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White House Press Secretary on HHS contraception mandate:

The topic came up twice during today's White House press briefing -- first at minute 14:37 and again at minute 25:45 (transcript below):

Q Second topic -- the Catholic Church. It was a pretty extraordinary situation on Sunday in parishes all across the country, individual priests were reading letters from their bishops in that particular parish that were pretty much denouncing the Obama administration about these provisions dealing with contraception, Catholic hospitals and whatnot in connection with the Affordable Care Act. I guess my question would be, how does the administration justify having the federal government institute a law that basically forces people to violate their religious beliefs?MR. CARNEY: Well, that misrepresents actually what the --Q How so?

MR. CARNEY: -- decision about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act --Q How does that misrepresent --MR. CARNEY: Well, let me -- let me -- let me answer. The decision was made, as we have said in the past and Secretary Sebelius has said, after very careful consideration, and the administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.Its important -- to go to your point -- that this approach does not signal any change at all in the administrations policy on conscience protections. The President and this administration have previously expressed strong support for existing conscience protections, including those relating to health care providers. That support continues.I also would just note that our robust partnerships with the Catholic Church and other communities of faith will continue. The administration has provided over $2 billion to Catholic organizations over the past three years in addition to numerous nonfinancial partnerships that promote healthy communities and serve the common good.Q The bishops are saying just the opposite. Theyre saying that basically if somebody is working in a Catholic hospital and they dont cover contraception for their employees, that theyre in violation of federal law. So I dont understand how youre saying that there are still conscience protections. They would violate the law, wouldnt they?MR. CARNEY: Well, this does not direct an individual to do anything, first of all. The new guidelines require most private health plans to cover preventive services, including contraception, for women without charging a copay, coinsurance or deductible.The guidelines were recommended by the nonpartisan, independent Institute of Medicine. The administration also released a proposed regulation that allows nonprofit, religious employers that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.After reviewing comments from the public, the administration announced that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of recommended preventive services, including all FDA-approved forms of contraception.And I would just note that we will work with religious groups during a transitional period to discuss their concerns. But this decision was made after careful consideration by Secretary Sebelius, and we believe that the proposal strikes the appropriate balance between religious beliefs on the one hand and the need to increase access to important preventive services for women.Q Last thing on this. E.J. Dionne, though -- I mean, a lot of Republicans have attacked -- but a Democrat whos Catholic, E.J. Dionne, wrote in The Washington Post yesterday that the President, in his words, utterly botched this policy. And he said he, threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus. So despite everything you just read, you have Democratic Catholics saying that thats not true.MR. CARNEY: The idea that there are people who disagree -- well, Ed, all youre pointing out is that there are people who disagree with the decision. We understand that not everyone agrees with it. All I can tell you is it was made after very careful consideration based on the need to balance those two issues and that the necessity to provide access to preventive services for women was an important consideration.Q What about the constitutional right to freedom of religion? Is that still --MR. CARNEY: I dont believe there are any constitutional rights issues here, but I would refer you to others to discuss that. Thats not -- I understand that theres controversy and we understand that and we will continue to work with religious groups to discuss their concerns. But on the other side of this was the important need to provide access to women to the preventive services that they require.And the thing you just read to me was a political observation. This was a policy based on the merits.Q Jay, if I could follow up on that --MR. CARNEY: No, let me -- let me move around here.Q The bishop of Phoenix said Catholics shouldnt comply with this law. Will there be any consequences for not --MR. CARNEY: Im the wrong guy to ask.[...]Q Let me go back to the health insurance regulation for a second. You made the point that it was Secretary Sebeliuss decision. But isnt it the Presidents decision? And isnt he the one responsible --MR. CARNEY: Well, sure --Q -- ultimately?MR. CARNEY: Its an HHS -- as I understand it, an HHS process, but we -- the President concurs in the decision and in the need to find an appropriate balance between religious beliefs and access to preventive services for women.Q But its been pointed out by a number of people that it would have been easy to find a compromise that didnt require Catholic hospitals to go against the beliefs of their faith in order to serve everybody.MR. CARNEY: Well, Im not sure that -- its easy to say that things are easy when youre saying it from the outside. The balance here that was sought was found, an appropriate balance between religious beliefs and the need for access to preventive services.Q It was quite clear that a lot of people dont feel that theres any balance here, that it is, in fact, an infringement of their ability to practice their faith.MR. CARNEY: Well, again, Bill, I can keep telling you our view. I certainly appreciate that there are folks out there who disagree, but this was done with a full awareness of the concerns that have been expressed on both sides of this issue, and a decision that was made on the policy merits that also weighed the very issues that I described.I think its fair to say that while there are those who take issue with the decision, millions and millions of Americans -- American women will have access to preventive services, as they should, appropriately, though the health care reform bill.

Transcript here.And: Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, has issued the following statement on the mandate, titled "Something Has To Be Fixed":

CHA and its members were profoundly disappointed to learn that the definition of a religious employer was not going to be broadened in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' rules for preventive services for women.

The impact of being told we do not fit the new definition of a religious employer and therefore cannot operate our ministries following our consciences has jolted us. The contributions of Catholic health care, education and social services to this country's development are legion. They have responded to the needs of all, not just Catholics. They have been delivered by many who do not share our faith, but share our commitment.From President Thomas Jefferson to President Barack Obama, we have been promised a respect for appropriate religious freedom. The first amendment to our Constitution affirms it. We are a pluralistic country, and it takes respectful dialogue to sort this out fairly. This decision was a missed opportunity.CHA has expressed concern and disappointment about this on behalf of the ministry. We have said the problem is not resolved, and we must have a national conversation on this. CHA is working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and others to look at options to resolve this. We will be discussing it at the CHA board meeting on Feb. 8.I assure you that we will use the time to pursue a correction during the one-year extension. We will give this issue priority and consult with members and experts as we evaluate options to deal with this. Any suggestions, comments or questions are welcome. I promise to keep the membership informed as we move along in this effort. Please keep this important effort in your prayers as well.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Grant...do you know who "Ed," the questioner is?

Grant, what about a poll so commenters can express their opinions anonymously?Q. Will President Obama's decision on the Affordable Care Act cause you to vote against him? A. Yes.A. No.

I choose A.

Well, I choose A.

I think Carney did a good job.

I think the question about administration's silence about the use of nd killings by drones after the second question is more disturbing than his prepeared answer on healthcare. I haven't heard of any episcopal letters or of any bishops getting at all worked up about that part of American policy. The hierarchy continues its focus on reproduction and calls itself "pro life."

I agree with Eric.Seems to me that Carney is correct:"The balance here that was sought was found, an appropriate balance between religious beliefs and the need for access to preventive services."The state has upheld the Common Good.God Bless

Q. Will President Obamas decision on the Affordable Care Act cause you to vote against him?A. No. And in fact I wrote to him and told him I thought he made a good decision and that I would vote for him, even though I'm Catholic.

The bishops silence on drones is certainly worth remarking upon but it has nothing at all to do with this question. This is the government telling the churches they must pay for abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization, in direct conflict with the conscience of the church. One can disagree with the church on the question of sterilization or contraception and still understand that this is a move too far by the administration. Their idea of "balance" is that the churches can either comply or get out of the business of serving their communities and the needs of the less fortunate. To say "our way or go away" is hardly "the right balance."

I neglected to add, I choose A.

If Obama does not change course, Sr. Keehan should give Obama back his pen and Fr. Jenkins should rescind Obama's honorary degree. Preferably, Fr. Jenkins should rescind the honorary degree during televised coverage of the Notre Dame game closest to the election.

"Eric Bugyis 01/31/2012 - 5:42 pm subscriberI think Carney did a good job."Shocker.

You're right, of course, Clamato, that it has absolutely nothing to do with this exact question, but it has much to do with the preoccupations and guts of the hierarchy. They can clamor about this issue and coverage for women in what I still thnik is a misapplied evaluation of material cooperation and total confusion about the other uses of reproductive medications and the policies that exist in their own hospitals emergency rooms, but have they even taken any time to address our continued national bellicosity?

Thorin, that sounds a little passive aggressive. Why not preach the Good News, convert hearts and minds, work at bringing about the Kingdom and ushering in a community of Love where there is no longer any need for coercive law, but only the Law of Love graciously given and graciously received. You know, actual religious practice. Then again, I suppose politics might work too, afterall we all know what happens to those who love their enemies.

The Obama Administration has chosen the most restictive exemption to the contraception mandate (modeled after the one in place in only 4 of the 28 dtates that mandate such coverage) and chosen to provide women access to "preventive services" by way of a means that is much more restrictive of religious liberty than the alternatives. In doing so, HHS has violated the federal religious freedom restoration act: http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/289534/hhs-contraception-manda... for this rule to get struck down in the courts before the yearlong delay is up thanks to Belmont Abey College: http://www.becketfund.org/belmont-abbey-college-v-sebelius-2011-current/

Between A and A, I choose A.

I think the poll question is confusing .... the question was basically: "Will you vote against Obama because of this?" And the options given are A = yes, and A = no ;)To restate - I *will* vote for Obama.

Crystal: me, too! Enough of this Catholic-centric one-issue politics.

I was not going to vote to re-elect President Obama in any case.I try to always vote for the pro-life, center-right or (if need be) center-left candidate.Mr. Obama is pro-choice and I think he tends too far to the hard-left.The only way I would vote to re-elect this president is if he 1) declared by word and deed that he has changed over to the pro-life viewpoint 2) brought the troops home from Afghanistan quickly 3) closed many of the overseas military bases

Mr. Bugyis,I know you disapprove, but what the bishops are trying to do is to preserve the liberty of the Church. That is an important goal, and one for which such great men as St. Thomas Becket and St. John Fisher gave their lives. I am not suggesting the bishops are of the same caliber as those great saints--would that they become so!--nor that the threat they are opposing is of the same caliber as the threat posed by Henry II and Henry VIII. But the bishops' goal is a worthy one.

It was obvious Carney knows this cannot stand. He was looking down and trying to hide behind the test he had prepared or given to him. He had very little to say on his own about this.At the very least, this administration is in for some really rough sledding regarding this. Worst case for President Obama is that this becomes a key factor in his losing re-election, whereupon the next president will be under great pressure to scrap the entire ACA.The Supreme Court might scrap or gut it anyway, on constitutional grounds. In any case Dionne is correct; the administration botched this one - big time.

Q. Will President Obamas decision on the Affordable Care Act cause you to vote against him?A better question is whether it would cause you to vote for the Republican nominee. Unless something unprecedented happens, it's going to be a two-person race, and while voting for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning may make a statement, practically speaking it does no more to insure Obama's defeat than simply not voting.

Q. Will President Obamas decision on the Affordable Care Act cause you to vote against him?Is it permitted to vote against him for other reasons?I plan on doing a write-in vote for Bernie Sanders.

This is only one ingredient in the pot on which party you vote for. I think there are many more things to consider than this, such as how quick you want to go to the next war, who is going to take better care of the poor, who is going to govern toward social justice. I think I'll just wait until we get closer to the election. I'll then read the Sermon of the Mount and make my decision.

Ken, he already brought the troops home from Iraq. That's leaving the Iraqis in a sorry state, of course, but when the alternative is a prolonged, unpopular occupation, there is no good solution. Exiting, at least, cuts the losses. That's one accomplishment of his that undoes a little bit of the harm caused by eight years of Bush.

A. No. And in fact I wrote to him and told him I thought he made a good decision and that I would vote for him, even though Im Catholic.------------I did the same. http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments/old2

What does the $2 billion refer to?

From Carney's press briefing:"The guidelines were recommended by the nonpartisan, independent Institute of Medicine."I do not question the medical competency of the nonpartisan, independent Institute of Medicine, but what are its qualifications to speak authoritatively on constitutional law, political philosophy and sexual morality?

I think Sr. Carol Keehan has struck exactly the right tone and should probably lead the opposition, with the bishops and others that would be firebrands remaining silently in the background. If this is truly an egregious violation of the First Amendment, it will be declared unconstitutional. A show of grave concern is warranted. Threats of defiance and civil disobedience regarding something not scheduled to take effect for a year come close to demagoguery. So much of the reaction to this that I am seeing is barely disguised partisan politics on the part of Catholic conservative Republicans who are in essence saying, "See? We told you not to support Obama. Now you have to admit we were right!" I for one am extraordinarily glad we have President Obama rather than President McCain and Vice-President Sarah Palin! If Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee, I am certainly not about to do anything that would increase his chances of election. (I don't quite know what to think of Romney. My current position is that he probably really is a "Massachusetts liberal," and consequently he doesn't scare me.)I do agree with Sr. Keehan that "something has to be fixed," but I think there are any number of ways of fixing it, and even if the mandate is not struck down, there are probably ways around it.

I do not question the medical competency of the nonpartisan, independent Institute of Medicine, but what are its qualifications to speak authoritatively on constitutional law, political philosophy and sexual morality?Jim,I posted information about the IOM in another thread, but I will just link to it here. Given the nature of the organization, I can only assume they are well aware of constitutional law and "political philosophy." I am not sure how deeply a body like the IOM should get into sexual morality. Public health policy is generally about health, not morality.

"Enough of this Catholic-centric one-issue politics."Jimmy Mac,Say what you will, but if President Obama wants to lose his slight edge with the Catholic electorate (24% of Americans), this "one-issue" could hurt him. The share of young people born in 1981 or later who identify themselves with Democrats has already dropped, compared with three yrs ago when two thirds of the nation's young people voted for him. Though more than half of the young people surveyed still have a favorable view of President Obama's job performance, the share has fallen substantially. Does he want this senario among Catholic voters? Polls show the Catholic vote shifting back and forth between the two major parties. Usually the Catholic vote is split between them. However, if Catholic conservatives, who take this "one-issue" very seriously, vote overwhelming for Romney (or Gingrich), President Obama could lose. Even by a couple of percentage points. And if moderate Catholics also don't vote for him, the outcome could be even worse. And in all this, it doesn't help that both Romney and Gingrich are now stating that Obama is attacking the Catholic Church. (And not one Catholic University president is saying the contrary.) For Catholic Democrats, this will get worse before it gets better.

Dear everyone: Stop leaving nasty and childish comments.

Polls show the Catholic vote shifting back and forth between the two major parties. Usually the Catholic vote is split between them_______________Is this a bad thing? Should we put party before Church? Or Church before party? Or are they on equal standing?

So the preferred status appears to be as follows: Catholics employed by secular employers will happily use their benefits to get free contraception, all the while whining that Obama didn't pay lip service (fealty?) to the Church by allowing hospitals and universities founded by Catholics to refuse to pay for the same kind of benefits to their mostly non-Catholic employees. I continue to believe, Ann, that your heart is really breaking over the fact that the Catholic Church is receding from the public space, from providing a vital, even necessary, voice on morality in the public sphere as it did for Civil Rights and now still sometimes does for Hispanic Catholics (anybody else read the articles on East Haven CT this week?). I would give a lot to try to get the Church to confront HV but I am sorry to say that this does not appear to be something the bishops need worry about at all, not when so many Catholics fall in line happy to continue the charade no matter what their heart tells them about the doctrine itself. Think I won't be commenting here anymore.

Barbara, I appreciate your voice and your passion on the many issues we discuss, and I hope you'll reconsider not commenting here anymore. Please stay.

Bender asks: Should we put party before Church? Or Church before party? Or are they on equal standing?Parties are temporal and change through times and trends. The church, even with all her problems, has the Eternal Word. But that doesn't matter. Party or church does not matter. In this instance what matters is this: What does the constitution say? Does this ruling in any way intrude upon the right to freedom of religion and the exercise thereof. Take the rest of your thoughts and feelings out of the equation, especially your feelings, and for God's sake rid yourself of emotions which only cloud things. Does telling a church that explicitly forbids in its teachings sterilization, contraception or the use of abortifacients amount to forcing free religious people to betray their consciences, if the only alternative is for them to become exclusive? It enters into the question of freedom of religion vs freedom of worship. They are very different things. Freedom of worship is what we get when we are forced out of the public square and into a religious ghetto where we may worship, as long as we keep it to ourselves.Freedom of religion allows us to remain fully engaged with the country. As tempting as it is to say "let's shut up the conservative ones and ghettoize them, at least" the brush doesn't only paint halfway. If you're content to watch the church removed from protests against the death penalty or criticisms of unjust wars (although I notice after Iraq most seemed to just go silent. Few Catholics have criticized any of our recent forays.) If you are content to see food pantries that only help Catholics, and so forth, then you can be content with the choices this HHS ruling gives us. If you are not content, and if you see fully how deftly this administration has corralled the church into either taking a stand or going away altogether, then you must object, and you must fight. It's really that simple.For clarity's sake, no, I will not be voting for Obama in '12. Many, many Catholics supported him in good faith. He has acted in bad faith, in return. A man who acts in bad faith, particularly in an election year, for God's sake, is a man who-given four years with no re-election to concern him-will do anything. He has demonstrated to us that he cannot be trusted.So, considering all that, now decide if voting with the party is what matters.

