Step into a kosher restaurant and skim the menu looking for pork chops: you won’t find any. Practicing Jews don’t eat pork, they don’t sell pork, and no one expects them to pay for pork. Pork goes against their faith, and they don’t do pork. In much the same way, faithful Catholics don’t do contraception, sterilization, or abortion. No one should expect them to.
However, as this article is being written, the well known Catholic university Belmont Abbey is in its second week of a legal battle against US Health and Human Services’ regulations that expect Catholics to not just tolerate, but actively promote and pay for all of these “services.” Catholic institutions are forced to choose between tossing conscience overboard and complying, or leaving their employees without any healthcare whatsoever in the midst of the current economic crisis. A practically nonexistent conscience-clause extends no further than institutions that have nothing whatsoever to do with anyone who isn’t Catholic. In other words, people expect the Catholic Church to do pork. Why?
The real problem isn’t the Obama administration. It’s Catholics themselves. Why are Catholics expected to give up their convictions? Because many Catholic institutions already have. That’s the problem: Catholics and Catholic institutions that don’t live their faith.
Some do. Belmont Abbey College is fighting tooth and nail to defend its Catholic identity. Archbishop Dolan, head of the US Bishops’ Conference, has also dug in for the long haul, with numerous and very public calls in defense of Catholics’ right to live their faith. The US bishops’ newly established Committee for Religious Liberty (link here) is great example of this conviction: Catholics have to stick to their guns if they want to be respected in a world that is increasingly aggressive towards moral standards.
However, many don’t. And when you stop practicing what you preach, you start preaching what you practice. Too many Catholics and Catholic institutions are sending the wrong message about what they believe. Numerous institutions claim to be Catholic and still tolerate and even promote evils like contraception, sterilization, or abortion. The word “Catholic” becomes a mere façade, without a solid commitment to the principles, values and faith that the brand stands for, and people stop taking it seriously. They stop expecting Catholics to live their faith.
If Catholics want freedom to preach the Gospel, they have to practice what they preach. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone can live the faith better, individuals and institutions alike. We can send a message with our daily lives, and make it stronger with every day that passes: Catholics don’t do pork. And no one should expect us to.