services to close their doors; discrimination against small church congregations and discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. This last government infringement requires us to provide or refer for contraceptives and abortion services victims of human trafficking.  For years the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services has been recognized for its excellent and efficient programs for victims of human trafficking.  Now because of altered federal regulations which contradict our moral convictions about the sacredness of unborn life, we are no longer eligible in administering contract services.

These have been the topics that have been analyzed and discussed during our seven parish-sponsored programs these past fourteen days.  Allow me, please, to thank all those who were involved in preparing, hosting and presenting these programs.  These evenings have been opportunities to teach and learn the truth about these critical issues we are facing today.  Thanks also to all who participated in our parish programs.  In today’s second reading Saint Paul instructed us to think about whatever is honorable, whatever is true, whatever is just.  This is what we have been doing over this Fortnight and this is what we must continue to do in order to fulfill our duty toward God and country..

The federal government seems intent on redefining religious liberty as the freedom of worship. Throughout our American history those two phrases – freedom of religion and freedom of worship – have been synonymous. They have meant the very same thing. However, many of these threats represent a redefining of freedom of religion to mean that we are free only to say and do what our religion dictates within the walls of our churches. We are free to worship but not free to carry the fruits of that worship into the public square. Religious liberty is not only about our freedom to go to Mass on Sunday or pray with our family at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of essential contributions made by many religious groups in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights and social services that religious Americans make every day both here at home and overseas.

In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the works of charity are as essential for the church’s mission as is preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. The Catholic Church can no more abandon the sick in our hospitals or the immigrant at the border than she can set aside the Word of God or the Holy Eucharist. We cannot separate the fruits of faith from the faith itself. The works of faith are not optional.  They are not extras. They are essential. We care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the unemployed, the orphan, the expectant mother in distress, not only because it’s a good thing to do but because of our faith. It is the necessary fruit of faith and without it faith is dead.

For all these reasons we cannot, we must not be passive or indifferent as we see freedom of religion spun to mean freedom from religion.  This is not a Catholic issue. This is an American issue. This is not directly about contraception or abortion. This is not about imposing Catholic morality on the general public.   But it IS about the exercise of religious freedom and purposeful attacks against it.

The gospel in today’s Mass is taken from St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord sets the bar high when he tells us: “You must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” The standards of the Sermon on the Mount stretch us. They take us beyond our normal desire to just be complacent and comfortable Christians. In this passage, our Lord uses dramatic language to get our attention. We need to have that kind of strong language to shake us up, to make us think, to make us recognize that we as Christians cannot simply drift along following the line of least resistance. We need to live our faith to the full.

Today with genuine gratitude, we celebrate, the birthday of our nation. We thank God for the rich legacy that has been handed on to us by generations of brave, self-sacrificing Americans. For our country, our freedoms, our mission in the world we give perfect thanks to the Father to the celebration of this Eucharist. At the same time we beg the Lord to give us wisdom and courage, insight and foresight that we might be responsible citizens and faithful Catholics in this confused time. Let us be radically open to the day-to-day graces God bestows on us so that with a renewed effort we might be willing to do everything we can to promote and protect religious freedom here in the United States and throughout the world. May God grant us a determination to do what we can by writing letters, making phone calls and sending e-mails to our government representatives informing them about our concerns about the shift in government policies regarding religious freedom and the definition of religious institutions. May God grant us a fuller conversion to be women and men of authentic Catholic faith who each in our own way proclaim the Gospel. May God grant us an increase in the virtue of true patriotism so that we might be faithful citizens committed to the common good of our land.  But most of all, may God grant us a deeper reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist and a sincere passion to be bearers of Christ’s truth and love.

The Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Allentown (PA) in 1973. He was ordained the Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington in February 2003. Bishop Gainer is the second bishop of the diocese. The Diocese of Lexington includes 63 parishes and missions across over 16,000 square miles of central and eastern Kentucky.


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A War of Words: the HHS Mandate



Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard about the controversy with the HHS Mandate and the Catholic Church. However, the mainstream media portrays the controversy as the Catholic Church against women. The secularist media declares that the Church refuses to let women use contraceptive drugs period. The error in these statements is obvious to anyone with a working knowledge of the Catholic Catechism. Sadly, many Catholics and most of the US (world?) population refuses to acknowledge this truth.

