Jesuit Says Conscience Protections Could Prove Decisive in Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

Inadequate conscience protections may lead the Supreme Court to reject the 2010 health care law, a Jesuit priest and legal scholar predicted after three days of arguments in the historic case.

“I think there are sufficient problems with the bill, as passed, that the justices could say: ‘This is unconstitutional,’” Jesuit Father Robert J. Araujo, told Catholic News Agency on March 29.

“This is a very complicated law, and the more we examine it, we see more problems and concerns,” noted Fr. Araujo, who holds the John Courtney Murray Professorship at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

“I tend to think that’s on the minds of the lawyers and the justices: ‘Are we going to see more litigation, if we don’t resolve these conscience-protection and other issues?’”

“That’s why I see an opportunity for the court to say: ‘Look, there are some serious problems with this legislation. Congress has done a lot of work, (but) it’s their responsibility to write a law that will pass constitutional muster and judicial review.”

The court’s March 26-28 period of questioning focused on the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires virtually all citizens to obtain health insurance.

Most observers believe the law’s fate will hinge upon whether the requirement is judged to be a means of regulating interstate commerce – as the Obama administration maintains – or an unconstitutional overtaking of states’ power by the federal government.

Fr. Araujo thinks the law is unlikely to be upheld either fully or in part.

“Having followed the arguments and the questions, I don’t think the likelihood of a complete vindication is very strong.”

Although the main issue before the court is the individual insurance mandate, the Jesuit professor thinks other aspects of the law will factor into the court’s decision as well – including the widely-criticized contraception and sterilization mandate, a federal rule made as part of the health care law’s implementation.

The Supreme Court justices, he said, realize that there are constitutional concerns surrounding “who exactly is going to be paying for what” under the law, and “how that might affect their own moral concerns, which are constitutionally protected.”

If the law is upheld, the justices could reasonably expect challenges to continue on different constitutional grounds – including the free exercise of religion, a factor in eight states’ current lawsuits against the law’s contraception mandate.

The result could be “a repetition of what we’ve seen so far,” with various lawsuits advancing in federal court seeking “review of the legality of certain provisions” in the health care law.

Health care, the priest and professor noted, is a pressing issue that seriously affects millions of people.

Although the Church regards health care as a right that should be secured for all members of society, opinions differ as to how this should be achieved in practice. The Catholic notion of “subsidiarity” requires that problems be solved by the lowest level of competent authority.

Some Catholic critics of the health care law have invoked this concept as a criticism of the federal health care reform, which they say could have been better handled by the individual states.

“I think in its own way, the U.S. Constitution – under the Tenth Amendment – in part addresses this important concept of subsidiarity,” Fr. Araujo said, citing the provision by which the powers not given to the federal government by the constitution “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

“What might be proper for Florida may not work in California,” the Loyola University professor noted. “The states do have a proper, lawful role in determining what is good and what is not for their citizenry. That’s how I see the subsidiarity rule playing out in the U.S. Constitution.”

[Catholic News Agency]

5 Responses to “Jesuit Says Conscience Protections Could Prove Decisive in Supreme Court Health Care Ruling”

  • S.A. Leiseca:

    good morning,

    Many thanks for your comments. I agree with all of them.

    take care

  • paul:

    I hope Father Araujo is right but, since I’m not aware that the conscience issue was briefed or argued for the court, I don’t see how they can get from here to there. Don’t they have to stick to the issues brought up on appeal?

  • M. C. Marasco:

    What most people do not know is that Judge Antonin Scalia who led the charge against the AHC was Jesuit educated at Xavier Jesuit High in New York. I listened to every word spoken during the three day session of the healthcare debate before the Supreme Court.

    To this day, Scalia attributes his intellect and critical thinking as a direct result of his Jesuit education and training.

    Like him as a private entrepreneur-businessman, I have found the
    discipline and values of a classic Jesuit secondary school education (St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago) as what distinguishes me from the run-of-the-mill people that I encounter in life.

    In the final analysis, the fate of the Nation’s healthcare will be effected by the brilliant thinking of a young man whose parents
    had the foresight to send him to a Jesuit high school.

  • It is wonderful to see one of our esteemed Jesuit scholars contributing to this health care discussion. The healthcare debate needs to focus on the merits of the legislation in light of the inalienable rights and freedoms enumerated in the U.S. constitution. Keep on speaking Father!!

  • An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this matter here on your website.