“Cooperation with evil” and the contraceptive debate

David Gibson of the Religion News Service has an interesting analysis of the contraception c ontroversy, from a moral theology perspective that most people have, as yet, failed to consider:

When President Obama last week bowed to political reality and changed the rules on mandated contraception coverage, the White House was trying to find an elegant solution to a political conundrum. Under the revised plan, insurance companies — not faith-based institutions — would arrange for the coverage and pay for it.

The president’s plan meant that religious employers — mainly Catholic universities, hospitals and social service agencies — would not be involved in paying for or administering something they deem sinful: contraception. At the same time, all employees would still have access to the same contraception benefit, no matter whom they work for.

Critics of the president’s plan, however, didn’t see it that way.

“Dangerous and insulting,” a group of leading Catholic bishops wrote to their fellow churchmen. “A cheap accounting trick,” Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon and several other leading culture warriors complained in an open letter that has generated more than 100 signers.

The “compromise,” said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, “asks the parties involved to compromise their reasoning faculties and play a game of ‘let’s pretend’ instead.”

Yet that “game,” as Douthat put it, is actually a venerable tradition in Catholic moral theology that for centuries has provided a way for Christians to think about acting virtuously in a fallen world.

‘Cooperation with evil’

The category of moral reasoning is called “cooperation with evil.” The term “evil” isn’t as ominous as it sounds, but rather is shorthand used by moral theologians to describe anything sinful.

A classic example of cooperating with evil: A servant who ferries love letters to his master’s mistress is not personally culpable because he himself is not committing adultery and does not intend to promote adultery, but must keep his job to feed and raise his family.

A more contemporary example involves whether a Catholic can vote for a politician — like, say, Barack Obama — who supports abortion rights.

In 2004, a year before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told U.S. bishops that a Catholic voter would be unfit to receive Communion if he or she voted for a candidate “precisely because” of that candidate’s support of abortion or euthanasia.

But, he added: “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

“Remote material cooperation” is also the issue in the contraception coverage debate.

There’s much more.  Read it all. 


  1. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    I’m at a loss to understand how Catholics who balked two weeks ago can suddenly get back on board when the language has not changed at all.


  2. I think they weren’t really balking; they were desperately hoping for some way not to lose more of the services Catholic health care institutions and charities provide. The accommodation doesn’t change a thing, but the fact of it appears to give folks like the CHA some face-saving. I’m really glad David Gibson brought such a clear-headed analysis into this, because the more I think about it the more I believe both (Catholic) sides in this are coming from legitimate and moral positions given their circumstances. The problem is, those positions cancel each other out, and in a time of moral polarities like ours, there’s no room for complexity. If the CHA, for example, were to say, “Yes, we absolutely know that by accepting this mandate we are formally cooperating in evil, but we have chosen to do so in conscience in order not to materially cooperate in the denial of critical services to Christ’s least ones due to unconstitutional but very real government interference at this time,” that would take the wind out of the bishops’ “It’s wrong all the time for everybody and we’ll close up shop before we cooperate” stance–which is the only one that they, as moral authorities, can legitimately hold. A house divided against itself: surely the thing to pray for is a solution to THAT dilemma, as assaults on religious freedom are unlikely to cease, no matter who is in office.

  3. Line of the day, “the term “evil” isn’t as ominous as it sounds, but is shorthand used by moral theologians to describe anything sinful.” Ok, so evil and sin are not really in the same category. Good to know.

  4. Has anyone read the article? The author makes a good point and it deserves some thoughtful analysis.

  5. “In 2004, a year before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told U.S. bishops that a Catholic voter would be unfit to receive Communion if he or she voted for a candidate “precisely because” of that candidate’s support of abortion or euthanasia.

    But, he added: “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.””

    Interesting point of view.

  6. I read it and, as the sole commenter notes, Gibson is erecting a straw man to undermine opposition to the HHS mandate. The opposition is properly based on the violation of the protections contained in the First Amendment, the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. The opposition is not, and never has been, based on the extent to which there is immediate or mediate cooperation in evil. But i don’t think Gibson even gets that right. Forcing Catholic institutions to pay premiums for insurance services which will provide contraceptives and pharmacological abortion drugs is far different from pulling the lever for Obama because you think he is a nice father. It is far more immediate cooperation but, again, it is being mandated BY THE STATE. Gibson ignores this. No surprise there.

  7. Mike Andrews says:

    Taking all of the debate and commentary in has been a sobering reminder of just how little Americans understand or value their First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and from State interference. (They treat them like so much junk.) Mr. Gibson is perhaps looking for a theological rationale for the Church’s capitulation to the State; but it is little consolation for the vitiation of the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. One has nothing to do with the other.

  8. Totally agree with you, mjl. The author does make a good point! Interesting article.

  9. I’ve never been a fan of Gibson’s, and this article is a prime example.

    ” Under traditional Catholic thinking, Catholic employers whose insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage to employees at no cost to the employee or the institution, and without the institution’s involvement, are engaged in what is called “remote material cooperation” — a perfectly legitimate way for a Catholic individual or organization to function in a sinful world.”

    What Gibson fails to note is the fact that the “compromise” proffered by Obama requires the assent of the Church, and the money paid by the Church to the insurance companies. Birth control pills and condoms do not rain down like manna from Heaven. They are purchased by the insurance companies with money paid for by those purchasing plans.

    This is the same magical thinking that permits the Federal Government to repeatedly violate the Hyde amendment by giving medicaid money to states who perform abortions with that money (over 43,000 medicaid-funded abortions in New York State annually). The rationale is that states kick in to medicaid, so the monies are fungible.

