Bishop Morlino and the Contraception Mandate

It would seem that Bishop Morlino does not view providing insurance coverage for contraception as having crossed a line in the sand.  As reported in the Wisconsin State Journal and the Diocesan newspaper, in 2010 Wisconsin introduced a contraception mandate that did not include a religious conscience exemption.   The only way to avoid it was to self-insure.  The Diocese and the Catholic hospital in Madison tried this route and found it cost too much.  They therefore went back to offering insurance that included contraceptive coverage.

Now they were very upset by this, and began lobbying for a religious exemption.  However, with regards to the discussion taking place on other posts (here and here), it would seem that Bishop Morlino, and notably conservative bishop, does not feel that the Church is engaged in material cooperation with evil.  Neither article works through the precise moral calculus, but the results speak very loudly about what is or is not permissible.  (I am not saying ideal or desirable, just permissible.)

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  • johnmcg

    Hmmm, so Wisconsin introduced a similar policy two years ago, that the local bishop loudly protested but ultimately complied with. They also made clear that although the insurance policy covers this, their employees should not use it.

    And this is supposed to demonstrate….

    That those who are upset about this should shut up?

    That Catholics are thus relieved of any responsibility to protest this current mandate?

  • johnmcg

    Hmmm, so Wisconsin introduced a similar policy two years ago, that the local bishop loudly protested but ultimately complied with. They also made clear that although the insurance policy covers this, their employees should not use it.

    And this is supposed to demonstrate….

    That those who are upset about this should shut up?

    That Catholics are thus relieved of any responsibility to protest this current mandate?

    • Kurt

      John, see my post below, but I think the principal issue is that Morlino elected not to go a route that allowed him to offer health insurance without contraception because it would be more costly.

  • johnmcg

    Also,

    Remote material cooperation with evil is permitted for a grave reason; formal cooperation is not.

    So, the question of whether Bishop Morlino’s decision demonstrates that offering this coverage is not material cooperation with evil hinges on whether offering this coverage is “remote” and whether providing affordable health insurance to its employees is a sufficiently grave matter.

    It seems trivially obvious to me that if anyone uses to contraceptive coverage, then the diocese has morally cooperated with that contraceptive act. The only way offering this coverage could not be material cooperation with evil is if nobody ever uses it, which I suppose was the desired effect of the diocese’s instruction that it should not be used.

    In short, the best spin I can see is that the Administration is compelling Catholic institutions to offer a benefit that, if it were ever used, would constitute material cooperation with what they consider evil.

    The bishops are right to be unhappy about it, and leading us to oppose it.

  • johnmcg

    Also,

    Remote material cooperation with evil is permitted for a grave reason; formal cooperation is not.

    So, the question of whether Bishop Morlino’s decision demonstrates that offering this coverage is not material cooperation with evil hinges on whether offering this coverage is “remote” and whether providing affordable health insurance to its employees is a sufficiently grave matter.

    It seems trivially obvious to me that if anyone uses to contraceptive coverage, then the diocese has morally cooperated with that contraceptive act. The only way offering this coverage could not be material cooperation with evil is if nobody ever uses it, which I suppose was the desired effect of the diocese’s instruction that it should not be used.

    In short, the best spin I can see is that the Administration is compelling Catholic institutions to offer a benefit that, if it were ever used, would constitute material cooperation with what they consider evil.

    The bishops are right to be unhappy about it, and leading us to oppose it.

  • Thales

    David,

    1. The federal rule covers sterilization and morning-after pills, as well as contraception. The federal rule also requires employers to make the objectionable pills and procedures available without co-pay, so employers have to cover the whole cost, instead of having an insurance program where the employees can still access contraception but have to pay the full or partial cost themselves. What is Wisconsin’s rule? It may be less objectionable (albeit, marginally) than the federal rule.

    2. But even assuming that Wisconsin’s rule is the same as the federal rule, you say “it would seem that Bishop Morlino, and notably conservative bishop, does not feel that the Church is engaged in material cooperation with evil.” That can’t be right. There is no doubt that it is material cooperation with evil… but we materially cooperate all the time. That’s not the problem. The debate isn’t whether it is material cooperation with evil; the debate is whether it is material cooperation with evil that is morally permissible or not morally permissible—which is an analysis based on the proximity or remoteness of the cooperator to the actor’s evil, and on whether there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation. I’m speculating, but I suspect that in Wiconsin’s case, examples of a proportionately serious reason for cooperation would likely include avoiding other evils like not providing any health insurance to employees, or the payment of punitive fines.

    3. The question whether it is material cooperation with evil that is morally permissible is a separate and distinct issue (though related) from the question of whether “religious liberty” or “the liberty of conscience” is being violated. In other words, even we did a thorough material cooperation analysis and concluded that the act of an employer in offering the health insurance forced by the federal rule was, under the circumstances, an act that was morally permissible because the cooperation with evil was sufficiently remote and there was a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation… that wouldn’t be a basis for concluding that there was no infringement on the employer’s conscience rights or religious liberty.

    • Thales

      A hypothetical to illustrate my last point. (It’s not realistic, but it illustrates the principle.)

      Suppose you have a wife and children, and the state imposes a draconian rule that the only way for a citizen to get food for his family, he must volunteer one hour of service at the local abortion clinic. Assuming that your family is starving, that this is the only way for you to get food for them, etc., it is very likely that the service at the abortion clinic is morally permissible: you don’t intend the abortion, you’re not immediately causing the abortion, and your material connection to abortion is, while fairly close, outweighed by the grave evil of letting your family die. So it would be morally permissible for you to go serve at the abortion clinic. But obviously, the state would be gravely violating your conscience and religious freedom.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thales,

      I agree with parts of your analysis. I posted this in part because much of the overheated rhetoric makes it sound as though the insurance mandate was close material cooperation with evil and therefore illicit, and that the Church had NO OPTION but to cancel insurance coverage. My point was that a bishop known for his orthodoxy felt otherwise.

      I am sympathetic to the analyses of this in terms of religious liberty and think this is the lines to be pursued. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by trying to parse differences between the Wisconsin and federal statutes: I am not sure a co-pay (which is usually only a fraction of the cost of the prescription) changes the situation in any substantive way.

  • Thales

    David,

    1. The federal rule covers sterilization and morning-after pills, as well as contraception. The federal rule also requires employers to make the objectionable pills and procedures available without co-pay, so employers have to cover the whole cost, instead of having an insurance program where the employees can still access contraception but have to pay the full or partial cost themselves. What is Wisconsin’s rule? It may be less objectionable (albeit, marginally) than the federal rule.

    2. But even assuming that Wisconsin’s rule is the same as the federal rule, you say “it would seem that Bishop Morlino, and notably conservative bishop, does not feel that the Church is engaged in material cooperation with evil.” That can’t be right. There is no doubt that it is material cooperation with evil… but we materially cooperate all the time. That’s not the problem. The debate isn’t whether it is material cooperation with evil; the debate is whether it is material cooperation with evil that is morally permissible or not morally permissible—which is an analysis based on the proximity or remoteness of the cooperator to the actor’s evil, and on whether there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation. I’m speculating, but I suspect that in Wiconsin’s case, examples of a proportionately serious reason for cooperation would likely include avoiding other evils like not providing any health insurance to employees, or the payment of punitive fines.

    3. The question whether it is material cooperation with evil that is morally permissible is a separate and distinct issue (though related) from the question of whether “religious liberty” or “the liberty of conscience” is being violated. In other words, even we did a thorough material cooperation analysis and concluded that the act of an employer in offering the health insurance forced by the federal rule was, under the circumstances, an act that was morally permissible because the cooperation with evil was sufficiently remote and there was a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation… that wouldn’t be a basis for concluding that there was no infringement on the employer’s conscience rights or religious liberty.

    • Thales

      A hypothetical to illustrate my last point. (It’s not realistic, but it illustrates the principle.)

      Suppose you have a wife and children, and the state imposes a draconian rule that the only way for a citizen to get food for his family, he must volunteer one hour of service at the local abortion clinic. Assuming that your family is starving, that this is the only way for you to get food for them, etc., it is very likely that the service at the abortion clinic is morally permissible: you don’t intend the abortion, you’re not immediately causing the abortion, and your material connection to abortion is, while fairly close, outweighed by the grave evil of letting your family die. So it would be morally permissible for you to go serve at the abortion clinic. But obviously, the state would be gravely violating your conscience and religious freedom.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thales,

      I agree with parts of your analysis. I posted this in part because much of the overheated rhetoric makes it sound as though the insurance mandate was close material cooperation with evil and therefore illicit, and that the Church had NO OPTION but to cancel insurance coverage. My point was that a bishop known for his orthodoxy felt otherwise.

