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“Material” cooperation on the other hand, might be, depending upon whether it is immediate or mediate. The former is never licit, but the latter might be, depending upon whether it is proximate or remote and has proper proportionality or not. Even if all hurdles are cleared and the cooperation is otherwise licit, if it could cause scandal (another theological principle with its own set of rules), then it becomes illicit. This is complicated stuff.

How do the actions required of Mother Angelica by the accommodation hold up under this intricate analysis? Not well, according to 1,500 years of church doctrine. Will five justices agree? Can they possibly disagree, without pretending to be a religious tribunal?

The court can avoid this thorny question altogether by looking at the simpler question on the other side of the equation: Is the accommodation the least restrictive means the government can find to accomplish its goal, or is there another way to give out free birth control and abortion-drug coverage?

In fact, there is another way: Direct government provision of (or reimbursement for) the contraception insurance. The administration has granted an outright exemption for religious nonprofit churches. It could exempt religious nonprofit schools and soup kitchens, too. (Isn’t the church exemption a tacit admission that the accommodation is not really enough to protect objections of conscience?)

The Supreme Court has upheld a right to contraception and abortion, but never the right to get them for free, especially from religious organizations or private institutions. Making them free is a White House project that the White House should pay for.

Leave Mother Angelica out of it.

Cathy Cleaver Ruse is senior legal fellow at Family Research Council, where Travis Weber is director of the Center for Religious Liberty.