    It’s the same with the Federal government repeatedly violating the Hyde Amendment every year by giving Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider a third of a billion dollars annually, when there are no firewalls to ensure how and where monies are spent.

    Assent to the President’s plan is assent by the Church to purchasing insurance from a company who will use fungible monies to purchase the contraceptives and abortifacients. Insurance companies are not in the business of reducing profits by providing entire classes of pharmaceutics for free to paying customers.

    David Gibson and the President know this all too well.

    So do thinking people of faith.

  10. That was exactly the point of view of the priest who was in charge of my diaconate formation program…

  11. People who post using Apple Macs & Ipads etc may be cooperating with evil when they find out their computers are assembled from the parts purchased from Chinese Apple factories that abuse their workers so much that they are jumping out windows to their deaths. Material cooperation is a bitch.. EH?

  12. Gibson’s derisive tone and language give him away also, calling Mary Ann Glendon a “culture warrior,” and calling this “moral theology 101,” as if the bishops are a bunch of unlearned dolts.

  13. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    I read the article and liked it, and I also liked JKM’s excellent comment. But Gibson’s article still takes our eyes off of the crux of this issue, which is the government has forced this division by intruding where it never belonged, in the fundamental, constitutional right of a church to be who it is and define its mission. I agree with JKM that the assualts on religious freedom are unlikely to cease, but that is not reason to push them aside…quite the opposite.

  14. We grapple with this dilemma every time we vote. One candidate supports abortion and contraception. The candidate running against him favors capital punishment and has little regard for the poor.
    I don’t think that there has been a presidential candidate that was in line with Catholic moral theology in my lifetime.
    The only thing we can do, it seems, is to try to figure out who is the lesser evil….aka material cooperation.

  15. Even though I agree that the Obama administration has overreached on the HHS mandate, I have ambivalent thoughts and feelings about the U.S. bishops’ recent reactions in the political sphere. My ambivalence and, to some degree skepticism, began last fall when Archbishop Dolan announced the foundation of a new “Ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty” chaired by Bishop Lori. Interestingly, at the U.S. bishops’ meeting last November Bishop Lori gave a presentation and the overwhelmingly approved a 3% increase of diocesan funds to the USCCB.

    I looked up the members of the committee: In addition to Bishop Lori, seven of the other ten bishops were quite vocal in their in their protest about the invitation and honorary degree given to President Obama at the 2009 graduation. (Another member was not a bishop at the time (Bishop Barres of Allentown) and another was an auxiliary bishop in 2009 (Bishop Paprocki, now Bishop of Springfield).

    It is interesting to read the background of the ten consultants to the committee: All but two (Fr. de Souza, whose credentials I cannot find but he is listed as a chaplain at Queen’s University in Ontario and writes for the National Review, and Mary Ann Russell, who is the executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference) are lawyers. Two (Carl Anderson and Mary Ann Glendon) have had significant roles in Republican administrations.

    - Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus, has served in various positions of the Executive Office of the President of the U.S. during the administration of Ronald Reagan.

    - Mary Ann Glendon, professor, Harvard Law School, was appointed the United States Ambassador to the Holy See (2008 -2009) by the George W. Bush. She declined to accept the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame in protest against Obama’s being giving an honorary degree at the 2009 commencement. A few weeks ago I heard her promote Mitt Romney as THE “pro-life candidate” on the radio during the Florida Republican Primary.

    What bothers me most of all is the lack of input by the theologians. Where are the John Courtney Murrays? Even the bishops of Vatican II had their periti.

    This USCCB project may very well backfire. While the bishops have the right to insist on respect by the U.S. government for first amendment rights, many people may say: “Where was your respect for U.S. law when you protected and hid pedophile priests?

  16. To correct the above source:

    ‘Cooperation with evil’

    “The category of moral reasoning is called “cooperation with evil.”

    A classic example of… cooperating with evil: A servant who ferries love letters to his master’s mistress is not personally culpable because he himself is not committing adultery and does not intend to promote adultery, but must keep his job to feed and raise his family.

    A more contemporary example involves whether a Catholic can vote for a politician — like, say, Barack Obama — who supports abortion rights.

    In 2004, a year before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told U.S. bishops that a Catholic voter would be unfit to receive Communion if he or she voted for a candidate “precisely because” of that candidate’s support of abortion or euthanasia. “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

    ["The key word there is "PROPORTIONATE" What issue is pPoportionate to an Intrinsic Evil? Only another moral life issue and then we must apply a value judgement on life and the numbers, or essentially, play God.]

    “Remote material cooperation” is also the issue in the contraception coverage debate.

    ‘Formal’ vs. ‘material’ cooperation.

    The distinctions start with two basic types of cooperation: — “Formal” cooperation means that you agree with the sinful action being performed by someone else. Put another way, your “intention” is the same as the person doing the evil deed. In the church’s eyes, that is always and everywhere morally wrong. —

    The contraception battle, like most ethical dilemmas, is not only focused on “material” cooperation but “formal”. This means you neither approve of an action nor want it to occur, so you take steps to separate yourself as much as possible from the action.

    ["Formal"] cooperation is what the Obama administration is currently (Jan 20 2012) doing by forcing on Catholic employers by requiring insurance companies to pay for the contraceptive coverage and to contract separately with the individual employees who might want that coverage.

    [Some incorrectly argue that] the Catholic employer has no involvement or knowledge of the separate contract for contraceptive coverage between the employee and the insurer.