      I am sympathetic to the analyses of this in terms of religious liberty and think this is the lines to be pursued. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by trying to parse differences between the Wisconsin and federal statutes: I am not sure a co-pay (which is usually only a fraction of the cost of the prescription) changes the situation in any substantive way.

      • Thales

        David,

        Your initial post seemed to be saying that “hey, there is overheated rhetoric on this issue; this issue is not as big a deal as people are saying because this is likely morally permissible material cooperation with evil.” That’s exactly how Chris Sullivan read it.

        But that’s an incorrect way of considering the issue. The fact that it might be a morally permissible material cooperation with evil — in other words, the fact that if the federal rule is implemented, the bishops might decide to go along with it kicking and screaming because, after doing the moral calculus, there may be much greater evils that might happen if they don’t go along with it and so there is a proportionately serious reason to go along with it even though they have strenuous objections — that fact is irrelevant to the question about whether this is an infringement of religious freedom that people should be upset about and use “overheated rhetoric” about.

        I should also add that there is a persuasive argument that this actually isn’t a morally permissible material cooperation with evil. But, regardless, it’s important to remember that when considering one specific action of material cooperation with evil, that action might be morally permissible under one set of circumstances (ie, you’ve got no other choice because the alternative is so punitive, and there is little chance of scandal if you do cooperate with evil), and not morally permissible under another set of circumstances (ie, you are able to withstand the consequences of civil disobedience, and there is a chance of scandal if you cooperated).

        Consider: Being forced to pay for someone’s abortion—that’s morally permissible cooperation with evil when threatened under gunpoint; it’s not morally permissible if the only penalty is a slap on the hand. What about when the penalty is a large fine? I don’t know the answer about whether that’s morally permissible cooperation, but that issue is irrelevant. All three examples are instances of one same violation of religious freedom (and in my opinion, a serious violation that shouldn’t be accepted without complaint).

  • Chris Sullivan

    Finally, a clear example from a conservative Bishop, that mandating the Church to provide insurance which covers contraceptives is, after all the hoopla and screaming, something we can live with without violating our consciences after all.

    Will someone please tell Abp Dolan and the USCCB ?

    God Bless

    • Thales

      Chris,
      You’re incorrect. See what I posted above.

    • johnmcg

      I’m curious what action the Administration could take that, in your opinion, the bishops could rightly object to?

  • Chris Sullivan

    Finally, a clear example from a conservative Bishop, that mandating the Church to provide insurance which covers contraceptives is, after all the hoopla and screaming, something we can live with without violating our consciences after all.

    Will someone please tell Abp Dolan and the USCCB ?

    God Bless

    • Thales

      Chris,
      You’re incorrect. See what I posted above.

      • Thales

        Sorry if my response to Chris was so short. I thought I should briefly mention the reason why he’s incorrect: because even assuming it was, under the circumstances, morally permissibly cooperation with evil, it could still be a grave violation of religious freedom and a grave violation of our consciences and something deserving “all the hoopla and screaming.”

    • johnmcg

      I’m curious what action the Administration could take that, in your opinion, the bishops could rightly object to?

      • Kurt

        I think the bishops are correct to object to the contraceptive mandate. I’m also thinking Bishop Morlino was wrong to give contraceptives to his employees because it is cheaper to him than self-insurance. I’m neither pleased with Obama or Morlino today.

    • http://renegadetrad.blogspot.com A Sinner

      Chris, look at Thales’s example. The very fact of the coercion may create a set of circumstances, a duress, under which we may not be obligated to avoid the material cooperation (I don’t think anyone is claiming is is formal cooperation). But that doesn’t mean the very fact of those coercive circumstances are not wrong or deeply troubling when it comes to religious freedom.

  • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

    I can’t imagine that offering insurance coverage for contraception and then warning employees not to use it or they risk being fired is actually complying with the law—if the threat is authentic. If it’s not an empty threat, and it can be gotten away with, then the Diocese of Madison has solved the whole problem of the mandate. Just offer insurance coverage and intimidate employees into not using it.

    • Thales

      Just offer insurance coverage and intimidate employees into not using it.

      Sounds like a harrassment/wrongful dismissal lawsuit waiting to happen once you come across the first employee who seeks contraception coverage. That’s not a solution for the Diocese.

  • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

    I can’t imagine that offering insurance coverage for contraception and then warning employees not to use it or they risk being fired is actually complying with the law—if the threat is authentic. If it’s not an empty threat, and it can be gotten away with, then the Diocese of Madison has solved the whole problem of the mandate. Just offer insurance coverage and intimidate employees into not using it.

    • Thales

      Just offer insurance coverage and intimidate employees into not using it.

      Sounds like a harrassment/wrongful dismissal lawsuit waiting to happen once you come across the first employee who seeks contraception coverage. That’s not a solution for the Diocese.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, it would be a public relations disaster, but like in the case in Ohio I wrote about earlier, according to the article the employees are contractually bound to uphold Catholic teaching. If I had to guess, employees are being very discrete in filling birth control prescriptions and the Diocese is not asking any questions of its insurer that it doesn’t want to know the answer to.

    • M.Z.

      There is precedent for termination with the exercise of a benefit: out-of-wedlock child birth.

      To correct DCU, the employer is legally proscribed from using its insurer or the medical records supplied in seeking benefit compensation for any purpose other than the reimbursement of claims. Disclosure of protected information is criminal.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Thank you for that correction. From my dealings with HR I knew there were restrictions in place about who may know; I did not know there were restrictions on why you wanted to know as well.

      • Thales

        There is precedent for termination with the exercise of a benefit: out-of-wedlock child birth.

        And several lawsuits have happened on this exact issue.

  • brettsalkeld

    Whether or not the cooperation with evil here is remote enough, my own feeling is that civil disobedience is the less repugnant option.

    There is more to this than the question of whether what Morlino did in Wisconsin is actually legit according to Catholic ethics. This is a grave threat to religious freedom and must be opposed on those grounds no matter what answer the ethical calculus gives on the remoteness of the cooperation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

      Yes!

    • M.Z.

      This is in the same class of threat as the Quiet Revolution. In both cases the Church argued that it should continue to receive a privilege when it was abundantly clear secular society was better able to accommodate the legitimate desires of the public, desires that go to the heart of the health care debate, not the contraception sideshow. If the greatest threat to organized religion is that the naked are clothed, the hungry fed, and the sick healed then to paraphrase Bishop Zubik, “to hell with organized religion.” The folks whining today are the same ones who wouldn’t lobby for votes when lobbying would have been effective. Was the reform far from perfect? Most certainly. That is life. People seem to have forgotten how imperfect our system has been. This is still an improvement.

  • brettsalkeld

    Whether or not the cooperation with evil here is remote enough, my own feeling is that civil disobedience is the less repugnant option.

    There is more to this than the question of whether what Morlino did in Wisconsin is actually legit according to Catholic ethics. This is a grave threat to religious freedom and must be opposed on those grounds no matter what answer the ethical calculus gives on the remoteness of the cooperation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

      Yes!

    • M.Z.

      This is in the same class of threat as the Quiet Revolution. In both cases the Church argued that it should continue to receive a privilege when it was abundantly clear secular society was better able to accommodate the legitimate desires of the public, desires that go to the heart of the health care debate, not the contraception sideshow. If the greatest threat to organized religion is that the naked are clothed, the hungry fed, and the sick healed then to paraphrase Bishop Zubik, “to hell with organized religion.” The folks whining today are the same ones who wouldn’t lobby for votes when lobbying would have been effective. Was the reform far from perfect? Most certainly. That is life. People seem to have forgotten how imperfect our system has been. This is still an improvement.

      • brettsalkeld

        I’m confused. Which privilege are we talking about?

      • M.Z.

        In the case of the Quiet Revolution, the privilege was the ability to operate two social institutions, education and medical provision, while simultaneously being exempt from supervision from the government and being funded by the government. In the case of US health insurance, the privilege is to be exempt from the now universal care requirements.

      • Thales

        Brett,

        I was confused about what M.Z. was saying, but after wikipedia-ing “Quiet Revolution,” I think I know what M.Z. is saying. From what I understand, the Quiet Revolution is when the provincial government in Quebec “took over the fields of health care and education, which had been in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church.”

        I think M.Z. is saying: “to hell with organized religion, to hell with the Catholic Church and its institutions which clothe the naked, heal the sick, etc. The Catholics whining today about the contraception mandate are the same ones who wouldn’t lobby for the Affordable Care Act which would clothe the naked and heal the sick. And the Affordable Care Act clothes the naked and heals the sick better than the system beforehand, better than what the Church was doing previously. This Catholic-whining about contraception is a sideshow and is the Church trying to claim a privilege it shouldn’t have– and it a distraction from the real need to clothe the naked and heal the sick. So if the Church is threatened by the naked being clothed and the sick being healed better than before, then the Church needs to get out of way and let secular society do it all. Secular society is better able to accommodate the legitimate desires of the public, and heal the sick; and the Church and organized religion is just in the way.”

