And thus the problem with relying on governmental “charity.”

Rule of thumb: When you're to the left of Cardinal Mahony, you're too far to the left.

A question without an answer is that question, “how much government intervention in caring for the less-fortunate is the right amount?” Catholic social teaching gives us a framework by which to evaluate whether the government is doing too much or not enough to help those in need, but the Catholic Church does not—cannot—set precise policy prescriptions for the “correct” rates of taxation, forms of welfare, rules governing eligibility, etc. Those considerations reside in the prudential judgment of the body politic. In the U.S., that means you and me as voters selecting representatives, and it means those whom we elect to pass and enforce those laws they deem good and necessary.

There can be no disagreement, mind you, about whether or not the people as a whole have a responsibility toward one another and the environment. But on a whole host of issues good Catholics can disagree about the precise involvement (if any) a given level of government has in the concerns of the needy.

But there certainly can come a time when those who, in general, think the government ought to do more rather than less get bit by that government We have come to that time, and those socio-politically liberal Catholics don’t like having been bit.

In a Wall Street Journal column today William McGurn looks at the reactions of some Catholics who supported Barack Obama in one way or another to the HHS contraceptive mandate.

U.S. Senator Robert Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Notre Dame President Father Tom Jenkins, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, and others, have expressed their dismay at this ruling—even after so many in the Church championed the passage of Obamacare as a justified and necessary measure in providing health care for all.

Ensuring that all have access to needed health care (among many other expected luxuries our modern society surrounds us with) certainly is in the realm of what Catholic social teaching compels us to consider.

But access to health care does not legitimize massive government control and coerced violation of one’s conscience and religious beliefs. Charity is not charity if it is coerced, and it certainly is not charity if it violates moral norms in itself or requires another to violate his conscience (even if poorly formed).

With regard to the topic at hand, a more market-based system (including but not limited to greater portability of health insurance coverage, the ability for companies to sell plans across state lines, and—especially—disconnecting health insurance from employment) would have entirely precluded the possibility of the government ordering Catholics to violate their consciences or get out of the business of caring for those in need. A more circumspect approach that may have included an actual reading and analysis of the entire bill before passage would likely have prevented this.

But too many people, including too many prominent Catholics, were too eager to let Obama, Pelosi, and others who desire pervasive centralized control to write the thing and pass it.

Subsidiarity became a punch line, when it was mentioned.

Truly a tragedy that it had to come to this. But perhaps at least now all good people who value freedom of conscience, religious liberty, and/or the great services provided over the centuries by the various organizations of the Catholic Church (hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, thrift shops, shelters, hospices, job training and placement services, crisis pregnancy clinics, maternity homes, adoption services, counseling services, etc.) will come together to help push back this illegitimate power grab.

If it is not pushed back, this country has fundamentally changed from one that values and defends religious liberty and personal freedom to one that requires compliance with the diktats of the central planners, pure and simple.

Even if you think contraception is a legitimate form of health care you ought to be able to encompass the problem with this regulatory mandate. If not, you are a fan of central planning, and you have lost the right to complain when (not if) the central planners require you to violate your own conscience under penalty of massive fines.



  • Peter

    “massive government control and coerced violation of one’s conscience and religious beliefs” How so? This ruling doesn’t force anyone to get an abortion against their will. It doesn’t force anyone to perform an abortion. It doesn’t force anyone to say that getting an abortion is groovy and fun. It doesn’t force anyone to say that they support abortions when they don’t. It simply states that employers that offer health care plans, have to offer comprehensive health care plans and allow their workers to choose. I believe in freedom and allowing people choice in their healthcare is just that.

    • Tom Crowe

      Peter— If a person thought self-mutilation or perhaps heroin was a legitimate form of “healthcare” would you agree? Would you think it hunky-dory for the government to force you and your insurance provider to pay for it? I should hope not. Similarly, we Catholics believe contraceptives and abortofacients are not “healthcare,” and are in fact morally repugnant to us and harmful to all who use them. Why should we then be forced to subsidize the purchase of such things? Why are you imposing your morals on us?

