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Maureen wrote:

Hi, guys —

An employer, in accordance with U.S. federal law, paid for birth control but it was against their conscience.

  • Would this be considered an immoral act or sin requiring Confession for forgiveness?
  • If "yes", wouldn't confessing this sin, mean the employer would be agreeing to never "commit this sin" again?


  { Is a firm culpable if they pay for birth control, in accord with USA law, against their conscience? }

Mary Ann replied:

Maureen —

Coercion can lessen culpability.

In the case you describe, the employer is materially cooperating, not formally cooperating (with intent). It is also not immediate material cooperation, which is cooperation in circumstances that are essential to the evil act, because the person could pay for it herself. Paying an insurance premium that covers evil acts falls under what is called mediate material cooperation, when the cooperator, the employer, participates in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of the actions. Such cooperation can be justified under three conditions under the principle of double effect. The double effects of the act of paying a mandated insurance premium are:

  • good (health insurance and legal safety), and
  • evil (others are enabled to pay for intrinsically immoral acts).

Mediate material cooperation can be justified under these conditions:

  1. the act of the cooperator is good or neutral, not evil (in this case, paying an insurance premium to provide health coverage)
  2. the cooperator does not intend the evil effect, does not intend the immoral acts possibly chosen by the employees;
  3. there has to be a good protected or evil avoided that is proportional in seriousness to the evil act (e.g. protecting an important good, such as one's livelihood, or avoiding a worse harm, such as jail, loss of employment for others, loss of life saving health care);
  4. the good effect must not come about as a result of the evil effect. In other words, the birth control or other immoral acts covered are not the source of the good effects of the other health care, of your keeping your business and not going to jail, etc.

So you can see that this issue is not so much one of being forced to sin, as being forced to violate one's conscience by being forced to cooperate in evil. One may still heroically refuse to participate, as an act of virtue, but one is not bound under pain of sin to do so, especially with the element of coercion involved.

The problem with the current ruling is that it can easily be extended, in accord with US government philosophy applied to other nations, to abortion, and employers can be forced to participate in abortions — the (MAP), Morning-After Pill and contraception can be abortifacient,
but it is not able to be known whether they are in a given case.

I hope this helps.

Mary Ann

Maureen replied:

Dear Mary Ann,

Many thanks for a comprehensive and understandable answer!


Mary Ann replied:

You are welcome.

A defense of conscience, is defense of all.

The problem is that the Obama clarification, like the original ruling, applied only to religious organizations (too narrowly defined), but otherwise all employers are bound, even those who are morally opposed.

Mary Ann

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