Rorate Caeli

UPDATE: Violating Natural Law, "under protest"
Archdiocese funds health plan covering abortion

UPDATE: We have received many, many questions asking whether the cardinal, by agreeing to abortion and contraception funding in his archdiocese's healthcare plans, incurred a latae sententiae excommunication -- obviously a very serious question that should not be the topic of laymen guessing. 

A response, from the lawyers at the Canon Law Centre:

First, it is a general principle of canon law that the Church’s penal laws are subject to a strict interpretation (cf. 1983 Code, canon 18). Also, in penal law the principle of legality (nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege) concretely means that an act can be punished only
if, at the time of its commission, the act was the object of a valid, sufficiently precise, written criminal law to which a sufficiently certain sanction was attached.

In light of these principles, it is clear that while the direct procurement of an abortion is punished with a latae sententiae excommunication as per canon 1398, there is no penal sanction attached to the act of making provision for health care plans which provide abortion (much less that fund contraception).  Thus, however morally objectionable this is, the question of sin is altogether a different one from the question of incurring a penalty under canon law.

In sum, based upon the facts as they are known, in no way can it be said that Cardinal Dolan has incurred an automatic excommunication.  Prayer is certainly needed, but there is to my mind no question regarding a latae sententiae penalty in this case. 

Our original post, below:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of New York, has been vociferous in the fight against the Obama Administration's mandate for Catholic institutions to provide coverage for birth control in their employee health plans. Most Catholics have been united in prayer and action in this effort.

However, according to the New York Times, it appears, "under protest," Dolan's archdiocese has been helping its employees violate Natural Law for over a decade -- even providing coverage for abortions

But even as Cardinal Dolan insists that requiring some religiously affiliated employers to pay for contraception services would be an unprecedented, and intolerable, government intrusion on religious liberty, the archdiocese he heads has quietly been paying for such coverage, albeit reluctantly and indirectly, for thousands of its unionized employees for over a decade.

The Archdiocese of New York has previously acknowledged that some local Catholic institutions offer health insurance plans that include contraceptive drugs to comply with state law; now, it is also acknowledging that the archdiocese’s own money is used to pay for a union health plan that covers contraception and even abortion for workers at its affiliated nursing homes and clinics.

“We provide the services under protest,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

You can read the rest of the story here.

And for more information on the cardinal's confusing statements on the current abortion fight in New York, read Prince, or politician?


  1. How about paying whatever fine the State of New York would impose for not cooperating in the effectuation of grave sin? How about refusing to pay any fine for noncompliance and then accept the consequences come what may? No one can imagine Thomas More attending the wedding of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn under protest. His faith was too real for that.

  2. Anonymous7:59 PM

    And that's the key point: one cannot sin to bring about a good result. Healthcare coverage is critical for their employees -- but babies being murdered or helping people sin through contraception cannot being permitted to provide that coverage.

  3. I knew it! I. knew he'd be the first to fold.

  4. These seem to be grounds for excommunication for any Catholic, in the know, who is involved.


  5. Forcing the Church to participate in evil. It makes my blood run cold.

  6. Yes, but St. Thomas More did stubbornly remain silent rather than speak on any matter pertaining to the marriage. He also continued to hold his position as Chancellor for as long as he could. He did not feel he was up to the task of martyrdom, and his legal argument was that silence, while it could be interpreted as consent, could not be interpreted as dissent. So St. Thomas More is a tricky person to use as an example.

    However, in this case, I think what we are looking at is the progressive, detrimental effect of treating diocesan workers as though they were members of the proletariat and allowing them to unionize against their own Church. I have seen firsthand the effect that this has on Catholic colleges and parochial school systems, and the results are usually school closures, political and moral scandals, and schools barely more effective than the public schools (at least when you factor out socioeconomic differences). I imagine that the same has been going on in many health care and not-for-profit agencies.

    The lesson here is that the bureaucracy of American Catholicism has been playing fast and loose with Catholic identity for some time, and now, when the politicians threaten their privileged societal position or their ability to police their own institutions, they have no moral ground to stand on. This is where good, faithful Catholic business-owners and activists, who have always been fighting the good fight, need to take a stand for what is right. The Bishops' Conferences need to heed their example.

  7. How will Dolan explain this when he meets God face-to-face? Dolan is in a leasership role, one that is not supposed to be easy. Either defend the Faith or die trying, especially at his level.

  8. Anonymous9:23 PM

    He did NOT stay silent. He was promised safety if he would and was killed because he published writings against the divorce and marriage,

  9. This makes me sad.

  10. And when January 1, 2014 rolls around how many "Catholic" hospitals will be closing rather than performing tubal ligations and abortions, forcing doctors and nurses to perform these unholy acts without regard for their religious beliefs?

    How many bishops told us before the 2008 election, "abortion will always be with us--remember the poor--we have to vote to care for the poor"?

    Why is the American Catholic Church the recipient of the largest amount of federal aid to charities? We should not accept one penny of taxpayer money to do what Our Lord commanded us to do!

