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.