Say it ain't so, Barbara. We're on opposite sides of almost every issue discussed here but I find your comments invariably thought-provoking. And a welcome relief from the always popular knee-jerk reactions. Besides, you are so intelligent that it's just a matter of time until you eventually see the light and are able to help those of us fortunate enough to already be in the right to smite the misguided among us. :-)

If you are not content, and if you see fully how deftly this administration has corralled the church into either taking a stand or going away altogether, then you must object, and you must fight. Its really that simple.Clamato,Isn't that a bit over the top? The Church must take a stand or go away altogether? There is, after all, a religious exemption. It's just that the Church doesn't find it adequate. As I have said numerous times, I think there must be further compromise. But there is no war against the Catholic Church going on here.

Per Barbara So the preferred status appears to be as follows: Catholics employed by secular employers will happily use their benefits to get free contraception, all the while whining that Obama didnt pay lip service (fealty?) to the Church by allowing hospitals and universities founded by Catholics to refuse to pay for the same kind of benefits to their mostly non-Catholic employees.--------------------Your viewpoint is far too narrow Barbara. This issue should not have an emotional content; it is closer to subsidiarity than anything else. It is, or at least should be, about local control and money. I currently work under a union contract and regarding medical insurance, we have an agreement where we employees pay for a small portion of the premium and the employer pays for the majority of it.Now frankly do not like the fact that the insurance we have covers contraception. However it was negotiated years ago and at that time the management and union negotiators settled on the policy we have, brought it to the union members, and the majority voted to accept it. I understand the majority rules; this is America, not Rome. And so even though I am Catholic and do not approve of contraceptives, I tolerate what we have because the majority felt this policy would best serve the common good. During contract negotiations (every several years), changes to the benefits package come up in discussion among employees. I have raised the issue but the thinking is always something like Oh well, we have a reasonable policy, lets not rock the boat. This is California after all, where most folks favor contraceptives and see nothing wrong with abortion. In any case, guys do not want to open that portion of the contract because they fear losing ground; they would rather just leave that as-is and focus on pay. And that is where it stays; majority rules and the minorty must go along with it or find other work.I have worked under non-union arrangements and regarding benefits like these, while the process is less formal, the boss does take input from employees of his choosing in order to reach decisions on details like this.My point is not to bore you with the ins and outs of workers contract negotiations but rather, to point out that these sorts of things should be determined Locally not by some group of puffy and pampered ideological DC bureaucrats who have no idea what the real world is like.If we allow this to move to Washington DC, the current crop of bureaucrats (Democrats) will tack on contraceptives and eventually abortion. The when Republicans are elected, the agencies will be under new management and will remove contraceptives and abortion. Transferring this control and responsibility to un-elected federal bureaucrats will set up a back-and-forth swaying and swinging of health insurance that will help no one, and mire us down forever in emotional, often navel-gazing discussions of which benefits should be included this year.A national plan should only cover the basics, not things like free BC pills or IUDs.No Because these sorts of healthcare plan details are so personal and important, they should stay at the local level, under local control.

Barbara, i always like to read your comments.I took a quick look at Sr. Carol Keehan's response and, although I personally do not object to President Obama's decision, her reaction is so measured, diplomatic and thoughtful that I wish she were representing US Catholics in the public arena. I could easily imagine backing her even though her opinion does not exactly correspond to mine. She is as appealing as Abp Dolan is unappealing.

David Nickol wrote: "there is, after all a religious exemption."Yes, as I said there is an exemption to the Catholic ghetto.If you cannot be more intellectually honest than that, there's no point in discussing further.

Yes, as I said there is an exemption to the Catholic ghetto.If you cannot be more intellectually honest than that, theres no point in discussing further.Clamato,My point is that all sides recognize this as an issue where religious liberty is involved. There is no disagreement over that. The disagreement is over how narrow or how broad the exemption should be. I agree that it is not broad enough. I fail to see how that is not intellectually honest. I do not mind being told I am wrong, but I don't like being accused of lacking intellectual honesty.

Megan McArdle of the Atlantic, who is not religious, comes to the same conclusion as Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/should-the-church-ha...

The church is not being required to dispense birth control.

I respect Sr. carol Keehan, Dc, and all that she has done for CHA and in promoting the ACA. Her call for dialogue is reasonable even if my strong inclination at this point is to support the HHS policy with the specific religious carve-outs even though they do generally apply the same way to health, educational, and social service Catholic institutions as we have all been commenting upon.However, for all who say that this is the deal breaker in voting for Obama-- at this very early point in the political season with so much yet to be talked out -- I respectfully challenge you in other blog columns throughout the year to make a positive case for the presumptive Republlican candidate who just boldly declared "I'm not concerned about the very poor... there are safety nets in place for them.' Ahhh, this a vision of Catholic social action that you could support?

My error in the previous post. I meant to write "carve outs even though they do NOT generally support." That is, I b elieve the First Amendment freedoms are protected in this approach, but I will listen carefully to other arguments.

I think Andy's comment was spot on and that the"question" of how one votes should turn on this one issue -and the answers -struck me as how sad things have become and how we've lost our balance. It makes me wonder about the balnce of the editorial staff here and I can see why Barbara is withdrawing.I'v e already said, apart from the merits of right or wrong, the way the matter is being pursued, on balance, is counterproductive.I sense more and more lots of "bubble" thinking about approaching the uS hierachy's habdling of matters and how important that is in the Church today.(a footnote: we should note the pasiing yesterday of Cardinal Bevilaqua in Philly. one report speaks of him as the premier canonist in his day in the US.Perhaps that tribute speaks volumes as well.)

As I pointed out on MoJ, the argument that vouchers don't violate the First Amendment by being government aid to religious schools is that the money goes to parents, and parents decide how to spend it. So it is not government aid to religious schools. On the other hand, the argument for the religious exemption for vouchers seems to be that when the insurance goes to the employee, and the employee uses it to purchase contraceptives, the employer is paying for contraceptives. So somehow, when you use a voucher, you "launder" the money, and it is not government money any more. But when you use insurance to pay for contraceptives, for some reason it is still considered the employer's money paying for them.

The church is not being required to dispense birth control.Grant,Not yet. But the requirement will be implemented in Obama's third term.

Mr. Gallich: The church is not being required to dispense birth control.No, she is only being required to pay for it, or for sterilization or abortifacient drugs. This is co-operation with evil. Mr. Nickol: I apologize for suggesting that you are intellectually dishonest. I should, perhaps have better suggested that you were being less intellectually rigorous in this matter than I have seen you at other times. To blithely say "there is a religious exemption" without delving into its narrowness -- which was purposeful, because this administration is too smart for it to have been anything but purposeful -- is a dangerous thing to do. The "religious exemption" offered by the administration is so inadequate that Christ himself could not qualify for it, and that is something everyone acknowledges. If that is all this administration was willing to concede, then their action can only be considered a deliberate provocation. Considering the church men and women who put themselves out for this administration, that's a profound betrayal, and I am afraid it demonstrates a true animus toward the very Catholics who helped seat this president. I am frankly shocked at the number of people still willing to defend the president in the face of this backstabbing, or who are content to mouth party lines or indulge their emotional attachments to old causes when this very new cause, for our very liberty, has arisen.

Mr. Gallicho:Did you read beyond the headline to McArdle's piece? She discusses, from a non-religious viewpoint, why she doesn't think it makes sense to require Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception, and what this mandate says about the Obama Administration's attitude toward the Church. And the conclusion she reaches is the same as Bishop Zubik's.

Mr. Pasinksi: Im not concerned about the very poor there are safety nets in place for them. Ahhh, this a vision of Catholic social action that you could support?Romney is reprehensible and I will have a difficult time voting for any of the current candidates for president. I may have to simply leave that category unmarked. But your question, while valid, teases emotions. Of course we all want to serve the poor. We all want to care for the least of these. This administration is telling us, however, that we may no longer do that unless we do it on his terms, not our own. He is saying we may only serve the poor if we surrender our consciences and co-operate with what is abhorrent to us.Since that is the case, your question really should: which of the candidates will, finally, protect our constitutional right to be the church we are and have always been, in order to continue serving the poor of all stripes, without having to first ask them for a baptismal certificate?Because as I said in my previous comment, old causes have now been replaced by this new and very fundamental cause: as laudable as your concern for the poor is, if we are not free to serve the poor because we will not pay for what is evil, then Catholic Social Action must begin with preserving our rights to ENGAGE in...Catholic Social Action. If we do not first take care of ourselves, we will be in no shape to care for others.

No, she is only being required to pay for it, or for sterilization or abortifacient drugs. This is co-operation with evil.Clamato,You are going to have to define "the Church" here. I think it would be rather difficult to say that "the Church" pays for insurance, let alone procedures and items covered by insurance.I think there is pretty much a consensus that requiring organizations to provide insurance that covers contraception under these circumstances is not requiring them to do something immoral. It may be considered remote material cooperation with evil, which is justifiable. Many Catholic organizations already provide insurance coverage that includes contraception, whether because of state mandates or free choice. To battle for a wider exemption is something I support, but to argue that providing this kind of insurance is immoral is to brand as immoral all the many organizations who offer insurance that covers contraception.

David Nickol you contradict yourself. You say the exemption is too narrow, and that you would support broadening it. But why would you do so, why would it need broadening, if what the church-related institutions are being told to do were not immoral?I do not have to define "the church." She is recognized by her schools and hospitals and charities. The public recognizes her in these entities. For the church, therefore, to pay for insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization, etc would be received by the public as her surrender to secularization or her admission that everything she has said and stood for has meant nothing.Again, the playing field has changed. There is nothing remotely nuanced in the action of the administration. We will have to surrender our habit of living in the gray, and respond to this black-and-white provocation with our own black-and-white, or we will end up surrendering a great deal more.

"I respect Sr. carol Keehan, Dc, and all that she has done for CHA and in promoting the ACA."I do, too. Have we all come to grips, though, with the extent to which she's been thrown under the bus and had it rolled back and forth over her now?

Mr. Clamato (Ms.?): 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.

But why would you do so, why would it need broadening, if what the church-related institutions are being told to do were not immoral?Clamato,Objections of conscience do not have to be limited to refusal to do something immoral. Grant explains it well.

"To battle for a wider exemption is something I support, but to argue that providing this kind of insurance is immoral is to brand as immoral all the many organizations who offer insurance that covers contraception."David N, I agree with your analysis. Contraception is wrong (the church teaches) for reasons of natural law: because of the way that God has ordained that procreation should work. If the church is right about contraception, then its reasoning applies not only to Catholic marriages, but to all marriages. (And by implication it can only condemn any extramarital coitus as well). And if the bishops are correct (and if Commonweal's editorial board is not correct) that to subsidize contraception for one's employees is more than remote cooperation, then it this also would be true, not only for the church but for any employer who subsidizes contraception.If this really is the case, then, if I can say this without offending particular folks around here, the scope of moral blindness in our general culture toward contraception is staggering.FWIW - I've stated here before that, if we accept the framework I've linked immediately below this paragraph for analyzing cooperation with evil, then what the Obama Administration is requiring the church to do would be classified as mediate material cooperation. http://www.ascensionhealth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article..."Mediate Material Cooperation. Mediate material cooperation occurs when the cooperator participates in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of an action, such that the action could occur even without this cooperation. Mediate material cooperation in an immoral act might be justifiable under three basic conditions:* If there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation (i.e., for the sake of protecting an important good or for avoiding a worse harm); the graver the evil the more serious a reason required for the cooperation;* The importance of the reason for cooperation must be proportionate to the causal proximity of the cooperators action to the action of the principal agent (the distinction between proximate and remote);* The danger of scandal (i.e., leading others into doing evil, leading others into error, or spreading confusion) must be avoided."Whether or not mediate material cooperation is acceptable in a particular circumstance requires a fairly hefty dose of prudential judgment, which is always unsatisfying for these discussions :-). As I suppose is clear to anyone who has been reading my comments in all of these threads, my application of the three conditions given here to the matter at hand lead me to conclude that the church's objections are justifiable and it shouldn't just swallow its objections and go quietly into the night. I don't think folks who conclude otherwise (notably, in this case, Commonweal's editorial board) are being dishonest. Reasonable people really can disagree on this.

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.

Those who say they will not vote for Obama because of this issue are hard for me to understand. If you say you never liked him and this only deepens that, I get it. The President has been upfront and very respectful of those in the Catholic faith. His reasons for his views have been completely vetted. His Republican opponents "say" they are pro- life but have been on both sides of that (exception: Santorum) issue. There are no funds for abortion so stop saying that. The issue is contraception which no one has to take if that is against their conscience. Is this really what we want to focus on when there is so many major issues to deal with?

james chichetto: do you actually think that any Catholic of any age who either works for, has a family member who works for, or knows someone who works for a Catholic institution and relies on that employment for health coverage will say -- way to go, Bishops! We are more than happy to get our contraceptive services elsewhere because these bishops say that they don't want to pay for them? Don't forget that a large number of Catholic employees of these instituions (not counting those who are not Catholic) are happily and regularly availing themselves of contraceptive services.Do you think that these self-same employees will rise up in righteous indignation and vote AGAINST Obama because of this issue?I'm still accepting sealed bids for that bridge across the Golden Gate that I have for sale.

Please Sandra, President Obama pushes the abortion agenda at every turn. How is that is as you say "very respectful" of those in the Catholic faith?And especially considering the abortion demographic statistics, that our first black President would be so keen on encouraging that outrage, is simply unbelievable.President Obama is a bright man and I think he is basically a good man; he knows better. Still, sadly, from old Pontius Pilate (I sympathize with him sometimes too) down to today, all politicans are the same in one respect; their profession being a close cousin to the oldest profession, they go where the money & power lead, and he who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune.

I have never heard the President push abortion. Who is for abortion, really? This is not about abortion. It is about contraception. You are so correct about money in politics. It is diminishing our democracy. Our politicians are bought and paid for by the highest bidders...all of them as that is the only way to pay for these horrible elections. The money being spent in the primaries is really sinful and much more to comr in the general. You can say follow the money and I would put the Catholic Church in that also. FYI, I am a life long Catholic, still practice but really hate what is going on in the hierarchy.

I am going to take another direction on this. The Official Church has consistently maintained that its position on so many issues (and this is one of them)is:a) objective;b) non-biased;c) based on natural law. But it is lying through its teethBut when, oh when, has it called in panels of women and discussed with them exactly what their health needs are? Or when have the bishops called in doctors to discuss all the medical issues besides contraception, that would warrent prescribing contraceptions. The Church presumes to dictate to women what their health needs are---but it never consults them. The bishops, without medical backgrounds, presumes to determine what it will permit or not permit its employees to receive in their insurance.The insurance package is intended for the employees. And in the Church, the employees are mostly women. 93% of the workforce are female. It is the employees, who WORK for and PAY into that insurance package---not the bishops. The bishops have their own insurance plans. The bishops are not paying from their personal checks or from their pension plans into the employees' health insurance packages. It is the bishops' insistant pre-occupation with 'pelvic theology' that is disgusting. And it is the bishops' blatant arrogance and ignorance of REAL LIFE issues that's appaling.BTW----has anyone here researched the Insurance package that the State of Hawaii requires? It is being used for the Catholic agencies as well---and the bishops of Hawaii are being discreetly quiet about what it covers.

One part of this debate that I have difficulty understanding, and I do not think anyone has addressed it, is when and how the bishops are contributing to the health care costs of employees at Catholic institutions. As I understand it, parishes and institutions serving a primarily Catholic populations are exempt. I work at a Catholic university that is separately incorporated and not owned by the RCC. The Archbishop of Washington makes no contribution to my health insurance. I suspect this is the case across the country with colleges, universities and hospitals. And so, can someone explain which institutions the bishops are actually paying health care costs for that will endanger their consciences?

David N. --I agree with you that vouchers present a First Amendment problem -- all taxpayers are being required to suppor religion classes, which is a violation of their rights. The solution, I think, is to reduce the vouchers to parents in the amount that the monies go to pay for religious instruction. For instance, if a student is required to take 6 courses and one is a religion course, then the voucher would have to be reducted one/sixth.Yes, that's a bit of paper trouble, but more than worth it. We have to respect other people's First Amendment rights even when they are trying to get us out of the religion business.

I would like to hear from the ethicians and moral theologians here about what "remote cooperation with evil means" and, more difficult, are there any moral principles which could help us to figure out where to draw the line between remote and nea cooperationr? That seems to be the crux of the biggest argument here.

Barbara --Please don't leave. You contribute too much of value. Most people do change their minds at least somewhat over time when the appeals made to them are reasonable.

