Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Farm Bill and the Right of Parents

The Obama administration has signaled several times that it seeks to be universal and omnipotent. The Health and Human Services mandate is only one example out of many. The H.H.S. director, Kathleen Sebelius, has demonstrated a failure to recognize the limitations of the State by encroaching upon the rights of the Church; this, forcing Catholic agencies to provide contraception through their healthcare insurances. But the Church is by no means the only community whose rights have been tested by this administration. The sanctuary of the home has been tested too.

Undaunted by the rights parents have over their own children, the Department of Labor had proposed a Farm Bill in 2012 that contained a ban on youth under the age of 16 working on their parents farm. However, due to the deluge of complaints by the farming community, they revoked the ban. As Senator John Thune of South Dakota said, “The Obama DOL’s youth farm labor rule is a perfect example of what happens when government gets too big.”

Just the willingness of the State to meddle in Church and family affairs should be enough cause for alarm. Americans ought to ask themselves: How is it that elected officials even dare to venture beyond the security fence of private institutions? For the Christian who is well formed in his or her faith, it is as "clear as day" that both Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor do not wince from trespassing into sacred territory. Perhaps, part of the reason is that more and more U.S. citizens are growing tolerant of these government incursions.

When children have been groomed to get anything they want from their parents, then, when they reach adulthood, the State becomes the fixation of their entitlement-mentality. With their hands wide open and their arms extended they say to their rulers, "Give me!" In addition, when proper moral and spiritual formation of children is wanting in the home, then the home itself will be reap the consequences of its own dereliction. It's independence and privacy will be compromised. The same applies to the Church. In 1948, Fulton Sheen cautioned us about such a thing: “A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. When our moral standards are different, our legislation will be different.”

I am afraid that the politicians of today are boundary deficient. But the causes of this can be traced to the Church and the family. When these two institutions return to the principles that made them great, it is only then that the average politician will say: “I must decrease while they must increase.” It is not for this post to elaborate on what those principles are. In short, to rely on God and his providence first and foremost is the only worthy substitute for the reliance on the all-powerful State. But we have to further ask, where are children and youth learning this? Certainly, not in State-run schools!

As early as 1935, Catholic historian Christopher Dawson anticipated the political trends that were to be just as Bishop Fulton Sheen did in 1948. What American would have even agreed with Dawson’s statement in 1930’s or the decades to follow? Not many! The average citizen could not imagine the U.S. government riddled with the kind of totalitarians aims it has today. But yet, as one who was well-grounded in Catholic Faith and one who knew history, Dawson could see a day in the near future when the State would be universal and omnipotent. In Religion and the Modern State (1935) he said,

“The new State will be universal and omnipotent. It will mould the mind and guide the life of its citizens from the cradle to the grave. It will not tolerate any interference with its educational functions by any sectarian organization, even though the latter is based on religious convictions. And this is the more serious, since the introduction of psychology into education has made the schoolmaster a spiritual guide as well as the trainer of the mind. In fact it seems as though the school of the future must increasingly usurp the functions that the Church exercised in the past, and that the teaching profession will take the place of the clergy as the spiritual power of the future.”

The farming community has registered their complaints to the Department of Labor and thankfully, it worked…at least for now. However, the Catholic Church has, to this day, at least, failed to get the same accommodation from the Department of Health and Human Services. In the months that remain prior to the presidential election, it would seem to me that the U.S. Catholic Bishops have every right to raise their voice and warn the flock about the Obama administration by name. The Church can never endorse political candidates or parties, but she has always reserved the right to denounce or reprimand rulers in public. Church history is full of examples.

Just to name two: There was Ossius of Cordova, the aged Spanish bishop, who wrote to the all-powerful [Emperor] Constantius: ‘You have no right to meddle in religious affairs. God has given you the authority over the Empire, but He has given us authority over the Church. In matters of faith it is you who must listen to our instructions.’” St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, reminded Roman Emperor Theodosius II: “Remember you are a mortal!’

It wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves who we are and who they are (i.e. rulers and politicians). St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, did just that. He said, “The power of the Church surpasses that of the civil power in the same way as the heavens surpass the earth, or rather, even more so…”