Rev. John A. Leies, S.M.

I am angry. Very angry.

Rev. John A. Leies, S.M.
By Rev. John Leies S.M.
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February 21, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) - I am angry. Very angry. My government has demanded (not “requested”) that I violate my conscience. On Jan. 20, Kathleen Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced that all institutions — schools, hospitals, clinics, etc., (even those conducted by religious groups opposed to the measures) — must cover in their insurance plans contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients. This policy was endorsed and approved by the president.

The policy allows a “religious exemption,” but one which is so narrow that it would cover very few people — only those whose administrators and beneficiaries were all of the same religion. The exemption would cover convents and monasteries, but not Catholic grade schools, high schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, food kitchens or even businesses run by faithful Catholics. These institutions hire people of other faiths to help them in their mission and they serve people of other faiths as well as Catholics. So the institution must offer insurance plans that provide medical procedures that are immoral. The Catholic Church teaches that abortions and the use of artificial means to avoid conception are always wrong. I, as a Catholic, may not engage in wrong actions — nor cooperate in encouraging others to do so. “Forcing persons to cooperate in actions they judge to be evil is evil.” (E. Christian Brugger)

Following a great uproar that included even liberal Catholics and non-Catholics, the president announced an “accommodation” for Catholics that would, he said, put the onus for providing free contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs on the insurance companies themselves, rather than the institutions. Of course, since no company would ever really provide these for “free,” this amounts to a shell game, and the uproar has not abated from faithful Catholics and those of other faiths who recognize this for the assault on religious freedom that it is.

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Shortly before the public announcements of the initial decision and the “accommodation,” President Obama phoned then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to tell him about the announcement. He initially told now-Cardinal Dolan that there would be a grace period of a year before the decree went into effect. The archbishop’s comment later was, “The president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

The irony in all of this is that the primary proponent of this decree, Kathleen Sebelius, claims to be a Catholic. Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, also a Catholic, stated, “I strongly support this action to expand access to fundamental, basic health care.” And Catholic Vice President Joseph Biden, while silent on the measure before the “accommodation,” has since been its ardent supporter.

As a Catholic, I am bound by the decrees of Vatican II, an ecumenical council. And this council, summarizing the traditions of the Church, declared, “In the depths of their conscience, men and women detect a law which they do not impose on themselves but which holds them to obedience, a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of men and women. According to it they will be judged.” (GS #16) And yet as a member of a Catholic university I am told by civic authority now that I should be willing to violate my conscience. Indeed, forcing persons to cooperate in actions they judge evil is evil.

I had always thought that the United States, in the light of the Bill of Rights, respected religious freedom; that in fact this was the first of all of our rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Years ago, some people in Florida killed chickens as part of their worship ceremonies. Laws were passed by civil authorities to prevent this. The United States Supreme Court said the laws were unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment. Around the same time, a Native American was fired from his government job because he engaged in smoking peyote as part of a religious ritual. This was initially considered as a violation of substance abuse laws. The Supreme Court reversed that judgment in the light of the First Amendment.

I am trying to understand why my government wants me to violate my conscience. Some say it is in order to penalize Catholic institutions which are a threat to health care policies. One in every six patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital. More than 50 Catholic health care organizations exist with over 750,000 employees. In Catholic schools, there are more than 150,000 professional educators and over two million students. And more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities serve over 900,000 students. The government wants to get control of their health care. Some people, more radical, claim that the aim of the government is to cause the very demise of Catholic schools and hospitals, because they are in conflict with the direction in which the secular elites want to take our nation.

What is to be done? I do not know at the moment, other than prayer, fasting and contacting our elected leaders. One thing I do know is that I will not violate my conscience. Ever.

A version of this article originally appeared in Today’s Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Father John A. Leies, SM, STD, is a Contributing Writer of HLI America. He is president emeritus of St. Mary’s University and formerly served as head of the Theology Department there. His recent writings may be found at HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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