Dominican Moral Theologians on the HHS Mandate
February 18, 2012
Dominican friars Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, and Fr. John Corbett, OP, were interviewed this week by the Catholic News Agency regarding a recent article in USA Today by a Religion News Service reporter entitled, “Contraception objections fail Catholic’s [sic] moral reasoning“, which attempted to reconcile the controversial HHS Mandate with Catholic moral theology. Fr. Petri, a professor of moral theology at Providence College, articulated the distortions of the concept of material cooperation with evil present in the USA Today article. Fr. Petri said, according to the article, “that [the] writer for Religion News Service was performing a ‘sleight of hand’ that confused different issues and left out important distinctions.” “Fr. Petri acknowledged [the writer’s] argument that an employer, under the new mandate, ‘might not have involvement or knowledge of a separate contract … between employee and insurer’ to receive contraception without a co-pay, since these agreements would be strictly between the insurer and employee. But, as the Dominican pointed out, no Catholic employer is currently in that hypothetical future situation. Rather, Fr. Petri noted, employers are now in the predicament of being forced to agree, knowingly, that such agreements will be made in the future as part of their contracts with insurers. By confusing the two situations, [the writer] drew attention away from the question actually facing the Church – which is not about whether to make contracts under which contraception could be provided; but rather, about whether to accept being forced to make such contracts in the future. By confusing the two situations, [the Religion News Service writer] drew attention away from the question actually facing the Church – which is not about whether to make contracts under which contraception could be provided; but rather, about whether to accept being forced to make such contracts in the future.” Fr. Corbett, a professor of moral theology at the Dominican House of Studies, spoke of the problem of certain justifications of the mandate leading to formal cooperation with evil. He is quoted as saying: “It seems to me that if this argument, and subsequent policy, were enacted then the Church would be placed in the position of hoping that contraception be actually practiced.” “For if it were not practiced sufficiently, then there would be no savings,” he explained. “If there were no savings then there would be higher premiums through which the Church would be more or less directly paying for contraception.” “This would put the Church in the position of saying ‘A sufficient number of you must practice contraception to ensure that we will not have to pay for your contraception.’ This looks a lot like formal cooperation.” Click here to read the full article.