(Editors Note: Obama’s compromise today is just a compromise which would allow more moves by Obama to mandate the Church to compromise further)

The American Catholic bishops’ battle with President Barack Obama’s administration over the church’s right to follow its teachings on contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization in its educational, health care, and charitable works is part of a larger struggle for the soul of America.

It is similar to the issue of slavery but more profound. Will America continue to slide into the tyranny that has been humanity’s usual condition for millennia or regain the liberty that grew out of Christian civilization?

If I were to update part of President Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech to fit our current situation, with my italic changes, it would sound this way:

“’A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this nation cannot endure, permanently, half socialist and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of socialism will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike mandatory in all the states,…”

Socialism is a major threat to America because, under the guise of caring for people, it interferes with every aspect of our lives and ultimately puts the state in the place of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that, after the Flood, God grouped people into separate families, nations and languages, “under the guardianship of angels,” in order to “limit the pride of fallen humanity, united only in its perverse desire to forge its own unity as at Babel.” We know from the horrors of the 20th century that socialism is that very temptation to create an empire without God, under a ruling elite.

Our founding fathers, who were well-versed in history and the Bible, also knew that humans were prone to corruption, and so they created a government with written guarantees of liberty and one in which power was diffused by the separation of a national government into the executive, legislative and judicial branches and by the separation of national, state and local governments. They encouraged partisan politics to impede the centralization of power.

Even if Obama relents, the bishops hopefully are getting a rude awakening that the limited national government created by the founders has gradually morphed, by incremental subversion of the Constitution, into an institution with almost unlimited coercive power. The bishops would do well to heed the warning of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, that “the two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”

It’s no accident that the size and intrusiveness of government–at all levels—has paralleled an increase of irreligion and immorality among the electorate, because sin has consequences. Many politicians are only too willing protect us from one another and mitigate the wreckage of our misdeeds. Only conversion and prayer will save this country. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” said John Adams, our second president. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Mr. Retzlaff is a free-lance writer living in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y.