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38 Comments
  1. Kurt permalink
    May 7, 2012 12:45 pm

    Most Australian Catholics, including most of our bishops, accept that universal health cover includes some remote material cooperation with activities which might not pass muster with the strictest codes of Catholic moral behaviour. We do not lose any sleep over this.

    And American Catholics, including most of our bishops, have reached the same conclusion on many equivalent matters. It is just for some strange reason they have singled out this one provision, while tolerating other provisions that are no different when using the same measure.

  2. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    May 7, 2012 2:02 pm

    No doubt about it, Jesuits are always the smartest! The Catholic Bishops in this country have become a bunch of Chicken Littles.

  3. cris permalink
    May 7, 2012 4:03 pm

    Here in Australia, our taxes and health insurance premiums undoubtedly help to fund abortions, sterilisations, and the provision of contraceptives at more affordable rates. Most Australian Catholics, including most of our bishops, accept that universal health cover includes some remote material cooperation with activities which might not pass muster with the strictest codes of Catholic moral behaviour. We do not lose any sleep over this.

    The same in Italy: but here ALL italian catholics and ALL our bishops accept this.

    • Liam permalink
      May 7, 2012 8:35 pm

      Are Catholic prelates, clergy and religious in Italy covered by its national health insurance system?

  4. Ryan permalink
    May 7, 2012 4:12 pm

    Which “might” not pass muster? Really?

  5. Agellius permalink
    May 7, 2012 4:17 pm

    Isn’t the salient point the fact that Australia’s system is paid for through taxes, whereas Obamacare seeks to mandate that people enter into private contracts in which contraception would be paid for privately?

    • Kurt permalink
      May 8, 2012 9:35 am

      Where is the salience? I don’t see any difference.

      • Agellius permalink
        May 8, 2012 11:22 am

        It’s the difference between the government making the decision to bomb Libya, and doing so through its authorized agent, the military services; and the government forcing private citizens to press the button that drops the bombs.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 8, 2012 11:43 am

          Still don’t see any moral difference, although I supported the President’s successful Libyan policy.

        • Peregrinus permalink
          May 8, 2012 9:02 pm

          I don’t think that’s a salient difference.

          Both national health insurance (on, e.g., the UK model) and private health insurance are mechanisms whereby the costs of providing healthcare to individuals are pooled and spread across the community. In the UK, that “community” is everyone in employment, to the extent that health services are funded by taxes on workers or on employment, and it’s all taxpayers, to the extent that health services are funded by general taxation. In the US, the community is everyone insured with a particular insurer, to the extent that health services are paid for by that insurer, and it’s all taxpayers, to the extent that health services are funded by general taxation.

          In other words, in an insurance-based system, Catholic employers do not pay just for the healthcare of their own employees; they contribute towards the healthcare of every member of the pool of insured persons. This is true regardless of whether the insurer is the state, or a private insurance company. If the insurer provides contraception or abortion or anything else that is morally objectionable to any member of the pool of insured, then all contributors are helping to fund that.

          So the question at issue is not whether Catholic employers are to help to fund contraception or abortion; they have been doing that for many years. The question is whether they will fund these things for their own staff, should their own staff seek to avail of them.

          And this raises another issue. If I remunerate my staff with cash, and they choose to spend that cash on contraception, am I materially co-operating? If I remunerate my staff with entitlements under a health insurance policy, and they choose to use those entitlements to obtain contraception, am I materially co-operating? And, if the answer to those questions is different, why is it different?

  6. Thales permalink
    May 7, 2012 4:19 pm

    I dunno. It seems to me a strange sort of argument to say “well, here in Country X we are living under a morally worse situation than Country Y, but since we’re surviving, you people in Country Y shouldn’t make a fuss about the morally worse situation that is being presented to you as an option.” I’m sure the Country Y folks can live under a morally worse option (after all, the Catholic Church has survived much worse conditions, persecution, the Coliseum, etc.), but why accept the morally worse option without a fight? Why not demand a morally better option now, while the options are still on the table and before they get chiseled into the stone of law?

    It’d be like Canadian Catholics saying “well, we’re surviving in a country where our taxes pay for abortion without any legal restrictions, and we don’t lose any sleep. So when your government takes step to remove abortion restrictions and seeks out full taxpayer funding, just accept that fact.”

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      May 7, 2012 4:33 pm

      Thales, it is difficult to speak for a third party, but I think Fr. Brennan would argue, as others have, that they are not living in a morally worse situation; they are living in a morally problematic situation, which is another way of saying they are alive and engaged with a culture which is not Catholic. I understand you disagree with that, but it sounds like you are imputing something to the author that he is definitely NOT saying.

      • Thales permalink
        May 7, 2012 4:54 pm

        Hhmm, fair enough, David. I see your point. I’m probably being unfair to Fr. Brennan’s article, by characterizing his position as one where Australia is in a morally worse situation compared to the US.