        Yes, I find M.Z.’s position extremely abhorrent. There are so many things wrong with this position, I don’t know where to start. Ugh.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          [Ummmm, let’s let MZ define his position more completely. This may turn out to be an incorrect reading of his position and I don’t want us fighting about a straw man.]

      • johnmcg

        If I recall correctly, the anti-union measures enacted in Wisconsin by a duly elected legislature and governor who did exactly what they had said they would do when campaigning.

        That being the case, would it be fair to dismiss the protests against them as “whining?” Should they be ignored because they weren’t engaged in the previous election? Should our response have been, “Tough ****, they won the election?” Would it have sufficed to point to some abuses (and there were some) of the existing unionized regime?

      • Kurt

        In regard to the Quebec “Quiet Revolution”, I think there is a difference between the Catholic Church almost completely running a society’s health care and education system, giving the public little say and an exemption for certain standards for Catholic related institutions in a society where these related organizations suppliment health care and education providers.

        The Wisconsin law is interesting as it regulates not the employers but the insurance companies. As if in a town’s only market place, the merchant only sold pork and bean, but not bean w/o pork, are the rights of Jews to eat beans being violated?

      • M.Z.

        Thales:
        I’ll simplify it for you.
        The church cannot at one time claim one of their core missions is their humanitarian impulse (schools, hospitals) and in the same breath claim their raison d’être is violated by another institution providing the humanitarian need. If one does not subscribe to the notion that this was some nefarious plot to fund birth control for a population that already enjoyed wide funding for it and instead was a program to provide universal access to health care, then one recognizes the passage of health care reform of furthering the humanitarian mission, albeit imperfectly. If the fulfillment of the humanitarian mission is a negative for the church it is not because the church has been violated but because the church is no longer performing adequately.

        johnmcg,
        I don’t care to discuss an issue with you where I would be forced to educate you on core facts just so that your argument would be valid.

      • Thales

        Sorry, M.Z., I’m not understanding you at all.

        The church cannot at one time claim one of their core missions is their humanitarian impulse (schools, hospitals) and in the same breath claim their raison d’être is violated by another institution providing the humanitarian need.

        Of course, the church can, if the other institution is forcing the church to do something against its mission and against its conscience, like funding sterilization and abortifacients.

        I get that you think that the passage of healthcare reform was a good thing, that furthers the humanitarian mission, albeit imperfectly. That’s fine. What doesn’t make sense is why you seem to be saying that the Church can’t object to the imperfections in the healthcare reform, especially when a particular imperfection infringes on the Church’s conscience.

        If the fulfillment of the humanitarian mission is a negative for the church it is not because the church has been violated but because the church is no longer performing adequately.

        But the Church has no problem with the humanitarian mission of providing good health care to as many people as possible — that’s not a negative. The negative is the Church being forced to support contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients.

      • Thales

        Sorry, the first quote [“The church cannot….humanitarian need”] was supposed to be in italics because it’s M.Z.’s.

      • johnmcg

        I think MZ is presenting a vision that places far too much faith in the state.

        Essentially, the federal government has passed a bill whose purpose is to provide health care for those who cannot afford it. Because of that, the Church should get out the healthcare business, and not complain that it is now more difficult for them to be in that business. The government has it covered. That should be good news, right?

        Well, there’s been universal public schools for decades now, yet there still are Catholic schools right beside them. Though they may be dwindling, I don’t think they’re going away any time soon.

        What that suggests to me is that the Works of Mercy are about serving the person versus just serving the need. “I was hungry, and you fed me” suggests a more powerful human connection than “I was hungry, and you ensured that there was food available for me.”

        Even the best possible federal health care law would not remove the need for this personal care, care that is very much a part of the Church’s mission. That the mandate makes it more difficult to fulfill that mission is a shame, and something worth resisting.

      • Kurt

        Even the best possible federal health care law would not remove the need for this personal care, care that is very much a part of the Church’s mission.

        John,

        The mandate is imnappropriate in its application to Catholic affilated hosptials and universities. Bu tlet’s not overly romanticize the work they do. The educate and heal mostly middle class people. That is a good. I used to use a Catholic health care provider for reasons you might expect. It eventually got to the point where I could not deny it was the most impersonal care I could imagine.

      • johnmcg

        Didn’t mean to overly romanticize all the work of all Church-affiliated service providers. I’m quite sure there are secular schools and hospitals that far outstrip many of those provided by the Church.

        My only point is that as good as ACA may be, I don’t think it discharges us of our duty to care for the sick. And neither would an impersonal Church-affiliated hospital.

    • Mark Gordon

      I agree, and I think arguments to the contrary are merely attempts to provide cover for this particular Administration.

  • Tony

    Are you people really Catholic? This kind of loopholing is why I stopped reading this particular cesspool years ago.

  • Tony

    Are you people really Catholic? This kind of loopholing is why I stopped reading this particular cesspool years ago.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Yes, we (the principal authors) are all card carrying Catholics. You are welcome to stop by any time, though more constructive contributions would be appreciated.

      • Tony

        It doesn’t take much to get the “Catholic card”. Mom (who never goes to church) can take you once because grandma wants you baptized. I’ve found that the “Catholic card” is most often used when you are cooperating with Satan (most often preceded by “devout”). As a matter of fact, Kathleen Sebelius has a “Catholic Card” and she is the one doing this to us (Catholics, that is. Not those with a “card”). She might very well have excommunicated herself with this stunt. I’d be really careful if I were you.

      • johnmcg

        Tony,

        I’ve been on the internet since it was a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, and I have yet to see someone convinced by scare quotes.

    • Rodak

      @ Tony —

      You are the living embodiment of the main reason that I am happy to be really Protestant.

      • http://gravatar.com/digbydolben digbydolben

        Rodak, it would be better for all of us–you included–if you’d join with us, in the only Christian Church which is universal and transcends culture (or, at least perceives that it ought to), to counter, oppose and outvote the “Tony’s” of the Roman Catholic Church. You are absolutely right that they are retrograde, and non-Christian. But not only that: their ultramontane position is really, truly against the spirit of Christ, and, hence, heretical.

    • brettsalkeld

      Tony, you read the part about civil disobedience, right? And also, Sofia’s endorsement? And David’s claim that his real concern here is religious liberty? All three of us are contributors here. Or did you just skip all that stuff?

      • brettsalkeld

        OK, now add both Marks’ agreements. So far all 5 VN contributors in this thread have agreed that this is a serious threat to religious liberty that must be challenged.

        I, for one, don’t think David’s pointing out the Morlino situation is anti-Catholic at all. It just helps us better grasp what the real hill this battle should be fought on is. From what I can tell, the bishop’s agree with us. Don’t you?

  • Kurt

    I think there are examples elsewhere of where Catholic bishops had their backs up against the wall and allowed policies that covered contraceptives.

    The Madison situation is interesting in that it seems Morlino did not have his back against the wall. He had the option to self-insure (what is the practice of the Archdiocese of Washington). It seems self-insurance cost Morlino more than a commercial policy that covered contraception. Hard liners might say that Morlino’s policy was a way to save him thirty pieces of silver. I think that is unfair until we know more details, But this does show how complicated the whole matter is.

    This is not to suggest that the Administration’s policy is not misguided just because it is possible for auxiliary Catholic organizations to comply.

  • ctd

    For what its worth, none of the statements out of USCCB and, so far as I know, any of the bishops, has said that complying would be illicit material cooperation.

    The objectionable part here and in Wisconsin is the state mandating a violation of conscience.

    Also, for what its worth, Wisconsin’s law at least allowed for self-insurance, which the federal rule does not. On its face, then the Wisconsin law was less objectionable. The fact that the market did not allow the diocese to exercise that option has little to do with the legitimacy of the law. Many dioceses cover contraception for that reason – they simply do not have a large enough volume to have bargaining power to get affordable special treatment from insurers.

  • markdefrancisis

    For the record, I too stand with the U.S. bishops.

  • Chris Sullivan

    If Bp Morlino can actually live with his state mandated insurance covering contraception, then that actually illustrates that the Church can in fact live with this and that this actually isn’t a violation of our conscience at all.

    It powerfully illustrates that Abp Dolan’s statement that the bishops have 12 months to figure out how to violate their consciences is factually incorrect.

    This is because the cooperation involved here is only material, not formal, is extremely remote indeed, and is permissible for proportionate reasons (which providing decent health care surely is).