First, start with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Direct from the Catechism: (emphasis mine)
2370 … In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:159
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality… The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle … involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160
The key point in the above passage is that contraception, when used as “family planning”, is against the Catholic Church’s teaching. Not even just a vaguely, a slap-on-the-wrist offense, but “intrinsically evil”. There is some controversy within the Faithful about the use of contraceptive drugs within marriage (or a sexually active relationship, which is a whole other article) as “treatment” for various gynecological ills. However, when the woman using a contraceptive drug is unmarried (and sexually inactive), there is no controversy–the drugs can be used as “treatment”. In a perfect world, all Catholics would learn about Fertility Awareness methods (popularly called NFP) that treat the same gynecological ills without contraception, AND with better, healthier results (again, that’s a whole ‘nother article). Currently, (that is without the HHS Mandate in effect) the Catholic Church likely covers contraceptive drugs for a medical treatment, but not for “family planning”, under the protection of a “Conscience clause“.
Next, let me discuss the actual controversy the Church has with the HHS Mandate. The “conscience clause” that allows coverage for medicinal use of contraceptive drugs, but does not allow sterilizations, abortions, or “emergency” contraception, is being disposed of with the HHS Mandate. In other words, the HHS Mandate forces Catholic institutions, charities, etc. to fund (through insurance coverage) and provide services that are “intrinsically evil” according to the Catholic Catechism. This would be akin to the government forcing strict vegans to pay for and provide meat products. Unlike the vegans though, religious (moral) ideations are protected by the First Amendment: (emphasis mine)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


“Free exercise” of Catholic moral code prohibits abortions, sterilizations, and contraception. Therefore, the HHS Mandate violates the Faithful’s ability to freely exercise their religious beliefs. In effect, this would be similar to legislation requiring Jehovah’s Witness institutions to provide and cover blood transfusions for their members and employees (I have no idea if they do currently or not). The enactment of this law would be tantamount to legislation forcing an orthodox Jewish deli to provide ham and other pork products to their customers. There are probably countless examples a fertile imagination could create, but suffice it to say that Catholics and non-Catholics alike are recognizing that Obama and his administration has overstepped their bounds. At our local “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies on March 23 and June 8, Catholics were well represented, but our Protestant friends were also present and on the program. If you value your constitutional rights, stand up and say “we are all Catholic now“.
Another event begins today, “A Fortnight for Freedom”. This is an effort led by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), but like all other religious freedom rallies, is open and welcoming to all denominations. A cyber event, the only request is that for the two weeks, starting with the vigil for Sts. John Fisher and St. Thomas Moore and ending with July 4, our nation’s Independence day, is that you pray daily for a resolution to this intense threat to religious freedom. More information about the event can be found on the Facebook page and the USCCB website devoted to this event. Here is a summary of what this event entails:

This is a cyber event – held in your own home, church or parish by way of your prayers. It is open and depends on all people of all walks of faith to come together and petition God our Father to save our nation in its struggle for Religious Freedom for all!


The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty. 


THIS IS NOT JUST FOR CATHOLICS…THIS IS FOR ALL CHRISTIANS AND NON CHRISTIANS UNITED IN PRAYER. That means Jewish, Muslim, atheist as well. This is about our First Amendment. We may well have non-Christians here and we welcome ALL as Christ would. ** THIS IS NOT A FORUM FOR DEBATE. **

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Catholic School Upholds Church Teaching while Others Demonstrate Hypocrisy

Recently the local Catholic High School in my area made the local news after an incident involving the school’s prom.  I heard about the story from two very different corners.  From one corner, praise for the school for holding up the teachings of the Church; from the other corner, a particular group I am affiliated with had concerns about representing itself at the school after this incident.  I was one applauding the school after the reported incident and found myself defending the school to the other group.  I’d like to take this opportunity to explore the issue, the facts, and the hypocrisy involved in this.

First, what was the issue?

A female student at the school and her girlfriend, also a student, were denied entrance to the senior prom because they were coming as a same-sex couple.  Remember: this is a Catholic school.

This made the local news in our area.  Including pointing out that the students had started a petition to be sent to the school’s principal, president, and the bishop.  I don’t expect it to go any further than that.  End of story.

The Catholics in the area that I know (and I know many people across several parishes) praised and applauded the school for standing by its Catholic roots.  It is a Catholic school after all.  It has every right to handle situations as it sees fit, according to the teachings of Mother Church, the Magisterium.