        At the same time, I think part of my comment still remains valid. Fr. Brennan seems to be describing the choice before us in the US as “universal health cover with some remote material cooperation with evil” and “no universal health coverage.” Fr. Brennan’s argument would have force if that was the choice before us now. But that’s not the choice right now. The choice is “health coverage under ACA without the HHS mandate” and “health coverage under ACA with the HHS mandate.” I’m sure that the Catholic Church can survive under the HHS mandate. But why accept the HHS mandate — which is clearly the morally worse option than no HHS mandate — without a fight? Why not demand a morally better option now, while the options are still on the table and before they get chiseled into the stone of law?

        • Kurt permalink
          May 8, 2012 9:41 am

          I’m sure that the Catholic Church can survive under the HHS mandate.

          Yes, we know that for a fact because it surivies in the present time under state laws that are much more direct than the HHS mandate.

          Why not demand a morally better option now,

          That is a question and a fight for those who believe it is impossible for any person to responsibily use contraception. I fully support their right to bring that fight to the public square, while putting myself with the opposing forces.

  7. William Kelly permalink
    May 7, 2012 5:11 pm

    It appears that Fr. Brenan has downed the Kool-Aid. Maybe that’s why he sleeps so well. What’s a few hundred thousand abortions?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      May 7, 2012 5:35 pm

      I am sure he deplores the abortions. His point, however, is about remote material cooperation, which seems impossible to avoid completely in this day in age unless we crawl under rocks and refuse to engage the world, as the Amish do. Just out of curiosity (and this is an honest question, not a gotcha): where do you get your health insurance? If a group plan, does it cover abortion? Do you have a pension or 401(k)? Where is it invested? You may want to argue that these are different, and I am willing to listen. But your comment mischaracterizes the moral import of Fr. Brennan’s argument.

      • Kurt permalink
        May 8, 2012 9:43 am

        David, David, David, you don’t understand. Abortion is only bad when the government does it. The private sector is never to be questioned. What are you, a Communist?

  8. Maria Combe permalink
    May 8, 2012 7:31 pm

    Wow, they don’t lose sleep over a permanent arrangement whereby they cooperate with evil on a daily basis, automatically, and they have no interest in trying to change things. Imagine the discomfort of such an effort.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      May 9, 2012 6:51 am

      Maria,

      see my earlier question: who provides your health insurance? Where is your retirement plan invested? Do you pay taxes? We cooperate in evil every day. This seems to be the price we pay as Catholics for choosing to engage with the world.

      • Thales permalink
        May 9, 2012 7:45 am

        Again, back to my main point: Sure, we cooperate with evil every day. But why go along with and accept yet another instance of cooperation of evil when it is not necessary and can be opposed?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
          May 9, 2012 8:17 am

          I agree: if you go way back to when this debate started, I opposed the HHS mandate. And I think it is worth trying to work for an accommodation that keeps the long term goal of universal health care firmly in sight. What I object to now is the escalation of rhetoric which is painting this as an assault on religious liberty on par with the French Revolution or the Cristero War in Mexico. (And if you think I am exaggerating, Google the remarks by Carl Anderson at the National Catholic prayer breakfast a few weeks ago.)

        • Thales permalink
          May 9, 2012 8:32 am

          Fair enough, David. I see the merit of your point (though I don’t know whether I agree with it — on the one hand, it’s useful to make analogies when arguing; on the other hand, you don’t want to rhetorically overstate your case and lose the listener). Your point touches on another interesting aspect I’ve been thinking about, that is always present in these debates over religious freedom restrictions and abortion restrictions: when is it appropriate to fight hard, and when is it time to give up on that particular battle and save yourself for the next battle because fighting for the losing battle might create a bad impression of your side in the mind of the undecided. I can see merit in both sides, and I can see it’s a prudential call on which people can disagree — though I think I tend to err on the side of the former option and standing strong on principle even when it looks silly or hopeless to do so.

      • Kurt permalink
        May 9, 2012 8:08 am

        Even further, a Catholic employer compensates a worker with wages and a healh care policy that excludes contraception. However, the worker obtains contraceptives either through the insurance company independent of the policy between it and the employer, or obtains contraceptives by the wages the Catholic employer provides. The “cooperation with evil” is the same in both cases (for those who believe all use of contraception is evil).

        • Thales permalink
          May 9, 2012 8:41 am

          Kurt,

          You do see that one material cooperation chain is longer and more remote than the other, right? That makes a difference; the cooperation with evil is not the same in both cases. In the first, the employer X pays for a contraceptive health care policy. In the second, the employer X pays person Y just wages for Y’s work, and then Y goes out and buys a contraceptive health care policy (or contraception or porn or heroin). That makes the cooperator X “less guilty” in the first case.