    ‘Immediate’ vs. ‘mediate’ material cooperation

    There’s also a second distinction, between “immediate” and “mediate” material cooperation.

    “Immediate” cooperation means that the action of both the wrongdoer and the person aiding the wrongdoer are the same. It is as if the servant was committing adultery on his master’s behalf, or if the Catholic institution were providing the contraceptive insurance and paying for it.

    That is not the case under the revised contraception mandate. Rather, the involvement of the Catholic institution here is “mediated” because contraceptive coverage is provided at several steps removed from the institution. [But is it really? No.]

    And that leads to the final element of this type of moral reasoning, which is distance. Under traditional Catholic thinking, Catholic employers whose insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage to employees at no cost to the employee or the institution, and without the institution’s involvement, are engaged in what is called “remote material cooperation” — “a perfectly legitimate way for a Catholic individual or organization to function in a sinful world.” [Yet not for a Catholic to behave by procuring an intrinsic evil.]

    “In fact, unless you live in a monastery that doesn’t have investments, it’s unlikely you are innocent of remote material cooperation with something the church condemns,” Matthew Boudway, an editor at Commonweal, a lay-run Catholic periodical, wrote on the magazine’s blog.

    “Nor does the church condemn you for this; it asks only that you be… conscious of these entanglements as you can be, that you minimize them whenever possible, and that you be sure they really are offset by a greater good.”

    Competing greater goods In the contraception battle, the greater good for the bishops is universal health care, which has been a longtime priority for the hierarchy, as long as it does not involve illicit moral compromises. For others, the greater good might be providing women with contraceptive coverage and using greater access to birth control to reduce the number of abortions. [Yet abortifacient contraception is an intrinsic evil.]

    The administration’s “accommodation” for faith-based employers is imposing the distance between a Catholic (or other religious) employer which is deceptive on two counts:

    1.) they say that the organization’s health insurance company will simply pass on the cost of the contraceptive coverage to the religious institution in the form of higher premiums, so the institution will in effect be paying for contraceptive coverage. [Studies show that providing coverage for birth control actually saves insurers money (pregnancies and abortions cost more than contraceptives) and it is at least revenue neutral. So there are no costs to pass on.]

    2.) the faith-based institution will be sending its money to an insurance company that provides objectionable coverage, and so the religious group’s dollars will still be subsidizing a sinful practice.

    One response is that health care premiums do not “belong” to the institution but are actually part of an employee’s compensation, like their paycheck. Just as an employer deducts withholding for taxes, it is sending the employee’s money to a health insurance company for coverage. An employer has no control or culpability if an employee buys [abortifacients] with either her paycheck or her insurance plan. In addition, insurance works by pooling risk and premium dollars, and anyone who buys a policy from an insurance company is indirectly paying for the birth control — or chemotherapy or Viagra or heart bypass surgery — of other clients of that company, just as those clients indirectly pay for treatments (be they intrinsically evil or not) you will need.

    As Boudway put it: “It is very difficult, not to say impossible, to avoid remote material cooperation with evil in a complex modern economy. … If one does business with a company that offers its employees insurance that covers contraception, [an intrinsic evil] that, too, is remote material cooperation with evil (though the cooperation is more remote).”

    ‘Moral Theology 101′

    In fact, the insurance issue at this level is [NOT] akin to someone objecting that their tax dollars go to the Defense Department or for food stamps or something else they might object to in principle because the issue here is for the GOOD and in opposition to an INTRINSIC EVIL which is always, always, always evil. People still have to pay taxes, and the Catholic Church and other religious organizations have done that without much protest throughout history [until it involves paying for an intrinsic evil]…. Omitted bias.

    The issue here once again, just as it was during the election, is PROPORTIONATLITY AND LIFE!

    Additional Information Humanae Vitae.

    “Corrected from: http://​www.religionnews.com/​culture/social-issues/​are-bishops-ignoring-their-​own-moral-theology

  17. Ah… The intellectual bankruptcy of the “What about the pedophiles” crowd. It gets more hackneyed by the month.

  18. Hot air OR, a spinning top.

  19. Gibson didn’t take into account self-insured employers. The majority of dioceses fall into this category. In those cases, insurance companies *only* use the money that that their client gives them to pay for claims. Ergo, religious self-insured employers would be paying for objectionable medicines and services.

    And while he focused a good bit on how remote material cooperation might apply in this case, he never really addressed the fact that such cooperation is only licit “in the presence of proportionate reasons.” I think an argument can be made that no such reason exists here. Yes, the bishops are for universal healthcare. But we do we absolutely need free access to abortifacients, sterilizations and contraceptives for that to exist. I don’t think we do.

  20. wineinthewater says:

    Pretty much *all* people who post are falling into the same pit of remote cooperation. The conditions at FoxCon factories are not unique, they are standard practice in the industry in China. I have pretty much the same remote cooperation whether posting from my Apple or from my Dell. And even those “made in the USA” computer lines are usually only assembled in the US; the components usually come from some factory just like FoxCon’s.

    The only reasons the abuses at Apple suppliers are getting attention is that Apple is getting attention, Apple is fairly popular among exactly the demographic who would most oppose those practices and that Apple’s profit margins would actually allow them to avoid some of those labor practices and still compete.

  21. Bruce in Kansas says:

    Let’s take the specifics about the evil of contraceptives out of the picture for a moment. If the current situation is that 99% of Americans are using ANY product, how can we claim there is an availability problem, much less one requiring the government to take such a controversial step? If such a policy requirement for ANY product sounds sensible to you, it says a lot more about you and that product than it does about the policy requirement itself, which is self-evidently unnecessary.

