This picture is making the rounds of the social networks this week, showing a recent remark made by John Stewart of the Daily Show. While Stewart may think he is being funny,equating the recent dissatisfaction of the Catholic bishops about the HHS mandate with a child's temper tantrum, his quotation is being posted by various atheists and Catholic haters as evidence that the Church is wrong.
What this ignorant remark misses is that for Catholics, our mission, given to us by Jesus Christ and carried out through the apostolic mandate of the Church for the past 2000 years, is to change the world to make it reflect Christ's teachings, not simply to accept injustice or things that are morally unacceptable and walk away. We are, in fact, sent into the world from every Mass to bring the truth of the Gospel into that world.
If the "society" Stewart speaks of is wrong or unjust, we Catholics have a missionary mandate to work to change injustice in that society. In this case, the injustice is in the government attempting to force Catholic and other religious institutions to provide access to birth control (including abortifacient drugs) as part of insurance plans, which in the case of Catholics, is simply directly against the teachings of the Church. The core of the teachings about birth control and abortion is that we are always in favor of God's action through human reproduction to create new life. We simply believe that the prevention of, or the ending of that new life for our own personal convenience is against God's will - because life is always the will of God.
Far from being about "getting everything we want", this is actually more about getting what God wants. Genesis 1:28 says "be fruitful and multiply." The fifth commandment says "You shall not kill." Put the two together and you have the reason why Catholics reject both birth control and abortion (including any drug that causes abortion). Regardless of the personal belief of individual members, many of whom, influenced by the norms of American society and desire for their own personal convenience, dissent from these teachings, the Church continues to teach that all sexual relations between a husband and wife must be open to the creation of new life. New life, once conceived (defined as an egg fertilized by a sperm, even before implantation) must never be ended by human intervention.
Agree, disagree, it does not matter. It is simply what the Church teaches. The constitutional right to religious freedom in the United States demands that this teaching be honored. While the Church can wish that all Americans would abide by this, that is not even the point. Catholic institutions have the right to follow the Church's teaching, and by the principle of religious freedom, no government can ask them to do otherwise. Why the Obama administration believes that this matter is even negotiable for the bishops is simply beyond my ability to understand. I will not mention here all the various arguments about the particulars or the wider moral implications of that mandate or of the so-called "modification", as the USCCB and numerous other Catholic bloggers have certainly done that.
However, I want to make the point that those who are spreading this quotation in apparent agreement don't have any idea who we are as Catholics, why for the majority of faithful, practicing Catholics this government mandate is a challenge to our very identity, or why we simply will never back down. It is not that we are childishly objecting to not having our own way. It is quite simply that any government attempt to force Catholics to do something against the teachings of the Church is never going to be acceptable. Ever. Doesn't even matter if individual Catholics personally support that teaching. Most Catholics do, however, support the right for our Church to have that teaching, for the right for that teaching to apply to us as American citizens, and for the right of our institutions to make decisions about health care that are consonant with that teaching. John Stewart is simply dead wrong to imply we are having a temper tantrum.