The Roamin' Catholic asks us all a question.
It’s not often happened, in my lifetime, that the U.S. government would flatly require what God forbids, or forbid what God requires. Usually political judgments have had to do with teaspoon measuring and prudential reasoning, sorting and bargaining and trade-offs of competing goods. The policy picture is made by pencil: we sketch and erase, we compare estimated costs and benefits of differing public policies. These things are negotiable; and the negotiation is called politics.
So it was most shocking, in the first few months of 2012, for American Catholics to face not the usual shading, tinting and cross-hatching, but a true black-and-white crisis. Through the HHS “Contraceptive Mandate,” Catholic institutions would be required to subsidize in practice programs and policies which we utterly -- morally, ethically, religiously --- reject in conscience. We faced not “politics”, but coercive force which threatened the existence of every Catholic institution in the United States.
As I write, some temporary abatement seems likely: the U.S. Supreme Court may strike down the huge, lumbering, tractor-treaded “Obamacare” machine in its entirety. Or the Court may knock out its key part, its money engine, the “Individual Mandate,” which would eventually collapse the entire Federal health insurance apparatus.
But what if the Supreme Court fails us?
Or what if the legal authority of HHS director Kathleen Sebelius to define and enforce nationwide insurance policy requirements somehow survives the wreckage?
Or what if the Obama Administration or some successor Administration tries to re-impose mandatory contraception/abortion coverage by separate legislation at a later date?
I am convinced that even the most favorable Supreme Court ruling will not prevent such crises from cropping up again and again in the near future. We will no longer being asked to tolerate evils: we will be ordered to participate in them: as payers first, then as providers.
And since Catholic institutions can not both forbid sins and offer them as benefits, most Catholic commentators narrow the possible Catholic response to only two: don’t offer any health coverage at all, and pay the resultant fines, or shut down.
“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Couldn’t we, as a temporary tactical expedient, simply pay (in the case of Obamacare) the damned insurance--- ---- to buy time to mobilize our forces, and fight?
"Couldn’t we do so under protest, while launching noisy campaigns on the electoral, legislative, and judicial fronts to change the mandate? Couldn’t we do it while attacking politicians who support the mandate, networking with state governments and other allies to overturn it, and suing every HHS official in the country?
"Couldn’t we go along with it for a time, but only in order to survive, fight, and win?”
The answer, I think, is “No.”