Catholic Moral Theology Versus the HHS Mandate

by Ed Whelan

I’m pleased to learn from the Becket Fund that many notable amicus briefs were filed yesterday in the Tenth Circuit in support of its appeal of the badly muddled district-court ruling rejecting Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS mandate. I’ll highlight here the excellent amicus brief filed on behalf of a Catholic moral theologian, the Right Reverend W. Thomas Frerking. Discussing various principles governing the determination of moral complicity in evil, the brief sums things up:

[T]he Mandate thrusts religiously dissenting employers into a “perfect storm” of moral complicity in the forbidden actions. It requires employers to cooperate in gravely objectionable actions, by making a substantial and direct causal contribution to those actions, when such actions would likely not happen without the employers’ contribution, through the provision of funds that are specifically designated in advance for the sole purpose of paying for the forbidden actions, under circumstances that are likely to create the appearance of endorsement of those forbidden actions.

Any Catholic theologians interested in joining in filing a similar brief in other cases should contact D. John Sauer at

I also like this passage, highlighted by the Becket Fund, from an amicus brief submitted on behalf of law professor Charles Rice and others:

Just as a person who believes killing animals is morally wrong would reasonably think it wrong to give a gift certificate to a steakhouse, so a person who believes abortion is morally wrong could reasonably believe it wrong to provide health insurance that can be used to pay only for those goods and services the policy covers and that specifically covers abortifacients.

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