Ann,For the principles of remote cooperation see herehttp://www.ascensionhealth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article... an application to this case:

The first distinction to make is whether the cooperation is formal or material. One is guilty of formal cooperation when one shares the intention of the principal agent, whether for its own sake or for ends of ones own. Imagine Ann Boleyns father facilitating Henry VIIIs adultery with his daughter, in hopes that it will secure the familys interests; thats formal cooperation. Now imagine a lowly servant holding a ladder, objecting to everything about it, but afraid for his life and the livelihood of his family if he doesnt do his job; no formal cooperation there.So, now we are in the realm of material cooperation. The most pressing question here is whether the cooperation is immediate or not. The key question here is whether the cooperation that the secondary agent gives is essential to the act occurring; that is, immediate material cooperation is help without which the act could not occur. Like formal cooperation, immediate material cooperation has been held to be morally illicit. But the line between mediate and immediate can be a much thornier line to draw. Think back to the servant holding the ladder for the adulterous master. Imagine a window so high and a ladder so shaky that the servants help is essential to the act. That servant, should he comply, is guilty of immediate material cooperation (the fact that he does so under duress may mitigate his culpability, but not the objective evil of his cooperation).Now we come to mediate material cooperation with evil. This is cooperation with an evil act, but which does not share the intention of the agent (i.e., is not formal) and which is not essential to the execution of the act (i.e., is not immediate). Traditionally, mediate cooperation with evil can be morally licit under three key conditions, all of which must be met in order to proceed in good conscience. These are: (1) if there is a proportionate good to be attained (and that cannot be attained in any other way than through his cooperation); (2) the good to be attained must be proportionate to the proximity of the secondary agent to the act (that is, the good must be a greater good the closer he is to the principal act, and it can be less good the more remote his involvement is); and finally, (3) scandal (defined as leading others into evil, error, or confusion) must be avoided. To return to the servant with the ladder: imagine that the master has put a foot to the rickety ladder and has said Im going to get up there with or without your help; now his help is mediate, not immediate. Its possible that he might see saving his masters life/health as a good sufficient to justify his help, particularly if he can do so without scandal. But notice, the presumption continues to be against cooperation. The burden of proof, as it were, is on the cooperator to show that his or her cooperation meets all 3 characteristics which can make such cooperation licit.3. So, how does this apply to Catholic institutions potential for compliance with the new contraceptive-abortifacient mandate? I think that if you isolate an individualsay a Human Resources director at a Catholic college or Catholic charities organization, responsible for making some sort of decision about what health plan to go with, it would be pretty easy to think through the ways in which her committing to a plan that offered these mandated benefits was relatively remote mediate cooperation with evil, and secured the great good of health care for all the employees. Since she only pays a premium and does not pay directly for services rendered, there is a certain distance there. There are, in fact, no guarantees that any of her colleagues will avail themselves of these services, so perhaps there is no evil to cooperate with at all! At least, the evil is remote and unknown enough that it would be silly to hold this agent accountable for it. Is it scandalous for a mid-level bureaucrat to make the best decision she can in a difficult situation? Hardly.

http://catholicmoraltheology.com/hhs-roundtable-cooperation-with-evil/God Bless

First, I agree that Barbara's voice is most welcome to me.Second, re Jim Pouwels's 12:21 comment today: (a) May I ask how firm is the consensus of moral theologians concerning the account of mediate material cooperation that you provided the link to? And does mediate material cooperation differ from remote material cooperation?In my view, given the complexity of adult life today, I am prepared to argue that it is a practical impossibility for a normal adult not to be the beneficiary of some institutional evils. Though we have a general obligation to resist these institutional evils from which we benefit, things are so complex that the best we can do is to make a prudential judgment about which of them to tackle while leaving for another day or someone else some of these other institutionalized evils.(b) You say that the need for "hefty doses" of prudential judgments "is always unsatisfying for these discussions." I believe that you are wrong about this. In the domain of action, the domain in which we are always prone to impinge upon others somehow and the domain of unanticipated consequences, prudential judgments are always relevant. Though there are absolute principles, their application to some particular case is never a simple straightforward deduction. I make this point because we live in a climate that seems constantly to demand simple unequivacal answers to problems that, by their very nature, don't admit of such answers. This thought is not original with me. Think Aristotle, Aquinas etc., etc.

Poor and working poor have access to contraceptives here in NY through Medicaid and Healthy NY. Lower income people with private insurance can also get contraceptives (if their plan doesn't provide it) through the Family Planning Benefit Program. So the people we need to think about- in NY- are moderate income and above. A year's supply of LoEstrin is going for about $1,000 on Drugstore.com (much, much less on the Canadian websites). The generic version (which is what my own insurance would cover) goes for about $300 a year. $300 is most certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it pales in comparison to medical expenses that people I know - people with insurance- are burdened with. I think this is a little bit of a straw man being kicked around by advocates on both sides of the issue; and it's frustrating to see when there are so many more substantial problems and issues about health care that need to be addressed.

JIm P. --Thanks for that excellent little site! I was familiar with some of it before but this is really clear and useful. ( I wonder who prepared it . I also wonder if there is argument about it amongst the Catholic ethicians and moral theologians. Sigh.) One other question: are there any principles to help us decide what "proportionate" means in an ethical equation? Does it involves an A: B :: C: D set of relationships? I don't see how to calculate non-mathematical proportions, though there certainly are such things. We know intuitively, for instance, that strangling a sassy adolescent is not a proportionate response, but how to determine less obvious proportionalities? As to the contemporary official Church's teaching on contraception, it seems to be mainly JP II's arguments about the morality of marriage, which hinge on his quite romantic view of what women are and feel. He doesn't, so far as I know, present any empirical data to back it up. And the usual scholastic argument which he seems to accept is, as I see it, very, very bad scholasticism, even if you can find it in Aquinas. On the one hand, one of its metaphysical assumption about means is that a means *as such* gets its value from the end of the action. In other words, no good end, and the means has lost its value *as a means to that end*. This implies that when an end is not good (e.g., when it would not be good to try to have a child) that the means to having the child has *lost* the moral value it used to have. So it is is not entitled to any particular special care as that means. If, for instance, another child would kill a mother, her sexual equipment is morally useless *as a means to that end". So her equipment can be altered and/or put to other uses. Nevertheless, the usual RCC argument is that even when it is not good to have a child that the means (the physical sexual equipment) must not be interfered with or used exclusively for some other purpose. But that doesn't follow, at all at all. When the value of the end is gone, the value of the means goes with it. So modifying what is only sometimes a good means should not be precluded when the end it not a good one.Also, that argument assumes that a means can have only *one* primary end. But this is manifestly false -- just look at the various things we can do with our hands and our feet. You could even argue that our eyes have many ends -- they are made for the sake of looking at different things, and, a fortiori, the same thing is true of our other senses and powers of knowing. So, I think this particular principle -- a means has only one end -- is just plain silly.The whole sexually morality thing really does need fundamental review!

As of this afternoon, 135 bishops were listed as having spoken out. http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=25591 Some copied the standard form they were handed. The more excited ones have added ad homs, ad fems, exaggerations, and misrepresentations directed to be read from the altar at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday. Some rage as if they are in a juvenile playground fight. Apocalyptic rhetoric from bishops and cardinals has become the expected when issues that someone might associate in any way with sex and/or gender arise, although experience shows that it doesn't persuade. The US bishops have two battles to fight -- one because of the insurance coverage mandate and the other because of the terminal character of their present reactions. It is unfortunate that the wisdom and shrewdness of Sr. Carol Keehan's short response is not appreciated by the men of the USCCB as new contention erupts among US Catholic factions. She very briefly recognizes the environment and the problem and announces her immediate action and follow-on intentions. She is convinced that "Something has to be fixed" yet finds no immediate need to threaten the end of all Catholic-related organizational contributions to the community. She deserves attention and a role to play because of her skill and knowledge, whether one agrees with her or not (I do not), if progress toward a satisfactory resolution is to be made. Who does the USCCB have to call on that might be more effective to lead the way?

Ann,Thanks for an interesting post which raised the question of the ends of marriage.Up to Vatican II, this was seen purely as conceiving and raising children.Vatican II insisted it was also the mutual comfort and support of the spouses, the unity engendered by the marriage act.It seems to me that the whole question of contraception needs to be fitted into the deeper insight into marriage which Vatican II gave us.John Noonan is his book Contraception raised the interesting possibility of the licitness of using NFP during the fertile days (ie abstaining during them) and contraception during the infertile days, as a medical way of achieving the degree of certainty required to use NFP effectively.NFP does require love and communication in marriage which is sadly something not every marriage enjoys. There may well be an argument for contraception in loveless marriages in which the marriage act is not, as Humanae Vitae mentions, a genuine act of love.God Bless

The doctrine of cooperation with evil is well-established in RC Morals, and is not (itself) controversial among moralists. Cooperation is invoked in situations in which participating in another's evil act is thought to be a better course than staying out of it. The level of proportional benefit needed to justify cooperation increases as proximity (causal, spatial, temporal,) increases. In other words, the farther you are from being involved in an evil act, the lower the bar is that permits participation. Whether that criterion of proportionality is met here is part of what this conversation is seeking to discern.

What Alan said: One part of this debate that I have difficulty understanding, and I do not think anyone has addressed it, is when and how the bishops are contributing to the health care costs of employees at Catholic institutions.

On tonight's Hardball, regarding the HHS decision: "It's almost like Becket, in history." --Chris Matthews (!)

David Nickol says that it would be difficult to say that the Church pays for the insurance... I agree!On another thread I submitted the following:It has occurred to me that the Bishops holding that they would be spending funds of the religious institutions, is arguable. Aside from government funding, there is another aspect, ISTM .First of all, the hospitals would not be offering these services to the public , as does the storied soup kitchen. They are dealing with employees. Benefits, including payment of health insurance premiums to a group plan, are part of a wage package. So the employee has accepted these in lieu of cash. The government has a limited right to regulate wages and terms of employment in terms of what it judges to be fairness, equality and employee welfare. In essence, the end provider of the payments is the employee him/herself. It is that individual who should make the moral choices.

What I find truly frightening is that there isn't a real political upside, short-term, to this decision. It's like the Bush Administration's military interventions in that way. Even though it cost much more political capital than it was worth, short-term, the Democratic government pushed through the health care legislation in the first place. The lack of an evident motivation is, I think, the mark of a true believer. What is gained, what is lost--these are not important questions to someone intent on social engineering on an historic scale.Now there is this blatantly bleep-you attitude towards the Catholics, who are going to not vote, in droves, to re-elect the President. But who cares, if this means Catholics are divided, if they're hampered from providing services?

Sandi --I agree that Obama is being demonized in all this. He has made no bones abut being pro-chcoice, but he has compromised by supporting the Hyde Amendment, and he did it by executive order no less. You really can't ask anyone for more. I for one would rather vote for Dubya than New Gingrich, so I think I'll be voting for Obama.

" -- if we are not free to serve the poor because we will not pay for what is evil, -- "Pray tell HOW you are not free to serve the poor because you cannot take a tax deduction by deciding not to follow requirement applicable to all purchasers of health insurance?Is you committment to serving the poor that shallow? Do you think Mother Teresa would have stopped her work with the poor because of the possible loss of some tax writeoff?" -- the Catholics, who are going to not vote, in droves, to re-elect the President. " Catholics will most likely vote in the same proportion for the President as they did in 2008. Do you honestly think that this little teapot tempest will even be remembered when people go to the polls in November? One would hope that most Catholics are mature enough, bishops notwithstanding, to take a look at all the issues confronting this nation and vote accordingly. Single-issue politics are the bane of older people (I'm 71, so I can justifiably kvetch) and those coming up through the age cohorts are far beyond that simplistic look at like

Wait, Kathy, I thought you were celebrating how this decision had united Catholics.Obama may have decided that given the rate of dissent when it comes to this teaching, and given the fact that he ran on reducing unintended pregnancies, it was worth the political risk to provide contraceptive services to all insured women. He may have seen the vocal criticism he's received from the left (in part because he refused to allow federal dollars to pay for elective abortions, and his HHS had to intervene to shut down such a practice in two states; and also because he went against professional medical advice and would not allow Plan B to be sold over the counter to minors), and decided he needed to shore up his base. Either way, I'm not convinced there is a clear political upside or downside to this. I could be wrong, but I don't know that this is something a lot of people would vote on who weren't already decided against Obama.Rather than see this as a bleep-you to Catholics, and while I disagree with the decision, I think it's more likely that the president received legal advice based on the fact that the Supreme Court declined to hear two cases protesting state laws with similar mandates (in '04 and '07, I believe), and on two key Supreme Court decisions, one from the Burger Court that held an Amish group had to pay taxes despite their claim of a religious exemption, and Scalia's Smith decision, which held that in cases of generally applicable laws, only very narrow religious exemptions could be granted.

Count me in the Barbara fan club. If you need a treasurer, let me know!

Thorin:If'n I wuz Catlick, I'da not want Megan Mcardle on my side, if'n I had a side.

Grant,I was celebrating the united immediate response to the bleep-you. This seems to have waned in some quarters, sadly.Thanks for the precedents, they are interesting. So is the previous month's bleep-you re: Trafficking Victim Services Grant Awards. So is his call out of the Supreme Court at a State of the Union. So is that court's Hosanna-Tabor decision, just 9 days before the HHS decision.In any case, he's going to lose the election over this. It's nuts. Or it's social engineering.

The "droves" will vote the way the drovers goad them to vote, just as they did in 2008. This decision by a politically astute president will not turn Democrats into Republicans.

Thanks for the legal background. Another way to look at the decision is that the administration opted to make medical coverage decisions based on medical criteria. (In fact, incurred exactly this storm of opposition for doing so.) Like it or not, contraception is considered (by the medical establishment and by the vast majority of Americans) a basic aspect of women's health care. People are free to practice contraception or not, and free to choose what form they'll use if they do, in light of particular risks and benefits, but it's at least a conversation in good comprehensive medical care. This in contrast to the Plan B decision, decried by many as making decisions of health care policy on political/religious rather than medical grounds.I'm not saying this decision was made without considering the political ramifications, but only that it fits with medical best practices. If religious organizations provide less-than-adequate basic health care coverage for their employees, (by medical standards,) then that deficiency can be addressed in numerous ways. Simply saying "we're religious, so we get a free pass" does no honor either to respecting the common good or to religious organizations' commitment to put their money where their morals are.

Barbara has a invaluable inclination to contribute true facts when the fiction-&-fantasy level gets a little high. I'd hate to see that go.

Jimmy Mac said "Pray tell HOW you are not free to serve the poor because you cannot take a tax deduction by deciding not to follow requirement applicable to all purchasers of health insurance?"There is no tax deduction for the employer. If the employer pays $10,000 per employee for family health insurance, the $10,000 is a business expense, exactly as if the employer had increased the employee's salary by $10,000*. The tax advantage is to the employee because she/he doesn't have to pay taxes on the $10,000 if it comes in the form of health insurance but would have to pay taxes on the $10,000 if she/he received it in cash.The advantage is also to the employee because any policy he/she can buy as an individual will cost much more than the group policy the employer could buy.So, if the employer stops providing health insurance and increases the employees salary, the employee loses because she/he has to pay taxes and put in more money to buy equivalent coverage - and the employer loses because, if it has more than 50 employees, it has to pay a $2,000 per employee penalty to the government. I don't think any significant number of employers is going to stop providing insurance. There are dioceses and universities that are already providing insurance covering the whole range of contraceptives. They have already made the decision that it is remote cooperation and tolerable.*neither the employer nor the employee pays Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment taxes on the $10,000.

Kathy = Chris Matthews ran another story tonite with two guests on this HHS decision. Unfortunately, his less than five minute story ignored or avoided most of the salient points about this decision. In fact, his two speakers mis-described this decision; never mentioned religious liberty question; and focused entirely on political timing.Interesting that some of you condemn this decision as poor politics. One would think that we would respect an administration that made a decision about the common good that was free from polarizing politics; how to buy a vote; etc. Actually, it may have taken some courage to make this decision in an election year and it would be nice if more decision were made in such a manner.Your shot that "this will lose the election" is purely opinion based upon nothing but your usual emotionalism. Catholics no longer vote as one party or along one issue lines. Would predict that this will go the way of FOCA and that the next 18 months will contain negotiations with the likes of Sister Carol Keehan, DC rather than some of the bishops who automatically jump into their ideological screaming fits but haven't given this question much thought. It is interesting that in an election year dominated by class differences; extreme income divergence; lack of jobs; and obvious congressional behaviors that support Church social teachings and economic teachings - that USCCB focuses on this and not what is right in front of their noses. A minority of bishops have addressed the economy, immigration, and Wall Street behaviors that got us into this mess in the first place.

Bill,You've missed my point. I'm not talking about whether Catholics are one-issue voters. I'm asking why the Obama Administration is a one-issue administration. So much so that historically bombing the midterms was not enough of a cost. Now it's ok to risk the presidency. All for health-care legislation.

Barbara,I, too, hope that you will continue to comment on the blog. I always read what you write, and I've learned a lot from you. Your departure would be a terrible loss.

Wherever this thing ends up, it's probably just the first in a very public marginalization of organized religion by American governments. The government wants to be the only authority on what's acceptable - and legal - behavior and what's unacceptable. The conflicts will, I'm afraid, increase in number and intensity.This one's easy to fix. Obama can back down just a little, and all will be well for the nonce. If he does, though, he may incite a lot of his most valuable partisans to sit out the next election. He may bet, instead, that Catholic voters don't care enough. Maybe they don't. Who knows?

