"Verily, daughter, I never intend — God being my good lord — to pin my soul at another man's back, not even the best man that I know this day living; for I know not whither he may hap to carry it," More said, according to documents published online by the Center for Thomas More Studies at the University of Dallas.
"Some may do for favor, and some may do for fear, and so might they carry my soul a wrong way," said More. "And some may be peradventure of that mind, that if they say one thing and think the while the contrary, God more regards their heart than their tongue, and that therefore their oath goes upon what they think, and not upon what they say."
But Thomas More was not one of these. "I can use no such ways in so great a matter," he told his daughter. "I dare not do it, my own conscience standing against it."
This saint — a martyr for truth — faced the ultimate sort of tyrant: a political official who used the power of government to try to force men to act against their consciences.
More refused. Henry VIII cut off his head.
Now, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States — and all faithful Catholics in this country — face a conflict with President Barack Obama and his administration that mirrors the conflict between Thomas More and Henry VIII.
The administration is seeking to coerce Catholics to act against their consciences on two fronts: on sterilization, contraceptives and abortion, and on the definition of marriage.
Obamacare regulations proposed by the Department of Health and Services on Aug. 1 would require every private health plan in America to cover sterilizations as well as all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including "emergency contraceptives." These include drugs such as ulipristal, which can cause abortions both before and after an embryo implants in a mother's womb.
If this regulation is finalized — and the Obamacare mandate that every American must buy health insurance is not repealed — every American Catholic with a conscience formed in keeping with the teachings of his church would be forced to choose between disobeying Obama's law or disobeying his conscience.
Because the "religious exemption" in this proposed regulation is so narrowly drawn that it does not apply to Catholic hospitals, Catholic charitable organizations or Catholic colleges and universities, vast numbers of Catholic institutions would be forced to choose between dropping all health-care coverage for their employees or violating the teachings of their own church.
At the same time, the Obama Justice Department is advocating that a federal court overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The administration is arguing that treating a same-sex couple differently than a married couple ought to be considered the legal equivalent of discriminating against someone because of their skin color.
Were this false analogy codified by the courts, a Catholic agency that refused to allow two men "married" to each other to adopt an infant would be committing unlawful discrimination. So, too, might a private school that declined to hire a "married" homosexual activist to teach its third-graders.
If the Obama Justice Department has its way, protecting the souls of innocents will become an illegal act.
Virtually unnoticed by the establishment media, the Catholic bishops have taken a courageous stand against the Obama administration's assault on moral truth and freedom of conscience.
On Aug. 31, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops submitted comments on the proposed HHS regulation, arguing it violates the First Amendment and should be "rescinded in its entirety."
"Indeed," the bishops said, "such nationwide government coercion of religious people and groups to sell, broker, or purchase 'services' to which they have a moral or religious objection represents an unprecedented attack on religious liberty."
On Sept. 20, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to President Obama attached to an analysis the conference has done on "recent federal threats to marriage," including the administration's efforts to overturn DOMA.
Citing Mother's Day and Father's Day proclamations Obama has issued that show "a welcome conviction on your part that neither a mom nor a dad is expendable," the archbishop told the president, "I believe therefore that you would agree that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father."
"The institution of marriage is built on this truth, which goes to the core of what the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and the millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue, want for all children and for the common good of society," said the archbishop.
"That is why it is particularly upsetting, Mr. President, when your Administration, through the various court documents, pronouncements and policies identified in the attached analysis, attributes to those who support DOMA a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias," the archbishop said. "It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing."
"Thus, on behalf of my brother bishops, I urge yet again that your administration end its campaign against DOMA, the institution of marriage it protects, and religious freedom," said the archbishop.
If the administration persists, the archbishop warned, it will "precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions."
And Obama, in attempting to use the power of government to compel faithful Catholic men and women to act against their consciences, will have established himself as an aspiring tyrant in the model of Henry VIII.