  22. Chris Sullivan says:

    It seems to me that even self insured religious organizations are not paying insurance premiums. The insurance is really part of the wage due the employee for the work she does. The premiums are actually paid by the employee and so the relevant conscience here is her conscience not that of her employer.

    The proportionate reason justifying remote material cooperation here is the great good of providing decent health coverage for employees.

    God Bless

  23. wineinthewater says:

    Gibson’s piece actually detracts from the discussion by adding to it. This has always *only* been about mediate remote cooperation with evil. But he says himself that one of the key elements of being Catholic is to try to minimize how much you engage in mediate remote cooperation with evil. That’s exactly what Catholics are saying. We live in a pluralistic society and many have to make decisions that mean that we engage in mediate remote cooperation with evil. But it is out prerogative to make those decisions, to weigh all the issues and navigate the best we can. We get to act as moral agents. This is mandating that we engage in mediate remote cooperation with evil. We don’t get to weigh the issues and decide if it is the best route. We don’t get to act as free moral agents. We are compelled by the state. And it’s not like taxes that everybody pays. It is a regulation targeted at employers.

    Additionally, there is the issue of scandal. That so many Catholics contracept is a serious issue in the Church. It may not be 98%, but it is significant. If the Church just caves on this, how much harder is it going to be for her to teach faithfully? Look at the problems that we are already seeing because some Catholic organizations already caved to some state requirements.

    And all of this is beside the point that the accommodation is no accommodation. For-profit and private Catholic employers are still on the hook. Self-insurers are in an even worse situation since their cooperation will go from remote to proximate cooperation with evil.

  24. Chris,

    I work for a self insured religious organization. Technically speaking, I do pay my insurance premium. But it comes straight out of my paycheck and the setting of the premium and the arrangement of the payment of it was entirely established and is maintained by my employer. So to say that it would just be me paying the premium seems rather jesuitical.

    I also think that a person can have “decent health coverage” and even pretty good coverage without having abortifacients, sterilizations and contraceptives offered as a part of that plan. Given how the Church views these medicines and procedures and all the other goods that can be gained in a wide-ranging health plan that wouldn’t include them, I don’t think we’ve met the threshold of proportionate reasons.

  25. friscoeddie says:

    Alan..good job.. but trying to get the anti-Obama crowd to stop their drumbeat is futile. watch for a new howl… The HHS has just ruled that Catholic Hospitals Universities and social ministries that have been covering BC [sometimes for years,decades] as of Feb 12 12 can’t be exempt in the future.
    The ruling is simular to don’t ask for consciencous objection status if you just graduated cum laude from West Point. people will think you’re a fraud. si?

  26. Key words that are being blown over in this quote from then Cardinal Ratzinger.

    “proportionate reasons”

    Cardinal Burke who leads the Vatican equivalent of the Supreme Court has questioned what can possibly be equivalent evil to the holocuast of abortion where 54 million babies have been killed with 4,000 more being killed every day. A majority of the Bishops in the USCCB have also asked this same question and now Pope Benedict XVI has stated that abortion is non negotiable for Catholics to not support.

    I have asked many times for anyone to list something that comes close to a choice between a total abortion candidate like Obama and one that is solidly pro life? What other issues can be “proportionate reasons.”

    Bishop Meyers and Chaput were asked to detail what might be considered “proportionate reasons.”

    They came up with two clear situations where a Catholic might be able to support a politician who is not 100% pro-life. He wrote, “either (a) both candidates would have to be in favor of embryo killing on roughly an equal scale or (b) the candidate with the superior position on abortion and embryo-destructive research would have to be a supporter of objective evils of a gravity and magnitude beyond that of 1.3 million yearly abortions plus the killing that would take place if public funds were made available for embryo-destructive research.” They wrote that the existence of reasons proportional to the annual killing of so many innocent children would be hard to imagine.

    Since Obama was also in favor of full embryonic killing as well, this only made the matter worse as his oponent Senator McCain supported President Bush’s 2001 “compromise” on embryonic stem-cell research. Not a perfect position, but certainly one far better than Obama. As to the second reason, I note that the bishops could not even imagine evils of a gravity and magnitude beyond that of 1.3 million yearly abortions plus the killing that would take place if public funds were made available for embryo-destructive research.

    And as to this so called birth control flap, how about substituting the term abortion for birth control. After they have the legal right to do this to religious liberty, by what law can they be stopped after the election of adding abortion mandate to every policy in the USA?

  27. Deacon John, that is why there is a requirement around abortion support to have a proportionate reason.

    As to this past election, was not aware that it was the position of Obama to end the death penalty nationally and did not see him bring that up with they had huge majorities in both houses. Both supported the death penalty. And by the way, capital punishment is not a magesterial teaching of the Catholic Church becase Pope John Paul II left room for someone to still support the death penalty if the state could not assure that the person would not be a danger to others. Since we cannot by law put a person in a cage with not contact with anyone for the remainder of their life, they are still a danger to other prisoners and the guards. I am against the death penalty, but this is not an issue because both candidate support it anyway and even if Obama did support ending it, when did we last have 4,000 capital executions a day and 54 million over a 29 year period. PROPORTIONATE..