Oh, Kathy, let me Google that for you. So sorry to keep you waiting.The USDA increased its grant to Catholic Charities (for food) from $12.5 million in '08 to $58 million in '11.In '08 Catholic Charities received $440 million in federal grants. In '10 they got $554 million.Department of Labor grants to Catholic Charities of Kansas totaled $300K in '09. By '11 the grants increased to $5 million.HHS increased its grants to the Catholic Medical Mission Board from $500K in '08 to $7 million in '11.And there are more. Add it up over the course of the Obama administration, you come pretty close to $2 billion.The grant to the bishops' trafficking program would have amounted to a few million.

DaveThis is not a first, and the fact is, by treating it as a first, you show to me you really don't care about the issue in the universal sense, but in the political sense as to how one can get at Obama. That, to me, is a part of the problem with the rhetoric being heard around this. The loss of religious liberty has gone on for quite some time, and is not just under Obama. If people want to take on the religious liberty issue, if the bishops do, good; but let's do it right. Let's not just focus on one decision in one administration. That's not going to convince people that this is about religious liberty, but rather, it is going to look like partisan politics. The bishops would look more credible if they make a list of religious liberty concerns from, say, the last 50 years, to show the developing problem and to look for underlying causes of it, showing how both political parties have helped cause the problem. What I see around the blogs more is how bad contraception is, that it is an intrinsic evil, etc, then a discussion of religious liberty and the great loss we have had over the last few decades. Ok, using contraceptives is evil; so is lying. Now let's talk about religious liberty.

Henry, yes, I'm sure it's not a first. I shouldn't have said that. Mea culpa. Yes, good to talk about the loss of religious freedom in a much wider sense - and the marginalization of organized religion in a society that's to some appearances deeply religious.We didn't get where we are overnight. Obama didn't create the stridently secular and materialist society in which we've long been living - he's really just a product of it. Somewhere along the way, the business of determining what is morally correct and acceptable was turned over to the government. And the government, being run by professional politicians, follows the lead of the zeitgeist, amplifies and channels it, and feeds back into it.

DavidSee, that I can and do agree with; what we see in the Obama administration is problematic (though to me, not the worst thing I've seen in decisions from him OR other administrations), and worthy to be mentioned in the conversation as the last of a line of problems, however, I it is our social condition as a whole, the "atheistic culture" of the modern world which I think needs to be addressed. Scalia's decision in Smith as mentioned above I think is highly indicative of where we are at; interestingly enough the ACLU opposed that decision because they saw in it the loss of religious liberty. Was Scalia wrong in accordance to the US system? Maybe, maybe not; but certainly the decision is wrong when dealing with fundamental rights dealing with religious liberty. And I do think we must remember we come from that into today, with many other issues the bishops have tried to confront on the right of conscience (for example, decades trying to give soldiers in the military more right to conscience objections during wars they don't agree with), but the rhetoric makes it seem it is all about Obama. That to me is dangerous for what I said above: it hides the real problem and allows it to fester.

I'd still like to know when and how the Obama Administration donated $2 billion to the Catholic Church. It sure would come in handy, I would think. On the other hand, http://youtu.be/bsMeDsUDRBY

The White House has published a response to what it describes as "some confusion about how this policy affects religious institutions."http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/02/01/health-reform-preventive-servi... point that "drugs that cause abortions are not included" ignores the difference between the FDA and the Church views on whether preventing implantation is abortion.Their final point that paying for contraception will reduce employer's costs rather than increasing them is unlikely to be well-received by the bishops since the savings are the result of reducing births.

Their point that drugs that cause abortions are not included ignores the difference between the FDA and the Church views on whether preventing implantation is abortion. John Hayes,It really is not known for certain whether the "abortifacient" drugs some pro-lifers are worried about prevent implantation. Their final point that paying for contraception will reduce employers costs rather than increasing them is unlikely to be well-received by the bishops since the savings are the result of reducing births. The Catholic Church has no objection to reducing births. Everyone should be able to agree that reducing unwanted pregnancies (about half of all all pregnancies in the United States) is a good thing. The disagreement is over methods.

So let me try to explain a little about why this discussion has been, on the whole, incredibly dispiriting. It is somewhat overlapping to Henry Karlson's reasoning (though on the whole I don't share his particular concerns). 1. We have the luxury of arguing the bishop's "right" to impose HV on the population through insurance coverage as an abstract matter of religious liberty because we know that most (not all) citizens could find a way around the kind of coverage restrictions that bishops could impose. That isn't true in places like the Philippines, and really, even some places in the U.S. -- meaning that OUR FAILURE to affirmatively contest what many of us sincerely believe to be an utterly misguided, unnecessary and yes, cruel policy has consequences for other people. Fighting for the "right" of bishops to impose it wherever and however they can puts you squarely and firmly on the side of human rights abuses in places where that power is not checked by Protestants or atheists or just lukewarm Catholics like me. You are the beneficiary of other people's moderation and your failure to own it or even just to recongize it is, well, like I said, dispiriting if not dishonest. The fact that most Catholics use the very services they would deny to others adds hypocrisy to the general lack of self-awareness on display in such an argument.2. Hospitals and universities would close their doors tomorrow without the participation of society at large in their funding. This is as true of most Catholic institutions (importantly not all) as it is of other instititutions. I do not, like others, subscribe to the view that if you take even one dollar of government funds you have to lose your political or religious identity wherever it conflicts with any government policy. Nonetheless, it is utterly ridiculous to think that an institutional prerogative (as opposed to an individual liberty interest) is never going to have to accommodate itself to important government policies on matters that the government is inextricably intertwined in, such as the delivery and financing of health care. In my view, universities have a MUCH stronger case to be made that they should also be exempt from coverage guidelines that undermine their religious doctrine. I think health care organizations, certainly, hospitals, have virtually no case to make, when they receive upwards of 70% or even more of their operational resources from the government, and taxpayers of all kinds of religious background or none at all, and their services simply cannot be characterized as religious (unlike some universities that require students to take courses in religion, attend services, etc., which makes them much more likely to be "true" religious organizations). Schools are also sought out by students and even professors "on account of" their religious affiliation -- hospitals, hardly ever.3. With respect particularly to Henry's concerns, I absolutely agree that to see this in terms of partisan politics undermines the legitimacy of the notion that there is a genuine "religious" dispute going on here. Whatever you can say about a presidential administration, "accommodating Catholics" would never be a legitimate basis for giving an exemption from a neutral policy. As I have said before, this may seem particularly unfair to Catholics because there are so many and because society is going in directions the Church finds particularly unfortunate, but try to imagine how the Amish feel. Once upon a time everyone lived more or less like they did. But other people have the right to go in a direction you don't like, and when they constitute the majority, it's going to have consequences for you ESPECIALLY if part of your mission is avowedly to participate within that society. What Henry is talking about as the loss of a religion's liberty is as often as not nothing more than a complaint that religious points of view are not being given sufficient deference or preferred positioning, and that is very often just the natural result of the fact that other people's liberty interests must be accommodated too, whether they locate them in religious doctrine or otherwise. The more people don't locate their interests and opinions in religious doctrine, the more diluted and undermined religious people are going to feel. That's too bad but no one has a duty to step aside and defer to your particular source of inspiration. You have to earn it. And in my view, to come full circle, HV is one of those things that makes people rightly suspicious of the validity of that inspiration.

"(a) May I ask how firm is the consensus of moral theologians concerning the account of mediate material cooperation that you provided the link to? And does mediate material cooperation differ from remote material cooperation? In my view, given the complexity of adult life today, I am prepared to argue that it is a practical impossibility for a normal adult not to be the beneficiary of some institutional evils. Though we have a general obligation to resist these institutional evils from which we benefit, things are so complex that the best we can do is to make a prudential judgment about which of them to tackle while leaving for another day or someone else some of these other institutionalized evils."Hi, Bernard, I don't disagree with your view. I don't know whether that site I linked to represents a consensus or not. I suppose there are a number of possible taxonomies of cooperation in evil. Grant has been arguing, in part, thusly: "What HHS requires is not formal material cooperation because having such coverage is not essential to the commission of the act... rather, it is remote cooperation..." (Grant's argument touches on a number of other salient points; here I am separating out a single thread of it: the claim that the Catholic employer's cooperation is remote cooperation).I agree with Grant that a Catholic employer's cooperation would be neither formal nor material. Grant seems to conclude that it is therefore remote. I don't agree that this conclusion is rigorous. I am suggesting that there exists a set of cooperating that, while not meeting the requirements of being formal or material, is nevertheless more than remote. When I think of remote cooperation, adjectives like "trivial" or "innocuous" come to mind. When I fill my GERD prescription at a pharmacy that also supplies contraception, I am remotely cooperating in that evil, and I don't think my culpability is significant. When I pay federal income taxes, my cooperation in the evil of funding nuclear weapons is remote, because I'm one of well over 100 million who contribute, my contributions are comparatively negligable.Subsidizing an employee's birth control, it seems to me, is a major degree more proximate to the evil than the examples I've given of remote cooperation. It is neither trivial nor innocuous. The intention of that feature of the employee benefit is to fund birth control, and it accomplishes that end. The employer's cooperation in that evil is not negligible; its cooperation *directly pays for the contraception*. It is a major component of the means to the end. To claim that the funds are filtered through a third party (the benefits administrator) doesn't seem to make much of a moral difference; that's a single additional link in a relatively short chain of events. The means to the same end have been made a bit more circuitous. (And of course that claim doesn't address the very common arrangement of self-insurance). To claim that not every employee will avail herself of the benefit is not really germane. When the employer doesn't buy contraception so that an employee may use it, that evil isn't committed. But when the transaction takes place and the contraception is consumed, the employer's cooperation becomes real.Please note that, while I disagree with Grant's stance on this single thread of the remoteness of cooperation, I haven't said that Grant's entire position is wrong. In fact I think it's pretty defensible.Bernard, I also agree with your point about prudential judgment. I was not being serious in dismissing its role. You're quite right that absolute principles are almost never simply applicable in real life.

BarbaraI would like to add to what you said, because I think it is very important. Again, as a Catholic, though I understand the problems with HV, I support the principle said in it, though I think it can be handled better in a pastoral sense, with more flexibility than (what often appears to me) double-speak with NFP. But you are right, we are in a pluralistic nation. And there are other religious liberty concerns, and indeed, it is when rival religious liberties are at odds with one another, one side will probably end up feeling they lose out. It is quite clear many non-Catholics (Christian or otherwise) have no problem with contraception, and indeed, some thing it is moral to use, and some could even have religious arguments which they would use to support their moral position. Now what are we to do with two rival religious claims about morality? Religious liberty is tricky because of this; every side thinks they should be free to do whatever they want, but in the reality, the state has its own religious principle (ours I would say is atheistic, not in the denial of God in a metaphysical sense, but in a pragmatic sense), and that is going to end up as the over-riding prism from which all other claims are met. It will try to accommodate, as it should; and here, I think it could, but nonetheless, its arguments against accommodating, if this is what happens, lies in relation to its arguments in other positions, arguments which are ignored. Did Scalia get a scolding for Smith? I don't remember one; yet the principle affirmed in it is what allows for what we see today. It is indeed a tricky situation. Church-State issues always will be. Historically, the Church has often said the state can allow all kinds of evil. St Thomas Aquinas famously affirmed the state to authorize prostitution. I wish we would remember his argument here, because it would often help remind us the state indeed has its own rules and requirements which will not allows mirror the moral requirements of the Church.

Henry, it is also clear that many Catholic Christians have no problem with contraception.

BarbaraTrue, they don't. But that doesn't mean the religious liberty question is stopped because of that.

David Nickol, The FDA requires pills like Plan B to be labelled as "may inhibit implantation" because the question is still open. http://www.drugs.com/pro/plan-b.htmlHowever, iUDs are also included in the list of the items the insurance must cover and at least some of them do inhibit implantation:"How do intrauterine devices work?The progesterone intrauterine device releases a constant low dose of a synthetic hormone continually throughout the day. Both the progesterone IUD and copper IUD prevent pregnancy in one of two ways:- The released progesterone or copper creates changes in the cervical mucus and inside the uterus that kills sperm or makes them immobile.- Changes the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation should fertilization occur." http://www.americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/iud.htmlThat linked item points out to doctors that there's an "ethical Issue" for some patients in preventing implantation. Since the bishops teach that intentionally preventing implantation is an abortion, they use the term abortifacients in their statement.From the standpoint of the FDA, none of these is an abortifacient because, by their definition, an abortion can only happen if an embryo is already implanted. The White House statement follows the FDA position and doesn't acknowledge the bishops' position.

Jim, the question relates only to proximity, not the gravity of the evil with which a moral agent is cooperating. So, while terms like "trivial" may spring to your mind when you read "remote cooperation," those are irrelevant to the moral calculus. Most of us remotely cooperate with evil many times a day. When dioceses pay insurance companies that cover abortions for employees of other group purchasers, they are remotely cooperating with evil because they are providing financial support to corporations that directly pay for an evil act. They are not directly paying for that evil act. But paying insurance companies that directly fund evil acts is licit because of the proportionate good of providing health coverage to employees. In a similar way, Catholic groups that pay for insurance policies that include abortion coverage are not directly funding contraception -- and not formally, directly cooperating with evil -- because employees may or may not use the benefit, and they could obtain contraception without the benefit.

John Hayes:Thanks very much for clarifying the differing definitions of "abortifacient" It is quite clear that the HHS mandate requires Catholic institutions to pay for items that are abortifacients under the Catholic definition.

John Hayes,What you say is very clear, and I have no quarrel with it. But the Catholic objections I have read seem always to specify "abortifacient drugs." No one seems to be talking much about IUDs, and about as many women after age 35 rely on sterilization to prevent pregnancy as women who are under 35 rely on the birth-control pill and the morning-after pill, neither of which (as you point out) is a proven "abortifacient" by the bishop's terms.There is a great deal of emotion clouding the discussions, and one of them seems to be a very strong antipathy in some quarters to oral contraceptives. From the Catholic perspective, I would have thought that tubal ligation and vasectomy were more serious than the use of oral contraceptives, but unless I am overlooking something, they seem to be the least discussed of fertility control methods for which insurance coverage is being mandated.

FWIW, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, one of the most conservative among the American bishops, and someone who holds a doctorate in Moral Theology from the Gregorian University does not see the co-operation in this case as material. Rather than self-insuring his diocese, because of the cost of that option, he will allow contraceptives to be paid for by the insurers. The diocese will counsel Catholic employees not to use them, and it may even fire those who do, but I doubt he would have made this choice if he thought the co-operation with evil in this case were anything more than remote.

Henry Karlson mentioned St. Thomas Aquinas on prostitution.It's a double-header. Thomas quoted (approvingly) Augustine:"If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust."

requires Catholic institutions to pay for items that are abortifacients under the Catholic definitionThorin,Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "requires Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for items that are abortifacients under the Catholic definition"? Paying for X is different from paying for insurance that covers X.

Bishop Lori and the other Catholic bishops went through the "abortifacient pill" issue about five yers ago and decided that Catholic hospitals in Connecticut could administer Plan B pills to rape victims as required by state law. They had already been doing that but with more restrictions than the state law allowed. Bishop Lori wrote:"Last spring, the Connecticut Bishops worked hard to defeat the so-called Plan B legislation. Its not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault. Last year, nearly 75 rape victims were treated in the four Connecticut Catholic hospitals; no one was denied Plan B as the result of the Catholic hospital protocols which required both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test prior to the administration of that drug....Unfortunately, Connecticut Legislature decided last spring to settle the question of whether both tests are necessary, instead of letting the Church do so in her own way. The Governor signed into law a measure that forbids health care professionals from using the results of an ovulation test in treating a rape victim.....In the course of this discussion, every possible option was discussed at length with medical-moral experts faithful to the Churchs teaching, with legal experts especially in the area of constitutional law, and with hospital personnel. Reluctant compliance emerged as the only viable option. In permitting Catholic hospitals to comply with this law, neither our teaching nor our principles have changed. We have only altered the prudential judgment we previously made; this was done for the good of our Catholic hospitals and those they serve.At the same time, we remain open to new developments in medical science which hopefully will bring greater clarity to this matter. Above all, we continue to pray for the healing of those who are victims of sexual assault.http://www.americanpapist.com/2007/10/bp-lori-issues-clarification-on-ct...

Following up on his weekend column, Ross Douthat had more to say today in the NYt about the HHS regulation:http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/liberals-and-catholic-hospit...

He doesn't name the Muslim hospitals. Where are they?

"Wouldnt it be more accurate to say requires Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for items that are abortifacients under the Catholic definition? Paying for X is different from paying for insurance that covers X."" Conscience and ObamaI dont understand how President Barack Obamas insistence that Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and universities, include contraception in their health-care packages violates the individual consciences of Catholics in those institutions, as you appear to suggest (In defence of conscience, Leader, 28 January). He is not forcing them to avail themselves of contraception, merely giving them the choice, which is more than the Church currently does. Can we take it that Pope Benedicts defence of freedom of conscience, which you quote, signals an imminent change in official teaching in this and other related areas?(Emeritus Professor) Terry WrightFenham, Newcastle upon TyneThe Tablet 4 February 2012 "

" The diocese --- may even fire those who do, "I'll bet that the attorneys will line up out the door and down the steps to take on the church when THAT happens!Can you imagine trying to defend a wrongful termination case in which the employee was fired for taking advantage of a provision of the health insurance plan offered by the employer?