    The fact is that the Church doesn’t even oppose contraception in all cases, only in marriage. The Church does not oppose contraception outside marriage, in prostitution, fornication, after rape in Catholic hospitals, in case or rape for nuns in the Congo (the Vatican officially approved there use of the pill), to prevent HIV infection, as medical treatment for heavy periods, etc.

    The Bishops’ right to conscience ends at the point where it meets the right to conscience of their employees to plan their families and the right of conscience of the state authorities to uphold the Common Good by providing medical coverage as their conscience informs them.

    It seems to me that the Bishops’ position on this is very weak indeed.

    God Bless

    • Thales

      If Bp Morlino can actually live with his state mandated insurance covering contraception, then that actually illustrates that the Church can in fact live with this and that this actually isn’t a violation of our conscience at all.

      No it doesn’t. First, in a sense, Bishop Morlino can’t live with it: he objects to the state insurance. Second, if you think that Bp. Morlino can “live with” the state insurance because he is going along with it: going along with something that you object to because of the terrible consequences that happen if you don’t doesn’t meant there is no conscience violation. If you force me at gunpoint to help pay for your abortion, I’m cooperating and “living with” the situation you’ve forced on me — but you’re still definitely violating my conscience.

      The fact is that the Church doesn’t even oppose contraception in all cases, only in marriage.

      That’s not true. That may be your opinion, but not the Church’s. Contraception is immoral in all cases. And you keep on forgetting that the regulation covers sterilization and abortifacients too.

      The Bishops’ right to conscience ends at the point where it meets the right to conscience of their employees to plan their families and the right of conscience of the state authorities to uphold the Common Good by providing medical coverage as their conscience informs them.

      Might I suggest that you’re forgetting to include the freedom of conscience of the employer in your statement? Where is the employer’s right of conscience? It’s the employer’s right of conscience that is being infringed, not the Bishops. And to me, forcing an employer to subsidize contraception against that employer’s will seems to me to be overly burdensome limit on the employer’s freedom and right of conscience, considering that the burden on the employee seeking contraception is minimal because the employee can get contraception elsewhere.

    • Kurt

      If Bp Morlino can actually live with his state mandated insurance covering contraception, then that actually illustrates that the Church can in fact live with this and that this actually isn’t a violation of our conscience at all.

      I’m not so sure it does illustrate that. It might illustrate that Bishop Morlino, forced to choose between a cheaper insurance policy that covers contraception and a more expensive program that does not, elected the former. It says nothing about his brother bishops.

    • brettsalkeld

      But the Bishop’s right of conscience simply doesn’t meet the right of their employees to plan their families at any point. People are perfectly free to plan their families whether or not the bishops pay for the pills. I have the right to eat veal, but no vegetarian has to buy it for me.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Commonweal assistant editor Grant Gallicho puts it better than I could:

    The Catholic moral tradition has long recognized that morally pure acts are often difficult to carry out on this earthly plane. So it developed principles to help the church determine when it is permissible to cooperate with evil. The Catholic tradition does not hold that one must never cooperate with evil. One may remotely cooperate with evil in certain circumstances and for proportionate reason. In this case, while I disagree with the HHS ruling, I’m afraid the bishops do not have a strong argument for withholding health insurance from employees because there is no direct material cooperation. There is only remote cooperation. The proportionate reason is providing health insurance to employees who would not be able to get comparable coverage as individuals on the open market.

    and

    Keep in mind, the USCCB has not made moral-theological argument. They have made blanket statements about what the HHS ruling will force them to do. Bishops have said they will have to “pay for” contraception. Well, that is not entirely accurate. A religious employer will, as part of its compensation to employees, pay for health coverage that includes contraception, which the employee may or may not use. What HHS requires is not formal material cooperation because having such coverage is not essential to the commission of the act; that is, employees can get contraception without the health-insurance plan. Rather, it is remote cooperation (and proximity to the evil act is essential in this analysis) under duress (the HHS mandate), which is licit in part because of the proportionate reason: if a religious institution were to decide not to provide health insurance rather than comply with the mandate, and therefore pay a $2,000-per-employee fine, the employee would be forced to purchase coverage on the open market, where plans are much more expensive and less comprehensive than the ones offered by group purchasers (the employer). What’s more, those plans will likely include coverage for contraception and perhaps even abortion. That means that a religious institution that decides to give employees money to buy insurance on the open market could end up “paying for,” as the USCCB puts it, not only contraception but also abortion. By the bishops’ own reasoning, that is a worse position for them to be in than the one required by the contraception mandate.

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=17042#comments

    God Bless

    • johnmcg

      I don’t think anyone is claiming that the US has a duty to provide an environment where Catholics and the Church’s institutions can live a completely pure life and never have to materially cooperate with evil. I think we all recognize that any engagement in the world at all will entail some material cooperation with evil. In addition to health benefits, the Church gives its employees monetary compensation. Those employees can use that compensation for any number of things, some of which are even more gravely immoral than contraception, and when they do, the Church has materially cooperated with that, albeit remotely.

      Ok, so we agree that we are no longer in Eden. How do we live in the world that we’re in?

      Mr. Gallachio categorizes the Diocese’s act as “remote cooperation under duress.” I’m inclined to agree.

      That may mean that it’s acceptable for the Church to provide the coverage; I do not see how it makes the duress at all acceptable.

      • Thales

        Johnmcg,

        Good job pointing out that Gallicho recognizes the HHS mandate as duress. Chris, the question right shouldn’t be “is cooperation with evil under this duress morally permissible or not?”; the question should be “is this duress appropriate in the first place in a society that respects freedom?”.

    • Thales

      These comments go to the calculus to determine whether complying with the rule is material cooperation with evil; they don’t go to the primary issue — namely, whether it is an inappropriate infringement of religious freedom.

    • johnmcg

      To put it more bluntly:

      The victim of a rape is not morally culpable for having sex outside of marriage.

      Nevertheless, I think it would also be true to say that the rape victim was compelled to do something against her conscience.

      And it would also be appropriate to apprehend and punish the rapist.

      I am reminded of the absurd argument some Catholics advanced for the acceptability of waterboarding that we should accept it because it compelled the victims to give up the information in such a way that they did not violate their conscience, since they were coerced.


      No, I am not saying what the government is doing is the moral equivalent of rape. The immeediacy of the force a the remotenes from the actual evil act are different, as is the gravity of the evil.

      But your post seems to suggest that if the bishops can find away to o comply with the law that is not morally wrong, then they have no right to complain. I think that’s absurd, as the rape example demonstrates.

  • http://SyteReitz.com Syte

    Obama’s administration seems to value population control (abortion, birth control) more than it values religious freedom, votes or economy.

    Obama prioritizes free birth control over free aspirin or free insulin.
    This exaggerated prioritization of free birth control is suggestive of a hidden agenda.

    The prioritization is not about women’s rights; it’s about power.

    Abortion- It’s a Much Bigger Deal Than You Think:
    http://sytereitz.com/2012/01/abortion-a-much-bigger-deal-than-you-think/

  • FaithandReason

    FYI – the Wisconsin mandate never went into effect. While the bishops did all they could to keep it from happening in the first place they lost. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference wisely looked into other options. Last year it was eliminated from the state budget and therefore no one ever had to live with it. (The good guys win!) Our bishops (especially Bishop Morlino) teach the truth clearly and courageously. Let’s give them credit for that and keep up the good fight.

    WI – Budget Recommendations (pg 10 of 11)
    5. Elimination of the Contraceptive Mandate The Governor recommends eliminating the requirement that health insurance policies provide coverage for contraceptives prescribed by a health care provider and outpatient medical services related to contraceptives. This requirement is an unacceptable government mandate on employers with moral objections to these services, and increases the cost of health insurance for all payers.
    http://doa.wi.gov/debf/docview.asp?budid=28

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Interesting. Thanks for this information.

    • Kurt

      Bishop Morlino [teaches] the truth clearly and courageously

      Except when it means he can get a cheaper deal somwhere else.

  • Chris Sullivan

    If the bishops can find away to comply with the law that is not morally wrong, then the law does not violate the Bishops conscience.

    The Obama administration has kindly given the Bishops a year to consult the considerable tools in the Catholic Moral Theology toolbox and the example given by all those dioceses which have found ways to live with similar state laws mandating insurance coverage of contraception.

    The reality is that in a secular democracy where Catholics are a minority, we simply have to live as best we can with the laws which are made.

    There are some which will violate conscience (eg on abortion) which we must resist. But this law on contraception doesn’t seem to be one of them.

    I think it would be wise to pick our battles carefully.