    As to the poor, it is a farce to say that one has all the answer for poverty. Big government programs have spent trillions since they started and the poor are still with us in huge numbers (and have grown under Obama) at the same time they have had huge negative impact on the family. And since a lot of poor people’s babies are slaughtered, I hardly think that is a good thing for the poor child. That is why the killing has to stop and our country has to turn away from legalized holocaust support. Lets do it for the poor. When we stop killing them, and stop enslaving generations of them under government control, maybe we can come up with programs put forth for years by the Republicans to help end poverty such as empowerment zones to bring jobs, workfare not welfare, training required while unemployed, and vouchers to allow them to escape schools run by the unions which have failed poor kids for decades.

    I am waiting again to hear someone have something truly proportionate reasons. To say helping the poor, one might justify the death camps on German as long as the political power in the country fixed the economy which they did. Very few poor in Germany under the Nazi’s. And kind of like what we are now seeing with Obama and this HHS flap, the germans were also big on mandating control over the people and they did not have a bill of rights that was supposed to protect them. If we let this attack on the bill of rights stand, we are giving power to government with no idea where it will lead.

  28. HMS, did any of the bishops support a candidate in the last election? You seem to be identifying them on one side simply because they were backing Catholic teaching and a clear letter from the entire USCCB to Universities to not allow those who openly support abortion to speak out Catholic locations. If anything, the USCCB was supportive of the effort to find a better solution to healthcare coverage in this country. They could also have put out a voter guide similar to what other organizations did with no wiggle room at all in supporting abortion candidates. To say that the USCCB has suddenly turned into a Republican controlled organization is frankly an insult which I am surprised gets free space on a Deacon’s site. I have to believe that so to be Cardinal Dolan would take great offense to this type of accusation appearing here unedited since this committee is serving under his leadership.

  29. pagansister says:

    Substitute the term abortion for birth control Mark? There is no subtitute—birth control helps PREVENT the possibility of abortion. Can you imagine a world WITHOUT any birth control? There are already millions of starving and neglected children in the world. Even the charity organizations can’t help them all. And before you tell me how many women use abortion as a means of birth control—that is just as (to use a favorite word) “evil” to me as it is to you. I still feel it is a woman’s decision to make and no one elses. Once perhaps—but not as a regular means of controling how many children one has. However, I would hope that you would find even ABC use better than nothing as a form of preventing an unwanted pregnancy. But then again you might not—-

  30. For the record, Mark:
    I did not “say that the USCCB has suddenly turned into a Republican controlled organization.. .”

    I pointed out that two of the 10 consulters had worked prominently in the Republican party.

  31. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Let’s face it. The real ultimate goal of Obama (and his acolytes at Planned Parenthood and in the liberal media) is to crush anyone who will not bow to state power. The First Amendment is under the chopping block now. Other rights will fall later with many Catholics bewildered at how many rights and freedoms they will have been robbed of. They will forget it began with their craven refusal to defend the First Amendment. They will have sold out to make sure some people will get something for free that can be gotten cheaply or free anywhere.That this is so, it doesn’t take a mental giant to figure out that the REAL goal is to wipe out any countervailing moral voices against radical leftism.
    The liberal media has quickly become, of course, a one note propaganda arm for the Obama-PP faithful. Politico listed a long collection of the headlines on its site to show how hot the overall issue is in the mainstream media. But if one looked carefully not one headline framed the issue as a First Amendment issue, or a religious liberty issue, or a religious rights issue. All the headlines framed it as a contraception issue only. Not even a tiny tip of the hat anywhere to mentioning the First Amendment.
    The propaganda machine of the Boston Globe is so well-oiled that when their only “conservative” columnist, Jeff Jacoby, wrote a column all about the religious issues at stake and the First Amendment–the headline on the story advertised it as a column about contraception.
    It is almost if someone somewhere were issuing marching orders on how to frame the issue to make sure The First Amendment and believer’s rights will not be part of the debate.

  32. There may be a reason why some people are trying to keep the First Amendment and the believer’s rights out of the debate. So far all I have heard about is the rights of Catholics, but there are a lot of other religious organizations that might also want to claim rights. I also hear that the government should not be defining religion, yet it seems to me that the government has to recognize religions as valid if it is going to grant tax exemptions etc.

    There is at least a splinter group of Mormons that believe God’s will for them is to have multiple wives. Are we Catholics willing to support their freedom and rights as well as our own? I think that this might well be a tangle of worms that many would prefer to avoid. There are some religions around that I would prefer the government to suppress, but who is going to decide which ones? Might be something to think about.


    Mike L

  33. Today at work the following situation arose…

    At the beginning of this year the company benefits manager passed out debit cards for employees to use to spend their FSA and HSA accounts. Because of various details in the FSA & HSA rules, employees want to put certain expenses in one or the other. Long story short, this week we noticed that the benefits manager had mis-configured the cards, and everything was being taken out of the FSA account.

    So now the employees and the HR manager are having to go through each expense and figure out what is for what, and move things that need to be moved.

    Immediate vs mediate? In theory, maybe — but in practice your employer ends up knowing quite a bit about your activities…

  34. At the organization where I work, the company pays 75% of the employee’s individual and family premium and the employee pays 25%. The 25% is deducted from pre-tax dollars. At least were I work, the 75% paid by the organization is not counted as part of my salary nor is it considered salary for tax purposes.

  35. I forgot to complete my previsous entry: if I were to drop my insurance with my company I would not be entitled to receive the 75% of the premium that they pay. It is not considered part of my wage/salary.

  36. For the folks who believe government should be an enforcement arm of their own religion, that dilemma is easily solved. The solution is to assert “My religion is inherently reasonable. All others exist by our leave.”

