I have on numerous occasions on this Blog mentioned my absolute disappointment and utter annoyance at the fact that The Southern Cross has repeatedly failed to publish anything significant regarding the HHS mandate in the US, which requires Catholic institutions in the US to pay for contraceptives, including those that are abortifacients. You can read my posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.
When I wrote directly to the editor of The Southern Cross, asking why this newspaper was so silent on the matter, he responded saying that the issue of the HHS mandate was a story that was developing too quickly and would therefore be out dated by the time they published. This is of course, in my opinion, complete and utter nonsense and resembles the excuse that my brother and I, as children, once offered to my father to explain why we had not mown the lawn that day: “Sorry Dad, but the grass is growing so fast with all this rain, we thought we would wait until tomorrow before cutting it, so that it is really short when we are finished.”
An interesting observation is that the speed at which a story develops certainly has never stopped the editor of The Southern Cross from publishing other rapidly developing news, particularly when they involve scandals about the Holy See. The recent issue about leaked Vatican documents being one such clear example. Even while we were all trying to understand who had leaked what, why they had done so, and so on, The Southern Cross had published an article on it.
The Southern Cross has, in my opinion, for a long time shown that it is sympathetic, if not openly supportive, of those dissidents in the Church who believe the Magisterium should alter its teaching on contraception. Hence on a number of occasions articles have been published by The Southern Cross, which, no matter how subtle they may try to be, leaves the reader with the distinct impression that, despite Church teaching, the use of contraceptives may not be that much of a problem.
The most recent example of this leniency towards portraying the use of contraceptives as being ‘okay’, were the articles about ‘conscience’ which were published in The Southern Cross. I was certainly not the only one who felt that the articles were incomplete in their explanation of conscience and that they sent the wrong message, judging by the supportive emails that I received for speaking out. I also wrote quite recently, in a post titled “Contraception and Conscience”, about another reader of The Southern Cross who also raised a question about the message that one of the articles had conveyed to readers of The Southern Cross.
It is my opinion that it is exactly because The Southern Cross has this sympathetic, if not supportive, view of those dissidents who oppose the Church teaching on contraceptives, that the newspaper has remained relatively silent on the subject of the HHS mandate. I said as much in another post titled, “Ugh… Is It Because Of Contraception?”
In the US, all 500 bishops have voiced and written of their opposition to the mandate because, not only does the HHS mandate require Catholics to act against their conscience; it is also undoubtedly a direct attack on their religious freedom! You can read about it in my post titled “Unacceptable”. This is a position that is not only held by the Catholic bishops in the US. Leaders of many other Christians denominations and religions in the US and other countries have spoken out equally strongly about this clear and open attack on religious freedom in the US.
In the editorial for this coming Sunday’s publication of The Southern Cross, the editor, Gunther Simmermacher, writes: “The US bishops are right to object to a requirement which would force Catholic institutions to pay for employee health coverage that includes measures in conflict with its teachings. However, the Church’s case is not strengthened by some of the hyperbole that has accompanied their objection.”[i]
The hyperbole Simmermacher refers to is the fact that Bishop Daniel Jenky, in Simmermacher’s words, “compared US President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.”[ii] Of course, the editor disingenuously, just like the secular media, makes this statement in complete isolation, without giving his reader’s the entire context of what the Bishop had to say and without at least providing the reader with a source for this alleged comparison. In doing so, Simmermacher does the Bishop a grave disservice and he joins the ranks of those in the secular media, and others, who have launched an attack on Bishop Jenky’s courageous and accurate statement.
