Lifeboat Lesson

Lifeboat Lesson

A story is told about some shipwrecked people together in a long, narrow lifeboat. The boat is so long that the people in the front of the boat are quite far from the people in the back. This distance and their perilous situation distort their thinking.

When the front of the boat springs a leak, a man in the back turns to the woman next to him and says, “Thank God the leak’s in the front. If it were back here, we’d be doomed!”

Something’s been troubling me. There is a leak in our American lifeboat, and it threatens every one of us. Regardless of what you think about the Catholic Church’s position on artificial means of birth control, the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is forcing employers to provide health coverage for things that violate the religious beliefs of any of us is a BIG problem that should be troubling every single American—whatever your faith or religion.

I judge that too many people are looking at this through the lens of whether they agree with the Church teaching on birth control and far too few are really grasping what implications this mandate has on the free exercise of religion that is our right per the First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) and which our Church says “is based on the very dignity of the human person” (Declaration on Religious Liberty, Second Vatican Council).

Our lifeboat—let’s call her “Religious Liberty”—has sprung a leak! If this HHS mandate stands, what’s going to stop the flow of government actions that further violate the consciences and religious beliefs of people of faith? This may seem like a small leak to some, and those who have dismissed the Church’s concern on the basis of their own attitudes about its teaching on birth control might not be too concerned about this action. BUT if the government prevails with this mandate that violates the religious beliefs and consciences of many—and not just Catholics—on this issue, it will have set a precedent for further religious liberty violations.

Do we really want to go there? As persons of faith? As citizens of this “free” country? I don’t think so!

Read more—by someone much better versed on this whole issue than I—in the Catholic Update “Why Catholics Care About Religious Liberty” by Helen Alvaré. She’s an attorney, associate professor of law, and champion of conscience protection and the sanctity of human life.

And take a look at the recent movie For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada too. Be inspired by the faith of the Catholic men, women, and children—hundreds who were martyred—in Mexico in their fight for religious liberty in the 1920s. Make the connection to your own faith and the situation threatening religious freedom in the present-day U.S.

P.S. Please don’t give me a hard time for mentioning the Church’s teaching on birth control without defending it [the Church]. That’s simply not my point here. I am a strong proponent of life, marriage, and Natural Family Planning!

photo credit: / Steve Young


About the Author

Joan McKamey works for Liguori Publications.