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.
A reader writes:
I have had some debates with a friend regarding the HHS Mandate. He claims that Catholics shouldn't be in such an uproar regarding the mandate given the newest changes by the Obama administration to require the insurance companies to offer contraception at no cost to the Catholic institution or business. His argument is that it is no different than him paying taxes for wars that he doesnt agree with and finds morally objectionable and contrary to his beliefs.
Is the latest form of the mandate the same as tax payer dollars being used for morally objectionable wars or even abortion? Either way it seems like you are paying indirectly for things that you might not agree with. My friend's comparison between the two situations have me at a loss for what the difference is between the two situations. IS there a difference?
No. It's not the same. Our taxpayer dollars have been paying for all sorts immorality, including unjust wars, abortion and contraceptives, and the Church, though it urges a change of policy in such matters, has never mounted the sort of resistance we now see being directed against the HHS Mandate. Why? Because with taxes, the State, though it may mishandle money, nonethless has a legitimate role in providing for the common good that outweighs the inefficiency and corruption that often accompanies government. So Paul, for instance, urges, the Romans to pay their taxes -- even when the Emperor is Nero (Romans 13). But the HHS mandate is not taking from a fungible pool of tax dollars providing for the common good and spending it badly. Rather, it is ordering -- targeting, really -- Catholic institutions and commanding them to do something specifically repugnant to their conscience and threatening to destroy them financially and legally if they do not comply. The entire and sole point of the HHS Mandate is to make open and naked war against the Church and punish her for her beliefs about sexual morality. The Church has a duty to resist such an act of war against her teaching.
And, by the way, it is not a slam dunk that when the State chooses to wage an unjust war, Catholics should just roll over and say "Caesar knows best." The earliest Christians were pacifists who refused military service, reasoning that there was no good reason to kill for a pagan emperor who murdered Christians in the arena and worshipped strange gods. As our culture increasingly serves the blasphemous trinity of Mammon, Moloch, and Dionysus, it is not unreasonable for Christians to ask themselves whether the mere fact that the state commands it is sufficient cause to support a war. Here is what the Catechism says by way of introduction to the discussion of Just War doctrine:
2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility," he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace." He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."
2306 Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.