I’m thrilled that the Obama administration has revised the HHS regulations to address the concerns of Catholic affiliated organizations.
The Catholic Health Association has weighed in supporting the solution. “We are very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.” This recalls Sr. Carol’s previous forthright statement that “something needs to be fixed.”
The details of the solution are very important. They manifest great attention to the nuances of Catholic moral reasoning. As described by the Administration, this is a very substantial solution that is enormously attentive to the details of Catholic moral understanding over cooperation in immoral acts. This is much better than the “Hawaii” option.
1. It completely insulates religious employers from any payment for coverage of contraception. The details are tremendously important here. As described by the Administration, the regulation is based on a different portion of the Affordable Care Act that allows HHS to mandate coverage that does not increase costs to insurance companies. This requires an actuarial finding that it costs insurance companies less to provide contraception than it does to pay for unplanned pregnancies and the complications that arise from them. Thus, there is no additional cost. For that reason, it cannot be said this requires objecting employers to pay for coverage covertly. There is no additional cost to be paid. If this is the structure, there would be no cooperation here at all. This moves us completely out of the realm of moral cooperation. The importance of this structure can’t be understated. I worry greatly that it will be ignored in the current heated rhetorical environment.
2. It avoids the requirement, implemented in Hawaii and the previous HHS regulation, that objecting employers post announcements directing employees to providers of contraceptive services. This again shows attention to Catholic moral calculus that few outside the Church are even aware of, let alone respect. Ethicists at Catholic heath organizations told me they could not easily comply with that, as it would constitute cooperation. Again, as described by the administration, this does away with that very real quandary for Catholic organizations, that few are aware of, let alone understand. Most people would say, “You can’t even include a flyer in your benefits handouts?” The Administration has shown its concern for the hair-splitting details of the Catholic moral tradition.
The solution the Administration has offered displays the care and attentiveness that their substantial investment in relationships with the Catholic faith community made possible all along. That fact only deepened my disappointment in the previous HHS regulations. They have corrected their unforced error.
The details of this solution matter. There may yet be important moral snags that emerge with the details when the new regulation is published. I hope that the USCCB switches from the broad-brush culture war denunciations that have marked their (understandably forceful) response so far. In its proffered solution, the Obama Administration has spoken to the details of our tradition. The Church is all the more obliged to speak with our native precision in its response.