All cooperation with evil is either formal or material. If it is formal, it means the cooperator intends the evil act, along with the principal actor. If Bp. Morlino says his cooperation is not material, it must be formal, meaning that he intends the evil act. Formal cooperation with evil is illicit because it means you are, morally speaking, complicit in the MORAL evil.If it's not formal, it's material, which means that the actor doesn't intend the evil act. Then the question is: how proximate? Even immediate material cooperation can be justified, but rarely. Remote material cooperation is easier to justify. E.g., every commercial pharmacy chain sells contraceptives. Catholics who stop in to buy a newspaper and a Snickers bar are not proximately cooperating with evil, but are remotely doing so. Other questions include: is the cooperator's action essential to the evil act? and What about scandal? (Scandal here in its technical moral sense.) Cathleen Kaveny has written astutely on cooperation in Commonweal. A link?

Jimmy Mac. The local newspaper interviewed someone they identified as a "spokesman fort he diocese" who went on about employees having signed an agreement to follow the teachings of the church and that even though the church would provide the insurance it would tell employees not to use the insurance for contraception and would fire people who continued doing that after counseling. The article in the diocesan paper was much more moderate and said that he Church "hoped" people would not buy contraception - but didn't make any threats. I expect they sent the "spokesman for the diocese" to a long retreat at a Trappist monastery until things died down. From moments on the diocesan website it sounded as if only people who worked directly for the church (DRE, etc) signed the "follow church teachings" agreement - not doctors, nurses, social workers, and other employees.

"Jim, the question relates only to proximity, not the gravity of the evil with which a moral agent is cooperating. So, while terms like trivial may spring to your mind when you read remote cooperation, those are irrelevant to the moral calculus."Grant, I agree that what we are discussing is a question of proximity (although gravity of evil certainly is a factor to be taken into account in when considering moral responsibility). Nukes are not not morally trivial but my cooperation in their production and potential usage is rendered trivial by my distance from responsibility for them and also by the comparatively trivial amount I contribute to them.There is no distance whatsoever between the parties to the benefits contract: the Catholic employer and the 3rd party benefits administrator (if there is one). As soon as an authorized person from the Catholic institution signs a benefits agreement that funds contraception, the institution has become *directly* complicit in offering to fund contraception. The very offer is morally problematic. No bishop wants to make that offer.Using an insurance company as an intermediary between the financial enabler of the evil (the Catholic employer) and the user does not increase the moral distance appreciably. The insurance company operates on the principle that the premiums it receives will fund the claims it pays out. They're just a financial intermediary. Inserting them in the middle of the transaction isn't morally purifying.This is a good example of a structure of sin. Once it is in place, there will be bureaucratic reasons to resist dismantling it.I've already responded to the rest of the explanation you provided in your most recent (and I imagine you're getting tired of repeating yourself). As I said, I don't disagree with your overall argument. I'm offering you the opportunity to engage the specific claim that this is more than remote cooperation. You seem to think that if it's not fully material cooperation, then it must be sufficiently remote. I'm suggesting there is a somewhat ambiguous middle ground where this case rests. I'm suggesting a category of mediate cooperation that is more than remote but doesn't meet the traditional threshold for material cooperation. If you consider the three criteria offered to make mediate cooperation morally licit, istm that at least one of those criteria - scandal - would leave the church morally exposed. For proof, we need look no further than the many, many comments on these threads that openly urge the church to change its teachings to align with popular opinion.

Moments = comments

Thanks, Lisa. I should have put the word proximate before material. I believe Bp. Morlino sees the co-operation as remote as my las t sentience indicates.

Jim Pauwels: As Alan Mitchell pointed out, Bishop Morlino has been providing insurance covering contraceptive items and drugs in the diocese of Madison (for several years). I haven't heard any reports of scandal there. I don't thnk that any bishop would have a problem getting across that the insurance is provided because wihoutit the church could not provide any health insurance to employees - not because the Church has changed its teaching on contraception. As an example, see bishop Lori's blog post in my 11:55 am comment above. it talks about "Reluctant Compliance"

Jim,There's nothing to agree or disagree about when it comes to the function of proximity in the moral calculus. That, in concert with a prudential judgment about proportionate good, is what determines whether one can cooperate with evil. Of course there is distance between a premium payment and an employee choosing to avail herself of the covered benefit. The payment does not guarantee that the employee will go on birth control. Without the employer's payment to the insurer, the employee could still obtain contraception (with wages provided by the employer). If an employer was forced to purchase contraception and dispense to employees, then your statement "there is no distance whatsoever between the parties" would be correct. But that is not the situation. The Catholic tradition expects moral agents to involve themselves in morally impure acts. (I'm doing it right now by typing on a keyboard likely made by workers who labor in dangerous conditions.) That's why it developed categories to help us distinguish when cooperating with evil is permissible. I'm afraid you're not using them convincingly, in part because you are forgetting a key part of the moral calculus, the proportionate good -- namely, health coverage for employees of Catholic institutions. By the way, given the fact that the vast majority of Catholics dissent from church teaching against contraception, I doubt there's much possibility for causing scandal.

There's a petition on the White House website to rescind the decision: https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/rescind-hhs-dept-mandat...

Thanks, Grant - but wonder if you could not apply your conclusion - "Thats why it developed categories to help us distinguish when cooperating with evil is permissible. Im afraid youre not using them convincingly, in part because you are forgetting a key part of the moral calculus, the proportionate good namely, health coverage for employees of Catholic institutions. By the way, given the fact that the vast majority of Catholics dissent from church teaching against contraception, I doubt theres much possibility for causing scandal." - to the HHS decision and thus the position that Obama has taken.He must decide based upon values for a pluralistic and diverse population and its common good. Given the social justice imperatives in play for catholics, one could argue that this movement to a common preventitive medical coverage plan that includes contraceptives is "proportionate good". It is not a "conscience" issue (unless you join the SCOTUS thinking about corporations as persons thus the bishops/church are persons with group consciences); as you have stated - it does overturn an "exception" pattern for the catholic church in broad terms - most dioceses, schools, parishes qualify for the exception. It becomes problematic and a change for many catholic hospitals, social agencies, and universities. (BTW - the ongoing limits of "exceptions" for social agencies has been going on for some time over issues such as same sex couples adopting; Planned Parenthood & contraceptives/abortion; etc.) Some universities and catholic hospitals have already put in place medical coverage plans that anticipated this decision.Yes, you could see this decision as a "theorotical" fight over limiting religious liberty. Yes, you could argue that it opens a slippery slope. Again, chosing to make a stand around "contraceptives" for this religious liberty exception really does weaken some bishops' arguments.Let's pose a thought example:Dolan has taken the lead on questionning this HHS decision in terms of religious liberty, conscience, history of the catholic church exception. Yet, when Dolan was bishop of Milwaukee (chief executive), he dealt with the abuse victims by moving >$50 million of a cemetry fund in general operations to a "new" foundation restricted fund; he also offered counseling to victims if they agreed to follow diocesan guidelines; signed off; and did not seek legal recourse. That counseling fund is currently set at $600,000. Per reports and his own records, he did this in the name of the common good of the local church. In his mind, it was "proportionate". Obviously, some victims/families questionned this as infringing on their religious rights, conscience, and natural rights. When Dolan left Milwaukee, the abuse situation had not been resolved - now years later the diocese has declared bankruptcy; continues to protect the cemetry funds from the bankruptcy proceedings, and is looking at more than 500 allegations and cases to date. Not exactly an example of a good chief executive.Now, we have Dolan questionning Obama in his role as chief executive. Like Dolan, Obama has made a decision for the common good of the nation. Yes, it impacts a small % of catholic institutions; yes, it infringes upon their historical exception and religious liberty that contraceptives are against our beliefs. But, it is hard to state that it infringes on their natural rights; it really does not rise to the level of conscience much less the psychological and spiritual destruction done to abuse victims. And Dolan, of all people, should understand why Obama made this decision.

If every employee of all Catholic-affiliated organizations could be fired for not following the teachings of the church in some way, shape or form - irrespective of any silly form that they signed - there wouldn't be enough people left to open the doors of any church, school, nursing home, hospital, chancery office and - most likely - the next USCCB meeting.The requirement borders on sheer lunacy.

Oops, I forget to include monastery, conven, seminary and rectory.

Part of the president's speech at the prayer breakfast today:...as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe were going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another. Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often. (Laughter.) So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other. And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we dont act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates.But each and every day, for many in this room, the biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds. Every single day, in different ways, so many of you are living out your faith in service to others. "http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/02/remarks-president-...

"If an employer was forced to purchase contraception and dispense to employees, then your statement there is no distance whatsoever between the parties would be correct. "You've misunderstood my comment.If an employer signs an agreement with a 3rd party that it will subsidize bullets for employees' handguns, said benefit to be administered by the 3rd party, and then the employee fires one of the employer-subsidized bullets into his wife's boyfriend, there are two moral problems there. Let's call them (A) and (B). The worst, obviously, is (A) the murder. What is the employer's culpability? We agree that with respect to (A), the employer's culpability is indirect and partial. I argue that it is nevertheless more than remote cooperation. I think we agree that this is where we disagree. What you've missed is (B), the 2nd moral problem. The very act of entering into the agreement with the third party is a moral problem for the employer, because tempting and enabling sin is itself morally problematic. And the employer's status vis a vis the agreement isn't indirect. It's direct. The employer is a party to the agreement. The agreement is hard evidence of complicity.You're also right to point out that the employer is only a party under duress. I agree that mitigates its culpability. But being under duress doesn't always completely eliminate culpability. The decision to comply with or defy unjust authority also must be subject to prudential judgment.

Jim,You're confusing matters needlessly. No one has claimed there is no moral problem here. Catholic moral tradition developed these categories precisely to help us figure out when it is permissible to cooperate with evil. The reason the bishop of Madison believes it is morally licit for the diocese to pay for employee health plans that cover contraception is that he has determined the cooperation is remote. If he thought he was directly cooperating with evil, he would not do it.

"As Alan Mitchell pointed out, Bishop Morlino has been providing insurance covering contraceptive items and drugs in the diocese of Madison (for several years). I havent heard any reports of scandal there. I dont thnk that any bishop would have a problem getting across that the insurance is provided because wihoutit the church could not provide any health insurance to employees not because the Church has changed its teaching on contraception."I don't know how, if at all, Bishop Morlino explains his insurance package, but as I've said all along, I think Grant's overall approach is reasonable, and I think the explanation you give here is reasonable. The decision process seems a pretty straightforward application of the Principle of Double Effect.My quibble with Grant - and I think I've pretty much beat it into the ground now - is his insistence that this constitutes remote cooperation. I don't agree with that analysis, and I don't think it's necessary in order to arrive at the same conclusion.

Using an insurance company as an intermediary between the financial enabler of the evil (the Catholic employer) and the user does not increase the moral distance appreciably. The insurance company operates on the principle that the premiums it receives will fund the claims it pays out. Theyre just a financial intermediary. Inserting them in the middle of the transaction isnt morally purifying.Jim, It would be one thing if the employees said, "We want you to buy us contraceptives," and the Catholic organization said, "That would be immoral, but we will hire a middleman to buy it for you, and that way we won't be responsible." But the Catholic employer has no intention of enabling evil, nor does the employer know for a fact that any employee will take advantage of contraception coverage. As we have discussed before, it is likely the case that most Americans with employer-provided insurance have coverage for contraception and/or abortion. It is also the case that most employees pay something toward the cost of their insurance. Is it the case, then, that all these people are cooperating with the evils of contraception and/or abortion by partly paying for fellow employees to use their coverage?Also, why is this limited to Catholic organizations? What about Catholics who own or administer nonreligious businesses? Are they required to make sure the insurance they provide does not cover anything of which the Church disapproves? How many Catholic owners of drugstores refuse to stock contraceptives? It seems to me that if you argue that providing or paying for insurance that covers contraception is genuinely proximate material cooperation with evil, a majority of Catholics in the country would have to get different insurance or go without it altogether. Also, if you make the argument you are making, then you are accusing all the Catholic organizations that do offer insurance covering contraception of doing evil.

"By the way, given the fact that the vast majority of Catholics dissent from church teaching against contraception, I doubt theres much possibility for causing scandal."To give scandal, in this instance, means to mislead. If the Catholics, the majority, who dissent on this teaching are led by the bishops' stance to assume that contraception is really okay after all, then the bishops will have misled them on this point. The bishops will have given scandal. The danger is real.

"It seems to me that if you argue that providing or paying for insurance that covers contraception is genuinely proximate material cooperation with evil"I'm arguing that it's mediate material cooperation. This is from that Ascension Health page I've linked to a couple of times before:"Mediate Material Cooperation. Mediate material cooperation occurs when the cooperator participates in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of an action, such that the action could occur even without this cooperation. Mediate material cooperation in an immoral act might be justifiable under three basic conditions:* If there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation (i.e., for the sake of protecting an important good or for avoiding a worse harm); the graver the evil the more serious a reason required for the cooperation;* The importance of the reason for cooperation must be proportionate to the causal proximity of the cooperators action to the action of the principal agent (the distinction between proximate and remote);* The danger of scandal (i.e., leading others into doing evil, leading others into error, or spreading confusion) must be avoided."http://www.ascensionhealth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article...

Jim,Regarding your bullet scenario, that makes gun manufacturers and gun dealers responsible for every crime committed with one of their weapons. It also means if you buy a kitchen knife from Bed, Bath & Beyond, if you use it to carve a turkey, the store has done nothing wrong, but if you use it to stab someone, the store has done something wrong.

Do you think the bishop of Madison has given scandal? He has not. Neither will Catholic institutions if they end up paying for health coverage that could result in employees using contraception.

I just finished the article on American Plutocracy. I wonder why nobody gets shook up about that. It doesn't even seem to be on radar.

Yes, it is mediate--not immediate. Without contraception coverage, employees could obtain and use contraception with ease. And providing health coverage to employees is the proportionate reason to risk the chance of employees using the coverage to obtain contraception. Scandal can be avoided by following bishop of Madison's lead.

It seems to me that these are some reasons the cooperation is remote:1. The Bishops didn't decide to provide contraceptive coverage, only tolerated it's imposition on them.2. That they are not buying contraceptives but merely allowing insurance cover for them.3. That the decision whether or not to use them is the employees and not the Bishops.4. The bishops are not paying for the insurance but the employees are (because it is part of the wage due them for their work).5. That contraception is, in general, not against Catholic teaching. The teaching is only against contracepting conjugal acts (acts of genuine love in marriage). The Church does not have a teaching against contraception outside marriage, in fornication, in prostitution, in coerced sex in marriage, in loveless marriages, to treat medical conditions such as heavy periods, to prevent HIV transmission (condoms) etc. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 42% of women take the pill exclusively for pregnancy prevention., indicating that there are lots of contraceptive pills used for other reasons. http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/unconscionable-consequences-con... Bless

One must also consider that if Catholic employers stop providing health coverage to employees, the employees will have to obtain it on the open market, where they will likely purchase more expensive, less comprehensive insurance that covers contraception and abortion.

Yes, it is mediatenot immediate.Grant,But there would be cooperation with evil only if there is evil. Surely providing insurance coverage for contraception is not evil per se. Someone has to make use of that coverage.

