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Moral theologian answers 'remote cooperation' argument on contraceptive mandate

Catholic World News - February 17, 2012

Earlier this week, David Gibson of Religion News Service posted a column arguing that in their opposition to the Obama contraceptive mandate, the American Catholic bishops were ignoring the Church’s teaching that “remote material cooperation” with immoral acts can be justified. Moral theologian Janet Smith provides a full response to that claim.

There are times when remote material cooperation with evil may be justified, Smith concedes. But merely saying that the participation is “remote” is not enough to excuse the action. Other factors are involved, she observes, and “just because the cooperation with evil is remote does not mean that it is morally permissible or wise to cooperate in an evil action.”

Catholic institutions would rightly be judged as hypocritical, Smith argues, if they willingly gave their support to causes that they said were inherently unjust. In this case, even “remote” participation would cause scandal.

Moreover, Smith continues, the funding of contraception causes a host of medical and social problems, which must be weighed in the moral balance. “Why should Catholics or anyone else have to pay for nonmedical care that has terrible physical, relational, and social consequences?” she asks.

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