This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections on Pentacost and the HHS suit

This past Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of Pentacost - where the Holy Spirit descended upon all of those assembled in a form similar to tongues of fire. This is an important point. She did not descend (and the gender in the original biblical Greek is feminine for Spirit) on the Apostles alone, who then blessed the others - but instead touched everyone in the community. Likewise, the baptism of the Spirit and other gifts were generally expressed - not a product of ordination.

It was not until centuries later that a monarchical episcopacy evolved - mostly because when cities had multiple communities, the Overseer (which I would translate as Pastor rather than Bishop) kept control of the distribution of Communion rather than creating additional pastors of equal station. At first, bishops were elected by the people. It was only later that the clergy took on this function, which was then fought over between the civil government and the papacy in the western Church. Given that, like in the early Church, the people now have as much literacy as the clergy (a development that took place within the last 150 years), the people can be trusted with this function again, especially in societies where the state is not attempting to control the appointment of bishops, such as the United States.

This brings us to the queston of the religious freedom lawsuit, which the Archdiocese of Washington has joined, along with the local Catholic Charities organization and Catholic University of America. To my knowledge, the decision on joining the lawsuit, or even insisting on a need for religious freedom vis-a-vis the rights of employees to contraceptive health care, was taken at the top of the organizations in the lawsuit. Further, unless Jones Day is donating their labor, I suspect that the cost of the lawsuit is coming from the Cardinal's Lenten Appeal (I have not heard of a separate fundraising effort and most pro-life activities funding comes from the Appeal).

I don't suspect that prior to undertaking this initiative, the Cardinal or even the Director of CCDC (or the President of CUA) bothered to ask the affected employees, the clients and students or even the donors about whether they wished resources to be devoted to a lawsuit that is best described as Quixotic (since it is likely not ripe absent the issuance of a final HHS rule). I suspect that had be been asked, we would have said no to the whole thing. Our claim on the gifts of the Holy Spirit is as sound as that of the clergy. If the true lesson of Pentacost were really front and center in the minds of the bishops, they would have at least asked (although they likely know the answer - which is why they did not).

Perhaps there is a way to make them take notice. If you made a pledge and don't like what the Cardinal is doing here, send a letter objecting rather than your usual monthly payment. If enough of the faithful do it, perhaps His Eminence will take note.

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