Archbishop Chaput: Making Sense Of Another Ambiguous ‘Compromise’

Weekly column from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance).  No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude).  It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).

– Augustine

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that prudence is the auriga virtutum, the “charioteer of virtues.”  It's “right reason in action,” the guide to correctly applying all other virtues.  Rash action, no matter how well intended, violates prudence and usually does more harm than good.  God gave us brains.  He expects us to use them to judiciously pursue the highest moral good for others and for ourselves.

At the same time, the Catechism warns that prudence should never be used as an alibi for “timidity or fear, duplicity or dissimulation.”  Real prudence has a spine called fortitude, the virtue we more commonly know as courage.  And courage, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

Here's why both these virtues are vital in the weeks ahead.  On Friday, February 2, the Obama administration issued for public comment a set of revised regulations governing the HHS “contraceptive mandate.”  At first glance, the new rules have struck some people as a modest improvement.  They appear to expand, in a limited way, the kind of religiously-affiliated entities that can claim exemption from providing insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortion-related services under the new Affordable Care Act. 

White House apologists and supporters have welcomed the proposal.  The New York Times called it “a good compromise.”  Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Prochoice America have praised it.  And at least one Washington Post columnist implausibly called it a victory for America's Catholic bishops.

The trouble is, the new rules are very complex.  And they may actually make things worse.  In the words of Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard Bradley:

“Gauging the net effect of the new administration proposal [is] hazardous.  But one can say with confidence the following: (1) religious hospitals are, as before, not exempt 'religious employers'; (2) religious charities are very likely not exempt either, unless they are run out of a church or are very tightly integrated with a church.  So, a parish or even a diocese's Saint Vincent De Paul operations would probably be an exempt 'religious employer,' whereas Catholic Charities would not be; (3) the new proposal may (or may not) make it more likely that parish grade schools are exempt 'religious employers.'  But Catholic high schools are a different matter.  Some might qualify as 'religious employers.'  Most probably will not.

"It is certain that Catholic colleges and universities do not qualify as exempt 'religious employers.'  The new proposal includes, however, a revised 'accommodation' for at least some of these institutions, as well as some hospitals and charities.  The proposal refines the administration's earlier efforts to somehow insulate the colleges and universities from immoral complicity in contraception, mainly by shifting -- at least nominally – the cost and administration of the immoral services to either the health insurance issuer (think Blue Cross) or to the plan administrator (for self-insured entities, such as Notre Dame).  This proposal adds some additional layering to the earlier attempts to insulate the schools, but nothing of decisive moral significance is included.”

The White House has made no concessions to the religious conscience claims of private businesses, and the whole spirit of the “compromise” is minimalist.

As a result, the latest White House “compromise” already has a wave of critics, including respected national religious liberty law firms like the Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom.  And many are far harsher than Professor Bradley in their analysis. 

The scholar Yuval Levin has stressed that the new HHS mandate proposal, “like the versions that have preceded it, betrays a complete lack of understanding of both religious liberty and religious conscience.”  In reality, despite the appearance of compromise, “the government has forced a needless and completely avoidable confrontation and has knowingly put many religious believers in an impossible situation.”

One of the issues America's bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed.  In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage – the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.  Please pray that God guides our discussions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mr. Wynnewood February 06, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Kim, I could be wrong but with your statement above you seem to have as much of a problem with the Affordable Care Act as you do with it's requirement that Catholic employers play by the same rules as every other employer.
Kim February 06, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Mr. W, What the hell are you talking about? My whole post was about birth control and the church's right to enjoy religious liberty? I will not engage in any further discussion with you because it is obvious that you have a HUGE issue with the church and it's clouding your view. This. Is about RELIGIOUS LIBERTY...end of story.
Mr. Wynnewood February 07, 2013 at 11:57 AM
"...end of story." Indeed
gerhard sweetman February 07, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Freedom FROM religion vs science,logic,reason
Richard Weisgrau February 07, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Kim, we just see it differently. I don't see a religious freedom issue here. Catholics and the Church can practice their religion. To me it is a matter of fairness to those employees who do not subscribe to the Church's belief. Asking or forcing those people to go look for other jobs is as unfair as denying them the birth control coverage that all other employers must give too their employees. The Church is an employer and as such it ought to comply with the law. If the Church does not like the Law it can fight it in court. If the Law is unconstitutional then it should be stuck down. Personally, I do not approve of the mandatory birth control provision of the Law, but my disapproval is based on the premise that no employer should be forced to provide such coverage.
Kim February 07, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Richard, you don't understand that the church can not contribute to what they see as an ending of life. It is a basic tenant. They will need to close their doors. They will close hospitals that care for ALL faiths. Charitable organizations and institutions will need to close. Either way those people will not have their jobs! They truly view it as a sin. They can not knowingly sin like that. Whether people agree with their belief or not doesn't matter. Until now, people of all faiths had the freedom to follow their religion and "conscious". This may be a strange analogy, but should a Kosher market be forced to sell product that isn't Kosher? People shouldn't be forced.
Richard Weisgrau February 08, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Kim, birth control is not ending life. It is preventing life from occurring. There is no victim. When it comes to ending life, the Church ended a lot of lives in its history. The Crusades, Inquisition, slaughter of native Americans unwilling to accept Christ by the Spanish, not taking a stand during WWII against the genocidal behavior of the Nazis. Then there are the ruined lives of molested children. It seems like a double standard to me: we must protect potential life while the Church has been able to destroy the living. As for the Kosher market, it just isn't a good comparison. The Church has not been forced to hand out birth control means. Under the newly proposed compromise it really has nothing to do. Insurance companies will handle it directly.
Kim February 08, 2013 at 03:01 AM
They would have to supply more than birth control. Can we not get caught in the woods? I am not going to debate Catholic teaching with you. The Catholic Church does not endorse birth control either. The fact is they will not go against their teaching. It's a shame people like you can't respect their religious liberty. The crusades, the inquisition...blah blah blah...what does that have to do with the here and now and ...one more time...RELIGIOUS LIBERTY? The church came out and said the "compromise", which Obama claims he's making is no real compromise! I think the church knows what goes against it's teaching more than you. I still think the Kosher market was a good example. It showed me your bias!
Richard Weisgrau February 08, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Well Kim, when it comes to bias you have plenty of your own. For the record, I went to St. Louis Grammar School, St. Josephs Preparatory High School, and St. Josephs College (now University). I earned my bias the hard way by being immersed in Catholic doctrine and teaching. I became very informed in those years and thereafter. My Jesuit education taught me to delve into matters and not be limited by Dogma. Jesuits are famous for that. Quite a few Popes did not like the Jesuits because they questioned too much and stressed independent thought. So my bias is institutional in its origins and my opinions are based upon those origins. As for the Kosher comparison? What kind of bias was that and what made you think it was a good example to send me? A man is more than a name. A belief if more than a rule. Most Catholics believe birth control is OK. The Church is not a democracy. It is a dictator ship. I was taught by my Jesuit teaches to oppose dictatorship since it stifle independent thought.
Bill February 08, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Uh, another Catholic lost to the Jesuits. No wonder the order is shrinking as fast as the Nun orders that refuse to wear a habit.
Richard Weisgrau February 08, 2013 at 04:10 AM
The Jesuits redeemed themselves from their diabolical destruction of Native American Cultures by becoming open minded and teaching their students to be so. It is not the Jesuits who have driven out Catholics. It is a Church that has sealed its mind with centuries old Dogma that in some cases defies science, in some cases defies law, and in other cases defies the sanctity of the person (as in children, but not limited to them). And Nuns without habits is great. Modernization has a place in convincing people that a message is contemporary and not archaic. Archaic, now that is a word that describes the leadership of the Church. Orthodoxy regardless of whether Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, or other applies antiquated standards to modern realities. Shell we really go back to an eye for an eye. I just read that the Iranians have invented a machine that quickly cuts off thief's hands. Maybe the Church should burn me at the stake for heresy. I really felt bad for Joan of Arc.
Kim February 08, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Richard, What the heck are you talking about? Your name? Am I missing something? It is obvious that you are stuck in your bias. This is about church tenants...plain and simple. Once again, it doesn't matter what individual Catholics believe. My negative experience with individual Catholics, which I admit, can be the worst offenders, has taught me the important thing is me and my relationship with God. I feel blessed with my faith. I think it was Ghandi who said he loved Christ...Christians...not so much. I can not defend others bad behavior. I do believe that no church should be forced to go against it's basic tenants. There is nothing ese I can say in that matter. It's a shame you can't respect others. Is that what your Jesuit teaching taught you?Shameful!
Richard Weisgrau February 08, 2013 at 04:38 AM
