I’ve been corresponding with a few Catholics by email recently about HHS and religious freedom. Many believers are profoundly troubled by recent events. I don’t think they’ve gained much satisfaction or peace on the internet. I doubt division (in the secular sphere) is a terribly sound foundation on which to build unity (in the Church). Catholics are all too well-prepared to cast off their sisters and brothers not only for doing wrong, but for thinking differently. It is a particular burden of our age, and a stumbling block for us internet believers.

I was thinking of a story from the Desert Tradition in which a hermit and an abbot are conferring on what to do with a “certain heedless brother.” The hermit suggested expulsion, and the abbot concurred. Later, temptation came to the hermit. In throwing himself on God’s mercy, a voice came to him:

This tribulation came to you for this one thing, that you have despised your brother in the time of his temptation.

We might feel, sitting alone at our computers, that we are hermits. But really, the connections are deep, and all around us. And our treatment of others bears directly on how our lives fall apart when under pressure. Perhaps we convince ourselves of John 2:13ff and say we’ve done WWJD (WJWD?) on folks. Count me a deep skeptic on that one.

I’d rather focus on Catholic unity in reflecting on the Word of God, in the Eucharist, and in the expression of charity and justice to those in need. That will be a more long-lasting foundation than a temporary president and his temporary policies.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to Division

  1. Pingback: Silence | There Will Be Bread

  2. FrMichael says:

    Another false appeal to unity that hides the threat of not “temporary policies” but permanent damage to Catholic social services, health care networks, and educational systems.

  3. Todd says:

    The damage is largely self-inflicted. The more commentary I read on it, especially from the Right, the more inclined I am to yawn about it.

    The truth is that there is indeed a lot of work for the Church to do, but too many people are too hidebound by what they did last century to consider the possibilities of today.

    For starters, we could try mobilizing the whole Catholic health system as a means of breaking people out of dependency on employment for health insurance. Tens of millions of Catholics could just tell their boss, “No, thanks, and I’ll take my share of what you used to pay in premiums, please,” and we could set up a network of participating providers from among our own. And if anybody wanted to buy in to our plan, we’d allow it, and give them the moral parameters from which we operate. We should have done it long ago.

  4. David D. says:

    On an extremely theoretical level, I think a lot of people would support the concept of a truly independent Catholic health system. On a practical level, this would obviously be a huge and difficult undertaking. However, I’m not convinced that the present administration would welcome such an effort. Once the federal government gets its hands on something, it doesn’t let go. Slowly but surely, the federal government will preempt (not necessarily in the constitutional sense) other actors from health care sphere.

  5. FrMichael says:

    And in any case, such an independent Catholic health care system will be illegal under ObamaCare.

    We should have such an independent system in the present, and once upon a time basically did (pre-1930s), but it will shortly be off the table legally.

  6. Todd says:

    “An independent Catholic health care system will be illegal under ObamaCare.”

    If true, so what? What if it operated through tithing Sunday parishioners, and health care was automatically free to every qualified worshiper? We’d still have a very large body of people to buy in, as it were.

    • Liam says:

      State insurance regulators would shut that down, pronto, sad to say. You cannot purport to offer insurance without a license and approved products (and there are segregation and capital ratio requirements, so the insurance regulators would be poring over that tithing idea…). Insurance is one of the most intensely regulated areas by states.

  7. FrMichael says:

    And how exactly are you going to hide such an operation from law enforcement? An illegal operation involving tens of millions of people, many of whom are federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel, would not last long. We can see the parallel with public education: it tries to squash any competition to its monopoly, no matter how poorly it performs. If such a putative self-funded Catholic health care system were successful, arrests and fines would be rampant, medical records would be seized, and the entire enterprise would fly apart.

  8. Todd says:

    Regardless, it may need to happen for the USCCB protest to have any moral heft behind it. Otherwise it’s just whining. And it’s not as if it’s impossible to start an insurance company, is it? That would be real grist for the 99. It’s not as if there isn’t regulation expertise in the Catholic Church.

    Otherwise it’s the Hermeneutic of Subtraction triumphant.

    “An illegal operation involving tens of millions of people …”

    Think India in the 1930’s.

    The reason why the pro-life movement is in neutral is that too many people refuse to think outside the box. And they try to make it too easy on themselves. Carry a few placards, throw money at a few lobbyists, tell people what they can’t do.

    If we can build a school system serving millions, we can certainly build an insurance network to take care of our own. Your quick protests, my friends, tend to point me to a sense you’re just on the wrong track on this.

  9. Patti says:

    I think Todd’s onto something here. If the Lutherans can do it for for financial life (https://www.thrivent.com/), why not the Catholics for healthcare?

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