    God Bless

    • brettsalkeld

      I agree that we need to pick our battles. But I think this is one we need to fight. The key difference here is between something being legally permissible and something being legally required. I think most of us would agree that we need not fight the legal availability of contraceptives at this point, even though they violate conscience. Forcing us to pay for them through our own institutions is a completely different issue than their simple legality. This is crossing a line that a democracy must not cross. It is a very short road from this to forcing pro-life doctors to do abortions or forcing pacifists into combat. The principle worth going to jail over here isn’t birth control but freedom.

      • grega

        Brett – contraceptions are very legal in this country and used by a huge majority of the polulations – including a huge majority of Catholics – we are free to do so – if you are concerned about freedom – the Church is actually in this case the side taking a clear established and widly morally accepted freedom away.

        • brettsalkeld

          Veal is widely consumed in this country. By not paying for my veal, vegans are “taking a clear established and wildly morally accepted freedom away” from me.

          I’m sorry grega, but this looks more than silly to me. Do insurance plans that don’t cover tooth implants take away people’s obvious right to get tooth implants if they so choose?

      • grega

        Brett – your analogy does not fit this issue but rather could be used if you try to argue against healthcare. Yes in order to make healthcare affordable – affordable particular for those that otherwise can not afford it in the ‘free market’ – it does take a mandate for the larger group to share. You live in Canada not an issue – I come from Germany not an issue – but around here it is an issue. And yes that sort of setup does have consequences as Chris rather eloquently pointed out.
        Take any controversial issue if you must: I for example never supported or ‘liked’ the war in Iraq – I payed for it anyway – I do not like that the top 0.1% pays at a tax rate likely below that of their maids and pool boys.
        I am free to vote accordingly and will continue to do so – but at times my vote is the minority vote – go figure I can not believe that others do not see the wisdom of my position – amazing.
        Just like the large majority of Catholics I happen to find plenty of virtue in availability of contraceptives.
        The average Catholic parent is not stupid and/or morally corrupt and perhaps knows a bit about this sort of issue first hand – knows it more than the some of the Celibates running around musing this way or that way.

      • brettsalkeld

        I’m sorry grega. I’m gonna need a little help here. How, exactly, does my analogy fail? How is not paying for something denying someone else the “right” to it?

        I don’t see how the fact that most Catholics disagree with official teaching has anything to do with the legitimacy of forcing Catholic institutions to pay for this. If the majority of Jews eat pork, that doesn’t make it OK to force the ones who don’t to pay for the other’s bacon.

    • http://profiles.google.com/johnmcg JohnMcG

      I don’t see how this logic wouldn’t lead to the conclusion that if rape victims aren’t culpable for a sin against chastity, then there’s nothing wrong with rape.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        If the wrongness of rape depends on the victim being somehow guilty, then having sex with a drugged or otherwise unconscious woman wouldn’t really be rape. Occasionally there is a story in the news about a dentist or doctor who is discovered to have fondled patients who were under anesthesia. Is this not wrong, even though the anesthetized patients are guiltless?

        Your theory seems to be that forcing a woman to do something against her will is somehow her fault, at least partially, because she consents to it. If I hold a gun to a baby’s head and demand your wallet, you can’t claim to have been robbed, since you handed over the wallet.

      • Thales

        David,
        I’m not sure whether you’re responding to Chris or johnmcg. Your points are good… and you are agreeing with johnmcg and illustrating the weakness of Chris’ position.

      • johnmcg

        I don’t think the evilness of rape depends on the moral culpability of the victim. In both cases, I beleive the victim has no culpability, the rape was wrong, and the rapist is culpable.

        Mr, Sullivan seems to be asserting a principle that would lead to the conclusions you mentioned. His position is that because Bishop Morlino was able to comply with the Wisconsin policy in a way that was morally acceptable, then no harm was done.

        Now, my application of that principle is admittedly extreme, and there are other more obvious harms that come with rape than violation of conscience. But I think it’s generally agreed that part of the reason rape is evil is that it coerces the victim to do something in violation of their conscience.

    • Thales

      If the bishops can find away to comply with the law that is not morally wrong, then the law does not violate the Bishops conscience.

      No, that’s entirely incorrect and illogical. I’ll repeat myself again: doing an action that is not morally wrong does not mean that the action does not violate the actor’s conscience. To the contrary, when an actor is forced to materially cooperate with evil against his will (but still does cooperate because it’s morally permissible and the alternative is worse), it is –by its very definition — an action which violates the actor’s conscience. If you force the bishops to do something they don’t want to do because it offends their conscience, then it is an action that violates their conscience. If you force me at gunpoint to help pay for your abortion, it’s not morally wrong for me to cooperate and pay for your abortion — but you’re still definitely violating my conscience.

      There are some which will violate conscience (eg on abortion) which we must resist. But this law on contraception doesn’t seem to be one of them.

      If you think paying for abortion is something we must resist, then what do you think about paying for abortifacients?

      • Kurt

        If you think paying for abortion is something we must resist, then what do you think about paying for abortifacients?

        I’m against it and grateful abortifacients are specifically excluded.

      • Thales

        grateful abortifacients are specifically excluded.

        What are you talking about? Plan B and ella are also covered by the rule.

  • Chris Sullivan

    When an employee works for an employer, they are due a wage.

    The employer has no right to impose his conscience on the employee by determining what the employee may or may not spend her wage on.

    Insurance cover provided by employers is really part of the wage due.

    If the employee chooses to obtain contraceptives under such insurance, then that is their right under their conscience. The employer has no conscience right to impose their own views on that.

    And lets be clear here – it isn’t the bishops or the employer who is really paying the premiums here – it is actually the employee as the premiums are part of their wage.

    God Bless

    • johnmcg

      When an employee works for an employer, they are due a wage.
      The employer has no right to impose his conscience on the employee by determining what the employee may or may not spend her wage on.
      Insurance cover provided by employers is really part of the wage due.

      If we accept these premises, it would seem that the Church could not object to being required to provide a “hitman” benefit in case an employee wanted to contact the murder og his spouse. Yes, the Church may object to murder, but it has no right to impose that judgement on its employees.

      There is a moral difference between giving someone that can be used for many uses like cash and giving someone a benefit that can only be used for a specific thing. If I give someone a cash gift, and the use it to procure an abortion (without me knowing they were planning on doing so), I am not as morally bound to the abortion as I would be if I had given her one of those Planned Parenthood gift certificates. If someone tried to coerce me into giving one of those as a gift, I would be rightfully pissed.

      If you are hung up on the money, then consider that by facilitating the employee’s access to the contraceptive coverage, the Church organizations are cooperating with the act. If I pass along the phone number of a drug dealer to somebody, I am cooperating with their drug use, even if I don’t provide monetary support.

    • Thales

      The employer has no right to impose his conscience on the employee by determining what the employee may or may not spend her wage on.

      Chris, this is a new theory you’re putting forward. But suppose that the employee wants to have his employer’s plan cover abortion, doesn’t this new theory require you to say that an employer has no right to object to the plan covering abortion?

    • brettsalkeld

      I’m sorry but this is unconvincing. I seriously doubt your willingness to extend this analogy much further than this. Anything you might spend your money on, however immoral, might just as well have been purchased for you by your employer who incurs no guilt thereby? How does this apply to alcohol? Strippers? Gambling on dog fights?

      I’m all for including certain benefits as due to the worker, including insurance, but that doesn’t make it the same thing as cash.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Anything you might spend your money on, however immoral, might just as well have been purchased for you by your employer who incurs no guilt thereby?

        Brett,

        He’s saying just the opposite. Employers are not responsible for what employees spend their salary on, and since insurance is part of the “salary,” employers are not responsible for what employees use insurance for.

        Note that the argument for why school vouchers don’t violate the First Amendment is that they aren’t the government spending money on religious schools, they are the government giving money to parents, who in turn spend it on religious schools. We don’t generally see Catholics arguing against vouchers. If government money is “laundered” by passing through the hands of parents, I don’t understand why employer money isn’t similarly “laundered.”

        • brettsalkeld

          I’m not sure how “Employers are not responsible for what employees spend their salary on, and since insurance is part of the “salary,” employers are not responsible for what employees use insurance for,”

          is the opposite of “Anything you might spend your money on, however immoral, might just as well have been purchased for you by your employer who incurs no guilt thereby?”

          To me it looks like saying the same thing from a different angle, namely that everything from an employer is morally equivalent to cash. Can you explain to me how these are opposites?
          Thanks.

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Brett,

        Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying. If my employer pays me a salary, and I use it to buy illegal drugs, is my employer responsible? I am paid for the work I do, and when I do that work and get paid for it, the money is mine, not my employer’s. How I spend it is my decision, not my employer’s. Are you disagreeing with that?

