Today I want to take this a step further, and point out that we also have a duty not to co-operate in the sin of others.
Fr Frank Brennan's (Professor of Law at the Australian Catholic University inter alia) argument made recently in Eureka Street, that living in a pluralistic democratic society requires us to co-operate in evil is, on the face of it, utterly erroneous!
When should we resist immoral laws?
The context for Fr Brennan's argument is the US bishops resistance to Obama care.
He argues first that the American health care reforms deserve the Church's support.
I agree - but so did the US bishops at the time it was first proposed.
But Fr Brennan SJ then goes on to argue that they shouldn't be fighting the requirement that Catholic institutions provide coverage for things like contraception, sterilization and abortion in the insurance plans for their employees, despite the obvious religious objections to doing so. Well I disagree!
Call murder what it is!
Fr Brennan provides a number of, in my view, entirely spurious arguments to support his case.
Like many who actually support abortion and like evils, he repeatedly fudges what he is actually talking about.
He repeatedly refers to the 'services' in question as being 'preventative health' measures, rather than the life prevention measures - or outright murder - they actually are, justified as 'reducing long term costs'. Well yes, no people, no costs I guess!
He even goes so far as to suggest, in the Australian context, that such services, far from being objectively evil for all, should be supported for those who want them as advancing the common good!
He promotes the false idea that conscience stands apart from the teaching of the Church.
In short he seems to be promoting a moral relativism that makes it alright for Catholics to reject such things for themselves, but limits their role to opting out of contraception and abortion for themselves only.
Truth is an absolute
Fr Brennan notes that in the past some Catholic Institutions have co-operated with sin. But surely its good that they are now turning away from error?
He argues that the bishops' position doesn't take into account "Church institutions responding to the gospel imperative to provide health, education or welfare to persons of all faiths and none, employing persons of all faiths and none?"
I'd like to see the Scriptural quote that supports this alleged 'Gospel imperative'. Because last time I looked the actual Gospel imperative was to teach all men to obey the teachings of the Gospel, not facilitate their rejection.
And he argues that simply allowing people to access services isn't the same as providing them oneself.
Formal co-operation in evil
The problem is that co-operation in evil - that is concurrence in another's sinful act - is itself a sin.
That's why the Church is (or rather should be) opposing not just gay 'marriage' but also civil unions and other like measures.
The issues so far as catholic theology is concerned, is just how direct the co-operation is.
If we give another the means to commit a sin, aiding them to commit it - formal material co-operation - we have ourselves committed a sin.
In the case of the US law, the co-operation would be very direct indeed, since the employer must enter into the insurance contract covering their employees themselves.
That is why orthodox theologians are arguing Catholics cannot support the Obama Administrations' regulation requiring catholic institutions to offer cover for immoral services.
The debate hinges, though, on the extent of our co-operation with the sin involved, and more particularly our attitude to it.
Fr Brennan argues that Australia's health care system involves a similar degree of co-operation in sins to that being proposed in the US.
In the case of the Australian system, the degree of co-operation is very remote indeed, since health care is funded indirectly via the tax system, through different levels of government, and dependent on different laws at the State level.
That's not to say we shouldn't work to change what Medicare in Australia funds, and State laws that are indeed unjust.
And that's not to say that some individuals responsible for administering the system (being Federal Health Minister as Mr Abbott once was, for example springs to mind) might not be in a position of co-operating rather more closely with sin.
But simply paying our taxes surely places us in no different a situation than those Jews who Christ urged to render what was Caesar's to Caesar, notwithstanding that the apparatus of the State they were funding was going to be used to crucify him...
A toxic tangle?
The crux of Fr Brennan's argument about US Catholic resistance to Obama's health care regulation is that it has created a toxic atmosphere, makes the bishops sound 'shrill', and that this is a bad thing.
But it has to be asked, who is really responsible for this - those who are attempting to impose an unjust law, or those who are resisting it?
And if the State starts imposing immoral and unjust laws, should we really care that the 'atmosphere' becomes toxic?
His is the path of appeasement, and we all know where that leads...
It is time for Catholics to dump moral and cultural relativism, the cult of niceness, and the false ideology of tolerance.
Time to fight.