.- Catholics should follow the example of St. Thomas More in their current conflict with the Obama administration, said Fr. Paul D. Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
More's faithful witness and willingness to sacrifice his life rather than violate his conscience “are instructive for us in this present crisis,” said Fr. Scalia, who serves as pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean, Va.
In an April 4 article for the Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper of Arlington, Fr. Scalia reflected on the life of St. Thomas More, the well-known 16th-century lawyer, author and martyr who served as the chancellor of England under King Henry VIII.
He observed that More was faced with a moral dilemma when the Catholic Church would not allow King Henry to divorce his wife, and the king responded by simply redefining the Church.
More could not support the king’s decision in good conscience and therefore resigned from public life. He did not voice his opposition to the king, but merely attempted to live as a private citizen in silence.
“But King Henry’s rebellion against the Church inevitably trampled on the conscience of individuals as well,” said Fr. Scalia, explaining that even though he had resigned from his position, More was commanded to take an oath affirming the king’s divorce.
When he refused to violate his conscience by taking the oath, he was imprisoned and then beheaded.
The years that followed were filled with persecution of Catholics, who were fined and imprisoned for their religious beliefs.
Fr. Scalia compared More’s struggle with the king to that of Catholics against a new U.S. mandate that will require private health insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of whether those providing the plans object to such coverage.
He said that the similarities between King Henry’s decree and the contraception mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “are striking and instructive.”
Just as King Henry redefined the Church in England, the Obama administration “seeks to do likewise in the United States” with its recent mandate, he said.
The administration and some Congressmen have even “lectured the bishops about what the Church should do or think.” In doing so, he explained, they have violated the Church’s right to self-governance of internal affairs.
Fr. Scalia also noted that just as King Henry’s actions affected both the Church as an institution and private individuals such as More, the contraception mandate threatens not only the rights of Church organizations but those of individual Catholic citizens, who will also be penalized if they do not obey the mandate.
Fr. Scalia advised that if history is repeating itself in the current persecution of the Church, the faithful must “deliberately choose to imitate” St. Thomas More’s witness.
Catholic should reflect More’s “integrity and holiness of life,” he said, observing that the saint’s silence on the issue of the king’s divorce spoke volumes because he was known to be a man of integrity.
Although we currently “do not have the luxury of remaining silent,” we must still follow in More’s path of integrity, uniting our words and actions to present the truths of our faith, he said.
Fr. Scalia emphasized that Catholics should imitate More’s joy, which he maintained even in the midst of oppression. This joy may not always be externally visible, but should remain steadfast inside of us, because we know “that no suffering or persecution in this world can separate us from the love of Christ.”
Catholics should also imitate More’s patriotism, said Fr. Scalia, recalling More’s famous statement before his death, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
In the same way, he said, we will be good Americans by defending the First Amendment’s promises and “being devout Catholics first.”