In two previous posts on this blog, I have searched for considerations that incline to the conclusion that cooperation with the HHS mandate for Catholic institutions would be material merely. The following paragraph from an article published on Public Discourse raises my hopes, seeming to offer such a consideration:
formal cooperation involves acts that assist another in wrongdoing, in which the intention of the one providing assistance is precisely to further the wrongful aims of the primary agent. If I provide you with contraceptives in order to enable you to contracept, then I am formally cooperating with you. …
Where the HHS mandate is concerned, there should be little doubt that formal cooperation is not at issue. If the president of a Catholic college is compelled to offer the coverage and complies, it will not be done for the sake of enabling his employers to contracept, but for the sake of complying with a legally authoritative, even if unjust, policy. Accordingly, the form of cooperation at stake is material, not formal.
Yet one is immediately disappointed, in recognizing that the consideration hinges on a fallacy known as “denying the antecedent,” or the confusion of a sufficient with a necessary condition.
An example serves to illustrate: from the (let us suppose) true statement that “If it is raining outside, the ground will be wet,” it does not follow, if it is not raining outside, that the ground will not be wet (as, after all, it may be wet from a previous rain, or from a garden hose).
Similarly, from the statement that “If someone provides X to another precisely in order that that other person do this thing Y, his cooperation is formal,” it does not follow, of course, that if he does not so provide X to another, his cooperation is not formal.
Accordingly, there is no “accordingly” about that conclusion at all.
But for a further examination of the quoted passage, see the post of my estimable colleague, Steve Long, on Thomistica.net.