Divine Providence and the HHS mandate
John Haas writes that the Supreme Court will meet on the feast of the Annunciation . . .
It’s been said that a coincidence is nothing other than God remaining anonymous. In other words, there are no coincidences in God’s Providence.
It’s common for Catholics to refer social events and political developments to the mysteries of their faith. These mysteries may not explain secular developments, but they do help us see the invisible but certain hand of God at work among us.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments this month regarding for-profit companies who object on religious grounds to providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs and devices for their employees and families as mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HHS issued the mandate under the heading “preventative services” as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. Breast cancer exams clearly fall into this category of preventative medicine, but contraceptives and abortifacients do not. To view these as preventative services is to look on fertility as a pathology to be corrected and pregnancy as a disease to be prevented.
The owners of Hobby Lobby, a for-profit company, are evangelical Christians. They refuse to provide such coverage, claiming that it would violate their consciences as well as the Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing religious liberty. The company refuses to provide the coverage, and the government could put it out of business with crippling fines up to $1.3 million per day for not providing it. Because of divided lower court decisions, Hobby Lobby’s case has made its way to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on the case on March 25.
This of course brings us to a remarkable coincidence — or more accurately, face to face with Divine Providence. March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation which commemorates the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary informing her that she would carry the Savior of the world in her womb.
It’s remarkable that the Church coordinated in its liturgical calendar the celebrations of the Annunciation and Christmas long before science proved that a new human individual comes into being at conception, nine months prior to birth. Because certain groups want to advance their contraceptive and abortion agendas, they ignore science.
Not all societies avoid these scientific truths in the interest of some social agenda. Germany, for example, has its Embryo Protection Law, which describes the embryo as coming into being “at the moment of the fusion of the nuclei of the two gametes.” The German law, the statement of scientific truth, shows a compatibility with revealed truth: Jesus was conceived in a virgin’s womb nine months before his birth.
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II issued his powerful encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) which repeated in the strongest language the consistent teaching of the Church in defense of innocent human life. “The moral gravity of procured abortion,” he wrote, “is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder” (#58).
The saintly Pope then put the full weight of his office and Church tradition behind this teaching: “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors, in communion with the bishops, who on various occasions have condemned abortion, I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s tradition, and is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (#62).
John Paul chose to issue his encyclical on the inviolable sanctity of human life on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation! The apparently arbitrary date the Supreme Court justices selected to hear arguments about the HHS mandate was actually a date chosen for them — a date, not to put too fine a point on it, of cosmic significance: the day on which the Church celebrates in awe and wonder the incarnation, God becoming man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
As March 25 approaches and the justices’ deliberations commence, Christians must seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin that they hear and ponder the truth presented to them as Mary had done at the words of Gabriel — and that they pay heed to the deepest human and divine truths hidden in coincidences.
JOHN M. HAAS, PH.D., is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and founding president of the International Institute for Culture. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and serves on its Directive Council.