JIm Pauwels said "I dont know how, if at all, Bishop Morlino explains his insurance package"I'd summarize it as "I don't like having to do this and I hope the law will be changed - but providing health insurance for our employees is important enough to justify it." It's interesting that he could have avoided the contraception coverage by self-insuring, but decided that was too expensive - so cost enters into the decision. Here's the diocesan Newspaper for August 18, 2010, when this started:"The Diocese of Madison had looked into self-insurance options but found them too costly. The diocese felt it was a matter of justice to provide affordable access to quality health care for those who work for the Church.While being mandated to offer contraceptives as of August 1, the Diocese of Madison hopes its employees will follow Church teaching and not use them. One might even question whether contraceptives should be considered health care; in past years, it seemed as if birth control was considered an option to be paid for by those using it and not covered by insurance plans.The state of Wisconsin should change this law to allow for the right of conscience of employers such as the Diocese of Madison not to be forced to provide a benefit which violates its religious and moral values."http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/opinion/editorial/1595-2010-08-19-e... his column of October 7, 2010, Bishop Morlino said:"October is also Respect Life Month. The fact that recently our religious liberty as Catholics has been curtailed in the State of Wisconsin in that we are forced by the state to provide contraceptive coverage in our health insurance plans as a diocese is most alarming. Respect for the dignity of all life includes respect for the procreative process, designed by God himself as a place of his special creative presence.The act of artificial contraception regrettably says, no, to the presence of God in that space which he fashioned for his own creative work it amounts to exiling God from somewhere that he absolutely wants to be. Such an action cannot be justified in the name of following ones own conscience, for conscience is accountable to the Truth.At the same time, realizing that many of our brothers and sisters do not really understand deeply what is involved in the contraceptive act, let us reach out to them in love, so that they might be blessed with this particular understanding. But, let us also stand up, as far as we can, politically and in the judicial sphere so that the curtailment of our religious liberty with regard to providing insurance might be overcome."http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishopscolumns/1783-20101007-column..., BIshop Morlino wrote a letter about the HHS Regulation:http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishopsletters/2889-bp-letter.html

Jim P. raises the question of scandal, viz: "The very act of entering into the agreement with the third party is a moral problem for the employer, because tempting and enabling sin is itself morally problematic."And yes, scandal can be avoided in this case. I don't think that anybody is likely to think that the magisterium is pro-contraception any time soon. It's one of the few Catholic teachings that almost everybody knows, along with magisterial opposition to same-sex relationships, abortion, and ordination of women. Indeed, how many have died of HIV whose lives might have been saved had they used condoms, not for contraception but for disease prophylaxis? Yet the argument against allowing this was that scandal would result.I teach my students that scandal is ALWAYS two-edged. For the HHS question, one side of the scandal that could ensue is that people might think the magisterium has gone soft on contraception. The other edge: people might think that the magisterium believes that not paying for contraception is more important than the overall program that insures millions who might not otherwise be insured. Or a more gentle version: people might think that the magisterium believes that not paying for contraception is more important than providing medically-indicated coverage that, in fact, the overwhelming majority of Catholics already partake of. In the HIV example the two edged sword of scandal is more stark: one scandal is that people might think the magisterium has gone soft on contraception. The opposite scandal is that people think that the magisterium believes that it is more important to prevent contraception than to save lives. In every case, people arguing from scandal might ask: which scandal is worse? And--is the feared scandal likely? BTW, given the widespread availability of contraception, the church cannot reasonably be said to ba an enabler here. It's pretty remote material cooperation. (Proximity in cooperation isn't binary--proximate vs. remote. It's a spectrum from very proximate to very remote.)

Interesting: Bp Morlino said: "we are forced by the state to provide contraceptive coverage in our health insurance plans as a diocese is most alarming." But by his own account, he decided not to self insure because it would cost more. He wasn't forced. He just didn't want to pay for what his conscience led him to believe.

I'd argue that the reluctance to approve condoms for disease limitation itself causes grave scandal and probably deaths.I suspect that the current HHS issue will wind up causing grave scandal too because I think that eventually the Bishops will have to do what Bp Morlino did and agree that cooperating does not violate their conscience.If this happens, those who agree with the Bishops will be scandalized at the Bishops doing what they were told violated their conscience. Those who disagree with the Bishops will be scandalized at the Bishops making such a fuss about nothing. And those who approve contraception will be scandalized by the impression that the Bishops position against contraception is ridiculous and hypocritical.I think there are sound prudential reasons for the Bishops to tone down the rhetoric on this and pick their battles more carefully.God Bless

I think that Bp Morlino's position not to self insure because it would cost more indicates just how remote he thought the cooperation would actually be and just how important as a proportionate reason he thought proving health insurance was. I agree.God Bless

The idea that bishops consciences are violated by being required to write a check for health insurance premiums that include features with which they disagree is nonsense.Bishops write checks for very few things, and health insurance premiums are **not** included.Exactly who DOES fund health insurance premiums? School income at all levels comes from tuition, scholarships and grants. Hospital income comes from insurance payments, patients co-pays and research grants. Catholic Charities income comes from donations, grants and various governmental contracts. Even parish and seminary income comes from donations. In the case of seminaries, Bishops are only a pass-through vehicle. Income for monasteries and convents comes from some product sales, but mostly from their congregations who get their income from a variety of sources and I doubt very seriously if Bishops are a major source of income for them.Victimhood is a mantle that doesn't fit in this case.

Isn't health insurance actually part of the employees wage and therefore actually funded by the employee and not the employer ? The claim that the Bishops are funding something here doesn't make much sense to me.God Bless

Lisa Fullam said With the means of communication available now, he risk of scandal in any situation is almost non-existent. If any misunderstanding arises, the Church can easily make its views known. I remember a time when persons who killed themselves could not receive. Christian burial because of the risk of scandal. We now know that scandal isn't really an issue"May someone who commits suicide receive a Catholic funeral? In the past, people who committed suicide were often denied a Church funeral. This was not a judgment of the deceaseds eternal destiny (indeed, the Church has always offered Masses for those who have committed suicide). Rather, a Church funeral was denied to the deceased in order to avoid giving scandal to the faithful and to emphasize the grave nature of suicide.As in the past, the Church teaches that suicide is and always will be objectively and gravely wrong. At the same time, today she better understands the psychological disturbances that may influence a suicide and thus mitigate personal culpability. This being the case, those who take their life are now typically provided funerals (cf. Catechism, no. 2282).May divorced and remarried Catholics receive a Catholic funeral? As with persons who had committed suicide, persons who had remarried outside the Church were often denied a Catholic funeral. Again, this was to avoid giving scandal to the faithful and to prevent the faithful from taking the matter lightly.The Church now generally allows Catholic funerals and burials to those who have divorced and remarried. This discipline of allowing funerals does not change the Churchs doctrine: Divorce and remarriage without an annulment is and always will be objectively wrong. http://www.cuf.org/faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=264These days, claims of scandal are more often put forward by people who are opposed to something for a diifferent reason. It's a frequently used word on some blogs - often as part of complaints that people who are not in a state of grace are being allowed to receive communion - or that liturgies are not being properly performed.

The first paragraph should have read:Lisa Fullam said "And yes, scandal can be avoided in this case. I dont think that anybody is likely to think that the magisterium is pro-contraception any time soon."

Bishop Morlino said "The act of artificial contraception regrettably says, no, to the presence of God in that space which he fashioned for his own creative work it amounts to exiling God from somewhere that he absolutely wants to be. "This explanation has always seemed to me to be inconsistent with believing in the omnipotence of God. Do we believe that some pills and a condom could keep a conception that God wanted from happening?Has anyone thought it through and found an answer?

Scandal isn't simply outrage or opprobrium or rubbing people the wrong way. It is not what happens when you have an ecclesial PR problem, for example. It's when you lead people to evil. This is the Catechism on scandal:2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.862286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible." This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"

Kathy, the issue of scandal in this case is whether, by providing insurance coverage for contraception, you will mislead people into believing that the Church has changed its mind and using contraception is now OK.As Lisa pointed out in her 6:39 pm comment, there's very little likelihood that anyone would be misled into believing that. I was expanding on that by saying that even if some people did get that impression, it would be very easy for the bishops to get word out to correct any misunderstanding - thus scandal is not a serious consideration. I think that is what Bishop Morlino was doing by emphasizing the the diocese was providing the insurance only because it had to if it wanted to provide affordable insurance to its employees - not because it had changed its views on contraception.

"The Catholic Church has no objection to reducing births. Everyone should be able to agree that reducing unwanted pregnancies (about half of all all pregnancies in the United States) is a good thing. The disagreement is over methods."David N.- JP II in HV urges couples to be generous in enlarging their families. He thinks it is selfish not to have many. According to him having many children is a good thing, even when irreplaceable materials of the Earth are being squandered by affluent societies. This to me is perhaps the worst of the bad sex-related teachings of the RCC.

I always marvel how the Vatican creatively misinterprets Scripture to its own ends. The Catechism's take on scribes and Pharisees shows little or no knowledge of of the historical situation of the Jesus movement over against the other sectarian groups of Jews in their day. The Pharisees were not influential in Judaism until after the destruction of the Temple in 70-73 CE. Jesus most likely did not debate or criticize Pharisees, rather like John the Baptist he would have targeted the aristocratic Jews of the first century in his prophetic critique. And so, it is hard to believe that Jesus would have reproached scribes and Pharisees the way it is described in the Catechism. Quite frankly given the choice of the Pharisees and the current hierarchy relative to scandal and hypocrisy I would go with the Pharisees.

John, you can't be serious. The Second Vatican Council taught that Catholics "may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law." (GS 51) But the teaching authority of the Church in Humanae Vitae is not as authoritative, apparently, as "my mom says it's ok." How much more if (God forbid) Catholic institutions, with bishops on their governing boards, would contract out for its provision! "My bishop says it's not ok, but he approved my health care plan, so..."

"Scandal, i.e. leading others ." hardly sounds like a relevant factor. The US Catholic bishops have led few people anywhere on the subject of contraception for decades. Their letter campaign and approval/disapproval of church-related funding of the insurance is unlikely to restore any perceptions of their authority with respect to contraception. Humanae Vitae was addressed to both "the whole Catholic world" and "all men (sic) of good will." Indications after 40 years are that few of either group care much what the bishops might say about the practice of contraception, which suggests the threat of scandal is minimal.

Kathy, could you clarify which of my comments your "John, you can't be serious" is responding to?

John:I was referring to "theres very little likelihood that anyone would be misled into believing that."

Alan,How is that scandal? Are people more likely to cook the books? Are people going to gossip? (Probably.) What evil acts does your example lead others to?

So you think the bishop of Madison has given scandal by allowing diocesan employee health plans to cover contraception?

The US Catholic bishops have led few people anywhere on the subject of contraception for decades. Exactly. I have gone to church at least weekly in the US for close to 10 years, and have never seen the subject addressed in any homily or any parish bulletin. Not a peep!

Kathy, I said, "as Lisa pointed out in her 6:39 pm comment, there's very little likelihood that anyone would be mislead into believing that"That was my condensation of Lisa's:"And yes, scandal can be avoided in this case. I dont think that anybody is likely to think that the magisterium is pro-contraception any time soon. Its one of the few Catholic teachings that almost everybody knows"I agree with Lisa - but she teaches this stuff, so she really doesn't need me to agree with her.

This discussion might become more focused if we bore in mind several (confusing) distinctions involving choosing, tolerating, forcing and being forced, and preventing, b) good and evil, c) doing and not-doing: 1. Choosing to do what one thinks is evil (e.g., murder)2. Tolerating what one thinks is evil (e.g., watching a friend smoke) 3. Being forced not-to-do what one thinks is good (e.g., spanking a child extremely hard, owning slaves)4. Forcing another to do what the other thinks is evil (e.g., forcing another to pay for a third party's contraceptives) 5. Being forced to do what one thinks is evil (e;g., being forced to pay for another's contraceptives) (This implies choosing to do, though reluctantly, what one thinks is evil.)6. Preventing another from doing a good act. (e.g., administer poverty programs) (The HHS mandate implies this IF the bishops can no longer administer as many good programs for the poor.)

Ann, in your 4 and 5 I would change "do" to "cooperate in"Bishop Morlino certainly doesn't believe that he is doing evil in providing insurance covering contraception. He is cooperating in evil but to an extent that is allowable in view of the good that results (affordable health insurance for employees).

In their forceful opposition to the HHS guidelines, the Bishops are not just criticizing uniform requirements for health insurance coverage; they are challenging the basic vision and premise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their arguments unfold as follows:1) Historically, health insurance has been a benefit negotiated between employer and employee. The ACA establishes that individuals, regardless of employment, have a right to insurance coverage for specific essential medical services and prescription drugs.2) When ACA is fully implemented, employers and employees will be required to pay premiums to a private insurer, who will provide the government-mandated coverage. Premium payments will not entitle either the employer or the employee to demand change in the prescribed coverage. In some ways, the role of employers will resemble their involvement with Medicare--employers pay and collect Medicare taxes but they cannot alter Medicares service coverage. 3) The Bishops, in their critique of the HHS regulations, continue to speak of health insurance as a benefit extended by Churchaffiliated organizations to their employees. 4) The Bishops claim that the Church possesses a corporate religious conscience protected by the First Amendment. An employees claim to have a right to health insurance protected by the ACA, must give way to the Churchs First Amendment claim to a corporate religious conscience. 5) In summary the Bishops are defending the principle that access to health insurance is a benefit not a right-- conferred by employers not the Federal Government. This line of argumentation resonates with a wide range of opponents of ACA, who are watching gleefully as the Bishops deconstruct the fundamental premise of ACA. 6) Some Church leaders go further and call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in the name of the principle of subsidiarity. They support the existing decentralized system as best reflecting local community values. In addition, individual choices are mediated by overlapping ethical, cultural and community norms. Arbitrary national standards for health care are made impossible and secularists are blocked from using the Federal Government to advance their cause. In the name of subsidiarity -- and to stop the march of secularism--the Affordable Care Act must be revoked. The Bishops are not hiding their lamps under bushel baskets!

John Hayes ==That would probably specify the acts from an ethical perspective. However, I don't think it would change the fact that the bishops are being required by this regulation to do what is against their beliefs. As a Constitutional issue, I think they still have a case. Having listened to this discussion, my problem with them now is that the loudest among them seem totally unwilling to compromise. Not prudent.

"Yes, it is mediatenot immediate. Without contraception coverage, employees could obtain and use contraception with ease. And providing health coverage to employees is the proportionate reason to risk the chance of employees using the coverage to obtain contraception. Scandal can be avoided by following bishop of Madisons lead."That's good enough for me :-)

"Id summarize it as I dont like having to do this and I hope the law will be changed but providing health insurance for our employees is important enough to justify it."John H, thanks for providing all that background. I agree that this is an appropriate response.

"I teach my students that scandal is ALWAYS two-edged."Lisa, thanks for that comment - I've never thought of it that way before.

"Isnt health insurance actually part of the employees wage and therefore actually funded by the employee and not the employer ? The claim that the Bishops are funding something here doesnt make much sense to me."Hi, Chris, I agree that, for economic purposes, benefits are part of the employees' wages. Morally, though, the employer still bears responsibility because typically, it is the employer who selects the vendor and chooses the packages of benefits. They are making the decisions.I also agree to claim that the "bishops are funding something" isn't very precise (and I've used the formula at least once in this discussion). A lot of things that a bishop really does fund, like wages for parish employees, probably qualify for the very limited exemption that HHS is allowing. Whether a parish Catholic school would qualify for the exemption isn't clear; I'd think that some do qualify and some don't. The Catholic institutions that pretty clearly won't qualify are ones that tend to be beyond the bishop's personal control: universities, hospitals, Catholic Charities. So it would be better to say "the church is funding something."

Jim P. --That definition of "mediate material cooperation" sounds like what some of the bishops used in their thinking about shifting around sexual predators. There are just too many words in those distinctions that imply differences of degree (e.g., "proportionate", "mediate", "scandal". The distinctions need clarification.

Kathy, those are rapier-like quotes from the Catechism!

"JP II in HV urges couples. . . "Oops -- should have been: JP II in his work on the theology of the body . . . "

"The Catholic institutions that pretty clearly wont qualify are ones that tend to be beyond the bishops personal control: universities, hospitals, Catholic Charities."I have never ever heard of anything that a diocese sponsors being beyond the bishop's personal control. What would be an exception?

william collier 02/02/2012 - 2:02 pm subscriberFollowing up on his weekend column, Ross Douthat had more to say today in the NYt about the HHS regulation:http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/liberals-and-catholic-hospit...

Thanks. This, from that:

Finally, Drums broader logic is a textbook example of what I was talking about in my column on Sunday the way that government crowds out and co-opts the private sphere, first by making it impossible to run an institution that serves the public without having some sort of entanglement with the state, and then by using that entanglement to pretend that institutions with explicit religious missions and histories are somehow de facto secular instead.

John Hayes 02/02/2012 - 6:22 pmJIm Pauwels said I dont know how, if at all, Bishop Morlino explains his insurance packageId summarize it as I dont like having to do this and I hope the law will be changed but providing health insurance for our employees is important enough to justify it.

Is he now obliged to reconsider that?

Lisa Fullam 02/02/2012 - 6:47 pm contributorInteresting: Bp Morlino said: we are forced by the state to provide contraceptive coverage in our health insurance plans as a diocese is most alarming. But by his own account, he decided not to self insure because it would cost more. He wasnt forced. He just didnt want to pay for what his conscience led him to believe.

"Too costly" can mean "effectively impossible". If so, that's hardly a choice.

Having listened to this discussion, my problem with them now is that the loudest among them seem totally unwilling to compromise. Not prudent.

Ann, how would you have them compromise their principles?

Ann, how would you have them compromise their principles?David Smith,Compromising does not necessarily require compromising one's principles. Compromise should not be a dirty word. That goes for the bishops and Obama alike.

