So — remember how I ended up on the crypt level last year and had to watch the Mass for Life on a big screen TV? Well, this time around, I did get a seat in the Upper Church, but it was in the very back row. I consequently learned a very valuable lesson: Unless you get there by the noon mass and are able to save a seat in the front section, getting into the Upper Church isn’t really worth the additional time required. You really can’t see anything in the very back because people keep standing and clogging up the aisles to take pictures.
But hey — even though the Mass for Life was strictly an auditory experience for me, I’m still glad I went. Number one, I can’t participate in the March for Life this year because I have to work, so the preliminary mass is the only way I can express my support for the pro-life movement. Number two, Cardinal DiNardo is a very good preacher. I loved his interpretation of the Book of Jonah, for example. He basically declared – hilariously – that Jonah was one of the worst prophets ever (because of his attempts to flee God’s calling), pointed out that Nineveh was a pagan city, and finally proposed that the Book of Jonah was really written as a reminder to the Jews that God’s salvation will eventually be universal. The cardinal then segued rather beautifully into his message to the pro-life movement: Like Jonah, we too go into hostile territory when we come to Washington to push for pro-life policy. Like Jonah, we need to be clear in our message to the greater culture — but we also need to treat our opponents with compassion and never discount the possibility that, like the citizens of Nineveh, they too might one day be converted.
Foremost on Cardinal DiNardo’s mind tonight was the recent HHS announcement regarding the contraception mandate. I haven’t really talked about that here, but I should, because the Obama administration’s decision on this is absolutely outrageous. First of all, what is this nonsense about classifying contraception and sterilization as “preventative health care for women”? What does the birth control pill “prevent,” exactly? Pregnancy? Pregnancy is not a disease. It is not something that requires a cure — and by the way, if you really must avoid it, you can do so by other means. Acne? Cry me a river. I have acne on occasion, but you’ll never hear me complain about it. PMS? Okay, yes — that’s occasionally crippling. I’ll grant that there are some women who take hormonal birth control or are sterilized for grave medical reasons (like endometriosis or uterine cancer), but the Catholic Church allows for that in its principle of “double effect” — and at any rate, there is, to my knowledge, no evidence that a majority of women who use contraception fall into this category. Actually, the reality is very far removed from that Planned Parenthood fantasy, so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the primary purpose of contraception is anything other than what it is.
Secondly, there’s a little thing in the Constitution called the First Amendment, and its intent was, in part, to protect our freedom of conscience. The Obama Administration has basically told every Catholic hospital in America to provide contraception or else limit their patient pool to practicing Catholics — and there’s no way that said hospitals can possibly accept the latter stricture because, of course, their mission is to serve the entire community. We Catholics are not a tribal people; we don’t just care for our own. Jesus commanded us to bring his mercy to everyone. But as far as Obama and Ms. Sebelius are concerned, the many other services we Catholics offer in our medical centers – which often provide care for the indigent – don’t matter just because we’ve (rightly, in my view) refused to offer artificial birth control. It is a twisted worldview indeed that is willing to sacrifice a large segment of our health care sector on the altar of one particular service that is largely elective. It’s also a deeply unconstitutional worldview that refuses to allow for any diversity of opinion on the matter.
The aforementioned constitutional dimension to the birth control issue was covered by Cardinal DiNardo — and the mostly young audience responded quite enthusiastically. As I was hobbling back to the Metro (the Mass for Life is really hard on someone with rheumatoid arthritis, let me tell you), I heard a huge crowd of teenagers practicing their chants for the march tomorrow. “B. E. Pro-Life!” they shouted. Or: “We love babies – yes, we do! We love babies – how ’bout you?” They were pretty loud — and that’s good, I think. We need that youthful energy to drive our movement.