Here is a sneak peek at next week's editorial:

For a century and a half the Catholic Church in the United States has served the American people with health care, education and social services. Even a few months ago it would have seemed preposterous to suggest that the U.S. government would place the future of those good works at risk. That seems to be what has happened, however, with a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to allow only a narrow conscientious exemption to the employer health care insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act, the administration’s signature health care reform law.

For U.S. Catholics as citizens, the administration’s failure to offer a broader exemption presents a grave test of the “free exercise” of religion protected by the Bill of Rights. For the narrow definition of religion in the new H.H.S. guideline is at odds with the millennia-old Catholic understanding of the church as a community of believers in service to the world. The H.H.S. definition would force the church to function as a sect, restricted to celebrating its own devotions on the margins of society. The ruling is a threat to our living as a church in the Catholic manner.

Read the rest here. And for more on the question of material cooperation, read Cathleen Kaveny's article from 2010.

Tim Reidy

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 1/31/2012 - 7:08pm
Just because a group is big doesn’t mean that it can’t be a sect. 
“A sect is a group with distinctive religious, political or philosophical beliefs. Although in past it was mostly used to refer to religious groups, it has since expanded and in modern culture can refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sect)



1054 brought the formal separation of the Latin and Eastern churches from what was once the one Christian Church.  I am sure that the Orthodox will aver that the schism was precipitated by the filioque controversy which, in their eyes, was a “distinctive religious .. belief.”

For a good eye-opening education (that you most likely did not receive in any Catholic primary and secondary school) read Philip Jenkins’ “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – and How it Died.”
Crystal Watson | 1/31/2012 - 4:58pm
"For the narrow definition of religion in the new H.H.S. guideline is at odds with the millennia-old Catholic understanding of the church as a community of believers in service to the world. The H.H.S. definition would force the church to function as a sect, restricted to celebrating its own devotions on the margins of society."

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But Catholic colleges employ many people who are not Catholic and Catholic hospitals employ many people who are not Catholic  ... you cannot in all honesty call these colleges and hospitals "communities of believers".  And the fact is that almost everyone in those "communities" already uses contraceptives.  This HHS definition wouldn't make of the church a sect, it would recognize that the Catholic church is one church among many in a pluralistic society.
Gabriel Marcella | 1/31/2012 - 4:38pm
This is an eloquent, powerful, and rigorous defense of Catholic principles in the public square. The question that remains is how this truly awful HHS mandate escaped the careful vetting process of the White House, especially for such a sensitive issue in an election year. It should be required reading for discussion in all Catholic universities, colleges, seminaries, high schools, hospitals and service agencies. Thank you, America editors.
Thomas Piatak | 1/31/2012 - 3:58pm
Thanks for this.