Friday, May 27, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Archbold: Theologians Consider HHS Mandate, Hilarity Ensues

The Catholic Theological Society of America, in their annual meeting, considered a resolution yesterday about the HHS contraceptive mandate. As you might imagine, hilarity ensued before the resolution was tabled. You see, the poor theologians kinda'/sorta' want to defend religious liberty because they're perenially yelping about their own religious freedom to take white-out to the Catechism but... and this is a big "but"... many, as you might have heard, have mixed feelings about contraception. And the poor theologians had to decide if they really wanted to be seen as being on the side of the bishops vs. the beloved Obama administration? What's a 21st century Catholic theologian to do? According to Commonweal, the resolution was first bogged down with a discussion as to whether they should use the name of the Obama administration in the resolution. Oh, I would've loved to have been there for that! They opted to not name President Obama. I wonder, did they exclude his name out of fear or reverence? Many Jews do not write the name of God out of both fear and reverence. So here’s the full text of the resolution, according to Commonweal:
The Catholic Theological Society of America expresses deep concern with the decision of the federal government to not extend full exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception and sterilization coverage mandate to all Catholic employers. While the society recognizes that differences of opinion exist in terms of the morality of contraception and sterilization, it also upholds religious liberty as well as the fundamental right of both individuals and institutions to not be forced to act contrary to their informed consciences. The society urges federal and state governments to exempt employers from funding or providing contraception and sterilization when such funding or provision directly violates the moral tenets of the employer’s religious tradition.
According to Commonweal, one of the sponsors of the resolution assured everyone that the statement was a simple affirmation of religious freedom. “Nothing more, nothing less” the board member reportedly said, adding that it's not a political statement, an ideological statement, or an ethical statement. Simple, right?  Easy to approve. But wait, did you really think that for a moment a group of American theologians could gather on the issue of the contraceptive mandate and not sympathize with the Obama administration's aim of covering the costs for sterilization, contraception and abortifacients? According to Commonweal:
One member noted that "Dignitatis Humanae," the normative document on the Catholic Church’s understanding of religious freedom, states that while government must respect the corporate and individual right to religious freedom, that right is guaranteed “within due limits.” One of those limits is “justice and the fundamental rights of persons.” An argument could be made, the member said, that on the basis of the teaching of Vatican II, the contraception mandate presents an appropriate limit on the religious freedom of some people. Yes, the group could get into a long debate about how to interpret such matters, but the resolution itself doesn’t address these issues with sufficient complexity.
Yes, because dialogue should always lead to increased complexity. And as if in answer to the call for increased complexity, in came another theologian espousing the need to pick a nit.
...another member stood to point out that the resolution, as written, holds that any business should be exempted from the mandate–in other words, it endorses the so-called Taco Bell exemption. She also said that the resolution presents a curious, if not incoherent, notion of corporate conscience. The tradition lacks a commonly accepted theology that allows us to know what we mean when we talk about informed institutional conscience.
And then, confusing everyone, an ecclesiologist spoke up suddenly in support of the statement, calling the mandate’s definition of religious employer “profoundly un-Catholic, sectarian, introverted, and cultic.” (Anyone share my concern about the whereabouts of that ecclesiologist today?) Another member wondered why the resolution did not use the terms “religious institution” or “church.” Oh, how the polysyllabic cacophony reverberated throughout the space, delighting all. And just when it seemed that the theologians might accomplish nothing, another theologian bravely rose with a piercing solution that left all in awe of the member's courageous problem-solving ability. He asked to table the vote. So they could talk more about it another day! Yay!!! According to Commonweal, the theologian was concerned that “the CTSA would not be in the public media as appearing to be against or for the U.S. bishops”. Thank goodness that was avoided, because you can't have people getting the wrong idea that theologians are opposed to the bishops on anything, even though earlier that week the board of the CTSA accused the Vatican of not understanding the definition of theology. But back to the action. "We need a motion,” the chair exclaimed! The motion came and was passed by voice vote – nearly unanimously. The issue of religious freedom was heroically tabled. As Commonweal reported, "Problem solved. For now." Dialogue has won us all... more dialogue.

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