          Of course, both instances might be morally permissible cooperation with evil, with X not being actually guilty of any evil in both cases. I’m just pointing out the chain of cooperation is still different, and that makes a difference in X’s moral standing.

        • May 9, 2012 10:07 am

          One of the arguments against the contraceptive mandate that I run into frequently is that contraceptives are so cheap and readily available that women can easily afford contraceptives without insurance picking up the cost. If this is the case, I wonder how weighty the moral obligation is for Catholic organizations to make sure they are absolutely pure when it comes to their employees ability to obtain contraceptives.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 9, 2012 12:41 pm

          You do see that one material cooperation chain is longer and more remote than the other, right?

          I opposed the original HHS mandate for that reason. The proposed revision satisfies my concerns in that the Catholic agency employer and the employer’s policy will not provide contraception. That will be done either by the worker with her wages or the insurance company with its funds.

        • Thales permalink
          May 9, 2012 2:46 pm

          I opposed the original HHS mandate for that reason. The proposed revision satisfies my concerns.

          Fair enough. (And a quick reminder: the original HHS mandate is the current law of the land and the proposed revision has not yet been presented or revealed.)

        • Kurt permalink
          May 10, 2012 9:30 am

          No, regulations are not laws. Laws are laws and regualtions are regulations. And no regulation is in force now or before 2014. And it is the Catholic Bishops who have asked that the revised draft not be immediately finalized so that their can be a continuing dialogue.

        • Thales permalink
          May 10, 2012 11:04 am

          Kurt,
          The regulation’s requirement goes into force on August 1, 2013. Of course a regulation is a regulation — but a regulation has the force of law, and in that way is indistinguishable from a law. That was my point by saying it’s “the law of the land.”

        • Kurt permalink
          May 10, 2012 2:29 pm

          Okay, I appreciate your clarification that you were writing in a casual style. So there is no material cooperation with evil going on at present even for those who believe that all use of contraception is evil, and the cooperation would be the same under the lines of the announced revision or the simple payment of wages.

        • Thales permalink
          May 12, 2012 9:05 am

          Kurt,
          Sorry I don’t know how your comment follows. Consider a few comments above about the material cooperation chain.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 12, 2012 2:08 pm

          I don’t see how there is any material cooperation in either chain unless one takes a very paternalistic, almost corporatist, understanding of an employer’s moral control over workers.

          As compensation for work, a boss provides a worker with wages and with a health insurance policy that excludes contraception. At that point I would say the the boss has clean hands. If the employee obtains contraception with her wages or from an interaction with the insurance company outside of the boss’ policy, there is no material cooperation in any way on the boss’ part.

  9. Agellius permalink
    May 9, 2012 11:52 am

    Kurt writes, “Still don’t see any moral difference, although I supported the President’s successful Libyan policy.”

    I do. How about this: It’s the difference between the government executing a convicted criminal, in which case I as a Catholic need have no moral qualms whatsoever; and the government requiring me as a private citizen to press the button which fills the gas chamber with poison gas. Some people would love being able to do that, but others would be faced with a serious moral dilemma: Break the law by refusing to press the button, or violate their conscience by pressing a button which kills someone.

    • Kurt permalink
      May 9, 2012 2:47 pm

      But no Catholic agency is being forced to press a button with thre revised HHS mandate. They are passive; no action on their part is required.

      • Agellius permalink
        May 9, 2012 6:59 pm

        The action required is purchasing an insurance policy which they know will cover contraception. Not to mention that private insurance companies will be forced to pay for contraception.

        But wait a minute: The “revised HHS mandate”? Last I heard it was still just a proposal and the original mandate is still in force. Has there been further action?

        • Kurt permalink
          May 10, 2012 9:25 am

          There is no HHS mandate in force at the present time.

          The insurance policy need not cover contraception. The insurance company, outside of the policy, will directly relate to the consumer without employer involvement.

  10. Anne permalink
    May 11, 2012 3:12 am

    As the article points out, compared to their brothers abroad, the US bishops seem uniquely sensitive to the possibility of engaging in even remote material cooperation in evil with regard to this particular issue. The government, for its part, has been more willing than others to accomodate their consciences. Oddly, the more the government has agreed to accomodate, the more sensitive their consciences have become. I can see why Fr. Brennan worries where this might lead his bishops. But what about here? With our bishops’ ever-expanding consciences as guide, will American Catholics who work for employers who’ve purchased insurance plans that cover contraception have to forego their group plans? Will we have to sell stock in companies with stock in other companies that profit in any way off contraception? Will we eventually be expected to boycott every company, corporation, organization, individual or financial product that relates in any way to the manufacture, sale or distribution of contraceptives? The possibilities seem endless. Hopefully, the motivation to keep going is not.

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