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Barack Obama: Enemy of the Church? by JC Sanders

Barack Obama:  Enemy of the Church?

| Tuesday, August 21, 2012
This is part one of a two part series.


There is a meme which is beginning to make its rounds on facebook stating simply that President Obama is an enemy of the Church. Given his tyrannical HHS mandate, which seems to be specifically targeted at Catholics [1], there does appear some truth to the statement. His administration has a history of being overly-antagonistic and/or discriminatory against faithful Catholics. This includes:

  • Denial of funding to Catholic campaign against human trafficking due to their refusal to perform/refer abortion to the people they are aiding
  • Classification of pro-lifers (meaning faithful Catholics) as potential terrorists
  • The current HHS Mandate requiring all employers (including faithful Catholics) to provide their employees with coverage specifically of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients as “healthcare”
  • The hidden $1 abortion surcharge, whose sole purpose is ultimately to to force all insurance policyholders to pay directly for abortions
  • The US Department of Justice’s increasing ideology that “traditional” marriage (which is the Catholic teaching on marriage) equals bigotry
  • The US Department of Justice’s attempts to abrogate to itself the authority to determine who can and cannot be a minister (e.g. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C., which could set the precedent to do so in the future).
  • The administration’s attempt to dictate what does and does not count as a “Catholic Institution,” both in the context of the HHS Mandate and in other contexts (e.g. US Department of Labor’s declaration).

Obama has gone so far as to make the HHS Mandate a centerpiece of his campaign. Miss Sandra Fluke, the “poor” poster-girl for the “need” for this mandate, has taken to the campaign trail with him, presumably to continue the discredited narrative that contraception is expensive though necessary for women [2]. Tellingly enough, the penalty for not providing these supposedly necessary services of contraception, sterilization, and abortion is less than the penalty for simply refusing to provide health insurance altogether.

President Obama has been a little bit quieter about the $1 abortion-surcharge which will be added to many peoples’ insurance plans [3]. Many people will not be given the option of opting out of this surcharge, which will come directly from their own pockets. The fact that the fee is paltry is irrelevant, though it would be insult to injury if the fee were large. Both this fee and the HHS mandate demand that Catholics and others of good faith burn the proverbial grain of incense before the altar of Caesar. G.K. Chesterton describes the scene aptly:

The Temple of Divus Julius, that is, of Julius Ceaser under his divinized title.

The life of the great civilization went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely give a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realized that there ever had been even a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. But it was not the strange story to which anybody paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was really a part of their little system; and about what they said, however mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor’s statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal had fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock.

The fate of many early Christians. Image source.

With a strange rapidity, like the changes of a dream, the proportions of things seemed to change in their presence. Before most men knew what had happened, these few men were palpably present. They were important enough to be ignored. People became suddenly silent about them and walked stiffly past them. We see a new scene, in which the world has drawn its skirts away from these men and women and they stand in the center of a great space like lepers. The scene changes again and the great space where they stand is overhung on every side with a cloud of witnesses, interminable terraces full of faces looking down towards them intently; for strange things are happening to them. New tortures have been invented for the madmen who have brought good news. That sad and weary society seems almost to find a new energy in establishing its first religious persecution. Nobody yet knows very clearly why that level world has thus lost its balance about the people in its midst; but they stand unnaturally still while the arena and the world seem to revolve round then And there shone on them in that dark hour a light that has never been darkened; a white fire clinging to that group like an unearthly phosphorescence, blazing its track through the twilight’s of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory; that shaft of light or lightening by which the world itself has struck and isolated and crowned it; by which its own enemies have made it more illustrious and its own critics have made it more inexplicable; the halo of hatred around the Church of God.

Persecutions of the sort found in the Roman Empire (or, for that matter, in many places today) may or may not be forthcoming from all of this. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has at the very least implemented a variety of policies which have been so many little attacks on the Church, on the freedom of religion and on the rights of conscience [4].

Many will dismiss all of these “little” attacks on the Church by noting that they are policy measures meant to advance a vision of the world which “happens” to be in opposition to Catholic moral teachings. Thus, Obama is pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-sterilization, pro-”gay marriage” more so than anti-Catholic. There are plenty of people who could say they are opposed to Church teaching without actually being intentionally anti-Catholic or intrinsically hostile to the Church.

On the other hand, the claim to not being hostile to the Church herself implies some measure of tolerance, a live-and-let-live attitude which disagrees with the Church, and perhaps even attempts to minimize her authority in the public square. This is, after all, what President Obama himself claimed, both in his keynote speech at Notre Dame [5] and in his broader speech to the nation as (Senate) candidate Obama [6]. This is somewhat less reconcilable with using the power of government to compel cooperation with intrinsic evils. A coincidental pattern of antagonism and hostility may not make him an outright enemy of the Church, but he is no friend to Catholics and others of good faith.

In the next piece, I will consider what this means for us as Catholics.



[1] See religious exemptions for Amish, but not for Catholics.

[2] In truth, it is expensive: morally expensive to use, but not financially expensive to obtain. But then, the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t care about economic cost effectiveness.

[3] Perhaps this point is kept quieter because more people acknowledge that abortion is evil than acknowledge that contraception is evil, and thus this plan is more disfavorable to the voters.

[4] Speaking of which, it is also very telling that the group “Catholics for Choice,” which until recently has been all about the primacy and freedom of conscience over against Church teachings, is so suddenly against that same primacy and freedom when the government under a pro-abortion president makes policies which violate the conscience of the citizens. The organization’s goals are apparently not the support of conscience rights so much as the demand for ready access to contraception and abortion-on-demand, as well as opposition to the authority of the bishops.

[5] In his keynote speech during the Notre Dame graduation, he said (emphasis mine):

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women”

Nothing in the policies of his administration has in the least suggested that he actually honors the consciences of those who disagree with him; this is especially true in the HHS mandate, the abortion surcharge, the lack of a conscience protection clause in the Obamacare bill which was ultimately rammed through both houses of Congress by Democrat majorities.

[6] This is his once famous and now perhaps forgotten Call to Renewal keynote address about religion and politics in America. This speech was one of the speeches which put him on the map, so to speak, and was widely praised by the media at the time. The relevant passage is (with my emphases):

“what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”


About the Author ()

JC Sanders is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He is currently a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas, where he studies high-intensity laser-plasma interactions and Raman processes. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers, with a three year commitment to the Order. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”

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