Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” (April 16, 1963) is one of our nation’s elegant testimonies to the political implications of our Declaration of Independence:
“One may want to ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
Indeed, there may be more theological letters written from the confines of jail cells in the near future, as the Catholic bishops quickly approach the end of a one-year deadline given to them by the Obama administration to obey the HHS mandate or face the consequences. Not a single bishop has signaled any other intention than to embrace the consequences with the joy of serving Christ.
Was Archbishop Chaput predicting the future in the interview when he concluded, “This has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries”? We know it has crossed his mind: At Chester Springs, he said, but only half-jokingly, “I don’t want to go to jail.”
If the election affirms the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, there is a 100 percent chance that there will be civil disobedience in the Catholic Church, led by its bishops. Whether jail will follow is anyone’s guess.