Thursday, August 09, 2012

Moral Options under HHS Coercion

Father Steve Angi, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, passed onto me (and others) a copy of special August issue of Ethics and Medics, published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Health Care and the Life Sciences. It addresses options for those who come under the heel of President Obama's mandate--through the Department of Health and Human Services--that all of us, with few exceptions, must have contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs as part of our health plans.

While religious bodies--narrowly defined by the government--are exempt, many religiously affiliated organizations are not, not to mention all the rest of us whose "private" religious beliefs matter not at all to this administration.

So the question is, what are our options for response to this mandate?

The article gives four choices and evaluates them:

1. Willing assent. This represents formal--i.e., intentional--cooperation, and is morally indefensible. The article does not touch upon those putatively Catholic institutions which have willingly gone along with this, till now, even without any compulsion from the government. (And you may be interested to know that because they did, there is some question, I'm told, about whether they are legally free to refuse now. See what happens when you go along with evil? You get trapped.)

2. Defiance by providing morally acceptable insurance. Under this option, a business or other institution would continue to provide insurance--but would not provide the newly mandated elements that are contrary to Catholic Faith. Doing so would invite fines from the government. The article mentions a fine of $100 per employee per day; but I think I read somewhere there's a yearly fine that is less than the per-diem rate. Either way, such fines could be crushing.

As a result, the authors of the article deem this morally acceptable, but perhaps imprudent--because the result could be the financial destruction of the organization and loss of livelihood for the employees.

If I understood his recent statement correctly, this is the path chosen by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.

3. Defiance by dropping all coverage. This is deemed the "most morally sound" approach, because it means less damage to the institution and thus makes loss of livelihood for the employees less certain. But the authors point out this involves fines as well, but less onerous. (Note that, as others have: the government's penalties are focused most on spreading acceptance of contraception. Of all options, the one they will punish most severely is health insurance without contraception and abortion.)

The authors recognize, however, the many problems with this, including the loss of health insurance by employees, who may not be able to get health care on their own.

4. Compliance under protest. The authors examine this option in light of the problems created by the prior two, particularly for those whose health needs may suffer greatly. The article says, "Employer-provided insurance coverage is often a life-saving measure...Many employees depend on access to medications and treatments that are necessary to preserve their health or even their lives." The authors add that it is "the federal government" that is putting "the health and very lives of its citizens at risk."

Thus, facing a "terrible" choice between conscience and the well being of their employees, employers may opt for this, provided they do all in their power to oppose and mitigate the mandate, and provided compliance ends once insurance exchanges are available to employees in 2014.

The authors deem this "licit mediate material cooperation"; meaning the ones cooperating don't share the intention (i.e., formal cooperation), and it's not immediate cooperation because its somewhat indirect--the employer is providing health care in general, not specifically contraception or abortion drugs directly, and doing so under duress.

My thoughts...

Insofar as this is an evaluation of the moral culpability of various acts--I would tend to agree about number 4. That is to say, if an employer came to me, in confession, describing exactly this sort of dilemma, I'd have to reach the same conclusion about his or her own culpability.


My own view is that whoever can, should opt for either choice 2 or 3: DEFIANCE!

I have said it from the beginning: make the Obama Administration act against us. Make them fine us. Then refuse to pay the fines. Not one penny. Make them take collection action. Make them file liens. Make them seize our properties.

That's when it will be clear what's going on. In my view, that will be so outrageous, so shocking, the Obama Administration will do anything to avoid that outcome. They won't want to use actual coercion; they want us to go along meekly. Make them point the gun in front of everyone.

But that's easy for me to say.

Meanwhile, keep praying. Remember, the whole country came under this coercion eight days ago. The religious organizations were given a year to get ready to operate under the heel of the government.


truthfinder2 said...

Father, do you have any information on what happens to the fines the government would collect? Would they go to pay for Healthcare mandated contraception and abortion for others? --- Rosemary

Fr Martin Fox said...


I have no idea.

Wayne said...

I couldn't agree with you more about numbers 2 and 3. Don't comply in the least regard and make the Government take action against us. We cannot go quietly into compliance (whether in protest or not). I would be very disappointed to see any Church agency take the 4th option.