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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Archbishop Chaput on school choice and Catholic Schools Week

Philadelphia's Archbishop Chaput kicks off Catholic Schools Week with a punchy essay in support of school choice.  He ends with this:

When vouchers stalled, yet again, in the Pennsylvania house last fall, a frustrated Catholic school teacher friend of mine said “Catholics are suckers.” I don’t believe that. But then, I’m new in town. If we Philadelphia Catholics love our Catholic schools, and we obviously do, then the time to get active and focused is now. We need to begin pressing our state lawmakers to pass the school choice legislation — including vouchers and expanded EITC credits — that’s currently pending in Harrisburg. And we need to do it this week, today, right now. I plan to do that. I hope you’ll join me.



Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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What I don't understand is the reasoning that vouchers do not violate the First Amendment by using government funds to support religious education, because the money goes to the parents, and the parents decide. So the state is not directly funding religion. On the other hand, the "contraceptive mandate" violates the conscience of Catholic employers because they are allegedly forced to pay for contraception. It seems to me that if providing tax dollars to parents, many or most of whom are going to spend the money on religious schools, is not government funding of religious education, then providing insurance that covers contraception—coverage that the insured may or may not use according to their own consciences—is not the employer paying for contraception.

Posted by: David Nickol | Jan 30, 2012 9:54:21 AM

David, do you think that the analysis proposed by the Church for thinking through questions of "cooperation with evil" is the same, or should be the same, as the doctrine developed by the Court for identifying those cases where social-welfare-spending programs become "establishments" of religion?

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jan 30, 2012 9:57:24 AM


It seems to me the two are very similar, to the point where I wonder why the same principles would not apply. They are both cases of something being paid for by an entity that is not supposed to pay for such things. If anything, government funding of religious education through vouchers seems more direct than employers providing insurance that covers contraception.

Here's an interesting approach a dotCommonweal commenter discovered: "Madison Diocese offers birth control insurance, but warns employees not to use it":

A state law is forcing the Madison Catholic Diocese this month to begin offering its employees insurance coverage for birth control.

However, a diocesan spokesman said employees will be warned against using the benefit and that open defiance of Catholic teaching on the issue could ultimately lead to termination.


Posted by: David Nickol | Jan 30, 2012 10:20:55 AM

Certainly, there is an analogy, but I guess I don't see it as all that helpful because (thinking like a lawyer, I know) I regard the Court's school-funding doctrines (according to which the voucher mechanism solves the establishment problem) as not really having any independent *moral* significance; they are just tools developed by the Court to implemenet a particular constitutional rule. But, yes, I see the analogy. The question, then, is whether it actually *is* wrong (or unconstitutional) for the government to pay indirectly for "education of children in qualified schools" in the way that it might be for Catholic institutions to pay indirectly for the use of abortion-causing drugs. (In my view, for what it's worth, the HHS mandate is troubling primarily because it interferes with the integrity of religious institutions' mission; I am less engaged by the cooperation-with-evil debate, though I understand its importance.)

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jan 30, 2012 10:27:59 AM

Hi Professor Garnett,

Thanks for pointing out that this is Catholic Schools Week and for the advocacy on school choice. As you do, I beleive that this is a critical issue that many parents in our poorer communities need to have on their side. However, I wish that Archbishop Chaput would have also pointed out the fault of many of our archdioceses for the current state of Catholic education. Here in Detroit, our archdiocese was closing down many of our Catholic schools while pouring $54 million into the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. and the sale of the center has come nowhere close to closing the deficit. One wonders what that money would have done for Catholic education here in Detroit.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Jan 31, 2012 8:20:46 AM