Some say evolution is slow but inevitable. I am not so sure, but nevertheless I am glad to see that the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters is changing his tune, albeit only slightly, on the Obama administration’s attack on religious believers in business.
Heretofore Winters has insisted that only non-profit church institutions have any claim to conscience against immoral government mandates. This week, however, he praised a court order protecting a Bible publishing company.
Winters is right to this extent, but still has some progressing to do. He is wise to reject his own unworkable distinction allowing non-profits conscience claims and denying them to other groups. A group’s non-profit status is nearly irrelevant to its claim of conscience. Planned Parenthood is a greedy, manipulating non-profit. Tyndale House Publishers is a thoroughly religious ordinary corporation.
Winters continues to be short-sighted in denying other fellow Christians any claim to conscience, for two reasons I will mention here. Winters asserts, smugly, that “making tacos” is not an activity in which one can claim to object to immoral government coercion. But Winters has no way, either in theory or in actual practice, to write an exception to the abortifacient/contraception mandate that includes Tyndale but excludes companies like Hobby Lobby, whose judge denied it an injunction. There’s just no way to write Winters’ distinction, which is why no one has tried. Case in point: Hobby Lobby’s owners also run a chain of Christian bookstores, against which the court also ruled. How religious does a believer’s activities have to be, and who decides who qualifies?
Winters’ second and more fundamental problem is that he continues to dissent from Pope Benedict and the Church when they say that it is a rejection of the “transforming power of the Gospel” for Christians to “profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs.” The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace similarly declared obvious Christian truth when it said Christians in business must “integrate the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues and ethical social principles into their life and work.” And Vatican II itself unmistakably declares that the laity are the Church and possess her inviolable religious freedom not subject to “limits” from a coercive state–they have the “right to live in society in accordance with the precepts of the Christian faith.”
Winters still rejects all of this, and still mockingly says Catholics in business have no conscience to speak of, much less one that can claim protection against immoral government mandates. This is a willful blindness among the Catholic left that has been created by their partisan commitment to President Obama. It actually threatens the Catholic left’s own emphasis on the need for capitalism to submit to vitrue. If “making tacos” has nothing to do with following Church teaching, don’t expect them to treat workers or the environment with any reverence, or to give a fig what bishops’ subcommittees say about the need to do so. One can only hope Winters and the Obama bandwagon will let the full light of Catholic Social Teaching pierce their politcal veil.