      • Thales

        David,

        1. When doing a material cooperation with evil analysis, the “laundering” doesn’t always work: if I know that you want and need money to buy a gun to kill your wife, and I know that if I give you money you will buy a gun to kill your wife… generally, it’s morally impermissible for me to give you the money. “Laundering” doesn’t wash away the moral connection. (Obviously, the moral connection is lessened or is non-existent in most transactions because the giver does not have certainty about what the money will be used for, etc.)

        I like johnmcg’s thoughts about gift certificates. The contraception mandate is not the equivalent of an employee works and is entitled to a just wage from his employer; and then the employee uses the wage in whatever way he sees fit. I think the contraception mandate is more akin to a situation where the employer is giving the employee a coupon or a gift certificate, to be used by the employee to pay for an abortion.

        2. I don’t know how useful it is to bring in the school voucher example. There are several differences which complicate it as an analogy: it’s not a question of morality for the government to give money to parents for religious schooling, it’s a Constitutional one; the meaning of the Establishment Clause is a matter of dispute (some would say the clause permits the government to support religion in general, just not to establish one religion); the government disbursing taxpayer money back to taxpayers is a different relationship than employer paying employees, etc. I guess my point is that the argument in favor of school vouchers is not one based (at least, primarily) on the notion that the moneygiver would be committing an immoral act if there was no “laundering.”

      • Kurt

        I think there is a distinction here that the Church, in practice, has agreed with. Employers, including Catholic affiliated employers, sometimes provide health insurance as part of employee compensation. These Catholic affiliated employers feel (and I think they are right) that when they provide the insurance, they are particpating in what is provided.

        There is another set-up where there is an employee controlled health and welfare fund which the employer agrees to contribute a certain dollar amount. But it is then up to the employees to decide what benefits are covered. This arrangment has not met with Episcopal objection even when it has funded abortions.

      • grega

        Thales do you really view use of contraceptions as cooperation with evil?
        Lets get this straight – we as a human society have indeed decided that unlike a herd of animals we take rather active control of this aspects of our life as humans. Many things flow into this fact – not the least the desire to not overpopulate this fine planet and the recognition that an average birthrate in the ~1to 3 children per family range is actually rather desirable for the society as a whole.
        All are of course entirely free to choose a different path.
        The word evil has no place in this discussion as it relates to contraceptions –
        for me contraceptions very much include the ‘natural’ methodology favored by some and supposedly morally superior – give me a break.
        I think it is very important that the average Catholic forcefully bothers to speak out against the folks that seem to be under the illusion that calling something ‘evil’ makes it so.
        No as a society it is very much in our interest to educate our children in the responsible use of contraceptives and to make contraceptives fully available to those that after consideration decide to utilize them.
        And yes in ‘evil’ societies that embrace contraceptives like most Europeans and Canada the rate of Abortions is actually lower than around here – where lipservice is payed but in the end the true evil of Abortion is rather prevalent.

      • Thales

        grega,

        Yes, I really think that the use of contraception is morally evil. And so does the official teaching of the Catholic Church. And so do many other Catholics and Christians. You don’t. And that’s fine. But we don’t need to get into a debate about the merits of that belief — right now, it’s more interesting to think about whether the new federal rule is an infringement of religious freedom on those employers who hold that view of contraception, regardless of whether that view is a good one or not.

        Also, while we’re asking each other’s opinion, what do you think about abortifacient drugs?

      • Kurt

        Yes, I really think that the use of contraception is morally evil. And so does the official teaching of the Catholic Church. And so do many other Catholics and Christians.

        If only the bishops themselves and the directors of the affiliated Catholic institutions believed this, the mandate is still misguided.

        But even bishops have admitted that 95% of Catholics are not with them on this and I think it is hard to find a non-Catholic Christian who believes contraception is a sin.

        Lastly, while I disagree with the contraception mandate, I do appreciate that abortifacient drugs are specifically excluded.

      • Thales

        I do appreciate that abortifacient drugs are specifically excluded.

        Sigh. Kurt, how do you characterize plan B and ella?

      • brettsalkeld

        “I am paid for the work I do, and when I do that work and get paid for it, the money is mine, not my employer’s. How I spend it is my decision, not my employer’s. Are you disagreeing with that?”

        No David, I don’t disagree with that. I disagree that every benefit is the same as cash and subject to the same moral considerations. I don’t think Catholic institutions should be forced to pay into retirement funds that include (from the Catholic point of view) unethical stocks (say in porn or exploitative mining), but I don’t think the institution is responsible if an employee does so with his or her wages.

      • johnmcg

        The principle Mr. Nickol suggests — that employer have no right to specify how portions of their compensation are spent — would make all benefits — health benefits, dental benefits 401(k) plans, disability insurance, etc., morally wrong. After all, by giving employees compensation partially in the form of health insurance, aren’t employers dictating that it be used for health care?

        I suppose one could hold this policy, but it’s not in the mainstream (much like the Church’s prohibitions against contraception). In fact, the reason we’re in this mess is that ACA explicity *requires* employers to provide health benefits.

        To approve of that, but to then say that employers have no right to dictate how their employees consume part of their compensation is, in my opinion, not a tenable position.

  • Thales

    Another thought:

    Assume the HHS modifies the rule and declares that all abortion (including late-term) is a health care service that must be covered with no co-pay in all employers’ health plans. Is that an infringement of religious freedom? And if so, what makes it different from the current HHS rule?

    • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

      Thales,

      Do laws against female circumcision (aka female genital mutilation) infringe on religious freedom? Is it an infringement on religious freedom to require traditional medical care for a sick child when the parents want only faith healing? Was it an infringement on religious freedom to ban polygamy? Was it an infringement on religious freedom to take away the tax-deferred status of Bob Jones University for its racial policies?

      • Thales

        David,

        In our free society, we see value in religion due to its civilizing influence and we see value in allowing people to freely exercise their religion — even if they are beliefs that the majority doesn’t hold. At the same time, we see a value in having a society where law and order are upheld and the common good is encouraged. That necessarily creates a tension: we see a value in making accommodations to an individual’s religious freedom, but we recognize certain limits which don’t support justice and the common good. Honor killing and female genital mutilation are easy examples of religious beliefs in serious conflict with justice and the common good. If we accommodated those beliefs, the burden on society would be terrible because citizens would be getting hurt and killed unjustly.

        In this case, the majority sees no problem with contraception; while a particular individual employer sees contraception as a grave moral evil. So the question is, what is a reasonable accommodation? To me, requiring an employer to pay for contraception is not reasonable, because it forces him against his conscience to do something that he has a strong moral objection to, and because if the employer is not forced to pay for contraception, the resulting burden on the employee is very slight as the employee can easily still obtain contraception through a variety of other means.

  • Kurt

    Assume the HHS modifies the rule and declares that all abortion (including late-term) is a health care service that must be covered with no co-pay in all employers’ health plans.

    HHS does not have the legislative authority to do that. I would require a change in law.

    • Thales

      HHS does not have the legislative authority to do that. I would require a change in law.

      I dunno about that. Couldn’t it label abortion as a “preventive” service? But regardless, even if HHS doesn’t have the authority to make that rule now, that’s not my point. My point is supposing that the HHS is granted that legislative authority and makes that rule change (this is not unreasonable — it’s undeniable that many liberals see that as an ultimate goal in healthcare), is that an infringement of religious freedom?

      • Kurt

        I dunno about that. Couldn’t it label abortion as a “preventive” service?

        I do know about that. No, they cannot.

        But regardless, even if HHS doesn’t have the authority to make that rule now, that’s not my point.

        Then I would suggest you restate yoru question “were Congress to pass a law that..”

      • Thales

        Um, okay: Assume Congress passes a law that authorizes the HHS to, and the HHS does, declare that all abortion (including late-term) is a health care service that must be covered with no co-pay in all employers’ health plans, is that an infringement of religious freedom? And if so, what makes it different from the current HHS rule?

      • Kurt

        Um, okay: Assume Congress passes a law that authorizes the HHS to, and the HHS does, declare that all abortion (including late-term) is a health care service that must be covered with no co-pay in all employers’ health plans, is that an infringement of religious freedom? And if so, what makes it different from the current HHS rule?

        It would be an infringement on religious freedom as is the current HHS rule. It would also be a much graver matter, because of what abortion is.

        It would not be a matter of out of control federal bureaucrats dictating evils because of a government takeover of health care under “Obamacare.”

        It would be a greatly disturbing action of the American people through their elected representatives reflecting a tragic failure of pro-life citzens to convicingly present their views in a democratic society. It would suggest a serious flaw in the decency of the American people and/or the methods and means used by the pro-life movement to present its case.

      • Kurt

        Um, okay: Assume Congress passes a law that authorizes the HHS to, and the HHS does, declare that all abortion (including late-term) is a health care service that must be covered with no co-pay in all employers’ health plans, is that an infringement of religious freedom? And if so, what makes it different from the current HHS rule?

