Catholic Social Thought and the HHS Mandate

Catholic Social Thought and the HHS Mandate February 17, 2012

That’s the title of my most recent piece at The Catholic Thing.  Here’s how it begins:

As almost everyone on earth now knows, Professor Obama has offered his “compromise” to the HHS regulations that require that all employers, including most religious employers, that provide health insurance to their employees must include coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients free of charge.

It was a faux compromise. The insurance company, not the employer, must inform the employee that these options exist, while the insurance company is required to provide these services “free of charge.” But, as one group of scholars stated, “it does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers.” And because there’s no free lunch, the insurance company’s cost undoubtedly will be passed on to the employer.

Nothing of substance has changed. The religious employer whose conscience forbids him to materially cooperate with acts he believes are intrinsically evil must purchase employees health insurance that includes services it believes are intrinsically evil.

Nevertheless, several individuals and groups have applauded this “compromise.” Washington Post writer E. J. Dionne, for instance, wrote a thoughtful column in support of the president. The Catholic Health Association initially praised the President, but now seems to be backpedaling a bit, while Catholics United offers unwavering support.

Although each claims to be committed to Catholic Social Thought (CST), when one reads the relevant encyclicals, what emerges is not a theological brief for the HHS mandate and its faux compromise, but rather, something quite hostile to it.

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