  11. So is Cardinal Dolan excommunicated latae sententiae from the Church, then?

  12. Reason number 249999312 why I'm not a fan of Cardinal Dolan...knew he'd fold.

  13. Since becoming Pope, has the Holy Father overtly condemned the atrocity of legalized abortion (never mind contraception) even once? Maybe, perhaps, in one of his fervorinos? I, for one, am sadly unaware of any such statement on the part of H.H., and, indeed, the omission strikes me as rather glaring. I surely cannot be the only one to find rather baffling and even troubling the Roman Pontiff's silence on this, the quintessential civil rights issue of our time, especially given Pope Francis' obvious proclivity for pointing out and condemning *other* (lesser) forms of human rights violation?

  14. Lalalalalala wink wink..
    Typical American 'Catholics.'

  15. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Put him on trial at the Vatican, Cardinal Burke presiding.

  16. Anonymous1:08 AM

    And while we're at it, let us root out and try the other villains, cardinals, bishops, and other collaborators, as well as the medical "practitioners" who participated in the murders whether in New York or elsewhere.

    It's all too easy to complain and then take no action.

  17. The photograph helped Barack Hussein Obama promote abortion with impunity.

  18. So much for any credible moral protest against Obamacare... or better, it will eventually be support "under protest."

  19. "Matthew said...
    So is Cardinal Dolan excommunicated latae sententiae from the Church, then?"


    Good question.

    I will consult several canonists I am familiar with to find out.

  20. For the conciliar Church, practical capitulation is as invariable as the sun's rising in the east. The only difference is the timing of the capitulation.

    But the practical capitulation does have a basis in doctrinal capitulation.

    Since religious liberty is subject to the exigencies of good public order, as clearly taught by Masonry and in its foosteps Dignitatis humanae, the powers that be determine how much religious liberty the devotees of voodoo, snake handling, the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, Gitchee Manitou, etc. will be permitted.

    You can complain about their decision if you like. But after all, what can that mean as against the Social Kingship of the powers that be in wordly matters, as taught by Vatican II?

  21. The way the excommunication for abortion works is this.

    "Canon 1398 provides that, "a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication." This means that at the very moment that the abortion is successfully accomplished, the woman and all formal conspirators are excommunicated.

    An abortion is defined as "the killing of the foetus, in whatever way or at whatever time from the moment of conception" (Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, published in the "Acts of the Apostolic See" vol. 80 (1988), 1818). This definition applies to any means, including drugs, by which a human being present in the woman is killed. Thus, once a woman knows she is pregnant the intentional killing of the new life within her is not only murder but an excommunicable offense. A woman who only thinks she might be pregnant has a grave responsibility to find out and to protect the possible life within. Any action to end a "possible" pregnancy while probably not an excommunicable offense would be callous disregard for life and gravely sinful.

    Conspirators who incur the excommunication can be defined as those who make access to the abortion possible. This certainly includes doctors and nurses who actually do it, husbands, family and others whose counsel and encouragement made it morally possible for the woman, and those whose direct practical support made it possible (financially, driving to the clinic etc.)."

  22. 1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
    - by participating directly and voluntarily in them;

    - by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;

    - by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;

    - by protecting evil-doers

  23. It would seem that those who pay for the abortion for others would be cooperating materially in the abortion (even if they declare they are paying for the abortions under protest.)
    - - -
    Apostolic Constitution "SACRAE DISCIPLINAE LEGES" (1983) clearly states: "Finally, the canonical laws by their very nature must be observed."
    - - -
    So why doesn't Cardinal Dolan excommunicate heretics and schismatics who commit public scandal such as some politicians within his Diocese?
    Canon 915, and Canon 1399.
    Canon 1399 - "Can. 1399 In addition to the cases established here or in other laws, the external violation of a divine or canonical law can be punished by a just penalty only when the special gravity of the violation demands punishment and there is an urgent need to prevent or repair scandals."
    - - -
    Scandal - CCC: "2284, 2285, 2286, 2287and 2326.
    - - -
    CCC: " 1759 " An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means. "
    - - -
    Why does Cardinal Dolan ignore the Mortal Sins of SCANDAL, and SACRILEGE against the Body and Blood of our Lord?

  24. Anne,

    Loss of Faith and/or fear.

  25. I hate to say this, but how on earth can Cardinal Dolan defend obedience to Church teaching in a Court of Law against the evils in Obamacare, when he is doing these same things himself for union employees?

    On the internet see: "Off the Rails 05-29" by ChurchMilitantTV.

    The Attorneys defending the Church must not be able to sleep at night.
    The Judge will call Catholics - hypocrites.

  26. Anonymous11:46 PM

    Have the Canon Lawyers Reached the Right Conclusion?

    I think not for the reasons that follow . . .

    Material Facts:

    “[T]he archdiocese [Dolan] heads has quietly been paying for such coverage, albeit reluctantly and indirectly, for thousands of its unionized employees for over a decade.