Kim, please do not equate disagreement with disrespect. I do respect your views even though I disagree with them. THAT IS what Jesuits taught me to do. Within the Church, Jesuits have been doing that for centuries. As for Ghandi, he is one man. I am another. We can disagree, as you and I do. It is great that you are blessed with your faith (really). I wish I was, bit I am not. For me, like you stated, "There is noting more I can say." I am leaving this conversation with an appreciation of others' points of view and a better understanding of my own. Another thing the Jesuits gave me.
Kim February 08, 2013 at 11:25 AM
I agree we should leave the conversation. It's just a shame that you never addressed the heart of the issue. You never said whether you believe in the basic principle of religious freedom...something our men and woman have fought and died for. Also, you don't show respect when you tear someone's religion apart. I could give plenty of examples of good Catholics and the works they have done. It was obviously the discussion was pointless since you obviously don't like Catholics in general. I hope you find tolerance in your journey.
michael February 08, 2013 at 12:17 PM
well said
michael February 08, 2013 at 12:21 PM
why is it that pro lifers so want to save the fetus, but want nothing to do with it once it has come into this world. the church i am sure approves of viagra and of course hiding pedos till they get caught, and then helping nazis escape after ww2. and doing nothing when millions of jews where being killed - a preaching politics and hate but that is something Christ never preached - bigotry and ignorance is the core of the catholic chuch signed a recovering catholic -
Kim February 08, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Bull crap! Many Christians gave their lives for their fellow Jewish neighbors and friends. Isn't the motto...never forget. I guess people get to pick and choose what they get to forget. Michael and Jack, maybe you could help each other by getting the huge chip off each other's shoulder. You may need help. It seems quite large!
Richard Weisgrau February 08, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Of course I believe in religious freedom. I did not criticize Catholicism. I was critical of the Church, which is an institution not a religion. Catholicism did not protect child molesting priests. It was the Church that did that. It is the Church that attacked Catholicism by such actions. Peace. I am gone.
Kim February 08, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Richard, obviously you need to go see Jack and Michael. You seem to have the biggest chip of all. I am going to look up the teaching of The Jesuit Church, something tells me you are NOT a good representative!
Kim February 08, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Richard, I did some reading. I was able to get the premise of "Jesuit ideals". It is clear that you have a long way to go on your journey! Good luck!
Rita Smith, M.E.V. February 08, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Richard, I disagree with your statement to Archbishop Chaput. He is instructing all of us in truth! Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae words were prophetic and we are reaping the evil from birth control. Also, Blessed Pope John Paul II the Great's encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) If you have the time, both encyclical's are a wonderful resource for the following website www.thepillkills.org The sex scandal within the Catholic Church has been very heart breaking and as Christians we are to pray for the victims and their families. Also, we are to pray for the clergy for their repentance and thank God that the no tolerance policy has been enforced. Sadly, the HHS Mandate is violating our freedom of religion. Our beloved country was founded on God given rights which is Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Archbishop Chaput is a God send to the Phila. Archdiocese. We pray for Archbishop Chaput and all the clergy everyday for their faithfulness to their priestly vocation. Without our Priests, we have no Sacraments and the Summit of our faith, which is the Holy Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI has called a Year of Faith. "Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue, there is no goodness, no love; and where there is no love, there is no God; without God we do not get to Paradise. These virtues form a stairway; if one step is missing, we fall down."....St. Padre Pio. May God grant victory of eternal truth.
gerhard sweetman February 08, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Morals/gods word/my word/ethics/all ends up as DO AS I SAY OR KILL OR BE KILLED
Kim February 08, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Gerhard, The only person you're amusing is yourself with your stupid posts.
gerhard sweetman February 10, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Churchs force GOOD,law/war on us, not freedom/truth. Gods word,no way
Richard Weisgrau February 11, 2013 at 05:35 AM
Kim, I don't need assistance from Jack and Michael. I have no chip. I made no claim to being a representative of the Jesuit Church, whatever that it. You constructed that, not me.
Richard Weisgrau February 11, 2013 at 05:40 AM
Kim, you cannot seem to stop alluding to things I never wrote. I never mentioned "Jesuit ideals." I have no idea what those are or if they exist. Here is what I wrote:"I do respect your views even though I disagree with them. THAT IS what Jesuits taught me to do. Within the Church, Jesuits have been doing that for centuries." Now that is a comment on being taught to be an independent thinker, not a dogmatic follower. Where is you see me mention "Jesuit ideals?" Please try to absorb what I wrote and write rather than indict it falsely in your commentary about it.
Kurt Reimer February 22, 2013 at 11:48 PM
It was interesting to gain some sense of the complexity of exactly which flavors of institutions may or may not be exempted from the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage. I suppose the ArchBishop is within reason to complain about that, though I'll bet that this complexity results from trying to strike a balance among multiple competing interests. But I have less sympathy with His Grace's characterization of the Obama administration's compromise as not a compromise at all. It IS a compromise, and the ArchBishop sounds like one of the extreme Parties accommodated by it. As I understand it, it is up to the individual to independently pursue contraceptive coverage, which the insurance company provides free since it saves money. It is not the responsibility of the Obama administration to shield Catholics from the Near Occasion of Sin. OTOH, I bet the Govt would be vulnerable to a Class Action suit on 14th Amendment grounds, the equal protection clause, without this compromise.
gerhard sweetman February 23, 2013 at 12:28 AM
1 Church into politics 4yrs Bush war : womens issues 2 Church into politics 4yrs Bush real estate rape : womens issues 3 Church into politics ++yrs stupid expensive healthcare : womens issues 4 Church into HIV 30++yrs lack of testing solution/control : womens issues
gerhard sweetman February 23, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Church into ED meds, cause fornication/adultery No insurance covers Church into ED meds(viagra etc) cannot buy Canada or outside $1.86 vs $25 here Church into Govt,politics,science, taxfree=Wrong goals,Need Freedom FROM Religion
Kurt Reimer February 23, 2013 at 04:37 AM
Gerhard, your posts seem like input to a FORTH interpreter or something. You need to write sentences to talk to people. It seems like you have something to say, but I can't tell what.


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