"I have never ever heard of anything that a diocese sponsors being beyond the bishops personal control. What would be an exception?"Hi, Ann, exceptions would include some of the institutions I named: universities, hospitals, Catholic Charities. We've discussed examples in this forum: recall that when Fr. Jenkins invited President Obama to speak at Notre Dame, his local bishop in South Bend objected strenuously and publicly, but didn't (and perhaps wasn't able to) cancel the appearance. And in that notorious case in Phoenix where the mom's life was saved by aborting the baby, the Catholic Healthcare West hospital defied the bishop.In the case of Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities in a given diocese would voluntarily place itself under the direction of the local bishop - at least that is how it works around here. In Chicago, a Chicago diocesan priest runs Catholic Charities. But the organization itself is independent of the diocese and has its own governing board.One quite interesting aspect of this controversy that we haven't really taken up yet is, 'In what sense is a Catholic university (or another Catholic institution) in the United States Catholic?' Most of us seem to take for granted that Catholic universities are part of the church. But arguably, their missions have broadened over the last few generations. My own alma mater, Loyola in Chicago, once was run by the Jesuits: the Society of Jesus owned its assets, many of its instructors were priests in the order, all of its officers were Jesuits. None of that is the case anymore. The university was founded to serve Chicago's Catholic community, and I believe that a majority of its students still fit that description, but the student body is more diverse than it was a few generations ago, and I believe the university values, promotes and pursues that diversity. I couldn't say what percentage of its faculty is Catholic, but I'm sure it's more diverse than was the case formerly, and it's certainly true that most of its instructors are not priests or religious, much less Jesuits. Even when I was going to school there in the early '80's, I had only two Jesuit instructors through eight+ full-time semesters.I don't believe that an institution needs to be owned and run by a diocese or a religious order to qualify as a Catholic institution, even though most such institutions in the US have that heritage. My sense of Catholicism is broader than that: the church is all of its members, not just bishops, priests and religious orders. But I can see that the question could be raised, 'Are these *really* Catholic institutions?'

Noah Millman points out that the problem only comes up because we have chosen a health system in which most people have to get their health insurance through their employers. He doesn't propose an alternative scheme, but a single-payer (aka "Medicare for Everyone") program wold solve that problem, although the bishops might then oppose that program paying for contraceptives."Ultimately, the source of the conflict here is in holding simultaneously that health care is a right and that health coverage will be provided primarily by private employers. If you believe both of those things, then you have to coerce private employers into providing coverage that meets some kind of minimal standard. In our world, where some health care services are deemed morally problematic by some significant private employers, that would mean coercing those employers to violate their consciences. (By the way: whats special about the Catholic Church in this regard? Does the strictly Catholic sole proprietor of a national pizza franchise lack a conscience? Why is it okay to coerce him into providing services he deems immoral, but not okay to coerce a Catholic hospital?) If you dont want that level of coercion, then either you need to give up on the idea that health care is a right, or you need to give up on the idea that health coverage will be provided primarily by private employers."http://www.theamericanconservative.com/millman/2012/02/02/the-first-step...

Hi, Ann, I agree that the terms on that Ascension Health site need to be explicated. This statement, from that definition of mediate material cooperation that I've posted a couple of times, is a good example:"* The importance of the reason for cooperation must be proportionate to the causal proximity of the cooperators action to the action of the principal agent (the distinction between proximate and remote);"Pretty much every word in that bullet point that isn't an article or conjunction needs to be unpacked. If I were teaching a class, I'd put that statement up on the board and then we'd take it apart, word by word. (I'm not qualified to teach this stuff, but when I was teaching stuff that I *was* qualified to teach, that's how I used to do it :-))

John H: I agree with Millman's analysis of the conflict of rights. And of course it's been pointed out here, many times, that our system of employer-provided health care distorts price and delivery of health care in many ways.During the extended and acrimonious roller-coaster process that led to the Affordable Care Act, the country didn't muster the appetite for risk, and didn't come to a consensus on the moral principles, to completely dismantle our existing system and transform it to single-payer. So 'Obamacare' as it's frequently called is, in essence, a complement to our existing system, just as Medicare and Medicaid complement our existing system without displacing very much of it. Our existing employer-provided system had significant gaps in health care: the elderly, the very poor, and the working poor could not afford care. Medicare, Medicaid and ACA now plug those gaps. It's all rather piecemeal (and many Americans believe, unaffordable for the government). And the distortions and inefficiencies introduced by that piecemeal approach can be expected to continue.

David --I would NOT have them compromise their principles. They could look for ways to circumvent the law (not make it necessary to apply the law) which would not offend the consciences of either side. This is what too many bishops are not doing.

Jim P. ==Universities are currently required by Rome to have the members of the theology and philosophy departments take an oath/pledge that they will uphold/teach only/approve Catholic teachings in theology and morals, and the rules give the bishops the final say. The rule has not been pushed by the bishops/Rome, probably because they would stand to lose too much if they insisted on the rule being implimented. Don't fool yourself, the bishops are de facto in charge. And I dare say that the same is true of those other institutions.Which institution has ever challenged a bishop and won == that is, won their goal and kept its name as "Catholic" ? In the Arizona abortion case, the deed was done without advising the bishop. He found out afterwards, and the nun in charge of the hospital lost her job and was excommunicated for a while.

"Which institution has ever challenged a bishop and won == that is, won their goal and kept its name as Catholic ?"I gave an example in my previous comment: Notre Dame when it invited President Obama to speak.Even institutions that still are under the control of religious orders aren't under the direct control of the bishops. Religious orders are their own entities - the bishops aren't in their chain of command. That's why the superiors of religious orders need to clean up their own acts when it comes to sex-abuse scandals.Certainly, bishops are influential in these instances. Religious orders can't operate in a diocese without the bishop's permission and good will. The same is true of essentially lay Catholic institutions, from most Catholic universities these days to the Knights of Columbus. But the key thing for purposes of this discussion is that the bishop, through his control of the Corporation Sole, isn't the source of funds for these entities. Financially, legally and ecclesially they are not part of the bishop or the diocese.

And many Catholic hospitals are owned and controlled by religious orders, usually of women religious. For instance, St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix was founded by the Sisters of Mercy, but is owned by Dignity Health, a non-profit corporation which has 55,000 employees and 40 hospitals in 3 states. Bishop Olmstead had no connection with St. Joseph's Hospital other than to decide whether he would recognize it as a Catholic Hospital. When he removed his recognition, about the only practical change was that Mass could not be celebrated in the hospital chapel. it is still St. Joseph's Hospital. http://dignityhealth.org/

David Nickol 02/03/2012 - 9:20 amAnn, how would you have them compromise their principles?David Smith,Compromising does not necessarily require compromising ones principles. Compromise should not be a dirty word. That goes for the bishops and Obama alike.

David, I think compromise is rated too highly. When a situation has to be compromised, everyone loses. No one gains, except in the sense that everyone gets a bit of the baby. Compromise is certainly necessary from time to time, but it's seldom if ever the best solution. Compromise means mediocrity and waste.If we're talking about finding a better position than that staked out by either the bishops or Obama, that's not a compromise - it's a third position, made possible perhaps by all sides realizing that the two positions presented up to now are flawed - though certainly not flawed to the same extent, Obama's position being by far the worse.

If parishes, elementary and secondary schools are exempt from the ruling, and the bishops do not own Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals, how are their consciences being imperiled by this ruling, if they are not actually contributing dollars to the health plans of the employees of those institutions?

Alan Mitchell, Millman asks an interesting question in my 10:28 am comment:"whats special about the Catholic Church in this regard? Does the strictly Catholic sole proprietor of a national pizza franchise lack a conscience? Why is it okay to coerce him into providing services he deems immoral, but not okay to coerce a Catholic hospital?"In Archbishop Dolan's WSJ op-Ed, he said:"Coercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience."So far, it's not clear whether the bishops are asking to expand the exemption to 1) institutions they control, 2) any catholic-identified institution, 3) any business owned or managed by a Catholic (like the national pizza chain). My guess is that it is at least 2) since many hospitals and universities are not controlled by bishops.But the Dolan Op-Ed did mention "citizens."

I don't believe Domino's Pizza has a specifically religious mission nor that it self-identifies as a religious organization. I doubt it would qualify for a religious exemption even under the standard IRS categorization. If I were Tom Monaghan, I would still object to being required by the government to fund my employees' contraception, but I'd need to find a reason other than religious freedom. It still fits pretty nicely into the conservative narrative about intrusive government regulations.

"If parishes, elementary and secondary schools are exempt from the ruling, and the bishops do not own Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals, how are their consciences being imperiled by this ruling, if they are not actually contributing dollars to the health plans of the employees of those institutions?"I suppose they're speaking up because they're the shepherds of the church. They're not the only ones speaking up; Catholic leaders with a more direct financial and moral stake are, too. Fr. Jenkins at Notre Dame has been outspoken about the injustice of this regulations. Sr. Keehan from Catholic Health Association has voiced objections. I'm sure there are many other instances.

We all have to buy into insurance, one way or another. That's the law. So there's no legal escape from complicity, except for whomever ends up being exempt.

John Hayes -- Abp. Dolan in his Sep 29, 2011 letter to bishops on religious freedom referred to the bishops as "shepherds of over 70 million U.S. citizens". It struck me a bit odd at the time, but I concluded it might be his way of trying to avoid the frequent, fruitless debate over who is a "real Catholic" among the 70,000,000. Current discussion seems to require answers to the question. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/dolan-le...

Jim Pauwels said: "I dont believe Dominos Pizza has a specifically religious mission nor that it self-identifies as a religious organization."Then it isn't wrong for a Catholic like Monaghan to provide his employees with health insurance that covers contraception?If, ipso facto, it isn't wrong, then we can skip all of the discussion about proximate and remote cooperation and the relationship of the good to be gained vs the degree of cooperation in evil. But what then makes it wrong for a Catholic hospital or university to do it?

If I were Tom Monaghan, I would still object to being required by the government to fund my employees contraception, but Id need to find a reason other than religious freedom.Jim,Actually Bain Capital bought Domino's Pizza from Monaghan in 1998, with Mitt Romney signing the check.But I agree with John Hayes. If it is "mediate material cooperation with evil" for a Catholic organization to provide insurance covering contraception, then it is mediate material cooperation for the owner of a big pizza chain or any other business, no matter how nonreligious or even irreligious the business is.

Kathy = we all have to buy into insurance - what "kool-aid" are you drinking? That was the primary driver/goal behind PPACA - there are at least 50 million citizens who have no insurance coverage (excluding illegal immigrants - another 12 million). Meanwhile, dating back to 1986 and a Republican Congress, every hospital must legally treat anyone in an ER (has nothing to do with insurance coverage - everyone who has insurance subsidizes these folks). By 2014 if SCOTUS doesn't overturn this section of PPACA, everyone will have to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. But, it is tiered so that the bottom 30% of the population will basically receive coverage at no cost.

"Actually Bain Capital bought Dominos Pizza from Monaghan in 1998, with Mitt Romney signing the check.":-) Now that's ironic, or coincidental, or it's a small world, or something like that. As Cathleen would say, Hah! I agree with your subsequent point (and I've spelled this out already in a previous comment somewhere in one of these threads) (and John H, this responds to your most recent as well): if the church is right in what it teaches about contraception, then it really should apply to everyone, not just people who happen to be Catholic or happen to agree with the Catholic church. Contraception (if the church is right) isn't wrong just for married Catholics, it's wrong for virtually everyone in virtually every situation. (Note the "virtually" - I agree there are hard cases that might, possibly, be exceptions). And so all the mediate proximate remote double effect et al comes into play, not just for Notre Dame, but every employer who is forced to comply.

Actually, Catholics don't have a year to decide how to violate our consciences. We just have a year to decide that Kathleen Sebelius will no longer be Secretary of the HHS.

Until I see exactly what the bishops are paying for here I cannot accept their moral responsibility under co-operation. I am thinking this is a fabricated issue to try to deny the President re-election.Jim Pauwels uses the vague category of "shepherds of the Church." ??? What exactly are they paying for that puts them in proximate co-option with evil? Seems to me that their consciences are intact. And furthermore the HHS ruling allows them not to comply as long as they provide their employees (are there any who qualify?) with information where they may obtain contraceptives. This is looking more anymore like a non-issue that the bishops are trying to exploit in order to defeat the President.

Kathy,In Obama's second term who do you think will be the Secretary of HHS? Rick Santorum?

That should have been more and more not more and anymore; dang auto correction.

Alan, I think Obama's second term is completely out of the question now. I don't mean to gloat, especially under the circumstances. By the way, didn't the Second Vatican Council reaffirm the historicity of the Gospels?

"Certainly, bishops are influential in these instances. Religious orders cant operate in a diocese without the bishops permission and good will. The same is true of essentially lay Catholic institutions, from most Catholic universities these days to the Knights of Columbus."Jim P. --Even if legally the religious orders own the hospitals, schools, whatever, the bishops have the de facto upper hand because they can always throw the orders out of their dioceses. That wouldn't count in court, I suppose. But the bishop of South Bend could have thrown the Holy Cross fathers out of South Bend, but he blinked. Morally he therefore chose to tolerate Obama's speaking there.In spite of all these ifs and buts, the bishops do have control of their own local Catholic Charities, and they object to providing the cost of contraception. So they still have a case.The Domino's example is interesting. I think I'd side with Monaghan, drat his super-conservative. I don't admit that institutions have religious rights -- only individuals do, like bishops -- AND owners of corporations.Yes, excusing Monaghan would have *enormous* ramifications (think of all the other business owners with religious objections to the law). But Obama and Sibelius should have considered that before they made the decision;

"Jim Pauwels uses the vague category of shepherds of the Church. ??? What exactly are they paying for that puts them in proximate co-option with evil? "Professor Mitchell, your ecclesiology seems curiously truncated. Why do you suppose that it is only institutions directly controlled by the bishops who hold a stake in these regulations? I've named, several times now, examples of Catholic institutions not under the bishops' direct control who are directly impacted. I apologize for not recalling off-hand where you're employed, but if it's a Catholic university, it probably belongs on that list. Why do you object so strenuously to the bishops speaking up on their behalf? Catholics of all stripes can and should speak out. Even though the bishops don't 'own' those institutions, they are still bishops. Their flock encompasses more than the clergy, religious and chancery employees.

"Even if legally the religious orders own the hospitals, schools, whatever, the bishops have the de facto upper hand because they can always throw the orders out of their dioceses."Hi, Ann, yes, I suppose they could. I believe the Legion of Christ has been banned from at least one diocese. But in the vast majority of cases, I think bishops are glad to have the religious orders running schools and parishes and doing all sorts of good things. If the bishop of South Bend kicked the Holy Cross fathers out of his diocese, I believe Notre Dame would continue on as a Catholic institution. (I could be wrong about that). But I seriously doubt that it would happen.I think Domino's Pizza is a red herring. Even when Monaghan owned them, they never were classified as a religious organization. The question at hand is which organizations qualify as religious organizations for purposes of being exempt from the regulation.

Kathy,The Second Vatican Council was very careful in De Verbum to avoid the use of the term historicity. Following the Pontifical Biblical Commission's'1964 instruction, "On the Historical Truth of the Gospels," De Verbum adopted its three stages of gospel composition without committing to the fundamentalist view that everything in the gospels is historical in a literal sense. Regarding the question on whether Jesus debated regularly with Pharisees (which I believe is the origin of your query) these narratives come from the third stage of composition and reflect the situation of the Jesus messianists after 70CE when they debated the identity of Jesus with Pharisees in their own synagogues. The relevant passage is Dei Verbum, 19.2 where it speaks of the evangelists "explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches."Jim,I don't think I have a truncated ecclesiology, but I do have one that is more complicated than yours. I am simply trying to figure out how the bishops' consciences are compromised when they are not the "employers" of people working at Catholic universities and hospitals. It is not clear to me where their co-operation with evil is in this matter, that's all. By your own admission, you agree that the bishops are not the employers of the people I have in mind. Universities like Fordham in states that have had regulations like the HHS one for some time have complied with those regulations with no opposition from the local ordinary. The bishops do not appear to have spoken on behalf of those universities or to have suffered compromised consciences as a result of the compliance of those institution with the state regulations.

Alan, the regulation applies to employers. I agree that the bishops haven't been clear whether the "we" in their statements refers to the 200 or so bishops as employers or to all Catholics who are employers.The morality of providing the insurance must be the same for all Catholics, bishops or not. if Bishop Olmsted's "We can not do this" were correct no Catholic employer could provide this insurance - without sinning.We know from earlier comments that it is not a sin (cooperation analysis, the examples of Madison and Fordham, etc).But it is cooperation in evil, however remote, and I suspect that is what the bishops have in mind in saying "it troubles our consciences." I think it's important that they make clear that "troubling our consciences" is not sin - otherwise they would have to fight for an exemption for every Catholic employer in the country.They seem to be pushing for expanding the exemption only enough to include Catholic-identified institutions. There may be some compromise that can be reached.I think it's reasonable for them to say "we don't think it's right that you are forcing us to do this" as long as they don't paint themselves into a corner by saying "we can't do it" and later having to say "we can."

As John Hayes suggests (12:28pm), the tactical wisdom of the bishops deserves attention. The head of US military chaplains sent out a letter to be read at Masses by those subject to his orders. It resembled the USCCB form letter which many bishops have drawn on and included the line "We cannotwe will notcomply with this unjust law." Not surprisingly, the Army objected to what sounded like civil disobedience to be announced by military officers in the performance of their duty. Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army reportedly worked out an acceptable compromise. The Archbishop's dragging US military chaplains into the politico-theological brouhaha between the bishops and Obama is disgraceful as well as revealing and counter-productive. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/290147/army-silenced-chaplains-last... http://www.milarch.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=dwJXKgOUJiIaG&b=7...

