Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil.
Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae no. 74
The Immorality of the HSS Mandate. The Obama administration will now require employers through their health insurance program provide artificial contraceptive drugs and devices. “Beginning August 1, 2012, most new and renewed health plans will be required to cover” these services “without cost sharing for women across the country.” According to the press release from the Department of Health and Human Services:
Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. This rule is consistent with the laws in a majority of states which already require contraception coverage in health plans, and includes the exemption in the interim final rule allowing certain religious organizations not to provide contraception coverage.
While the current “rule allows certain non-profit religious employers that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraceptive services” after August 1, 2013, religiously based employers “do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan” will be required to do so or face significant fines. “This additional year,” HSS says is to “allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule.” In the interim, “employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”
Along with other religious and non-religious groups from both the political left and right, the US Catholic bishops have objected to the HSS mandate arguing, among other things, that mandate is a violation of religious freedom. In addition, the argument goes, the mandate is unjust because it requires that employers engage in activities (for example, early term abortion) that are contrary to the Christian tradition and natural law (you can read the whole text here). It is this second objection that is central to understanding the objections of the Catholic Church to the policy. Merely asking employers who object to stand, as one commentator put the matter, “several steps removed” from providing contraceptive drugs misses the point of the Catholic Church’s objection. The State has no right to require any citizen or institution, religious or not, to support financially contraception and abortion.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I will leave to others the economic arguments against the possibility providing drugs for free. Others have addressed that better than I (see here). My concern here is on the philosophical and theological arguments made by the Catholic bishops. While we ought not to minimize the Constitutional arguments against the mandate, as we will see the Catholic bishops are a deeper and broader argument grounded.
In later essay, I want to raise address the moral status of artificial contraception in the Orthodox Church. The mandate and the arguments both for and against it hinge in part of the morality of the required services. The patristic evidence is clearly opposed to what today we would call artificial contraception (J. Noonan, Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, First Edition. Belknap Press; Enlarged ed edition,1965). The Church’s liturgical tradition sees children as divine blessing not only for the couple themselves but also for the “for the continuation of the [human] race” (Rite of Betrothal). And in the marriage service the priests asks that God grant the newly married couple “ the fruit of the womb, fair offspring, concord of soul and body” as they “may be expedient” for the couples salvation and earthly happiness (Rite of Crowning).
But seen in light of the Tradition of the Orthodox Church, the Catholic bishops are correct in their assertion that the mandate reflects a faulty understanding of human biology and so anthropology. Unlike other mandated service that actually “prevent disease[s]” such as high blood pressure or cancer, the HSS mandate does not. It rather works to prevent the normal, healthy function of the human body. To do this, the government treats pregnancy as a disease. But “pregnancy is not a disease” and in fact represents the proper functioning of the human body. It is simply wrong to think of contraception in terms of disease prevention. But again, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, let’s return to what else the Catholic bishops had to say. Continue reading