  37. Ridiculous comparison. Choosing to not use contraception is not against the law. Choosing life over abortion is not against the law. The administration created a mandate that forced Catholics to pay for behavior that goes against their conscience, a behavior which abstaining is not illegal. The proper comparison would be to force Orthodox Jewish butchers to sell pork or non-kosher foods.

  38. Except for the last 100 years, we had such a world. Are you saying the culture has improved since birth control? Are you saying the sexual revolution was a positive thing for society? Since you’re a pagan, you might be but a knowledgable Catholic would not.

  39. pagansister says:

    Since I’m a Pagan I might be what, Manny? History of the time frame you mentioned, had women making babies whether they wanted to or not. Many died in childbirth, and many children died too, as infants and many before the age of 2. Diseases were killers, of children and adults, and if one lived (the fittest) their life span was not nearly as long as ours is now. So yes, IMO, much as improved with the advent of better birth control methods and medical advances. The so called sexual revolution has been happening siince the beginning of time. The only thing is—it wasn’t as out in the open. Many “marriages” happened because the woman was pregnant—-and still happens. Henry VIII (not a great example, but hey–he used to be Catholic) had a couple of his wives executed because of their sexual exploits. He had syphilis—which didn’t make for a great bed partner. But some of those that were not in power also slept around, did their thing etc. Some spread STD’s too, just like those in power, that hasn’t changed. Yes, Manny, IMO, many things are better now—and birth contol has helped accomplish this. I tend to think you do not speak for all “knowledgeable” Catholics.

  40. Pagansister, I can’t reply to you down there, but I hope you see this. None of those things had anything to do with birth control. Those are advances in medical science. I asked if the culture was any better off with birth control. Given abortion, divorce, porn, I don’t think the culture has been better off.

  41. pagansister says:

    Manny, do you really think there was no porn, divorce, abortions in the long past to which you refer? Seriously, you must know that all that was around then. Women have always had a way to abort, “porn’ may not have been as it is now, but it was there in different forms, divorce may have just been a man/woman just leaving (most likely the man as women had no power) and taking up with someone else somewhere else. So is this culture so bad? No, not IMO. The difference now is the speed that everything can now be transmitted. Seconds, minutes instead of days, months or years that would be in the past to which you refer. BTW, I still contend that medical advances have made our culture a better place to. We can stay alive longer to enjoy it.

  42. HMS. what was the point your were making with this comment?

    “My ambivalence and, to some degree skepticism, began last fall when Archbishop Dolan announced the foundation of a new “Ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty” chaired by Bishop Lori. Interestingly, at the U.S. bishops’ meeting last November Bishop Lori gave a presentation and the overwhelmingly approved a 3% increase of diocesan funds to the USCCB.

    I looked up the members of the committee: In addition to Bishop Lori, seven of the other ten bishops were quite vocal in their in their protest about the invitation and honorary degree given to President Obama at the 2009 graduation.”

    You are in effect saying that this group of bishops is biased against Obama and since we are talking about his policy and its conflict with the Church and in effect the Republicans fighting for religious liberty witht he Bishops, it is pretty easy to make the connection. If not so, why do you make the remark about this group of bishops?

    And of course you could not resist the hit on bishops and abuse at the end.

    I sent a copy of this link to the “Ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty” Bishops along with Archbishop Dolan and my own ArchBishop. I think it is instructive for them to see how these type of posts are appearing on Catholic sites. I think the comment was out of bounds and an open attack on integrity of the USCCB and the Religious Liberty conference.

  43. Of course if the government were not mandating what had to be covered or not covered, then the market could determine what options they wanted as part of their plan. If women want an option for birth control pills there could be a box they check to have coverage and they could pay for that selection.

    One major factor in all this discussion about womens health, is that increasing information is coming out every day about the impact of birth control, abortion, and hormone treatment on womens health. I think one role the government should have is to have a non biased study done to determine if all of this has an impact on the explosion of breast cancer and other medical issues which have exploded since 1960. And this so called preventative care is to take a natural healthy position and with drugs make it not work as designed. Not sure how that is healthcare. Some have compared coverage of viagra to birth control but there is a difference in that one is treating a problem of erectile dysfunction. I would love to see this become a very wide open and solid study for the sake of our wives and daughters and grandaughters. And it is not religious based studies but ones from Mayo Clinic and the WHO. Of course that is another matter, but I think since this topic is now in discussion, one that should be evaluated in full.

  44. Pagan. What would everyone be saying now if the issue were not paying for birth control, but stating right up front that it would include for no charge sugical abortion. You would really have to be in dreamland if this Obama mess sticks and he is reelcted that this will not be the next add on “free right” for his PARTNER abortion mills Planed Parenthood. Notice that this PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN OBAMA AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD ON THEIR OWN WEBSITE IS NEVER TAKEN UP BY THE OBAMA SUPPORTERS. It is the smoking gun for those still trying to play the game that voting for a PARTNER is not placing them also in the FULL SUPORT of the abortion mills.

    As to birth control preventing abortions, many studies are showing that in fact there are abortions as a result of the birth control pills as it makes the uterine wall thinner. This came out when IVF started and they found that the thinner wall could not hold the fertilized living baby. So we don’t really know how many abortion occur of the fertilzied babies right now and we don’t know the long term impact on the womans health because planned parenthood and abortion pill makers and leftist politicans do not want any study that might upset the apple cart on birth control and its companion abortion.

