Saturday, March 26, 2011

Marquette Part of the "Partner Bennies" Crowd

A somewhat defensive co-ordinated public-relations splash:

Marquette University, which will begin offering domestic partner benefits next year, isn't the first Catholic institution in the Milwaukee area to do so.

Cardinal Stritch University and Alverno College have provided benefits for domestic partners for several years, spokesmen for the schools said Friday.

Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil [....] called it in keeping with Catholic teaching.


"The benefits provision is an expression of pastoral care and an acknowledgment that health care is a basic human right," Pfeil said.

That statement is not true. Actually, medical professionals (and hospitals) have a moral obligation to provide essential health care, and essential health-care is mandated by the Hill-Burton Act. But that's secondary.

...the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right. The “natural right” of health care is the divine bounty of food, water, and air without which all of us quickly die. This bounty comes from God directly. None of us own it, and none of us can morally withhold it from others. The remainder of health care is a political, not a natural, right, because it comes from our human efforts, creativity, and compassion. As a political right, health care should be apportioned according to need, not ability to pay or to benefit from the care.--Bp. Nickless (Sioux Falls, IA.)

Bishops such as Bp. Nickless, teach in the name of the Church. Neither Mary Pat Pfeil nor Fr. Wild has the authority to so teach. So when they chatter about "rights" they are not competent to make the assertion--and, in fact, they are contradicted by an authoritative teacher--a Bishop.

Marquette is now in the position of facilitating non-marital "relationships," both hetero- and homo-sexual, which facilitation happens to have a name in moral theology: cooperation.

Mediate material cooperation occurs when the cooperator participates in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of an action, such that the action could occur even without this cooperation. Mediate material cooperation in an immoral act might be justifiable under three basic conditions:
  • If there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation (i.e., for the sake of protecting an important good or for avoiding a worse harm); the graver the evil the more serious a reason required for the cooperation;
  • The importance of the reason for cooperation must be proportionate to the causal proximity of the cooperator’s action to the action of the principal agent (the distinction between proximate and remote);
  • The danger of scandal (i.e., leading others into doing evil, leading others into error, or spreading confusion) must be avoided.

While one could argue that Marquette's action meets #2, it is extremely difficult to argue that 'scandal' is avoided. (The same applies to Stritch and Alverno, of course.) It's an open question whether MU could even meet Condition #1.

So. The basis on which MU claims to act (a "right") is not actually a right under Catholic teaching. And MU's material cooperation will cause scandal. And MU simply cannot assert, without better arguments, that there is a "proportionately serious reason for the cooperation."

All in all: FAIL.

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