The president of the United States has decided to go Henry VIII on the Church's medieval ass. Whatever religious institutions might profess to believe in the matter of "women's health," their pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities and immunities are now subordinate to a one-and-only supreme head on earth determined to repress, redress, restrain and amend their heresies. One wouldn't wish to overextend the analogy: For one thing, the Catholic Church in America has been pathetically accommodating of Beltway bigwigs' ravenous appetite for marital annulments in a way that Pope Clement VII was disinclined to be vis-a-vis the English king and Catherine of Aragon. But where'd all the pandering get them? In essence, President Obama has embarked on the same usurpation of church authority as Henry VIII: as his Friday morning faux-compromise confirms, the continued existence of a "faith-based institution" depends on submission to the doctrinal supremacy of the state.(via reader Doug J.)
"We will soon learn," wrote Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "just how much faith is left in faith-based institutions." Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's vicar on earth, has sportingly offered to maintain religious liberty for those institutions engaged in explicit religious instruction to a largely believing clientele. So we're not talking about mandatory condom dispensers next to the pulpit at St. Pat's -- not yet. But that is not what it means to be a Christian: The mission of a Catholic hospital is to minister to the sick. When a guy shows up in Emergency, bleeding all over the floor, the nurse does not first establish whether he is Episcopalian or Muslim; when an indigent is in line at the soup kitchen the volunteer does not pause the ladle until she has determined whether he is a card-carrying Papist. The government has redefined religion as equivalent to your Sunday best: You can take it out for an hour to go to church, but you gotta mothball it in the closet the rest of the week. So Catholic institutions cannot comply with Commissar Sebelius and still be in any meaningful sense Catholic. . .
None of this should come as a surprise. As Philip Klein pointed out in the American Spectator two years ago, the Obamacare bill contained 700 references to the Secretary "shall," another 200 to the Secretary "may," and 139 to the Secretary "determines." So the Secretary may and shall determine pretty much anything she wants, as the Obamaphile rubes among the Catholic hierarchy are belatedly discovering. His Majesty King Barack "shall have full power and authority to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities whatsoever they be." In my latest book, I cite my personal favorite among the epic sweep of Commissar Sebelius' jurisdictional authority [NOfP note: 124 Stat. 552]:The Secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance.Before Obama's Act of Supremacy did the English language ever have need for such a phrase? "Tooth-level surveillance": From the Declaration of Independence to dentured servitude in a mere quarter-millennium.
Henry VIII lacked the technological wherewithal to conduct tooth-level surveillance. In my friskier days, I dated a girl from an eminent English Catholic family whose ancestral home, like many of the period, had a priest's hiding hole built into the wall behind an upstairs fireplace. These were a last desperate refuge for clerics who declined to subordinate their conscience to state authority. In my time, we liked to go in there and make out. Bit of a squeeze, but it all adds to the fun -- as long as you don't have to spend weeks, months and years back there. In an age of tooth-level surveillance, tyranny is subtler, incremental but eminently enforceable: regulatory penalties, denial of licenses, frozen bank accounts. Will the Church muster the will to resist?. . .
The bigger the Big Government, the smaller everything else: First, other pillars of civil society are crowded out of the public space; then, the individual gets crowded out, even in his most private, tooth-level space. President Obama, Commissar Sebelius and many others believe in one-size-fits all national government -- uniformity, conformity, supremacy from Maine to Hawaii, for all but favored cronies. It is a doomed experiment -- and on the morning after it will take a lot more than a morning-after pill to make it all go away.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Mark Steyn in the February 10th Orange County Register: