The options are grim and moral stakes are high for Catholics faced with Obamacare, according to a group of Catholic panelists.
Faith-filled consumers considering health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are cornered by its contraceptive mandate, forcing many to choose between their pro-life beliefs and health care coverage.
“The (Health and Human Services) mandate is forcing us to fund abortion, sterilization and contraception, which if we consent in that we become formal cooperators in an evil,” said moral theologian Michel Therrien. “We, by virtue of our faith, cannot do that.”
The Church, a longtime supporter of universal health care, opposes the federal HHS mandate that includes potential life-terminating drugs.
The Augustine Institute’s Therrien discussed the moral dilemmas with fellow panelists John Suthers, Colorado attorney general, and William Newland, president and CEO of Hercules Industries, who presented legal and business predicaments to a crowded room last week at Holy Ghost Church downtown.
The presentation, co-sponsored by the Catholic Medical Association and Holy Ghost Church Respect Life Ministry, came before the March 31 deadline for non-exempted consumers who must enroll in a compliant plan or pay a fine.
Before all other obligations, Catholics must put their family’s needs first, Therrien told the crowd. But faithful must also consider two principles of Catholic social teaching—the principle of religious liberty and subsidiarity.
Christians may tolerate ideas and positions contrary to their own in society, but this ends once they’re forced to violate their beliefs, he said.
“A civil law that commands us to violate the moral law does not have the character of law, and therefore it is not binding on our conscience,” Therrien explained. “We believe we are obligated to disobey a law that commands us to violate the moral law. That’s why we’re in the predicament we’re in right now with the HHS mandate.”
The principle of subsidiarity, as explained by Pope Pius XII, states it’s a grave evil and injustice for a higher organization to make decisions that should happen on the lowest possible level.
“I think the HHS mandate demonstrates precisely why the principle of subsidiarity is so important,” Therrien said. “This law allows the federal government to control the accessibility and distribution of all health care resources. Is it good to allow the secular government to have this much power?”
William Newland said his Denver-based business Hercules Industries strives to treat its 360 employees with respect and dignity, which includes offering generous health care coverage. However, they faced a dilemma when the HHS mandate forced the company to offer health coverage they found objectionable.
The company filed a lawsuit in April 2012 arguing it has the right to exercise its faith in business. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal stopped enforcement of the mandate on the company in October 2013.
“Obamacare demands that Americans choose between two poison pills—either comply and abandon your faith or resist and be heavily punished and fined,” Newland said. “But every American, including business owners, should have the right to live and do business according to their faith.”
Along with some 20 other attorneys general, John Suthers signed a brief opposing Obamacare and the HHS mandate, arguing it’s unconstitutional.
At issue is the commerce powers of Congress, he said.
“For the first time in history in the Affordable Care Act, Congress will say we have the power to force others into commerce; we have the power to force people to buy a particular product or service. This is a huge departure from what the government has historically done,” Suthers explained.
Medicaid expansion, a part of Obamacare, is also problematic, he said.
The requirement to expand the poverty level of Medicaid recipients or risk losing federal funding will amount to a $1 billion tax burden in Colorado by 2021, he said.
The issue of religious liberty and the HHS mandate will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court through two cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. The Court began to hear arguments March 25.
Analysis of Catholics’ 4 Options with Obamacare
1) Willingly comply with the contraceptive mandate and purchase a morally-objectionable insurance plan. This constitutes formal (intentional participation with an evil act) cooperation, which is never justifiable.
2) Do not comply at all. Fines on individuals and businesses who don’t comply make this economically improbable. This option does not cooperate with evil.
3) Drop coverage for employees. The preferable option since it does not cooperate with evil, but employees who purchase on their own may be unaware of or unable to purchase a morally-acceptable health plan.
4) Temporarily comply but under protest. Continue health plans for employees or purchase individually to continue coverage. This option could be material (unwilling participation in an evil act) cooperation. It could be acceptable under certain conditions.
-From the National Catholic Bioethics Center