Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Respect Conscience, Strengthen Health Care"

Steve Schneck writes, at the National Catholic Reporter, in defense of conscience-protection regarding "medical procedures that must be covered by new insurance policies offered under the health care reform law."  He writes as someone who was a Catholic supporter of Kathleen Sebelius (despite her bad record on abortion) and of President Obama:

Those of us who supported Sebelius’ nomination argued forcefully that she should not be penalized because her conscience reached different conclusions on contentious issues from those reached by the leaders of the Catholic church. But it would be a tragic irony if, in adopting the new rules, Sebelius declined to afford to Catholic church organizations the same conscience rights we invoked when defending her nomination. Those of us who joined “Catholics for Sebelius” did not do so to see our conscience rights eviscerated.

Now, in my view, this is not quite the right way to put it.  Even assuming that it was / is "conscience" that has animated Sebelius's abortion-related actions and positions, the issue is not merely her disagreement on "contentious issues" with conclusions on reached by "leaders" of the Catholic Church, but rather her active support for policies that, the Church authoritatively teaches, are unjust.  In any event, I hope that the President, and Sec. Sebelius, listen to the voices of people like Mr. Schneck.  At the same time, I do not believe, with all due respect, that it should come as a surprise if they do not.   


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Professor Schneck can adapt the readily available language in his letter to Speaker Boehner if he wishes to address Secretary Sebleius in a public petition:

“It is good . . . to engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching.”

I wonder how many of his erstwhile 70 Catholic scholar/allies would sign a letter challenging Sibelius.

Posted by: Patrick Molloy | Jul 29, 2011 6:45:34 PM

Should be "Sebelius"

Posted by: Patrick Molloy | Jul 29, 2011 6:52:27 PM

What a crock. Wasn't Sabellius holding cocktail parties for George Tiller when she was back in Kansas? It's naive (willfully?) to think someone like that gives two figs about the conscience rights of Catholics, individuals or institutions.

Posted by: Don Altobello | Jul 30, 2011 9:46:32 AM

Although it is true that all consciences are not equal, a conscience that has been formed in Christ and continues to abide in His Word, would not consider any part of that which The Catholic Church authoritively teaches to be a "contentious" issue.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Jul 30, 2011 11:07:45 AM

If Sebelius is supporting policies that the Church deems unjust, those asserting "conscience rights" are equally engaging in actions that many find unjust.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Jul 30, 2011 6:47:14 PM

Andrew, this does not change the fact that because our Founding Fathers realized that our unalienable Rights are endowed to us from God, they understood that our unalienable Right to practice our Faith in private as well as in public, must be secured and protected.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Jul 30, 2011 7:51:48 PM

Nancy, I'm unclear on how that's a response to my comment.

And of course those rights claimed under the banner of "conscience" are not absolute.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Jul 30, 2011 9:40:12 PM

Which is why, for the sake of clarity, we should refer to the need for a religious liberty clause rather than a conscience clause, whenever our unalienable Right to practice our Faith in public as well as private is not being secured and protected.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Jul 31, 2011 9:02:23 AM

The right to free exercise of religion is also, obviously, not unlimited.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Jul 31, 2011 9:41:20 AM

Such is the tangled web, some are willing to weave, to deny the inherent unalienable Right of every human individual to be treated with dignity and respect.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Jul 31, 2011 10:03:33 AM

Here are the conscience exemptions as released today:
Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B)

Especially #3 will be a challenge for Catholic hospitals and Catholic schools. It offers no protection for doctors and other health care providers.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 1, 2011 10:54:56 AM

Denise, thanks for this. Given No. 3, it appears as though the protections provided are quite insignificant.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Aug 1, 2011 10:57:06 AM

What could be clearer?: "The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child."

Posted by: Paul Sanders | Aug 24, 2011 3:18:46 PM

It is indeed exasperating that Catholic politicians who present themselves as ardent Catholics consistently oppose the Church on what the many Catholics consider the premier civil-rights issue of the day.

Posted by: Joseph Heslin | Aug 25, 2011 10:42:13 AM

Very frustrating when Catholic politicians misrepresent the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion. I would respect a little more honesty--but we're talking about politicians here.

Posted by: Burt A. | Aug 31, 2011 6:03:13 PM

These are politicians, people. Nothing to see here--move on.

Posted by: Vimax Powell | Oct 27, 2011 2:17:24 PM

When are people going to understand that certain tenets and beliefs simply can't be compromised? There's really no point to the whole thing then, is there?

Posted by: Malcolm | Nov 19, 2011 9:12:56 AM