        It would be an infringement on religious freedom as is the current HHS rule. It would also be a much graver matter, because of what abortion is.

        It would not be a matter of out of control federal bureaucrats dictating evils because of a government takeover of health care under “Obamacare.”

        It would be a greatly disturbing action of the American people through their elected representatives reflecting a tragic failure of pro-life citzens to convicingly present their views in a democratic society. It would suggest a serious flaw in the decency of the American people and/or the methods and means used by the pro-life movement to present its case.

      • Thales

        It would be an infringement on religious freedom as is the current HHS rule. It would also be a much graver matter, because of what abortion is.

        Glad to hear you recognize that. Only problem is that I don’t know what you mean when you say “what abortion is”, since you don’t seem to like explaining your definition of “abortion”. :)

  • Chris Sullivan

    I must say I find the arguments above about rape and hitmen and abortion ridiculous because contraception is an entirely different kind of thing to those.

    The Church herself teaches that contraception is sometimes permissible. (She only teaches against it in loving acts of marriage.) That is not the case in rape, murder or abortion.

    The argument that tries to draw some kind of moral comparison between rape, murder and abortion on one hand and contraception on the other is the kind of argument that is not only totally unconvincing but which undermines and discredits the argument against contraception.

    God Bless

    • Thales

      I must say I find the arguments above about rape and hitmen and abortion ridiculous because contraception is an entirely different kind of thing to those.

      Well, you’re going to have to explain why it’s an entirely different thing. Many people on both sides of the abortion debate (both for and against) think that abortion is similar to contraception — either they think both are similarly immoral, or they think that both are similarly acceptable and necessary for women’s health.

      The Church herself teaches that contraception is sometimes permissible. (She only teaches against it in loving acts of marriage.)

      That’s incorrect. You keep saying that, but it doesn’t make it so. And you’re ignoring the sterilization and abortifacients covered by the rule.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Thales,

    The official mandates issued to Catholic Hospitals by the US Catholic Bishops specifically authorise contraception after rape.

    In the 1960’s the Vatican approved nuns in the Congo to take the pill because of the danger of rape.

    The Church has always allowed the pill as a treatment for certain medical conditions eg heavy periods.

    The Pope himself has commented favourably on the use of a condom to limit HIV transmission.

    That’s four explicit Catholic teachings allowing contraception.

    Granted sterilization is wrong but I find it hard to get too worked up about people choose to do to their own bodies.

    The HHS mandate does not include drugs like RU486 which cause abortions but only drugs like the pill and planB, about which the medical evidence that they actually are abortifacient is very uncertain indeed. Certainly their use almost never intends to cause abortion but merely to contracept hence their possible abortifacient effect would be a rather rare unintended consequence.

    God Bless

    • Thales

      Chris,

      1. Contraception.
      Unfortunately, your link is inaccurate and undeveloped in some ways. You’re falling into a common mistake when it comes to thinking about contraception outside of marriage. The Church teaches that sex outside of marriage is always and in every instance gravely sinful – whether contraception is involved or not. That doesn’t mean that “Catholic teaching allows contraception outside of marriage.” When it comes to sex outside of marriage, the Church doesn’t allow anything because sex outside of marriage is always gravely sinful. But what about the Congolese nuns and Pope’s talk about condoms limiting HIV transmission, you ask? These are instances of prudential judgment to limit evil coming from other evil. It’s not Catholic teaching saying “contraception is allowed.”

      Let me illustrate. Let’s say I want to kill Grandma. I go to the Church and say “should I kill Grandma with a fast-acting, painless injection? Or should I torture her to death?” Prudentially, the Church may answer “If you’re going to kill Grandma, it’s ‘better’ or ‘less worse’ to use the injection because it is not as evil as torturing her to death. But it’s still gravely evil to kill Grandma, so you shouldn’t do it.”

      Apply this to the Pope on condoms and HIV transmission: Let’s say I’m an HIV-infected male prostitute. I go to the Church and say “I plan on prostituting myself with other people. Should I use a condom? Or should I not use a condom and also infect people with HIV?” Prudentially, the Church may answer “it’s ‘better’ or ‘less worse’ to use a condom because infecting people with HIV is evil. But it’s still gravely evil to prostitute yourself, so you shouldn’t do it.”

      Do you see the distinction I’m pointing out? In these prudential situations, contraception is being permitted as a “less worse” consideration, in an evil situation. This is a better link talking about this:
      http://www.ncregister.com/blog/the-pope-said-what-about-condoms

      But regardless about the prudential situations above, the Church has never said that using contraceptives with the intention to prevent contraception is allowed outside of marriage. Never. So because of this, the Church has consistently condemned as gravely unjust any public policy which encourages contraception, regardless of whether people are married or not. Consider John Paul II from Familiaris Consortio: “Thus the Church condemns as a grave offense against human dignity and justice all those activities of governments or other public authorities which attempt to limit in any way the freedom of couples in deciding about children. Consequently, any violence applied by such authorities in favor of contraception or, still worse, of sterilization and procured abortion, must be altogether condemned and forcefully rejected. Likewise to be denounced as gravely unjust are cases where, in international relations, economic help given for the advancement of peoples is made conditional on programs of contraception, sterilization and procured abortion.”

      In short, the Catholic teaching does not say that contraceptives for the sake of contraception is morally permissible outside of marriage.

      2. Sterilization.
      I see you’ve conceded the point that sterilization is wrong. That means that we probably don’t have to argue about whether contraception is morally wrong: you concede that sterilization is wrong. But still, you don’t seem to have a problem with the HHS rule, which forces employers to cover something they find gravely immoral. My question then is, in your mind, what is the difference between forcing employers to cover sterilization and cover abortion?

      3. Abortifacients. [Kurt, this is for you too! :)]
      I see that you not well-versed about this area of science. Fertilization of an egg can happen quite soon after intercourse, as soon as 30 minutes later. The fertilized egg then becomes an embryo. The “morning-after” pill is ingested up to 3 days after intercourse, so logically, and scientifically, the pill might be ingested after a human embryo exists. (If fertilization hasn’t occurred because ovulation hasn’t happened yet, the pill might delay or inhibit ovulation. But we’re talking about those cases were ovulation occurs.) Normally this embryo will implant in the uterus. But Plan B and ella are drugs which prevent the implantation by irritating the uterine lining. A chemical abortion thus occurs. Plan B’s own website admits this: “In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”
      http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf

      (You might be confused by the fact that some people define “pregnancy” as “the condition after implantation” — I noticed that Plan B’s website does this. If you want to define pregnancy that way, that’s fine — personally, I like “carrying a human being.” But that different definition doesn’t change the scientific fact that a human embryo exists before implantation and can be expelled in a chemical abortion by the “morning after” pill.)

      • Kurt

        Abortifacients. [Kurt, this is for you too! :)]
        I see that you not well-versed about this area of science.

        No, there is no issue of not being well-versed science. One can take a minority position, but the scientific community find these do not cause abortions, including the Bush administration’s scientific findings. The law specifically excludes abortion.

      • Thales

        Kurt,

        Then you’re just using a different definition of “abortion”. Maybe you’re using a definition like “a medical procedure which ends a pregnancy — and since pregnancy means having an implanted embryo — abortion is the expulsion of an implanted embryo.” You can have that definition if you want, but that’s all irrelevant; that’s a matter of semantics. I’m talking about the scientific reality. Scientifically, it’s undeniable that a human embryo is expelled by Plan B (or are you denying that?)

      • Thales

        To add : I just saw an interesting note at NRO: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/290037/matter-principle-stephen-p-white

        ella, which is covered by the HHS rule, hasn’t been approved by the FDA as an abortifacient only because there haven’t been sufficient studies in pregnant woman for the FDA to so classify it. But the FDA notes that ella causes pregnancy termination in the animals they’ve tested.

        Kurt, don’t join the war on science! :)

      • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

        Thales,

        Ella, as used in the United States, is a “morning after pill,” and although it can cause an abortion if the embryo has implanted, when it is used as a morning after pill, a pregnancy test must be done on the woman to make sure she is not pregnant. No one knows for sure if it prevents implantation. So although it could cause an abortion if given to a pregnant woman, it is not given to pregnant women.

      • grega

        Thales you very carefully and correctly describe the current official catholic position. The 80-90%? of Catholics who in actual daily practice do not follow this rather clearly stated ‘ideal’ perhaps tell a story the Holy Spirit likes the official church to hear. Is that our of the question?

