Another article by Leslie Griffin on the Supremes and Catholic moral theology. There’s some overlap with the article I posted about yesterday.
I never expected to see Father Henry Davis’s Moral and Pastoral Theology (1935) cited in a Supreme Court opinion.
But there it was in footnote 34 of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court ruled that two non-Catholic families, the Greens and the Hahns, were not required to comply with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Father Davis was an English Jesuit and famous moral theologian who died in 1952 at age 85. The string cite quotes Father Davis’s text as follows: “Cooperation occurs ‘when A helps B to accomplish an external act by an act that is not sinful, and without approving of what B does.’”
Not “sinful.” That’s a concept that has no place in a Supreme Court ruling, because it’s purely religious. The justices have no business trying to define what’s “sinful” for us, much less allowing the Catholic church to impose its views on the matter on all of us.
Catholicism has a warped and impoverished idea of what morality is, what we owe to each other, what matters and what doesn’t. It has done terrible things itself, and still fails to apologize for them. It still does terrible things right now. It’s morally bad, and not any kind of model.
Davis was one of the best practitioners of the old art of the Catholic moral manual, books that were usually written by priests for other priests. The manuals presented illustrative “cases of conscience,” so that priests could give moral guidance to Catholics as well as learn to assess what was sinful in the confessional. Davis was particularly incisive in writing about the principles of formal and material cooperation with evil. Many of his cases centered on medical ethical questions of cooperation with “evil” procedures and employees’ participation in “evil” actions commanded by an employer.
So, not in any way appropriate for a Supreme Court ruling.