Sunday, November 23, 2014

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Catholic Education Daily

 

Notre Dame Professor Defends HHS Mandate

University of Notre Dame law and theology professor Cathleen Kaveny wrote inCommonweal Magazine that the Obama administration is not attacking religious liberty with its HHS mandate and any attempt by the bishops to say otherwise is a “canard.”

Kaveny takes the bishops to task for opposing the mandate and writes that the USCCB’s criticism “is rooted in a mistaken assumption about how our law operates” and that the mandate “makes sense in our pluralistic society.”

…the HHS regulations must balance the religious-liberty interests of all employers against the legitimate expectations of employees and the government’s public health goals. In organizations that have been completely exempted from the mandate—such as parishes and dioceses—employees are more likely to share, or at least accept, the moral views of their employers. Consequently, it will not seem unfair to deny access to treatments that are inconsistent with an employer’s religious views. Nor will it greatly affect the public health objectives of the law, assuming this class of beneficiaries is less likely to use contraception even if it were freely available.

But many Catholic institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, employ and serve non-Catholics. Initially, these institutions did not qualify for any exemption. But in response to criticism from the bishops and others, HHS created a second category of exemption, “to accommodate non-exempt, nonprofit religious organizations.”

Doesn’t this sort of accommodation make sense in our pluralistic society? HHS emphasizes that the different treatment accorded these religious organizations does not imply that the second group is less religious than the first. Instead, HHS recognizes that the employees in the second group likely have different needs and different values than those in the first group. The vast majority of Americans (including most Catholics) think the use of contraception can be a way of fulfilling their moral obligations, not betraying them.

The bishops rightly note that faith-based employers have a religious-liberty interest at stake in the mandate. They sometimes forget, however, that the employees of these institutions also have religious-liberty interests.

Kaveny writes that she finds the suggestion by The Catholic Health Association to broaden the total exemption category to include religiously sponsored hospitals and universities while providing contraceptives under another government program is “attractive” but she makes it clear that she rejects the “canard” that the mandate is a cynical attack on religious institutions.

This is hardly the first time that Kaveny has undercut the bishops on important issues. In October of last year in the weeks leading up to the election, Kaveny undercut the strongly stated positions of a number of bishops who warned Catholics against voting for gay “marriage” and abortion-rights supporting politicians.

Kaveny was quoted in the heterodox National Catholic Reporter at the time saying, “I don’t know if they can say this has to be the priority that you’re voting on … without any consideration of what the alternatives are and how likely electing someone is to actually make those things happen.”

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