Common Good is Not Fostered By Subjecting Individual to State
By Bishop Emeritus Thomas G. Doran

The attempt by the Department of Health and Human Services to restrict our freedom of religion and of conscience, a number of people have suggested that since many lukewarm and doubtful Catholics practice contraception, we should not feel aggrieved. But consider this: what each of us is guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right to follow his or her conscience and to practice his or her religion without interference. In other words, I am free, if I want (God forbid!) to choose my own mortal sins; it is not the business of government to choose them for me by making me pay for contraception, abortion or genetic manipulation.

A number of Catholic people lately point out that the Church has brought some of this on itself as Pat Buchanan wrote in "Human Events" on Jan. 31 of this year: "Now, undeniably, the Church milquetoast of past decades that refused to discipline pro-abortion Catholics allowed the impression to form that while the hierarchy may protest, eventually it will go along to get along with a Democratic Party that was once home to most Catholics."

It is unfortunately true that many of our leaders have been silent about government abuses of a lesser nature and this has emboldened our federal overlords to greater and greater violations of our liberty. The relationship of church and state is a delicate one and this is true not only of our own country, but of others.

You have heard claims by the newspapers and the talking heads on television, that there are a large number of Catholics who ignore the Church's teachings, particularly about contraception. The only way to be sure of this would be discreetly to ask all confessors of the faithful to comment on this and no such survey as far as I know exists. But just as the many murderers in the United States do not make murder right, so it is with any other grave sin. Most Catholics I know do not look forward to having to face our Lord Jesus at the end and there admit how we have sinned. That ultimate judgment, of course, is up to him, at once all merciful and all just.

As St. Augustine put it so well, we are citizens both of the City of God and of the city of man. Both claim our allegiance; we cannot exclude either. When those two cities are at odds, it is clear that the needs of the passing city of man must cede to what is eternal — the City of God.

There are many who make the argument that the needs of society, of course as determined by its leaders, outweigh the rights of the individual, but strictly speaking this is not true. The Declaration of Independence says that to secure our unalienable rights, "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." It seems to me, then, that the individual precedes the state and is its creator in a sense. And the same Declaration of Independence states, that "when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government ...?."

My conclusion then is that the people are superior to the government, not the other way around, and that the common good is not fostered by subjecting the individual to the state. This error as manifested by the tyrannical regimes of Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and others of the same ilk was once valiantly fought against by previous generations. It would be a shame to succumb in these days to the principles which are antithetical to our American way of life.

The Founding Fathers who inspired the Declaration of Independence and wrote the Constitution of the United States came out of a period that conceived rulers as chosen by God, who ruled by divine right. This they rejected explicitly and determined that our government should be subject to its people.

In the early days of this republic, its leaders conducted themselves in the spirit of the founders, but that is not how our present government with its lackadaisical legislative branch, its imperial judiciary and its executive branch, which pretends to omnipotence, conducts itself. The present administration in its attack on religious liberty has shown how far we have come from the type of government that should prevail in what was once the land of the free and the home of the brave. These serious considerations should weigh upon the conscience of every faithful Catholic.

The Bible of old, in the first of the Psalms, said: "Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, or stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the company of scoffers, but his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night and he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off. And all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper."

That is the right guaranteed to us by our Founding Fathers and no one has the right to abridge it, to change it or to take it away.