After having taken the better part of the week expressing my objections to the HHS "free birth control for all" mandate, I thought I would balance the picture by sharing my thoughts on how the mandate will help the Catholic Church in America. Because as ugly as the mandate is in itself and in its direct consequences, it can also generate substantial benefits. For instance:
The natural question, "Why on earth does the Catholic Church consider birth control immoral?" can be an opening for our bishops, priests and active laity to boldly explain and proclaim the Church's vision of the human person, with all that leads to. This is a teachable moment for the area of Church teaching that is the least understood, the most disregarded, and (it is safe to say), the most subject to mockery and dismissal, and which is at the same time the most universally accessible teaching, and the one that sums up the Church's message about God and eternal life.
Since society will no longer be a support for a nominally Catholic life, more and more everyday decisions will need to be made with reflection consciously guided by Catholic principles. This means renewing our commitment to Christ and his Church on a frequent basis, in the midst of the most ordinary circumstances, where previously our adherence to Christian principles would have been a matter of course. Catholics who have heretofore been able to make plausible compromises now have the opportunity to own all that being Catholic means. (And if, as hoped above, Church leaders make the most misunderstood teachings more richly available, the wavering will have what they need to take that stand.)
Especially in areas like health care and social services where, up to now, religious agencies have been licensed by the state, we may have gotten the impression that because the faith-based groups and their secular counterparts were doing the same things, they were doing the same thing. Now that the convictions that form the substructure of each are beginning to diverge, the Catholic agencies are prevented by their very raison d'etre from going with the secular flow. Their clear and distinct sense of identity can be affirmed boldly.
As a result of this renewed sense of uniquely Catholic identity, our schools, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, family welfare agencies, crisis pregnancy centers and other institutions of service may undergo a revitalization that will yield new and inspired creative approaches to helping people in their times of need. Just as in the late Renaissance, Catholic religious orders invented hospital care, we can expect the unexpected to blossom through the Holy Spirit's gift.
What other benefits do you think the HHS mandate, unjust as it is in itself, could still offer?