Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mark Silk's mistake regarding the (proposed new) mandate

Michael Sean Winters calls attention, here, to Mark Silk's complaint about what he regards as the bishops' insufficiently enthusiastic embrace of the proposed (i.e., not-yet-adopted) new contraceptive-coverage mandate.  In my view, the theme (which I've come across in several posts and pieces by commentators) that the bishops are somehow being churlish or ungrateful for observing that -- notwithstanding the welcome revision to the definition of exempt "religious employers" -- the mandate continues to burden religious liberty in regrettable and unnecessary ways is a strange one.

Two quick thought:  Silk writes:

The bishops offer nothing to indicate that the many non-Catholics who receive health coverage at their colleges and  hospitals may have rights of their own that ought to be recognized. Or that those institutions, by virtue of the substantial public funding they receive, might legitimately be distinguished from houses of worship.

Both of these sentences peddle mistakes.  First, there is no question here of "recogniz[ing]" the "rights" of "non-Catholics" to receive free contraception-coverage from Catholic institutions.  Even putting aside doubts about the wisdom of the mandate as a policy matter, the claim by those objecting to the mandate is not that these employers should be denied coverage, or (obviously) told they cannot use contraception.  The complaint has been that, if the government thinks free contraceptive-coverage is a good thing, then the government should pay, rather than making the religious employers do it.  No "rights" of non-Catholic employees are violated if their free contraceptive-coverage comes from the government, rather than from, say, Catholic Charities.

Second, it is wrong to say that the institutions in question "receive" "public money" in a way that somehow waters down their religious-ness.  They don't "receive" money as a gift, or a subsidy -- they accept payment and reimbursement for benefits they provide to the community.  There's no reason this relationship should push them into what Cardinal Dolan called "second class" religious-institution status.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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