“People are suffering. All over the place, people are suffering.” Sr. Margaret Farley, professor emerita, Yale Divinity School.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, a keen awareness of people’s suffering is what drives the Mercy sister and celebrated theologian to question whether power should determine questions of truth. Should we not, she asks, be prepared to modify, maybe even let go, of conclusions we may have drawn from prior levels of understanding as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us? Instead, Farley was publicly rebuked by the Vatican for views that supposedly run counter to Church teaching in her book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.
The questions Sr. Margaret Farley asks came to mind as I read Chad Blair’s thoughtful commentary on the so-called Rally for Religious Liberty held recently at the State Capitol. It is deeply disquieting, as a practicing Catholic, to see those who have official power in my church stand with people from TFP carrying banners proclaiming “God’s Law Comes First: Repeal Socialist Obamacare.” The rally, Blair points out, was held “on the Fr. Damien side of the Capitol.” So, under the gaze of his statue. What, I wonder, would he think about taking healthcare away from those who need it most?
Thirty million people covered under Obamacare would suffer greatly if the law were repealed. But for TFP, the group dedicated to the defense of “tradition, family, property,” 30 million people without health insurance is perhaps “not the issue,” as Senator Mitch McConnell recently asserted.
If Christianity –and opposition to evolving norms—are what brought the participants in the rally together, how did the most basic tenet of Christianity—“love your neighbor as yourself”—get mislaid?
Throw out ALL of healthcare because of contraception?
The effort to repeal the entire Affordable Healthcare Act because of opposition to providing coverage for contraception– one sliver of the entire spectrum of care–is exactly akin to that cliché of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And it is inconsistent with how the church has acted in other arenas. The death penalty, for example, runs counter to Catholic teaching. Yet the bishops have not called for the dismantling of the entire legal, judicial and penal system. Instead they have consistently stated their opposition and continued to educate. So, why the rush to take away much needed healthcare in its entirety from millions because of the bishops’ opposition to one aspect of it?
It is worth noting that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked off their “Fortnight for Freedom,” itself based, as some commentators have said, on “outdated theology” with the pomp of an archbishop saying a grand Mass at the Cathedral in Baltimore to protest what they see as infringements on their religious liberty. Meanwhile the Nuns on the Bus were doing their own modest tour through several states, bringing with them their message of social justice. At every stop, the sisters shared with members of the community and with law makers, their intimate understanding of what it means to minister to the poor and the sick, feed the hungry and welcome the immigrant. If the Gospels are anything to go by, we can be pretty sure that J.C. was on that bus with the sisters. He would have been celebrating as they do, the “pro-life” nature of the Affordable Care Act and the religious freedom we have to be our brother’s –and sister’s—keeper. As all faiths tell us to. And as people of goodwill, who might not profess any particular faith, do.
Yes, we should encourage better voter turnout. Yes, we should help voters get better educated on the issues. And yes, we should be for T.F.P. if by that we mean truth, fairness and progress for all. As Sr. Margaret Farley is reported to have said, “It’s worth getting a backbone that has compassion tied to it.”