Both Fr. Petri and Fr. Gresko, however, found Gibson's use of these categories to be flawed and inaccurate.
Fr. Petri acknowledged Gibson's argument that an employer, under the new mandate, “might not have involvement or knowledge of a separate contract … between employee and insurer” to receive contraception without a co-pay, since these agreements would be strictly between the insurer and employee.
But, as the Dominican pointed out, no Catholic employer is currently in that hypothetical future situation.
Rather, Fr. Petri noted, employers are now in the predicament of being forced to agree, knowingly, that such agreements will be made in the future as part of their contracts with insurers.
By confusing the two situations, Gibson drew attention away from the question actually facing the Church – which is not about whether to make contracts under which contraception could be provided; but rather, about whether to accept being forced to make such contracts in the future.
This confusion, Fr. Petri explained, could cause readers to confuse two significantly different questions: on the one hand, whether the mandate could be followed if imposed; and on the other hand, whether its imposition should be accepted in the first place.
But even the question Gibson focuses on – in his attempt to say Catholic organizations could follow the mandate in good conscience – is murkier than he would have readers believe, according to Fr. Petri.
Under the new mandate, Gibson claims, a Catholic institution's involvement in providing contraception “is 'mediated' because contraceptive coverage is provided at several steps removed from the institution.” Most commercial transactions, Gibson notes, involve some degree of material support for immoral acts.
Fr. Petri responded that Gibson had applied this distinction wrongly, by defining it incorrectly in the first place.
“Where he goes wrong,” the Dominican theologian replied, “is by identifying the so-called 'compromise' as requiring 'mediate' material cooperation, rather than 'immediate' material cooperation.”
“It seems to me that the HHS mandate involves immediate material cooperation – which, according to traditional Catholic moral teaching, is never legitimate. You're not allowed to 'immediately' cooperate with evil.”
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In his article, Gibson defined “immediate material cooperation with evil” as meaning the “action of both the wrongdoer and the person aiding the wrongdoer are the same.”
Fr. Petri, however, took issue with this definition, saying that “immediate material cooperation” is normally defined as a situation in which “my action is necessary for the commission of the evil, and without my action the evil would not be committed.”
“It seems to me that this is immediate material cooperation,” Fr. Petri said of the HHS mandate. “Employers are, in fact, paying these premiums which are directly going to these 'preventive' services.”
Fr. Gresko, in his response to Gibson, stressed the Church's duty to reject the revised contraception mandate just as it did the first version – since both force believers to underwrite practices they oppose.
For the Church “not to fight the current battle at hand,” the Benedictine theologian said, “would be a deliberately active omission of carrying out its responsibility for the good of the Christian faithful” – specifically, its duty to defend believers “from immoral assaults on their religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
“The Church’s cooperation with the alleged Obama compromise would lead to grave scandal,” he pointed out. “It would in fact be implying support for Obama’s position” – that contraception is a necessary form of health care that employers should be forced to support.