Author: David Cloutier

The Mandate: Three Lessons So Far

Word that the bishops are rejecting the Obama administration compromise on the HHS mandate means further conversations. DotCommonweal has a great update, but the comment thread made me think that before we Catholics devolve into the usual, unfortunate camps, I want to highlight three lessons that the events up to now should invite us as moral theologians to develop further: One, the compromise and its rejection display how sorely inadequate our current thinking about “cooperation with evil” is. It would seem the administration has taken advantage of a quirk in the present situation: it may very well be cheaper for insurance companies to offer contraceptive services, and therefore they can be “mandated” to do so, in a separate, “free” agreement between employee and insurer. In principle, given that the institution is not a party to such an agreement, nor is any individual in the organization compelled to enter into the agreement, the problem of cooperation is solved. David Brooks terms this a “polite fiction” – polite, because it does honor the consciences of those who wish not to be party to the agreement, but a fiction, because at the end of the day, the insurance company is simply a pot of money, and so unless the insurer is not providing contraception to anyone, anywhere, premiums are “paying” for contraception. The bishops are objecting to this, and, as Dana points...

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Understanding the Real Issues of the Contraceptive Mandate (UPDATED)

Gail Collins and David Brooks have a very illuminating exchange on the ongoing controversy over the contraception mandate. Brooks is, as you might expect, rather astonished at the “absolutist” stance taken by the Obama administration. He sees it as politically foolish, but he also sees it as substantively mistaken. He says: The truth is that institutions with a strong sense of mission often attract diverse groups of people who want to attend or work there. Those schools and hospitals and charities are strong precisely because of their distinct mission and in the real world everybody involved tries to preserve that mission while respecting the diversity of those who aren’t members of that group. These accommodations are often messy, but they are worth making. We all make accommodations. It happens every day in a pluralistic society. What Brooks recognizes is that this issue, however much Catholics as a whole may follow or not follow the teaching, is central to Catholic identity, and that therefore it is very much a matter of maintaining the “distinct mission” of the institutions. While the “assault on religious freedom” rhetoric can get a little overheated, Brooks correctly recognizes that in a genuinely pluralistic society, religiously-sponsored institutions which benefit the society should be given leeway to maintain their mission and identity. Collins, however, is having none of it. Rarely have I seen such an unguarded, impolitic...

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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Back to the Ordinary

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42 The return to Ordinary Time offers us an opportunity to get back to the basics of the Christian journey – in this case, the fundamental task of listening for God’s voice in our lives. After all the changes in the liturgy, I suspect it will also be a relief that 80% of U.S. congregations will sing “Here I Am, Lord” this week! Arguably, the most distinctive characteristic of Christianity as a religion is the notion of God’s call. This entails certain other beliefs – most notably, that God speaks to us and is not absent from our lives, and that God’s speech is not merely a set of announcement, but always moves us to participation in God’s mission. As Pope Benedict has noted throughout his writings, early Christian thinkers were deeply influenced by Greek philosophy, but what they never forgot was that the god of the philosophers did not CALL people. St. Augustine, often criticized for his “neo-Platonism,” nevertheless offers us perhaps the most famous description of a life saturated by following (and not following!) God’s call. What do this week’s readings tell us about this call? Two things are readily apparent in the responses. First, Samuel is told by Eli to reply, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” God’s call is not automatically heard. God...

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Introducing the Journal of Moral Theology

For a long time, North American Catholic moral theologians have lacked a specific journal in which to carry out their research. There are outstanding ethics journals, like the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, but the audiences for these journals are much broader and aren’t as interested in specifically Catholic concerns. And there are outstanding Catholic journals, like Theological Studies, but they cover all areas of theology, and so have limited space for moral theology articles. But now there is the Journal of Moral Theology. The first print issues were distributed at this past weekend’s meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the issue contains a series of articles by leading contemporary figures (like Jim Keenan and John Grabowski) on important figures from the previous generation (in this case, on Bernard Haring and Pope John Paul II, respectively). The articles from the journal will always be available as open-access files, and more details on future issues can also be found at the website. We hope readers of catholicmoraltheology.com who are interested in moral theology beyond blog posts will check it...

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