The statement, to which Simmermacher refers, was made during Bishop Jenky’s homily, given on the 14th of April 2012, at a Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral in the diocese of Peoria. Deacon Keith Fournier, a writer for Catholic Online, who posted Bishop Jenky’s entire homily on the site, says this about those who have quoted the bishop out of context: “The homily has been quoted in a piecemeal fashion by those who do not want Catholic Bishops to exhibit a backbone in the face of the growing hostility toward the Church in the West.”[iii]
If you want read the truth and understand exactly what it is that Bishop Jenky said, instead of just relying on Simmermacher's 'piecemeal' allegation, you can read the Bishops full homily at the Catholic Online site here. For convenience I include below a fuller, yet still not complete, extract from Bishop Jenky’s brave and bold homily. You will find it very different to what Simmermacher has relayed in his editorial. Judge for yourself and, if any feminists are reading this, please remember that Bishop Jenky was speaking to a congregation of only men on that day!
“In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work - like that very first apostolic generation - we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation. Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.
In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his "Kulturkampf," a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany. Clemenceau, nicknamed "the priest eater," tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century. Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path. Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.
This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings - could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.”[iv]
I am sure you will agree that Bishop Jenky is right on the mark with his statement. What we are experiencing I often refer to as the thin edge of the wedge. It seems harmless and it fools many people. Yet, it is steadily edging its way into that tiny little crack and making a huge gaping hole. Consider how we are no longer shocked at the fact that a 13 year old girl is already sexually active. We are no longer shocked by the number of abortions that are performed. We are no longer shocked by fornication and adultery. One has only to read the recent book, “My Brother The Pope”, wherein the Pope’s brother recounts just how easily people were fooled in Germany, when German citizens simply would not believe the worst and remained convinced it was not as bad as it seemed, to get a sense of how tragically disastrous failure to face the truth can be.
It is always so easy to look at a problem in hindsight and make judgements about not being more discerning, as we did with the Nazi's. Yet, is this not exactly what Simmermacher is leading his readers to do when he writes: “Unlike the persecuted Church in Pakistan, Iraq or China, the Catholics of the United States are not in danger of physical persecution, nor is the Catholic Church in danger of being suppressed, as several US bishops seem to claim.” Are we not going to look back one day and wonder why we didn't act when the signs were really right there for us all to see?
Simmermacher, a layman in the Church, would have done better to highlight and encourage his readers that they should rather heed the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said that the “seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”[v] Instead, Simmermacher uses his position unwisely and irresponsibly, in my opinion, and presents an opposing view to that of the Holy Father and the 500 bishops of the US.
I think that Simmermacher may well find that he is entirely wrong when he claims that: “In western democracies, those who frame laws that contradict the Church’s moral teachings usually do so not because they hate the Church or despise God.” I think you will find that many do in fact hate the Church and that they do despise God and that it has everything to do with their reluctance to want to hear the truth, which, fortunately, most of our bishops and priests are prepared to boldly proclaim. The 500 US bishops are setting a fantastic example for Catholics throughout the world. They may not be popular, but they certainly do speak the truth.
What this editorial reveals, I think, is the real reason that The Southern Cross newspaper never ever published anything about the HHS mandate. I don’t think that it had anything to do with the speed of the developing story. Instead, I think that it had everything to do with the fact that this newspapers editor had chosen to support the more popular secular position and to desert our bishops in battle.
In the second reading of Matins for today, we read this, in a letter sent to Diognetus: “We may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world.”[vi] We must guard against falling into the trap of becoming like the ‘world’. We must also pray constantly for the truth to prevail, and we must show support for our bishops, remembering that, even if they are based in the US, they remain our bishops too. Simmermacher has, in my opinion, shown the same contempt, of which he accuses Dawkins, towards Bishop Jenky and all the bishops of the US. In doing so I think he has furthered the cause of those who are opposed to the bishops and to the true teaching of the Church on contraception.
[i] Gunther Simmermacher, Catholics and Atheists, The Southern Cross, May 9, 2012 (Extracted May 9, 2012 at 11h47)
[iii] Keith Fournier, The Courage of Bishop Daniel Jenky: Catholics by Conviction, April 23, 2012
[iv] Bishop Daniel Jenky, Catholic Diocese of Peoria, April 14, 2012
[v] Pope Benedict XVI, Address Of His Holiness Benedict XVI To The Bishops Of The USA, Jan 19, 2012