Wednesday, February 15, 2012
David Gibson quotes a theologian "who, like several others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of angering the hierarchy," and says that the bishops (and the hundred or so "culture warriors" who have signed the George / Glendon / Garvey "unacceptable" letter) "fail their church's own moral reasoning" and, in essense, flunk "moral theology 101."
First, it is quite mistaken to dismiss all of the signers of that letter as "culture warriors"; the signers include people whom I know Gibson would, on reflection, concede are very serious Catholic thinkers. But, let's put that aside.
Obviously, the bishops and the letter's authors are closely familiar with "[t]he category of moral reasoning . . . called 'cooperation with evil.'" It is useful for Gibson to educate his readers about this category, but wrong, in my view, to assert or conclude that the bishops and their advisors have failed to "[think] all the way through" the matter. This (very important and valuable) way of handling and analyzing hard cases, it seems to me, provides a way to frame the engagement, but it will not, by itself, answer every hard question. The bishops, and the letter writers, know all about -- as does Gibson, who I think is a smart writer -- the distinctions between "formal" and "material" cooperation, and between "immediate" and "mediate" material cooperation. They reason through the problem, employing these categories, differently. (See, for example, Robby and Sherif Girgis's pieces here and here.)
It should also be emphasized that the "cooperation with evil" analysis does not resolve the question whether the mandate illegally or needlessly burdens religious freedom, or undermines the integrity and witness of religious institutions, or creates scandal. But, that's a matter for another time. . .