      • Thales

        David,

        ella is specifically taken as a “morning-after” pill. That means that ella is given to women who have a significant probability of having fertilization already occurred, as the pill is taken up to 5 days after intercourse (and fertilization can happen as soon as 30 minutes after intercourse.) I know that some in the medical community define that period as “not being pregnant” since for them, pregnancy only happens at implantation. But I don’t care about this definition– that’s irrelevant. I’m talking about the scientific reality of what is happening. So ella is proscribed to women with a significant probability of carrying a not-yet-implanted embryo. And as Ella’s own website tells me, one of the ways it may work is by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterus.

        Look, you, Chris, and Kurt don’t have to think that “morning-after” pills are morally problematic — I’m not trying to persuade you to change your opinion about their morality. If you think they’re no big deal, that’s fine. If you think the Church is completely idiotic for objecting to “morning-after” pills, that’s fine too. What I’m trying to get at is the scientific reality of what happens with the “morning after” pill. And it’s simply unscientific to deny that “morning-after” pills work, in part, by preventing a new embryo from implanting.

      • Kurt

        Then you’re just using a different definition of “abortion”.

        Nope, I’m not. Science, including the scientists consulted by the Bush Administration agree that it does not cause an abortion. It does not harm the baby, if there is a baby.

        Obviously, like climate change, there is a small minority of scientists and non-scientists that dissent, but I trust President Bush on this,

      • Thales

        Kurt,

        Ah, but I wasn’t talking about a baby. And I don’t really care about how you define abortion. I’m just wondering whether you deny that “morning-after” pills work sometimes by preventing a new embryo from implanting.

        Don’t join the science deniers!

      • johnmcg

        Thales has greater patience for this semantic dancing than I have.

        First, I know you’re being cheeky with “I trust Bush” stuff, but I’ll address it anyway. This is the person who also said that drowning someone wasn’t torture, so I don’t trust him on life issues. Nor was it the position of those who preferred Bush to Kerry or Gore based on abortion that Bush was the absolute authority on all issues of unborn life. Just that his position was preferable to those who pledged to unequivocally defend the right to abortion.

        Second, if it’s a cold night, and I know there is a cold homeless person who will come to my house seeking shelter, he will die without it, I am the only person who can provide that shelter, and I lock my door and pretend I’m not home that night, and take steps to make sure he can’t find any shelter in my home, I am definitely guilty of something. It may not be “murder,” it may not be “killing” but I am definitely guilty of an offense against that man’s dignity as a human person, and if I don’t repent, that will send me to Hell as surely as if I had stabbed him in the heart.

        (A separate discussion might be about how we effectively do precisely this by keeping ourselves in suburban and gentrified enclaves).

        If we accept the teaching that life begins at conception, then drugs that prevent implantation are in the same category. I’m not certain it fits into the category of “abortion,” but I think that matters less for the current discussion than that these methods violate the Church’s principle of respect for all human life, and that this is a graver violation than barrier type contraception.

        In making our case to the public, I’m not sure it’s prudent to dwell on this point, since it invites the type of semantic circles we’re seeing in this thread. But Thales is not wrong that requiring coverage of these drugs is asking the Church to violate its own principles is a more fundamental way than the requirement to cover contraceptives.

      • Thales

        But Thales is not wrong that requiring coverage of these drugs is asking the Church to violate its own principles is a more fundamental way than the requirement to cover contraceptives.

        Johnmcg hit the nail on the head.

        I don’t care if someone sees no moral distinction between “morning-after” pills and normal contraception — their personal opinion is irrelevant to the conversation. What’s relevant is that the religious objector sees a distinction between the two… and to say to the religious objector “no, there is no distinction between the two because the “morning after” pill is contraception in the same way as a normal contraceptive pill” is simply intellectually dishonest science denialism.

      • Thales

        grega,
        The fact that 80-90% of Catholics don’t follow the Church’s teaching is irrelevant to the debate about whether it’s an infringement of conscience. The very notion of “conscience rights” in the first place is a notion where the majority recognizes the freedom of conscience of a minority. The fact that most members of society (and most people who call themselves Catholic) don’t have the same moral view about contraception is not relevant to a debate about whether society should recognize the conscience rights of the individual who does have a strong moral objection to contraception.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Thales, just to play Devil’s advocate here: I think this point is relevant because, looking in from the outside our opponents can reasonably ask whose conscience is being violated. They can point out that while the bishops are claiming that the conscience rights of Catholics are being violated, the vast majority of those same Catholics are acting in ways which show that they do not think their conscience rights are being violated. Our internal definitions about “who speaks for Catholics” notwithstanding, it does look in this instance (again from the outside) that the Bishops are speaking for themselves and such a tiny minority of Catholics that this argument appears to be a red herring.

      • Kurt

        Thales,

        Morning after pills do not work by preventing implantation.

      • Thales

        Morning after pills do not work by preventing implantation.

        The manufacturers of ella and Plan B disagree with you. Please see the medical information pages on their respective websites. (I just confirmed that myself.) So does Planned Parenthood’s website. (I just checked that too.)

        Step out of the dark ages. Don’t be afraid of science.

      • Thales

        David C.,
        I see what you’re saying, and I see the rhetorical force of the argument, but I’m suggesting that that force is only surface-level; because if you think about the argument a little more, I think that it doesn’t amount to much. I say this because I think that when you’re talking about about conscience rights, the fact that the conscientious objector is in the minority compared to the rest of society is not an argument to disregard his conscience rights — to the contrary, it is part of the whole reason for recognizing and protecting his rights in the first place. The fact that there is only one pacifist in the army who objects to war and not many, many more is not a reason to disregard his objection — instead, the very fact that the pacifist is in a small minority is part of the reason why a civil society sees value in respecting his conscience in the face of the majority’s different opinion. And similarly with a majority of society (whether they call themselves Catholic or not) who don’t find contraception morally objectionable vs. the one individual who does.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Here are my Bishops teaching that the Catholic opposition to contraception is only taught about “conjugal acts” – acts of genuine love in marriage.

    http://www.pn.catholic.org.nz/dox/Bishops/More%20Catholic%20than%20the%20Pope%20-%20Comment%20on%20Card%20Martinis%20comments.pdf

    Also

    “Marital intercourse has an intrinsic orientation towards fatherhood and motherhood that is part of its meaning. That is the part of its meaning that contraceptive practice takes away. In this sense it is wrong. The couple’s sexual intimacy is “body language” for expressing the complete gift of each to the other. If they remove from intercourse its potential to procreate new life, what they then give to each other is something less than what intercourse is naturally intended to express. Their body language has been partly falsified.

    (It is a different matter when it is intercourse between people who do not owe each other the complete gift of themselves because they are not married. It is also a different matter when the purpose of using a protective device is to prevent the transmission of disease, not to prevent conception, which is then a side-effect.)

    What is the Church saying today about marriage and marriage difficulties?
    A letter from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference February 2006

    http://www.catholic.org.nz/nzcbc/fx-view-article.cfm?ctype=BSART&loadref=83&id=22

    God Bless

    • Thales

      Chris,
      Unfortunately, your link is an undeveloped and misleading understanding of contraception. I talk about this more above.

  • Pingback: Obama's Contraception Mandate to Catholics Organizations | The Popish Hipster()

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Thales,

    I am taking this to a new block because I literally could not find the reply button to respond to your last post.

    I understand what you are saying about protection of minorities, such as conscientious objectors. But the typical CO (indeed, I expect every CO) speaks only for himself. The difference here (again as seen from the outside) is that the Bishops claim to not be protecting their own freedom of conscience, but that of all Catholics, corporately. But looking in from the outside, this seems demonstrably false. So why should the Bishops be allowed to force concessions that the people they claim to represent do not appear to want?

    • Thales

      David,
      But the typical CO (indeed, I expect every CO) speaks only for himself. The difference here (again as seen from the outside) is that the Bishops claim to not be protecting their own freedom of conscience, but that of all Catholics, corporately.

      To me, that just seems to strengthen the CO’s claim: the CO is not simply objecting on the basis of some personal convictions that he came up with on your own; instead the CO’s convictions are based on the official teaching of a major world religion. That gives the reason for his objection all the more legitimate.

      I guess we’re coming from different perspectives: if you think that there aren’t any employers out there, Catholic or otherwise, who actually take issue with contraception, and that the bishops are standing up for non-existent objectors and just trying to flex their muscle, then I see the force of your argument. To me, though, it’s obvious that there are employers who do object and who will be affected by the rule: (for one, me, if I was an employer) — but more obviously, the bishops themselves in their dioceses. Don’t they act as employers who will be affected by this rule? So when you ask “why should the Bishops be allowed to force concessions that the people they claim to represent do not appear to want?”, it sounds like a question with a wrong premise. The Bishops are asking for religious freedom for themselves and their dioceses, who do have a freedom of conscience being violated; and then for any one else who shares the same objection.