Saturday, February 07, 2009

SENTIRE CUM ECCLESIA #1: Material and Formal Cooperation in an Act

This is part of a new LD blogging initiative, the first in a projected series. We'll see how it goes. I will continue with it if there is interest.

Formal cooperation in an act is a person's (natural or corporate) free participation in the action of a principal agent, including the sharing, on the part of someone involved at some stage of the chain of events that culminates in an act, in the intention of a principal agent to perform that action.

Formal cooperation may be either cooperation in an action for the sake of the action itself, or as a means to some other end.

Material cooperation is of two kinds: direct (immediate); remote (sometimes called mediate).

Immediate material cooperation is the participation of a person in circumstances, including direct performance of or involvement in acts that are essential to the commission of another act, such that the ultimate act could not occur without this participation, commission or involvement.

Remote material cooperation is a person's participation in or commission of an act, or involvement in circumstances that are not essential to the commission of another act, such that the ultimate act could occur even without the cooperation of the person involved in the related act.


The issue arose for me out of a reading of Bishop Joseph Martino's Letter to Sen. Casey
regarding Sen. Casey's vote against the Martinez amendment to a senate bill, the purpose of which was to expand pediatric health care coverage.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS first posted it there, and there has been lively discussion of it over the past few days.

Here is the text of the letter:

January 30, 2009

Dear Senator Casey:

I wish to thank you for voting in favor of the Hatch Amendment to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reorganization Act of 2009 which would have made unborn children eligible for child health assistance had it passed. I am grateful for what you have done on behalf of children in America who are without health care.

It is with deep regret, however, that I learned of your vote against the amendment offered by Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) to the same Children’s Health Insurance Act. Senator Martinez’s amendment would have reinstated the Mexico City Policy. That policy, instituted in 1984, required foreign non-governmental organizations “to agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds” that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning . . . .” It also prohibited them from lobbying governments to make abortion legal. In effect, the reversal of the Mexico City policy will mean that over 450 million dollars of American foreign aid will go to organizations that are militant in promoting abortion as a method of population control, particularly in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds. Senator, is not this vote a contradiction of your repeated claim that you support the protection of unborn life?

Contrary to a release issued by your office yesterday, the 1973 Helms Amendment does not provide the same restrictions as the Mexico City Policy. The Helms Amendment prohibits only U.S. funds from being used to pay for abortions or to motivate or coerce anyone to practice abortions. It in no way keeps U.S. federal funds from organizations which use their own money to pay for or support abortions. Nor does it place restrictions on organizations that lobby foreign governments to reverse anti-abortion laws. While I understand that the Helms Amendment is still in place, it does not have the same effect in limiting abortions abroad.

On Respect Life Sunday, October 5, I addressed the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton. In keeping with the obligations of my episcopal office, I called upon my brothers and sisters in faith to be vigilant against the objections to the Church’s teaching on life so prevalent in current political discourse. I vowed to be vigilant in correcting Catholics who are in error with regard to the sanctity of life. Your vote against the Mexico City Policy will mean the deaths of thousands of unborn children. This is an offense against life and a denial of our Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human being. This action is worthy of condemnation by all moral men and women.

Your release also says that you support “family planning . . . specifically because reducing unintended pregnancies reduces the number of abortions.” I remind you that it is never permissible to use immoral means (e.g., artificial contraception) to achieve a good end.

As I have done on several occasions, Senator, I urge you to consider that Church documents speak clearly and compellingly on the special responsibility that falls to you as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils, including contraception, infanticide, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research. To that end, I refer you to two documents:

1. Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life. It says, “Catholics . . . have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard. John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life.”

2. Christifideles Laici. It states, “If, indeed everyone has the mission and responsibility of acknowledging the personal dignity of every human being and of defending the right to life, some lay faithful are given a particular title to this task: such as parents, teachers, health workers and those who hold economic and political power.”

I remind you further that when he was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger sent a memo to the bishops of the United States advising them that advocacy of, or participation in, abortion and euthanasia can never be justified by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits or requires it. He said there can be no diversity of opinion among Catholics regarding abortion and euthanasia.

It is my deepest wish, Senator, to convince you of the necessity of rescinding your vote on the Martinez Amendment. It is the height of irony that this amendment was defeated while the Senate passed legislation to provide health insurance for children who would otherwise be without it. What hypocrisy offers health insurance to children in one part of the world when children in another part will be deprived, by the stroke of the same pen, of their first breath?

I recognize and respect the burdens that you bear as a United States Senator; however, I remind you that your responsibilities as a Catholic bound by the faith of the Church exceed even those of your office. Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy.

As I have done several times before, I offer to make myself available to you to discuss the grave concerns that I raise here.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.
Bishop of Scranton

Now, before beginning our efforts to parse the moral issues raised by the letter, I need to clarify a point of interpretation.

The explanatory note accompanying the bishop's letter speaks of the senator's rescinding his vote. HE Martino writes of "reversing" the vote. Now, the Rules of the Senate make it very difficult to change a vote, although a senator may be permitted to do so by unanimous consent of his colleagues (cf. 12.1 of the Rules). It is not clear that this rule applies to votes on amendments, and I do not know what the consuetude in the Senate is. In any case there is no guarantee that such permission would be given in the case at hand.

Therefore, the bishop's instruction is to be understood to enjoin the senator to vote, Yea! in future attempts to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, and probably also to work toward bringing an initiative in this regard to a vote in the Senate.

Now, readers, go to work on the problem!

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