But then I got an email early this week that unexpectedly referred to this incident.  I am on the email list for the local Alumnae Club of the college where I received my master’s degree.  The college is an all-female, private school in New England and mostly an undergraduate school.  As a graduate student I did not participate in many of the college traditions that the undergraduates did (the House system, afternoon teas, etc.).  So although I am on the email list and have been to one gathering of local alumnae several years ago, I don’t participate in anything beyond that.

The Club presents a book award to a graduating female student at all the area high schools each year, including the Catholic high school.  So the email I received was from the person who had volunteered to present the award at the Catholic high school.  She was concerned that the Club shouldn’t give an award there in light of the “incident” and she felt “uncomfortable” attending the awards ceremony.

Initially I was shocked.  But then I realized that I should not be shocked at all.  What did I expect?  We do live in a world that thinks the secular way is the only way and anyone that lives differently must be wrong and must be corrected or boycotted or whatever until they conform.  Then I just got irritated.

I won’t go into the specifics of what transpired over the course of the afternoon and several more emails back and forth.  But I do want to present a few of the facts.  The facts that show the hypocrisy involved in something like this. Let’s look at those.

Fact #1-Catholic school: This is a private school.  Thus is has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #1-Private college: This is also a private school.  Thus it also has the right to admit whomever it wants, kick out whomever it wants whenever it wants, make its own rules regarding its events, etc.

Fact #2-Catholic school: This school is Catholic.  Being Catholic means it must align itself with the Church in every respect.  They teach religion classes, they teach abstinence education, they expect their students to attend Mass once a week and on Holy Days of Obligation, etc.  They are Catholic and are allowed to be because of the religious freedom we are guaranteed in this country.

Fact #2-Private college: This school is all-female.  It prides itself in offering single sex education and in developing strong, female leaders for society.  They can remain an all-female college because they are private and thus are not considered to be discriminating based on gender.

Fact #3-Catholic school: This school admits any student willing to attend, willing to pay the tuition, and able to meet the standards set forth by the school, including an entrance exam.  Students of all faiths can be admitted if they score well on an entrance exam, but they must know that it is a Catholic school and it will not bend its teachings for non-Catholic students.

Fact #3-Private college: This school only admits women.  No men are admitted as regular, full-time undergraduate students.  The only men you’ll see on campus besides professors, college employees, and visitors are men from some of the other area colleges taking classes there as part of an agreement between the colleges and the occasional male graduate student (the graduate program overall is really small).

Fact #4-Catholic school: As a Catholic institution, the school is a part of the 2000 year old tradition of the Church.  2000 years of traditions!  2000 years of unchanging teachings!  The school is not free to bend teachings at will to please students or parents or anyone else.

Fact #4-Private college: Also has a long history of traditions that students and alumnae take great pride in, traditions that go back a hundred years or so, but traditions I can respect.

Considering these few facts, I see two private schools, one that follows the moral principles and teachings set forth by a 2000 year old church and the other who prides itself on single sex education.  Is the first discriminating unfairly for not admitting a same-sex couple to an event it is sponsoring on school grounds?  Is the other discriminating unfairly for not admitting men to its prestigious school?

Is respect too much to ask?

The answer to both is … no.  The first has religious freedom on its side, the other has the fact that it is private on its side.

Think what you want about the Catholic high school and its decision, but they are within their rights as a Catholic school.  The private all-female college is also within its rights to remain an all-female school.

My question is where is the respect?  Respect for a school who stands by a set of values, which is so rare in our society these days.  Respect does not have to mean agreement.  I would think a group of women who take pride in the single sex education they were privileged to receive through the private college they attended would be able to respect a high school that also functions under a set of guiding principles that go much deeper than their alma mater.  It seems hypocritical to me that they would fight for their school if it was somehow threatened to be made co-ed and expect others to stand with them while at the same time giving no respect to a school that also lives by a high moral standard that creates a unique set of circumstances.

Am I the only one that sees the hypocricy?

But maybe mutual respect is too much to ask?  How sad if that is true.

What say you?

[As of this writing, the original club member agreed to graciously attend the award ceremony (the NEXT day) to give the award (I wanted to volunteer, but I couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice) and the club decided to discuss the issue further with the national alumnae association to decide how to proceed in future years.  I may not have the same kind of connection to this particular alma mater of mine as the other ladies who spent their undergraduate years at this college, but I will be highly disappointed in my college if they advise the club to no longer attend the awards ceremony at this particular Catholic school.]