Month: January 2012

HHS Roundtable: Cooperation with Evil

Please see several responses added to Prof. Dillon’s initial thoughts which follow in the main text below. Vincent Miller recently wrote a great post at the America blog, raising some key questions about the recent HHS decision mandating contraceptive coverage.  Some of us who contribute here decided it would be good to answer Miller’s call to think through the application of the principles of cooperation with evil to the recent HHS decision.  I agreed to get us started.  Others may add to this post, comment, or start a new post as they see fit. I’m hoping to accomplish 3 things in this post: (1) to offer a basic framework of what is at stake for Catholic institutions (i.e., “why is this such a big deal?”), (2) to lay out the principles of cooperation (3) to offer some analysis of those principles to this issue. 1. Beth Haile laid out the basics of the HHS decision last week.  With a very narrow religious exemption (that Catholic hospitals, social service organizations, and possibly even schools and parishes will NOT qualify for), employer health insurance plans will be required by law to provide contraception as part of standard, included preventative medical services to all women without any copayment.  I think it is crucial to acknowledge that the Catholic Church has a long-standing, clear objection to contraception in and of itself.  But I...

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Looking for a Good Book on Euthanasia?

Euthanasia, already a very hot topic, is getting even hotter in the UK and across Europe more generally. US law on these matters is also in flux. There are a lot of books out there on euthanasia, but one of the best is Nigel Biggar’s Aiming to Kill.  Unfortunately, if you were looking to get it for yourself or one of your courses, you might have noticed that Pilgrim Press is no longer marketing the book in the United States.  This is a shame.  However, it is still available in the UK, and is available through the UK’s Amazon site here: The book, among other things, is an excellent study in how choice for euthanasia functions in a Western culture obsessed with hyper-autonomy, production of capital, and the ‘new.’  I highly recommend...

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January 28: Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and patron saint of students and Catholic universities. Born in Roccasecca (1225), Thomas entered the famous Benedictine abbey of Montecassino at the age of five, where he began his studies. As a young teenager, he first made contact with the new mendicant order known as the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans. In opposition to his family, Thomas became a Dominican and went to study in Cologne with Albert the Great, where he was immersed in the new (and highly questionable) philosophy of Aristotle. He went to the University of Paris to finish his studies, became a Master (our equivalent to a Doctor of Philosophy) and within three years occupied one of the Dominican chairs of the University as Regent Master. Thomas would hold this chair again later in life, and the university would close down in protest, largely over the disputed use of Aristotle in the curriculum. Thomas traveled widely throughout Italy over the course of his life (walking, nonetheless, which is why you should question those who say he was obese). He was, first and foremost, a Dominican. He led a disciplined life of prayer and worship, living in community and saying Mass every morning. We often forget about Aquinas as an exemplar in prayer, but he wrote a number of prayers and songs that we...

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Compendium Commentary: Political Community

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Part II, Chapter 8   The Compendium begins its account of the role of the political community by recounting the biblical ambiguity with regard to political authority.  When the Israelites first ask the judge and prophet Samuel for a king (2 Samuel 8) he warns them that kings will tax their harvests and send their sons off to war to be killed.  And yet the king is called to enact God’s justice for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger by fulfilling his part in the covenant with Yahweh.  Likewise, Jesus rejects a vision of the Messiah as political ruler, and denounces the oppressive power of political and religious leaders, while also affirming that we are to render what is due to Caesar (Mk 12:13-17); and Paul insists on due deference to those who exercise political authority (Rom 13).   This same ambiguity can be found in contemporary social ethics as well.  For example, the well-known Protestant social ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr claimed that the Gospel ethic was suitable only for individuals, while societies had to practice a different ethic of “political realism.”  For him, law and political authority are justified and made necessary by the reality of human sinfulness and the responsibility of political authority to mitigate its corrosive effects on society.  Other contemporary political theologians, following an interpretation of Augustine’s...

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Conscience Clause…. Why Opting Out is Not an Option

One of the commenters at Beth’s post on the HHS decision regarding contraception asks: How consistent or heathy is it for a religion like Catholicism, which views persons and personhood differently from a secular American government, to expect to be an integral part of American society and to not be at odds with the government? To what extent should Catholics and the Catholic Church expect to pay no price at all for their outlook, which is quite different from that of secular government. The commenter goes on to mention the Amish as a case of people who have “opted out” of certain kinds of government regulations; is health care, done secular-style, one of those points where Catholics need to opt out? I think these are all good questions, deserving of their own post, and so I am writing here. I’m trying to think through this myself, so much of what I say may be redundant, but I want people to see how I’m thinking about this in my own arguments. I will say, on one hand, I’m sympathetic to the idea that Catholicism is, well, to put it baldly, odd and weird especially when it is compared to purported contemporary secular values like those held by the United States government. And, I think further that Catholics can and should be prepared to be “out of step” with culture on...

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