The Question of Cooperation

In their recent First Things article Thomas Joseph White, OP, and Rusty Reno intelligently investigate possible responses to the Affordable Care Act. One entertains however a reasonable doubt regarding the proposition that the authors forward (in a passing way, to be sure) as seemingly a “given”.  This is the claim that “providing and paying for the coverage” required by the mandate amounts to no more than “material cooperation”.  Yet, material cooperation ordinarily concerns individuals rather than institutions:  it is institutions that distinctively may proliferate the accessibility of evil as though it were common good. Further, if business institutions—not to mention those juridically Catholic institutions that may be thought of as analogously receiving a missio from the Church—are subject to coercion with respect to the mandate, this does not mitigate the truth that one may not rightly cooperate in certain actions (and such institutions are not legally constrained to provide insurance).  Arranging payment for morally vicious pseudo “services” such as contraception and abortion is an evil action. Nor does providing a basket of licit health services to which vicious alternatives are appended successfully submerge the disorder of paying for intrinsically immoral practices.  Suppose that the basket of health services included a government mandate coercing assistance for the lynching of an innocent person—would such an arrangement be merely “material cooperation” because provided under the false title of “health care”?  If not, surely coerced cooperation in the provision of abortifacients cannot be simply accepted as a cost for doing business in the new secularist order.  Nor, likewise, is cooperation in the provision of contraceptives morally reasonable, given the grave evil of the intrinsic disordering of the conjugal act in contraception. Because what counts is not alone the intention of the end, but the integral nature and per se effects of chosen action; and because provision of monies for contraception and abortion is a grave evil; it follows that for businesses, and all the more for Church institutions, to cooperate in providing such monies is wrongful conduct and not a merely material cooperation.  These conclusions occur even prior to considering the distinctive evil that would ensue were institutions that have their mission from the Church herself to be co-opted to support gravely evil acts through cooperating with the mandate.  The mandate constitutes the use of raw state power to separate the Church’s institutions—through which the Church extends her divine mission in the world—from the Church herself and from Christ, and so to subdue them to evil purpose.  How could the example of the Church offering abortion and contraception services fail to turn souls to ruin?   The Church is necessarily at war with such attempts to subjugate Her institutions, teaching, and mission.  It is a struggle that has been waged against others, most recently the Communists and the Nazis.  For further explanation, I recommend highly the recent remarks of my colleague, Prof. Michael Pakaluk, Chair of the Ave Maria University Department of Philosophy, who has offered kindred observations on this subject on the Department’s blog.  This is not to say that one could not wish that institutional cooperation with the mandate were merely material:  only that in truth it is not (the situation of the extorted individual seems to differ from that of the institution that opts to proliferate access to grave evil as though it were common good).  And so the winter will be deep and dark, and the temptations to immoral compromise great, should there prove to be no timely relief from the edict of the Obama State.