October 05, 2012
The Church is not a bomb shelter
Here's the abstact of a new paper, 'Religious Freedom,' the Individual Mandate, and Gifts: On Why the Church is Not a Bomb Shelter, that I recently posted:
"The Health and Human Services' regulatory requirement that all but a narrow set of "religious" employers provide contraceptives to employees is an example of what Robert Post and Nancy Rosenblum refer to as a growing "congruence" between civil society's values and the state's legally enacted policy. Catholics and many others have resisted the HHS requirement on the ground that it violates "religious freedom." They ask (in the words of Cardinal Dolan) to be "left alone" by the state. But the argument to be "left alone" overlooks or suppresses the fact that the Catholic Church understands that it is its role to correct and transform society, not merely to be left alone in a gilded cage. This paper uses the HHS mandate as a vehicle by which to clarify the Catholic understanding of the ideal -- but currently mostly unachievable -- relationship between Church and state: the state should receive its principles from the Church, not the Church from the state. Social justice and subsidiarity disallow a state that reduces the Church to the status of a bomb shelter. Leviathan is happy to have the Church out of sight and out of mind."
The paper can be reached here. Its argument proceeds by unpacking the place of the respective munera of associations, above all the Church in her many manifestations such as schools and hospitals, and of individuals. The concept of munus (of which munera is the plural) conjoins the Aristotelian notion of function and the theological notion of vocation. The bottom line is that munera are gifts to be given, not possessions to kept in a bunker. The world thinks of the state's sovereignty in terms of power; Catholic social doctrine understands the state to be in service to all.
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