The current debate about Obamacare and religious freedom assumes institutions endowed with certain inalienable rights. Today, the corporate is personal: we count not just corporations but institutions as people. At times, the rights of corporate bodies, whether incorporated or ecclesial, trump the rights of individuals. Corporate bodies seemingly enjoy more personhood than even people do.
Indeed, like people, institutions should be granted certain rights.
But Catholic Social Teaching rightly stresses that rights create obligations. Human beings are not simply owed; they owe. Human dignity is duty-bound. For this reason, Catholic institutions must not only exercise their own rights, they must protect the rights of others.
While we have spent a great deal of time and energy thinking about what Catholic institutions are owed, we have spent far less time and energy thinking about what Catholic institutions owe.