The University of Notre Dame has announced that, though they are exempt from doing so, they will provide coverage for “simple contraceptives” through the university’s own insurance plan.
This surprised many, since Notre Dame had been one of the institutions that filed suit over the 2012 HHS mandate and had announced as recently as last October that it would cut coverage for contraception from its insurance plan.
I attempted to find the letter Fr. John Jenkins published explaining this decision and, though I found a link that said it was Fr. Jenkins’ statement, in fact, it wasn’t. So, I’m forced to rely on other sources.
Those other sources say that, in his letter, Fr. Jenkins’ said that Notre Dame should remain “unwavering in our fidelity to our Catholic mission,” but that the religious beliefs and practices of those who attend or work at Notre Dame and who are not Catholic should be respected.
How directly assisting others in carrying out an action that is objectively gravely immoral is consonant with Notre Dame being unwavering in its fidelity to its Catholic mission eludes this writer, as it does Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Dr. Bradley wrote an excellent article criticizing Notre Dame’s decision.
Notre Dame’s decision to provide coverage for contraception has also been criticized by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In a statement, Bishop Rhoades expressed support for Notre Dame’s decision to stop coverage, through it’s third-party administrator, of abortifacients and sterilizations and for providing Natural Family Planning services through its insurance. However, Bishop Rhoades strongly criticized Notre Dame’s decision on contraception coverage.
Here are my thoughts:
The Catholic Church in the United States, as well as individual Catholics, formerly suffered under the threat of violence from anti-Catholic elements in our society. Acts of violence today, while they’ve not entirely disappeared, are few and far between and are no longer sponsored by legitimate government agencies and institutions.
Today, the threat to the Church and to Catholics as individuals comes in the form of political and social pressure to act contrary to her teachings on a wide variety of social issues, especially abortion, contraception, euthanasia, sterilization, same-sex marriage, transgender issues and, to a lesser extent, capital punishment and immigration policies.
This is a time when it is imperative that Catholic institutions, especially those recognized by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as having played a major role in the life of the Church in the United States (and Notre Dame certainly fills that bill), to stand strong against the tidal wave of pressure from political and social movements to surrender their Catholic integrity and adopt policies contrary to Catholic moral teaching. It is most disparaging that Notre Dame caved on covering contraception when it had no legal obligation to do so. Prior to the adoption of the HHS mandate by the Obama administration, Notre Dame did not cover contraception. Again, as early as last fall Notre Dame said they would not cover contraception. The cost of contraception is negligible, while tuition at Notre Dame is over $70,000 a year, so women who attend the university can hardly claim financial burden because of Notre Dame’s former policy to not cover contraception. Finally, no one works or attends Notre Dame because they are forced to do so. The fact that Notre Dame would decide to freely and willingly cover contraceptives under the justification that it was respecting the beliefs and practices of non-Catholics who work or attend the university is a remarkable example of specious thinking and cowering in the face of pressure that amounted to no more than the force of a gentle breeze. If Notre Dame is willing to break at such minimal pressure on this, what of other matters?
But, that’s not the worst of it. Now, opponents of the Church, like the ACLU, Death with Dignity, and Planned Parenthood, will surely point to Notre Dame as an example of Catholic institutions “respecting” and “accommodating” employees and students who dissent from Church teaching. If Notre Dame, the Catholic university in America, can decide to put aside Church teaching out of “respect” for others, why not every Catholic university, hospital, school, and institution. Certainly, Notre Dame is not the first Catholic institution to cower to secular values in the face of pressure, but it is possibly the most recognized and respected, so far.
A suggestion for Lent, 2018: offer some sacrifice as a prayer that Catholic institutions will be firm and faithful in their defense of Catholic doctrine and practice against the pressures of her opponents who desire to destroy the Church’s credibility and strength by targeting her institutions. The assault on Catholic institutions shows no sign of wavering. We, then, must be truly unwavering in our defense of Church teaching.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.