Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Fugitive Slave Act, 2011

The Fugitive Slave Act, 2011

          The Fugitive Slave Act was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to become a free state, upsetting the balance of 15 slave and 15 free states in the U.S.  The law said that anyone who gave any aid to a runaway slave, including a blanket to one who was freezing, or food to one who was starving, was breaking the law, and was subject to fine and imprisonment.  If you did not turn in a runaway slave, you were also breaking the law. 
          President Zachary Taylor refused to accept the Fugitive Slave Act, but when he died of sun stroke after the dedication ceremony for the Washington Monument, Millard Fillmore became President.  He approved the law, and announced with the acceptance of the Compromise of 1850, that the United States had now finally settled the issue of slavery.  This may be a source of hope for us, seeing that inept and out-of-touch politicians aren’t a new phenomenon.
          I am a student of Presidential history and I count Fillmore among the worst largely because of the Fugitive Slave Act.  It was a particularly evil law because it made doing good a crime and tried to enforce the doing of evil on good people.  How ironic that our first African-American President has dictatorially decreed the 21st century version of the Fugitive Slave Act by requiring, in his health bill, all insurance policies to cover, at no charge, contraception, including those that induce early abortions.
          I make this connection to the Fugitive Slave Act because once again a law is trying to force good people to do evil against the dictates of their consciences.  Mr. Obama, of course, has scorned conscience protection legislation, and has taken clear and deliberate aim at the Catholic Church, among others.
          The bishops have responded by forming a committee to fight this action, and it is about time we all stood up to fight back against the constant attacks on our religious freedom.
          Obviously this is an unjust law, and as Pope John Paul II said, an unjust law does not have to be obeyed.  In fact, we do not have to regard it as a law at all.  Disobedience will come with a price, though, that we as Catholics have to be willing to pay, but can never accept as normal in the United States of America.
          Our country was founded on the sacrifices of men and women who were willing to die to protect the freedoms we now see taken away by executive decree.  We need their spirit of sacrifice.  Our legislators need to know where we stand.  We may need to give up some of our money and our time to ensure that in the upcoming elections we get leaders who believe in the freedoms they take an oath to defend.
          Most of all, we can not be silent.  The President of the United States works for us; he is not our master.  Mr. Obama needs to be reminded of that.  Call and write the White House and your local newspaper, show up at town hall meetings, and support the Church’s efforts to speak out whenever you can.