John Hayes,Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I also hope that the bishops won't paint themselves into a corner, and I would like to see the Obama administration take the lead in doing everything possible to bring the issue to a mutually amicable resolution.

Re my 1:47pm, Archbishop Broglio is Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, not "head of US military chaplains".

"I think Dominos Pizza is a red herring. Even when Monaghan owned them, they never were classified as a religious organization.:Jim P. --As I see the bishops' most fundamental Constitutional claim it is is that they are being told to do what is against their own, individual consciences. That the institutions in their dioceses are not all under their control is not relevant. There just need to be *some* under their control for it to be a constitutional issue.The possibility of a compromise does rest on how those institutions are defined. But so far the bishops are not showing any inclination to compromise. I do fault them for that. Imprudent.Same with Monaghan and all the other Catholic employers who agree with the bishops.

Alan,You must be referring to paragraph 19 of Dei Verbum:19. Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1). Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed (3) after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. (2) The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus.(4) For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4).

Bishops may not own Catholic colleges but they do have responsibility for them, and a responsibility to them.If Barbara wishes to leave, I don't think she should be pressured to stay.

Kathy, look also at paragraph 12. The idea of history at that time was different than we are used to now. 12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another.

Kathy,That indeed is the paragraph I had in mind. Your bolded sections do not contradict what I wrote earlier. As John Hayes has pointed out, you have an impoverished view of Scripture and history. To speak of the "historical character" of the Gospels and "the honest truth about Jesus" is not to speak about their historicity, in the narrow way you construe that term. That is why the Pontifical Biblical Commission preferred to speak of the historical truth of the Gospels rather than their historicity. Its document was instrumental in the shaping of paragraph 19 of Dei Verbum. You appear to be a biblical literalist unaware of your own tradition regarding the interpretation of Scripture.

"I am simply trying to figure out how the bishops consciences are compromised when they are not the employers of people working at Catholic universities and hospitals. It is not clear to me where their co-operation with evil is in this matter, thats all."Hi, Professor Mitchell, I had misunderstood the point of your previous comments. I don't think the bishops' individual consciences are compromised, either, for Catholic universities and hospitals. If they've claimed otherwise, then at the least, they're guilty of imprecise writing. I had thought you were objecting to bishops speaking out for what you deemed to be, financially and morally, none of their business.I apologize for denigrating your ecclesiology.

Alan,You said,I always marvel how the Vatican creatively misinterprets Scripture to its own ends. The Catechisms take on scribes and Pharisees shows little or no knowledge of of the historical situation of the Jesus movement over against the other sectarian groups of Jews in their day. The Pharisees were not influential in Judaism until after the destruction of the Temple in 70-73 CE. Jesus most likely did not debate or criticize Pharisees, rather like John the Baptist he would have targeted the aristocratic Jews of the first century in his prophetic critique. And so, it is hard to believe that Jesus would have reproached scribes and Pharisees the way it is described in the Catechism. Quite frankly given the choice of the Pharisees and the current hierarchy relative to scandal and hypocrisy I would go with the Pharisees.Your comments read to me at first, and still reads to me now, as a dismissal of the Catechism's acceptance of the historical character of the Gospels. You claim "the Vatican creatively misinterprets" the Gospels for their own ends. That is a very pointed claim, not only about the Gospels, but about the motivations of the teaching office of the Church. And yet your only argument is that Jesus didn't know any actual Pharisees, and not because they didn't exist, but because they weren't influential. (As if Jesus wouldn't have been able to recognize an important nascent movement when he saw one!) Discussion between Jesus and Pharisees takes up multiple chapters in the Gospels. If we're not to take those passages of the Gospels seriously, not to mention historically, are we to simply excise them, like Thomas Jefferson and his scissors? Can't we take whole swathes of the Gospel seriously enough (not to mention historically enough) that "the Vatican" can refer to them in catechesis without presuming nefarious intent?!

Kathy,Once again you show that you do not understand what I wrote. I have never denied the historical nature of the gospels. I have simply stated the Catholic position on understanding the historical nature of the gospels. According to official Church teaching the gospels witness to three stages of composition. They are not only made up of what came directly from Jesus, but include what came from the apostolic preaching and from the evangelists and their communities. You have to see the whole picture. And no we should not excise what in the gospels came from stages two and three. But by the same token we should not reduce everything to stage one, which it what you seem to want to do.I never said we should not take seriously the controversy stories where Jesus sometimes debates with Pharisees. I merely said we should understand them for what they are and from which stage of the composition of the gospels they have originated. Regardless of the stage or origin, they are still integral parts of the gospels. You need to broaden your notion of historical to bring it into conformity with the Church's teaching on the origin and composition of the gospels.Furthermore, the section you quoted from the Catechism, 2285, takes Matt 7:15 out of context. The text does not refer to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus is not speaking to scribes and Pharisees and they are not even mentioned at that point in the gospel. It is rather a saying of Jesus that refers to being wary of false prophets, something that Israel had often been warned about. So it is not an accurate or good use of Scripture, and appears to be an example of weak text-proofing. Would you agree that the Catechism was wrong to refer to scribes and Pharisee in this article on scandal? Would you agree that the Catechism had offered a creative misreading of Matt 7:15?

Oh, I see. Yes, you are right, there is a vivid interpretation of the Scripture. This passage refers to "false prophets" rather than to Pharisees, and it is a rather creative application.On the other hand, there are certainly similar texts that mention the Pharisees and their influence, for example, Mt 23:27, which makes a similar contrast between outer appearance and inner reality, and is precisely concerned with the Pharisees: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."Come to think of it, Matthew plays on this theme quite a lot. ("Your Father who sees in secret...")Would your objections to the Catechism's teaching on scandal remain if, mutatis mutandis, Mt. 23:27 had been the scriptural reference used in paragraph 2285?Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.Just in case it interests anyone, here is the Catena Aurea on the Mt 7:15-20Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord had before commanded His Apostles, that they should not do their alms, prayers, and fastings before men, as the hypocrites; and that they might know that all these things may be done in hypocrisy, He speaks saying, Take heed of false prophets.Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 23: When the Lord had said that there were few that find the strait gate and narrow way, that heretics, who often commend themselves because of the smallness of their numbers, might not here intrude themselves, He straightway subjoins, Take heed of false prophets.Chrys.: Having taught that the gate is strait, because there are many that pervert the way that leads to it, He proceeds, Take heed of false prophets. In the which that they might be the more careful, He reminds them of the things that were done among their fathers, calling them false prophets; for even in that day the like things fell out.Pseudo-Chrys.: What is written below that the Law and the Prophets were until John, [Matt 11:13] is said, because there should be no prophecy concerning Christ after He was come. Prophets indeed there have been and are, but not prophesying of Christ, rather interpreting the things which had been prophesied of Christ by the ancients, that is by the doctors of the Churches. For no man can unfold prophetic meaning, but the Spirit of prophecy. The Lord then knowing that there should be false teachers, warns them of divers heresies, saying, Take heed of false prophets.And forasmuch as they would not be manifest Gentiles, but lurk under the Christian name, He said not See ye, but, Take heed. For a thing that is certain is simply seen, or looked upon; but when it is uncertain it is watched or narrowly considered. Also He says Take heed, because it is a sure precaution of security to know him whom you avoid. But his form of warning, Take heed, does not imply that the Devil will introduce heresies against Gods will, but by His permission only; but because He would not choose servants without trial, therefore He sends them temptation; and because He would not have them perish through ignorance, He therefore warns them before hand.Also that no heretical teacher might maintain that He spoke here of Gentile and Jewish teachers and not of them, He adds, who come to you in sheeps clothing. Christians are called sheep, and the sheeps clothing is a form of Christianity and of feigned religion. And nothing so casts out all good as hypocrisy; for evil that puts on the semblance of good, cannot be provided against, because it is unknown. Again, that the heretic might not allege that He here speaks of the true teachers which were yet sinners, He adds, But inwardly they are ravening wolves. But Catholic teachers should they indeed have been sinners, are spoken of as servants of the flesh, yet not as ravening wolves, because it is not their purpose to destroy Christians.Clearly then it is of heretical teachers that He speaks; for they put on the guise of Christians, to the end they may tear in pieces the Christian with the wicked fangs of seduction. Concerning such the Apostle speaks, I know that after my departure there will enter among you grievous wolves, not sparing the flock. [Acts 20:29]Chrys.: Yet He may seem here to have aimed under the title of false prophets, not so much at the heretic, as at those who, while their life is corrupt, yet wear an outward face of virtuousness; whence it is said, By their fruits ye shall know them. For among heretics it is possible many times to find a good life, but among those I have named never.Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 24: Wherefore it is justly asked, what fruits then He would have us look to? For many esteem among fruits some things which pertain to the sheeps clothing, and in this manner are deceived concerning wolves. For they practise fasting, almsgiving, or praying, which they display before men, seeking to please those to whom these things seem difficult.These then are not the fruits by which He teaches us to discern them. Those deeds which are done with good intention, are the proper fleece of the sheep itself, such as are done with bad intention, or in error, are nothing else than a clothing of wolves; but the sheep ought not to hate their own clothing because it is often used to hide wolves.What then are the fruits by which we may know an evil tree? The Apostle says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication, uncleanness, &c. [Gal 5:19] And which are they by which we may know a good tree? The same Apostle teaches, saying, The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace.Pseudo-Chrys.: The fruits of a man are the confession of his faith and the works of his life; for he who utter according to God the words of humility and a true confession, is the sheep; but he who against the truth howls forth blasphemies against God is the wolf.Jerome: What is here spoken of false prophets we may apply to all whose dress and speech promise one thing, and their actions exhibit another. But it is specially to be understood of heretics, who by observing temperance, chastity, and fasting, surround themselves as it were with a garment of sanctity, but inasmuch as their hearts within them are poisoned, they deceive the souls of the more simple brethren.Aug., non occ.: But from their actions we may conjecture whether this their outward appearance is put on for display. For when by any temptations those things are withdrawn or denied them which they had either attained or sought to attain by this evil, then needs must that it appear whether they be the wolf in sheeps clothing, or the sheep in his own.Greg., Mor., xxxi, 14: Also the hypocrite is restrained by peaceful times of Holy Church, and therefore appears clothed with godliness; but let any trial of faith ensue, straight the wolf ravenous at heart strips himself of his sheeps skin, and shews by persecuting how great his rage against the good.Chrys.: And the hypocrite is easily discerned; for the way they are commanded to walk is a hard way, and the hypocrite is loth to toil. And that you may not say that you are unable to find out them that are such, He again enforces what He had said by example from men, saying, Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?Pseudo-Chrys.: The grape had in it a mystery of Christ. As the bunch sustains many grapes held together by the woody stem, so likewise Christ holds many believers joined to Him by the wood of the Cross. The fig again is the Church which binds many faithful by a sweet embrace of charity, as the fig contains many seeds inclosed in one skin. The fig then has these significations, namely, love in its sweetness, unity in the close adhesion of its seeds. In the grape is shewn patience, in that it is cast into the wine-press - joy, because wine maketh glad the heart of man - purity, because it is not mixed with water - and sweetness, in that it delighteth. The thorns and thistles are the heretics. And as a thorn or a thistle has sharp pricks on every part, so the Devils servants, on whatsoever side you look at them, are full of wickedness. Thorns and thistles then of this sort cannot bear the fruits of the Church. And having instanced in particular tress, as the fig, the vine, the thorn, and the thistle, He proceeds to shew that this is universally true, saying, Thus every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but an evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit.Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: In this place we must guard against the error of such [margin note: Manichees] as imagine that the two trees refer to two different natures; the one of God, the other not. But we affirm that they derive no countenance from these two tree; as it will be evident to any who will read the context that He is speaking here of men.Aug., City of God, book 12, ch. 4: These men of whom we have spoken are offended with these two natures, not considering them according to their true usefulness; whereas it is not by our advantage or disadvantage, but in itself considered, that nature gives glory to her Framer. All natures then that are, because they are, have their own manner, their own appearance, and as it were their own harmony [margin note: pacem], and are altogether good.Chrys.: But that none should say, An evil tree brings forth indeed evil fruit, but it brings forth also good, and so it becomes hard to discern, as it has a two-fold produce; on this account He adds, A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: From this speech the Manichees suppose that neither can a soul that is evil be possibly changed for better, nor one that is good into worse. As though it had been, A good tree cannot become bad, nor a bad tree become good; whereas it is thus said, A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor the reverse. The tree is the soul, that is, the man himself; the fruit is the mans works. An evil man therefore cannot work good works, nor a good man evil works. Therefore if an evil man would work good things, let him first become good. But as long as he continues evil, he cannot bring forth good fruits. Like as it is indeed possible that what was once snow, should cease to be so; but it cannot be that snow should be warm; so it is possible that he who has been evil should be so no longer; but it is impossible that an evil man should do good. For though he may sometimes be useful, it is not he that does it, but it comes of Divine Providence super-intending.Rabanus: And man is denominated a good tree, or a bad, after his will, as it is good or bad. His fruit is his works, which can neither be good when the will is evil, nor evil when it is good.Aug., see Op. Imp. in Jul. v. 40: But as it is manifest that all evil works proceed from an evil will, as its fruits from an evil tree; so of this evil will itself whence will you say that it has sprung, except that the evil will of an angel sprung from an angel, of man from man? And what were these two before those evils arose in them, but the good work of God, a good and praiseworthy nature.See then out of good arises evil; nor was there any thing at all out of which it might arise but what was good. I mean the evil will itself, since there was no evil before it, no evil works, which could not come but from evil will as fruit from an evil tree. Nor can it be said that it sprung out of good in this way, because it was made good by a good God; for it was made of nothing, and not of God.Jerome: We would ask those heretics who affirm that there are two natures directly opposed to each other, if they admit that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, how it was possible for Moses, a good tree, to sin as he did at the water of contradiction? Or for Peter to deny his Lord in the Passion, saying, I know not the man? Or how, on the other hand, could Moses father-in-law, an evil tree, inasmuch as he believed not in the God of Israel, give good counsel?Chrys.: He had not enjoined them to punish the false prophets, and therefore shews them the terrors of that punishment that is of God, saying, Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire.In these words He seems to aim also at the Jews, and thus calls to mind the word of John the Baptist, denouncing punishment against them in the very same words. For he had thus spoken to the Jews, warning them of the axe impending, the tree that should be cut down, and the fire that could not be extinguished.But if one will examine somewhat closely, here are two punishments, to be cut down, and to be burned; and he that is burned is also altogether cut out of the kingdom; which is the harder punishment. Many indeed fear no more than hell; but I say that the fall of that glory is a far more bitter punishment, than the pains of hell itself. For what evil great or small would not a father undergo, that he might see and enjoy a most dear son? Let us then think the same of that glory; for there is no son so dear to his father as is the rest of the good, to be deceased and to be with Christ. The pain of hell is indeed intolerable, yet are ten thousand hells nothing to falling from that blessed glory, and being held in hate by Christ.Gloss., non occ.: From the foregoing similitude He draws the conclusion to what He had said before, as being now manifest, saying, Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Kathy,Sorry, but similar sounding teachings about Pharisees do not count here. The Catechism employed sloppy exegesis. Again the texts regarding Pharisees are from stage three of Gospel composition. If the Catechism had used one of those texts it would have introduced yet another problem of anachronism depending on what text they selected and how directly they attributed it to JesusThe catena you cite employs a fair amount of creative misreading of the original Matthean text, not to mention the anti-Judaism and supersessionism of the last text from Chrysostom whose anti-Judaism is palpable. Many of the other texts apply the notion of false prophet to heretics and say little about scandal. There are many reasons why patristic exegesis is found wanting today. You yourself can see that few of them are actually related to Matt 7:15.

Alan, I think we're to the point of disagreement that is more or less insoluble. You've mentioned in a previous conversation that you have devoted your life to precise readings of Scripture (I hope I'm repeating your expression accurately). I don't think that precision is the only or best way to read Scripture. As the deepest veins of Catholic Tradition show, richness is valued by the Church at least as much as precision is. If modern Catholic biblical scholarship has such a narrow way of reading the Scriptures that it comes close to rejecting patristic exegesis wholesale, it seems to me that it must be modern biblical scholarship that is wanting. I don't see any easy way past this impasse, which seems to me to rest on the contrast of precision and richness, and on the value placed on each.

Kathy,if you keep putting words in my mouth and misreading what I write then yes we are at an impasse. I did not reject patristic exegesis wholesale. I pointed out that what you offered as evidence for your position is inadequate. And we are not talking about a contrast between precision and richness. That is a red herring. You refuse to engage a reasonable argument on the points under discussion here without reducing everything to the most simplistic conclusions. I will not post anymore on this topic.

No offense intended, Alan, and I was in fact trying to be honest and straightforward. Sorry to have upset you.

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