Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
One of the great things about America is that you have the option to dissent from the mainstream on issues of great moral moment—using your wallet as a kind of vote. So, for instance, if you don’t like the fact that your telecom company supports Murder, Inc. (aka “Planned Parenthood”), you can sign up with the Sienna Group, a prolife Catholic company and they can provide your long distance tech instead. If you don’t want your dime going to the evil Nestle corporation (and, yes, they are evil), you can get your chocolate from some Fair Trade group that helps, rather than murders and enslaves, innocent people in Third World countries.
For exactly the same reason, in a free society, people are free to to neither provide insurance for abortion and contraception, nor purchase insurance from companies that offer insurance for morally repugnant acts. So, for instance, EWTN provides an insurance package for its employees that carefully and consciously does not feed the insurance corporation/abortion/contraception machine. Employees are, of course, free to get contraception on their own dime if they like and EWTN and similar businesses with similar objections have nothing to say about that. As contraception proponents never tire of pointing out, what people do in their own bedroom is not their employer’s business. But since contraception is not “health care” because pregnancy is not a disease and babies are not tumors, EWTN and similar organization are under no moral obligation to financially underwrite insurance companies that subscribe to that bizarre moral theory—precisely because it is not an employer’s business to pay for what people do in their bedroom. For similar reasons, an employee’s desire for consequence-free gluttony does not create an obligation on the part of his employer to build a vomitorium next to the lunchroom.
With the HHS mandate, EWTN, and any other employer who regards contraceptives and abortifacients (and soon, abortion, and after that “death with dignity”) as morally repugnant is utterly denied the freedom to refuse to participate in the insurance industry/abortion/contraception machine. Employers will be compelled to either buy in to that machine (with the fiction that the insurance is “free”: meaning “the insurance company will pass along the cost to the employer who is compelled to provide it”) or face massive fines for not buying in. It’s like Fair Trade being compelled to sell chocolate grown by Nestle’s slaves or Sienna being forced into a hostile takeover by an abortion-supporting EvilCorp. Some people will argue that since contraceptives and abortifacients are cheap and commonly available (as in “vending machine cheap and available”) it’s not a big deal that people of conscience are being compelled to offer insurance for them. But, of course, that’s just the point: it’s not like such things are difficult to obtain for those insist on them. So the only real reason the Administration is acting is to force Catholics to capitulate and deny their own consciences. It is, as Fr. Barron points out, an act of secular totalitarianism calculated, not to provide “health care” but to crush Catholic conscience and inflict draconian financial penalties on those who refuse to comply. If it’s no big deal, then stop forcing people who do think it’s a big deal to underwrite them and let those who think it no big deal pay for their own contraceptives and abortifacients.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the various suits being brought by organizations like EWTN, Belmont and others. My prayer is that the courts will smack down the Administration’s assault on conscience, as SCOTUS smacked down the Administration’s recent attempts to dictate to churches who they may and may not ordain. It will also be interesting to see if Americans, including Catholics, go back to sleep on this and pretend that Obama did not just deprive us of the right to conscience. Or will we push back and support legislation that protects that right? It is worrying that large numbers of Americans, including Catholics, have snoozed through the Administration’s seizure of the power to both indefinitely detain and murder American citizens without evidence, arrest, trial, judge, jury, verdict or sentence—merely the word of a secret panel and the unilateral dictatorial power of the Executive. So having snoozed while the Administration crushed the right to life and liberty with impunity, it should not surprise us that Americans would also snooze through the crushing of freedom of conscience and religion too. The question is: will we wake up too late? This is a matter for urgent prayer. God lives and is not asleep. We can and must pray in the hope that he will move his arm for the sake of his holy Church.