    And when women take birth control to prevent a baby they have made having a baby negative. So when they miss a pill, suddenly it is a problem that needs to be dealth with and abortion follows. care to guess how many abortions occur because pills were forgotten?

    As to starving and negleted children, if death is the solution, do you advocate we just go to where these kids are and kill them off? The issue with starving and neglected children is not because they were born, it is because in most cases very poor parents and very poor systems of government. Do you favor 1 or 2 child policy for our country by mandate of government? Is that coming under ObamaCare?

    No, I do not favor birth control. I favor NFP if necessary because I think it is better for the woman than throwing the chemicals down their throats and because I do not think sex that shuts out God is a good thing. I think sex is a gift from God as Pope John Paul II so wonderfully put it in theology of the body and that as such, we need to have a respect for the gift and only have sex in marriage between one man and one woman with both united to welcoming life. God gave us the wonder of how we can determine when a woman is most fertile. When we have a sufficient reason and in prayer and discussion with the husband and wife determine not to be open to God creating life, they can then make the sacrifice to not have that gift that month. When you use God’s will in life, you are certainly better off than telling Him no and using your own will that shuts Him out. The Catholic Church has been right on the issue of Birth Control. Since Obama has chosen to make this a discussion, I think it is a good time to see how safe it is and to reexamine what the pill has brought to our world since 1960. We now have advanced in medical science so that the vast majority of babies lost would now survive with the help of God. God works in strange ways. Maybe He is using this controversy to allow that examination by Catholic women and men the mistake of becoming a nation saying no to God in creation of life.

  45. Marie Sullivan says:

    Gibson also didn’t take into account the rights of the insurers themselves. Freedom of religion and conscience is for all people, not just religious organizations. Many state governments as well as the federal government have been forcing through mandates involving violations of conscience for quite some time (cf trying to force pharmacists and hospitals to dispense morning after pills that can cause abortions). Many people are going to have to make that hard choice to give up their livelihoods to avoid cooperating with evil.

  46. Bravo Mark. Well said.

    Maybe Father Jenkins will bestow an honorary degree this year on soneone who doesn’t actively support the cult of abortion. Maybe someone who is actually againt legalized abortion on demand and the destruction of our First Amendment by a marxist president.

  47. Deacon Jon – You may be right about Obama and his supporters, but I think you miss what I see is the real issue – it is both parties, Democratic and Republican that do this. The difference is where they begin the assault. Both parties are striving for an oligarchy – this is what we must we careful to resist. Both parties use their media influence to frame their arguments. Both parties attack different parts of the Constitution. And unfortunately both parties when they switch roles leave what the other party did in place.

  48. Perhaps a better comparison is the refusal of members of the Jehovah Witnesses to allow their children to receive transfusions. The government intervenes there and forces the issue. When we talk about conscience exceptions and First Amendment rights there may be other religions that claim, based on their teachings, that certain behaviors we find repugnant should be allowed.
    Mark this was not directed at you – It was a response to Manny – I hit the wrong button. I think you are right about the need for more clearer and cleaner studies about the impact of drugs, hormones and any procedure on health.

  49. The refusal of a blood transfusion might be a more appropriate comparison if all you’re considering is legal law. But the morality the Catholic Church is upholding is a life affirming based on natural law. The refusal of transfusion if soley based on religious reasons (there are some medical reasons against transfusions too, but let’s exclude that) might result in the death of a child is not life affirming. Contraception has nothing to do with the cause of any death. Abortion inducing drugs do cause the death of an entity, and so the Church position is life affirming.

    Now if the issue on the table were the Church refusing to pay for medical procedures that would save someone’s life, then I can see the comparison.

  50. In my example I was considering only civil law, as it is civil law that sets up religious liberty. I asked a friend who is a member of the Jehovah Witnesses and he explained to me that it is part of their moral belief system when speaking of transfusions and other proscribed” acts.
    The use of contraceptives that do cause the death of an entity is indeed not life affirming, I agree. Not to argue, however, what of those that prevent fertilization? I am not saying that the church is wrong, I think we need to consider carefully what is an attack on religious liberty and what is not. My fear in this country is that once a door is opened a crack it is broken through and the resulting chaos might be overwhelming.
    I think a better tack to take is to become non-dependent on government money. I think then the argument is stronger.

  51. Many good scientific studies only become fuel for partisan rhetoric.

  52. For more years than I can count, this joke has been going around:

    “What do you call a couple that uses NFP?” “Parents”

    My husband and I were not blessed with children of our own but adopted a child instead. Now that she is an adult and married, I know that she and her new husband are using birth control. Both are college graduates who are currently underemployed and can barely make ends meet as it is. My daughter and son-in-law want desperately to start a family but are postponing it until they can provide for a child appropriately. I think that is a very responsible choice – rather than having a child they cannot support and then expecting the government to come in and take care of the expenses they cannot afford. Perhaps people need to be a bit more understanding of the challenges our young people are facing these days and less quick to judge their decisions. After all, my two younger brothers were the result of NFP – according to my parents, they made love on the one day they were SURE was safe – and Michael was born nine months later. :-)

  53. HMS ….Mark is theatening the Deacons Bench for publishing your posts. and Mark is a ‘religious liberty’ advocate.. who is trying to stir up trouble by fowarding your posts to the traveling Cardinal who has too much on his plate already. . This rightie ‘snitch’ stuff stopped being effective 10 years ago..

  54. Andy, I’ll reply to you here since the reply link is no longer available below.

    You asked: “The use of contraceptives that do cause the death of an entity is indeed not life affirming, I agree. Not to argue, however, what of those that prevent fertilization? ”

    But then there is no reason force anyone to the Church to comply. The blood transfusion argument doesn’t hold. It becomes the same argument as forcing a Jewish butcher to sell pork.

