Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On cooperating with evil (2)

Sometime last year, I posted something about the ethical principles concerning
cooperating with evil. More recently, I posted some key passages from Vatican II on unity and cooperating with non-Catholics (of course I'm not saying they are evil) as the concept of 'collaborating for the common good' has taken my interest lately. Now we have this recent development in the Boston Archdiocese which puts these very concepts in the limelight.

Boston Catholic health agency in partnership providing abortion coverage
( - June 08, 2009

Caritas Christi, the health-care system affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston, has entered into a partnership that will provide coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraception under the terms of a state government contract. Celticare Health Plan-- a new offering, which describes itself as “a partnership between Celtic Group, a subsidiary of Centene Corporation, and Caritas Christi Health Care”-- is now offering several options for health-care coverage, with all of the available plans advertising abortion coverage...The state contract-- and with it, the involvement of Caritas Christi in the Celticare plans-- goes into effect on July 1.

Back in March, Cardinal Se├ín P. O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese has released the following statement, which partly reads:

"In recent days concern has been raised about the proposed arrangement involving Caritas Christi Health Care with the Commonwealth Care Program. I understand and support the desire of Caritas Christi to serve as a health care system collaborating with this program. If it can happen without compromising the Catholic identity of the system it would benefit both civil society and especially the poor in our community.

At the same time, as Archbishop I have the responsibility to insure that Caritas Christi Health Care adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and that in every aspect of the hospital system the teachings of the Church are protected and maintained.

Consistent with this responsibility I want to confirm for the Catholic community and the wider interested public that Caritas Christi Health Care has assured me that it will not be engaged in any procedures nor draw any benefits from any relationship which violate the Church’s moral teaching as found in the Ethical and Religious Directives. Caritas Christi has been consistently faithful to these standards in the past and will continue to do so in the future."

LifesiteNews calls the partnership "Caritas Christi’s Deal with the Devil", saying that:

"If there is a morally acceptable justification for all of this, the archdiocese has not disclosed it, notwithstanding three months of raging public scandal. Not only that, but regardless of public opinion that there is little the archdiocese could do in this situation, our perspective is that there is plenty they could do, starting with revocation of the contract itself."

Although it was stated that Caritas will not be directly participating in abortions, there appears to be a double-referral system in the agreement wherein Caritas will refer to Centene, and Centene will refer to an abortion provider. Such a referral system is the subject of charges of material cooperation.

The Catholic News Agency sought further comment from the Archdiocese of Boston and was told the matter was “under review.”

Meanwhile, some moral theology experts have weighed in on the matter and this Boston News item reports on their supportive views towards Cardinal O'Malley's position and the Caritas partnership.

One Leslie C. Griffin, professor of legal ethics of the University of Houston Law Center, says:

"It is hard for me to see, on the facts given, that there is a problem of cooperation with evil. I don’t see any formal cooperation; Caritas is not engaging in any of the 'intrinsically evil acts' complained of, and it doesn’t share in the intention of providing those evil services. Caritas could easily say here that its moral purpose is to provide health care services, which is a moral good, and it is not formally cooperating in any of the prohibited services. It has set up the program so that it does not provide intrinsically evil services and it is vocal that it will not do so.

Now could this be material cooperation? Again that seems a stretch to me. If joining a joint venture is material cooperation, then just about any participation in the American health care system would be. Insurance companies and the government provide abortion services, does that mean you can have no contact with them? From the facts given, it doesn’t seem that Caritas is keeping abortion providers afloat who would otherwise be out of business. Mere association with abortion providers doesn’t seem contact enough to become material cooperation to me.

There is always the argument about scandal—but this seems to be a created scandal. The church seems quite clear that it is against abortion, etc., and not involved in it. Could anyone doubt that?

If you push the cooperation principle too far you wind up with a sectarian church, which is not at all consistent with the Catholic tradition.

It seems to me the state has more to worry about here than the church!"

Lately, it was reported here that Cardinal O'Malley said he would seek a second opinion about the proposed deal from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, a Philadelphia-based think tank with conservative credentials.

John M. Haas, the center's president, was reported to have said in an email exchange:

"One thing we have found about these collaborative arrangements is that when you have seen one collaborative arrangement, you have seen one collaborative arrangement,...they are generally quite complex and really have to be studied individually."

I am wondering if it is high time for the Vatican to weigh in on the matter. For one thing, it would be up to the local ordinary (in this case Cardinal O'Malley) to provide direction on matters of morals and the grave issue of scandal within his diocesan jurisdiction -- on the presumption that his directives are in line with the norms of the Catholic Magisterium. It is on this last point that divergent opinions arise. Whatever the final outcome of this controversy, it would certainly be a major point in clarification and would provide a significant precedent.

May the Spirit of Truth guide one and all.

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