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As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 15, 1872 when the first baptism was recorded at St. Peter's Church, New Britain. The child's name was, Joseph Graff.
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MsgrLiptak_TNEven "the Catholic Left" (the phrase is not mine) is expressing outrage about President Barack Obama’s "war on the Catholic Church." An op-ed piece in the 24 Jan. Wall Street Journal included the President of Notre Dame University, which awarded the United States President with an honorary degree not too long ago. He has reportedly manifested "alarm" for the way Mr. Obama is now "shamefully" treating "those Catholics who went out on a limb" for him.

Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles wrote in his blog that he cannot "imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience."

The issue here is obviously most grave. Morality directly reflects doctrine, and Catholics especially affirm the truth of Sacred Scripture as read within the Church. No administration has ever dared to trample so overtly on the First Amendment, which in part safeguards the innate right of religious freedom.

George Washington’s unforgettable words are quoted by New York’s Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in another recent (25 Jan.) WSJ op-ed article:

"The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them."

The Archbishop also cites the great James Madison’s admonition:

"Conscience is the most sacred of all property."

Direct abortion, which is primarily a right-to-life topic, is, in Catholic doctrine, thoroughly evil; no justification is possible. To require a Catholic to help fund such a procedure is profoundly repugnant to her or him. Nor can such barbaric duress be tolerated by Constitutional reference. Indeed, the argument goes in the very opposite direction, as the U.S. Declaration of Independence proclaims in the first paragraph.

Mandatory insurance costs for sterilization and contraception, both birth prevention modalities, are also crude violations of religious freedom. Since when are Catholics required to pay for contraceptive procedures or means that are morally unacceptable in conscience?

Surely this "latest erosion of our [America’s] first freedom," argues Archbishop Dolan, "should make all Americans pause. When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead."

How "ObamaCare" impacts religious liberty is an issue that will not – indeed, cannot – fade away; it is too explicit and deep an assault on human dignity. It is an assault about which faith and reason warn us many times over. That it could occur in a pagan society, wherein human dignity is minimized, is somewhat understandable. But for it to happen here, in the United States of America, is incomprehensible, especially since our great nation has a unique Constitution, which secures the God-given right of religious freedom.

What is especially disturbing about reported versions of "ObamaCare" is that the federal government itself is intruding into an area in which it totally lacks not only jurisdiction, but also competence. Many a martyr has been made by a similar intrusion; St. Thomas More, the Patron of Lawyers, is a classic example. Efforts to compel conscience, we tend to think, belong largely to the past, however; but certainly not within our great nation, many of whose original colonies were literally established as sanctuaries for conscience; e.g., Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland.

Again, though, isn’t America still a home where conscience is respected by the government; where, indeed, religion is at the base of our Way of Life? As Will Herberg argued in his highly influential book, Protestant-Catholic-Jew (1955), "German unity, it would seem, is felt to be largely racial-folkish, French unity largely cultural; but neither of these ways is open to the American people, the most diverse in racial and cultural origins of any in the world. Americans believe in religion in a way that perhaps no other people do. It may indeed be said that the primary religious affirmation of the American people, in harmony with the American Way of Life, is that religion is a ‘good thing,’ a supremely ‘good thing,’ for the person and the community."

Here the famed Professor Herberg (whose lectures I had once hoped to hear while working on a doctorate at a university in central New Jersey; he became ill and died shortly after my arrival there) cited President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

"Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith…" Eisenhower was convinced that the "three great faiths" of our land were really affirming the same thing about the "spiritual ideals" and "moral values" holding up, as it were, the "American Way of Life."

To threaten these noble ideals and values constitutes an unprecedented abomination.

As Archbishop Henry J. Mansell wrote in his column in our last issue, "the future of all of us and our country as well is at stake." (Feb. 2012, p. 2)


Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.