Thursday, June 7, 2012

John Garvey Brings It On.

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, posted a clear and moving explanation of CUA's decision to bring the HHS mandate to court. Alma mater, I salute you.

Particularly poignant is his commentary on Eleazar of Maccabee fame (if your family is unfamiliar with the Books of Maccabees, now is a good time to read them aloud!):

"A wonderful story in the second book of Maccabees describes the martyrdom of the old scribe Eleazar. It occurred during the Hellenizing campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes. He forced the Jews "to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God." 

Eleazar was ordered on pain of death to eat pork. He refused. The men in charge of the sacrifice, who had known him for a long time, took him aside and offered to spare him if he would just eat something that looked like pork. "Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life," he said, "lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion[.]" And so they killed him."

The point, Garvey says, is twofold: First, God's law is higher than the law of the state, and it is "cruel" for any government to force its citizens to choose between their beliefs and their freedom. Second, Eleazar is a witness to the communal aspect of our Catholic praxis. Whatever we do, "the young" --and I would add, those who have rejected the Faith-- are watching. Even the appearance of compromise in matters of morals is a grave sin against the spirit of the law.

Garvey also mentions the much-touted reality that a majority of Roman Catholics do not practice the Church's teaching on fertility and sex. While this is a tragedy and symptom of our human failure, however, it hardly changes the truth. Truth does not shift and change with societal norms: rather, practice seeks to conform to truth, goodness, and beauty. That's why the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are called transcendentals. They transcend the changing and shifting man-made laws.

Garvey's essay is brief, but forceful. It is a great example of the unapologetic, but nevertheless sympathetic, approach we all need to be ready to take toward the world. He does not dismiss objections. He does not call names. He doesn't even mention the leaders in government behind this mandate. He simply states who he is, what he believes, and what he must do.


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