    • Tom Crowe

      Further, Peter, if you love choice so much, remember: no one forces anyone to work for or seek the services of a Catholic organization. If someone truly values contraceptives as part of their covered healthcare they are free to seek employment or treatment elsewhere.

    • Anne Galivan

      Actually, it does force people to “say” they support abortion – with their dollars. It forces doctors and other health professionals to “choose” to participate in abortion or quit their profession.

      And it doesn’t “simply state that employers that offer health care plans have to offer comprehensive health care plans” – it states that even if it is against their highest moral beliefs employers have to offer what their beliefs say is sin – so they are left with a “choice” to violate their beliefs, or close their business.

      Obamacare is destroying business in this country, just as everything else Obama touches has been about destroying private enterprise. You can “choose” to be blind to the truth but it doesn’t make it any less true.

      • Matt

        Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan requires all Americans to contribute money through payroll taxes to insurance companies that sponsor abortion. Where was the pro-life community when Ryan’s plan was released AND voted on? I agree the Obama initiative is wrong, but the hypocrisy on sites like this is striking.

      • FreeOne

        Ann, it does not force anyone to “say” they support abortion with their tax dollars. The rule applies to businesses and requires them to offer at least one health plan to their employees that covers reproductive services. Your statement is false. How can you force people to have a choice? That’s an oxymoron and simply doesn’t make any sense. Employers don’t have to violate their consciences or pay for services that they don’t believe in. They are required to offer their employees a choice in health care plans. The employee pays for the healthcare plan, either through their wages or as part of their benefits, but regardless, it’s the employee’s choice and their money, paid for by their hard work. I guess this comment is a good response to Tom’s comments, because he repeats the same falsehoods. The employee pays for the healthcare plan, not the employer.

        • Julie T.

          No, FreeOne, Anne is not mistaken. I suppose you believe that you pay for your current health insurance offered by your employer. If you do, you are less than half right. As an administrative assistant with experience in human resources, I can assure you that employees pay, on average, only one-third of the cost of their healthcare plan. Employers do indeed pick up the rest of the tab. So, yes, the First Amendment is being violated with Mr. Obama’s edict and I pray that it is either withdrawn or rejected as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I really worry about the future of this republic when Americans cannot see a violation of our Bill of Rights when it stares them in the face.

        • daniel @ campinas

          Actually, you can “force” people to have a choice. I live in Brazil and while I am not a citizen here, voting is compulsory for them. You can lose public benefits and registering for public programs becomes a major hassle if you do not vote. You are “required” to make a choice. That being said, there are options to vote “null and void” or “none of the above”, which are the protest votes.

          • frank

            If someone if forced to vote, then they don’t have a choice about voting. Perhaps you don’t understand the word “choice”. I also agree with other statements here. Health benefits are “paid” by the employee by their working. Just like your employer can’t tell you that on the third tuesday of every month you have to go buy a blue car, they can’t tell you what healthcare that you can and can not purchase.

          • Tom Crowe

            Frank, if the government will punish you for failure to do something then of course you can still *choose* not to do it, but the government has made that failure to act a crime. One can *choose* not to get an abortion or to use contraception, but the government has told employers that if they provide health insurance (and make no mistake: employers pay a significant portion of the premium for their employees out of money that in no way, shape, or form can be counted as compensation to the employee) they cannot not offer coverage for contraceptives and abortofacients. The other option that employers can “choose” is not to offer health insurance at all, but choosing that option incurs a hefty fine. But let’s look at the insurance coverage provided in its monetary value and consider it additional compensation, just to make your position work. So the employee whose salary is, say, $40,000 has insurance coverage with a total premium (that paid by employee contribution plus employer contribution) of $600 per month. That means in addition to his $40,000 salary he “earns” $7,200 per year in health insurance benefit. So the employer simply drops health insurance coverage and pays that employee $47,200 for the year. Two problems: 1) the employer still has to pay the fine for failure to provide health insurance; 2) the employee will (almost assuredly) not be able to find a health insurance plan as good as the one he had with the employer for $7,200 per year. Some choice: offer and pay for coverage that is antithetical to what you believe, or get punished by the government.



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