    The Archdiocese . . . has previously acknowledged that some local Catholic institutions offer health insurance plans that include contraceptive drugs to comply with state law; now, it is also acknowledging that the archdiocese’s own money is used to pay for a union health plan that covers contraception and even abortion for workers at its affiliated nursing homes and clinics.” /1/

    Applicable Law:

    Can. 1398 “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication.”

    Catechism 2272: “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” /2/ “by the very commission of the offense,” /3/ and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. /4/ * * * End Part 1 of 2. Part 2 to follow.

  27. Anonymous12:03 AM

    Part 2 of 2:


    Paying for an abortion, as the Archdiocese does, is the equivalent of procuring an abortion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “procuration” as “the action or an act of causing, arranging, or bringing about, esp. through an agent; authorization, instigation; prompting, contrivance; (in early use) spec. the use of improper influence; bribery, inducement.”

    The “strict interpretation” defense offered by the Canon Lawyers Group is hyper-technical, is cavilling over the 9th part of a hair. “In light of [“strict interpretation”], they say, “it is clear that while the direct procurement of an abortion is punished with a latae sententiae excommunication as per canon 1398, there is no penal sanction attached to the act of making provision for health care plans which provide abortion (much less that fund contraception).”

    Here the Archdiocese, through its agents, Dolan and the other collaborators or cooperators, past and present, were procurers and thus ought to answer for their actions or inactions. Paying “under protest” hardly seems an adequate defense, but in any case the matter, at the least, ought to proceed.

    I wonder how many were killed by this seeming moral indifference.--Judge Bartley


    /1/ From

    /2/ “Someone directly involved in a completed abortion is "automatically" excommunicated. In Latin, this is called a "latae sententiae" excommunication -- that it happens automatically by the law itself.” * * *

    “Ferendae sententiae excommunications are those imposed as a result of the intervention of Church authority. Depending on the delict and the circumstances, this might be done by a diocesan bishop through an administrative procedure, through a Church Tribunal, or by the Vatican by either administrative procedure or a Tribunal. The authority involved and the means used (either executive or judicial authority) depends on the delict and the circumstances.” (Father Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 9/27/2006

    If Dolan were not subject to automatic excommunication, the case could proceed under Can. 1329 §1. “If ferendae sententiae penalties are established for the principal perpetrator, those who conspire together to commit a delict and are not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same penalties or to others of the same or lesser gravity.

    §2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.”

    /3/ Reference Note : 78 CIC, can. 1314.

    /4/ Reference Note : 79 Cf. CIC, cann. 1323-1324.

  28. Sadly, the "American Patriotic Church" which Cardinal Dolan is the head of, is onboard with the policies that are destroying this country. They support everything the left puts forth and give lip service to being against abortion and gay marriage while allowing their politicians to remain within the church. Give the devil his due - the communists have succeeded. Only Our Lady can save us.

  29. In the photo -
    Obama: "So you're gonna pay for employees' contraception aren't you Cardinal? Dolan: "We already are! Bwaahahaha."

  30. Anonymous7:03 PM

    Most Evocative Anti-Abortion Poem

    I Too Had Love To Give

    I’d have been there for you
    when you were grey and old
    Now all that you will have
    is pain and remorse untold.

    Was it not in Earthly pleasure
    that you and daddy made me?
    Why then for Worldly treasure
    the farewell that you bade me?

    When you killed me, no tears,
    just a sigh relief.
    But one day, Dearest Mother
    you will know the deepest grief.

    Why was I not adopted?
    could not someone else enjoy
    watching me grow up to be
    a delightful girl or boy?

    Why did you slay me mother?
    Why not let me live?
    You would have Loved me Mother

    – Rick Christensen

  31. Sometimes, simplicity in dealing with bureaucrats is the only option, though I concede a backbone is necessary.

    When the state says you have to violate your conscience by providing such coverage, the Archdiocese can say, simply: No.

    When they start assessing fines for non-compliance, the Archdiocese should tell them, "We will not pay them."

    When the lawsuits start to come in, the Archdiocese can say: "We reject them".

    When after these refusals the state's storm troopers show up at the doors of the Chancery, which they most likely will, let the world see what the state is capable of doing. Many eyes will at last be opened when they make a move like that. At that point the State may back down (it's happened before) or they will get real, real ugly.

    Sooner or later I'm afraid we are going to have to face this kind of confrontation and it is probably not a bad idea to delay it. We're going to have to just start to say "No" to these monsters. Simplistic? Perhaps. But sometimes, in the end, things come down to the basics.

  32. Souls are lost through SCANDAL.
    We must never participate in, or tolerate sin.

    CCC: " 2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized.
    It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
    Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.
    Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing."

    CCC: " 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
    Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.
    This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values."

    CCC: " 2326 Scandal is a grave offense when by deed or omission it deliberately leads others to sin gravely."

    and CCC #2284.

    Have you ever wondered why some US Cardinals and Bishops do not actively encourage literate persons in their own Diocese to read the "CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition" ?

    Our last 3 Popes have asked us to study the CCC. For their statements about the CCC on the net go to: "What Catholics REALLY Believe Source".


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