Seriously religious


If religious faith is an important element in the way you make decisions, the law may not force you to do something you consider wrong — even in decisions for a business you own. This, in a way, is the meaning of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the famous Hobby Lobby case.
It involves the contraceptives benefit mandate in health care law. Your family-owned business is allowed to have a conscience that reflects yours to a limited degree. The owners of Hobby Lobby stores are offended, as you might be, when told by the law that they must pay for an employee’s possible abortion.
Notice the squishy language here: “possible” abortion. It’s necessary for two reasons. First, Hobby Lobby owners consider it abortion when medications and implements stop a pregnancy between the time of conception/fertilization and implantation in the womb. This is the natural law view of the Catholic Church and many other people. Others, including some religious people, don’t consider this abortion. However, and second, one never knows whether there has even been a conception to stop.
Since an IUD implant is designed to both inhibit conception and prevent implantation if conception should occur, someone conscientiously opposed to abortion cannot be forced to pay for it. That’s the relief provided to Hobby Lobby by the Supreme Court. The company doesn’t resist paying for all contraception; only methods which operate after fertilization.
The health care law includes a regulation that contraceptive medication and devices must be provided without co-pays in health insurance plans. This was put into the law as a “compelling governmental interest” in women’s health and safety. Forcing everyone to pay for that benefit directly cannot be tolerated, though, when any element becomes a burden on religious liberty and a less restrictive way can be found for meeting the “compelling … interest.” The court said there is a less restrictive way to do that.
An “accommodation” to the contraceptives mandate has already been designed for religious organizations in nonprofit work, such as your parish school and hospitals owned by religious orders. Those employers can shift the cost of contraceptives coverage to their insurance carrier or middleman administrators or, ultimately, to the government. The Supreme Court suggested in the Hobby Lobby case that this kind of cost-shifting could be offered to closely-held businesses. Large corporations are not in this picture at all.
But further complication arises when a non-profit or family business objects that it can’t even accept the “accommodation” offered because that is still a form of cooperation in evil. We may certify that our religious beliefs prevent us from paying for contraception, they say, but that still allows contraception and, possibly, abortion. We only shift the cost to someone else — or to everyone through taxes — and we indirectly cooperate in evil.
This further objection to the contraception mandate in the law will now be another bone for the courts to chew on.
If you’re confused at this point, you’re all right. When religion, law, politics and ideology meet and mix, confusion will be normal. There are too many points of view, too many moral principles, to disentangle easily. It seems, though, that we do have a genuine clash over our ability, our freedom, to be serious religious people.
Most Catholics can understand and accept the contraceptives mandate in health care insurance. Most also oppose abortion. But what most of us would most like to do is get off this topic and talk about human dignity, respect for one another, and responsible love. The children hear more than enough about contraception. They hear more than enough about sex. They need to hear more about the direction their lives should go, and less about how to perform in the dark.
Serious religious people will focus their energy on the light, as Pope Francis is trying to remind us. Let’s not get caught up in only resisting evil. Let’s work better within our freedom to teach and model our Good News, our Gospel.
Frank Wessling

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on