    By the way, I don’t agree with the Church (though I obey it) that it’s a sin for married couples to use barrier (non abortive) birth control methods. It’s no different than trying to prevent conception by the natural cyclic method.

  55. Deacon Steve says:

    There is a huge difference between using artificial means and natural means of prevent conception. The natural way uses the gift of teh body as given by God and allows for the use of the rules of how it functions to help plan pregnancies to help families be responsible fiscally and otehrwise. NFP is not to be used to prevent totally having children, it then crosses into violating the marriage vow to lovingly accept children as a gift of God. NFP is only supposed to be a temporary use. When one uses it all the time then it is the same as sing artificial means, in that it is imposing our will in place of God’s will in the process. The use of artificial means also places a barrier not only to preventing conception, but it places an artificial barrier between the husband and wife and in effect reduces her to mere object. Atrifical BC goes beyond the simple matter of preventing pregnancy.

  56. pagansister says:

    Katie Angel: You have just varified a lot of what I have been trying to say, from your own experiences. I agree with you that it is the responsibility of the couple to decide when to have a child because they want to be able to properly care for him or her. Your daughter and son-in-law are being a responsible couple. IMO, their use of birth control is no “sin” in any sense of the word.

  57. pagansister says:

    Mark, I am not afraid that this diagreement between the Bishops and the government is going to end up with abortions being paid for or limiting the number of children to 1 or 2 per couple as in China. I don’t advocate limiting a family to a certain number at all—however I would hope that a couple would limit the number they felt comfortable feeding, clothing and educating. An extreme number would be the evangelical couple who do not practice any birth control and currently have (at last count) 19 children because “God is giving them to them”. IMO, that is just totally irresponsible. Perhaps NFP is better for a woman than all those pills or IUD’s, both of which are highly effective. They both worked for me. In my case, no problem, nor did any of my friends have a probelm I have a considerate husband, and his willingness to have surgery released us from the worry of an unplanned pregnancy. Condoms aren’t taken internally for those women who fear pills or IUD’s. This also gives the man some of the responsiblity to help limit pregnancy. I won’t attempt to change your mind—first off it would do no good and I know you are sincere in them. I also stand by my beliefs.

  58. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Maybe the problem isn’t how to apply the Obamacare mandate, but ther mandate itself that gives way too much power over the irst Amendment to government .For as some have commented the problem of deciding which religions deserve exemptions and which don’t makes the government master of the fate of all religions in America. And this is certainly not what the first Amendment was intended to be l about.

  59. Thank you Deacon John, the mandate though onerous and wrong, is the first step in establishing what constitutes a religion and what religions are blessed with exemptions. I fear that outcome so much more in many ways than the current decision.

  60. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Mark, I’m letting your baseless attack here stand because I know you are in a state of grief and not thinking rationally. But it was gratuitous. HMS was merely making an accurate observation. And a fair comment. You remain in my prayers.

  61. You ignored what could possibly be “proportionate reasons” to 54 million dead and 4,000 more killed in the death camps each day…

  62. George Mason says:

    So, if in a hypotehtical election Hitler were running against Gandhi, you can vote for Hitler as long as you disagree with his racial theories and “final solution?”

    Gibson selectively culled a few lines from Ratzinger’s text. The material cooperation must be justified. One cannot vote for the abortion supporter if there is someone who does not support abortion. By knowingly choosing someone who supports a grave evil when there is an alternative candidate who does not, one implicit consents to the evil the other does. {It’s the moral distinction of the finis operis and the finis operantis. One might have a good personal intention, but by using an evil means, one perverts one’s act.}

    Material cooperation is still an evil and must be avoided as much as possible.
    But, how convenient to forget this and pretend its ok to support radical pro-abortion candidates!

  63. George Mason says:

    If its candidate pro-abortion vs candidate without regard for the poor, the solution is simple. We can help the poor on our own and as a Church.
    But, if we elect a pro-abort like this president more and more babies will die and women’s lives will be messed up. Just look how thanks to Obama we have 2 more pro-abort Justices on the Court, we have no Mexico City Policy, Planned Parenthood has the Justice department going after old men and women who pray in front of clinics, and soon the Church will have to pay for drug enduced abortions.
    The ridiculous rationale for electing a pro-abort is proven because those who elect him never pressure him on the issue of abortion, nor do they March for Life, nor do they protest at abortion clinics.

  64. George Mason says:

    Would that a prominent Democrat could be found who supported the right to life!

  65. George Mason says:

    Evil is not only in the method, but in the heart.
    NFP is NOT contraception. However, it can be used sinfully by those who seek to use it solely to avoid pregnancy, that is, with a “contraceptive mentality.”

    Every marital embrace is supposed to be open to life. Artificial contraception is like slamming the bedroom door on the Holy Spirit saying, “Stay out!” But, if the marital embrace is about love and not just mutual self-abuse, then the couple cannot exclude the Spirit of Love who is also the Lord the giver of Life. NFP uses natural infertile periods, but it leaves open the slight possibility that conception might occur. Thus, it recognizes God’s Lordship over the marriage.
    Artificial contraception reduces the spouse to a play thing.


  1. [...] vacationing Deacon Greg Kandra has still managed, between spending time with Mickey and Minnie to post this interesting piece by Dave Gibson, who has written an informative article about what I called my First Things piece, yesterday, the [...]

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