Catholics, Contraception & The Heretical 98%

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Last Sunday, most U.S. Catholics heard a letter read from the pulpit imploring them to oppose the Obamacare provision requiring most healthcare plans to cover contraceptive services for women. The reason given was that Catholic hospitals and universities would have to “shutter their doors”  in order to avoid heresy and be true to the faith. As part of the concerted effort, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty announced that the Obama administration’s requirement goes against “the mandate of Jesus Christ.”  Even though the earthly mandate contains an exemption for purely religious organizations, the all-male U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is clearly on the offensive in this politically charged debate about women, privacy, and the right of families to decide for themselves the number of children they can support.

Since the 1930s, most denominations have left the issue of contraception up to the conscience of the parishioners. The Catholic Church has stood virtually alone since 1951 by requiring its adherents to use only the “rhythm method” as a means to prevent pregnancy.  All other forms of contraception were deemed an interference in God’s Plan and hence heretical.  In the early 1960s with the reforms of Vatican II in full swing, the Pope appointed a 90 person committee to evaluate the Church’s position on contraception. 75 of the 90 recommended the Church allow contraception by means other than the rhythm method.

Disregarding the recommendation, Pope Paul VI issued his famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s solitary position. The Pope reasoned that, “The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”  The Pope then waxed philosophic about the danger of government mandated contraception akin to that seen in China:

Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

That textual cudgel has now been taken up against Obamacare.  Catholic apologists like Jennifer Brinker in the St. Louis Review have argued that the Pope was right and the government is now in the business of  pushing contraception for political reasons. Brinker even argues ironically that the mandate is a “dissolution of freedom.” Brinker reminds Catholics that disapproved contraception is a “sin” and that most Catholics don’t understand the reason for the ban.

What do Catholic women think about the Church’s unyielding stand on artificial birth control? In April of  last year, Reuters reported that a Guttmacher Institute poll showed that 98% of sexually active U.S. Catholic women used contraception methods outside of the Church’s teachings.  The numbers held up for women who regularly attended Catholic services as well as those who didn’t. In fact, the findings showed American Catholic women were just as likely to use artificial contraception as those in other denominations.

“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” said the report’s lead author Rachel Jones.  Catholics overwhelmingly rely on the most common methods of birth control. Nearly 70 percent of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute research.

What then are we to make of the schism between Church’s dogma and the reality of its followers?  Are 98% of the Church’s women sinners and heretics? Can a religion be viable if one of its fundamental tenets is  ignored on a daily basis by almost all of its “faithful”?  Can a male dominated authority maintain credibility in the modern world when it dictates to women on issues that are overwhelmingly that gender’s concern?

These questions do not seem to be troubling Church fathers.  In fact, they appear to be looking for a testosterone fueled showdown. As one recently said, “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” They may do well to look over their shoulders as they climb up that political hill, theological banners flying. A cursory view of their ranks will likely find few honest Americans and almost no honest women.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

178 thoughts on “Catholics, Contraception & The Heretical 98%”

  1. The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex-Crime Files
    How a scandal in Philadelphia exposed documents that reveal a high-level conspiracy to cover up decades of sexual abuse
    By SABRINA RUBIN ERDELY
    SEPTEMBER 6, 2011
    http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-catholic-churchs-secret-sex-crime-files-20110906

    Excerpt:
    The five co-defendants sit close enough to shake hands in the Philadelphia courtroom, but they never once acknowledge one another. Father James Brennan, a 47-year-old priest accused of raping a 14-year-old boy, looks sad and stooped in a navy sweater, unshaven and sniffling. Edward Avery, a defrocked priest in his sixties, wears an unsettlingly pleasant expression on his face, as though he’s mentally very far away. He and two other defendants – the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, also in his sixties, and Bernard Shero, a former Catholic schoolteacher in his forties – are accused of passing around “Billy,” a fifth-grade altar boy. According to the charges, the three men raped and sodomized the 10-year-old, sometimes making him perform stripteases or getting him drunk on sacramental wine after Mass.

    Heinous as the accusations are, the most shocking – and significant – are those against the fifth defendant, Monsignor William Lynn. At 60, Lynn is portly and dignified, his thin lips pressed together and his double chin held high. In a dramatic fashion statement, he alone has chosen to wear his black clerical garb today, a startling reminder that this is a priest on trial, a revered representative of the Catholic Church, not to mention a high-ranking official in Philadelphia’s archdiocese. Lynn, who reported directly to the cardinal, was the trusted custodian of a trove of documents known in the church as the “Secret Archives files.” The files prove what many have long suspected: that officials in the upper echelons of the church not only tolerated the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests but conspired to hide the crimes and silence the victims. Lynn is accused of having been the archdiocese’s sex-abuse fixer, the man who covered up for its priests. Incredibly, after a scandal that has rocked the church for a generation, he is the first Catholic official ever criminally charged for the cover-up.

  2. A Catholic Bishop Is Indicted in Child Pornography and Again I Ask: Why Does Congress Kowtow to the USCCB?
    by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check
    October 16, 2011
    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/10/16/a-catholic-bishop-is-indicted-in-child-pornography-and-again-i-ask-why-does-congress-kowtow-to-the-usccb

    Excerpt:
    Almost exactly two years ago, during the heat of the health reform debate, I wrote an article asking why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has so much power in the halls of Congress, especially when it comes to pushing for policies that deny women their rights.

    Today, I ask again: Why?

    On Friday, October 14th, 2011, the day after the USCCB succeeded in achieving its long-held goal of getting the House of Representatives to pass the Let Women Die Act of 2011, one of their own, Bishop Robert W. Finn, was indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse.

    This is, according to the New York Times, “the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.”

    The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.

    According to the Times, the bishops pledged a decade ago to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities. And “Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.”

    Instead he continued to cover up this abuse.

    Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.

    Taking lewd photographs of young girls and covering it up. Raping young boys and girls and covering it up. Getting women pregnant and covering it up.

    There is a sustained pattern of institutionalized corruption and immorality by any measure and these men are allowed to declare themselves the moral arbiters of the most private decisions made by women and their families?

  3. Bishops Are Behind the ‘Let Women Die’ Act and the Push Against Birth Control — Even As They’re Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals
    Sarah Seltzer
    Catholics for Choice
    17 October 2011
    http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/news/inthenews/2011/BishopsAreBehindtheLetWomenDieAct.asp

    Excerpt:
    Last week, the House’s passage of the now-notorious H.R. 358 — also known as the “Let Women Die” bill — caused deserved outrage. But the bill’s connection to the high-ranking Catholic group that fought for its passage, even while the American church is fighting a horrific new sex abuse scandal, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

    The new bill (which the president has vowed to veto) would essentially obliterate abortion coverage by both public and private insurers, and most egregiously get hospitals off the hook for refusing to perform abortions for women whose lives are in immediate danger. It would literally allow hospitals to let women die with impunity.

    H.R. 358’s easy passage by a majority in Congress (with some defecting Democrats in the ranks) delivered another shock of sexism in a political landscape that has been assaulted by one anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-women’s health measure after another, all firing in a succession of rapid shots from statehouses across the nation as well as from DC. Helping to man the artillery is a largely disgraced Catholic hierarchy.

    This momentum for misogyny has been painted as having mostly arisen from the Tea Party and the extremist evangelical megachurch Pat Robertson types. But these anti-choice forces are not alone, and they are not solely responsible: rather the (all-male, it should go without saying) Council of Catholic Bishops has aggressively, relentlessly, and successfully lobbied for many of the worst of the measures in the “War on Women.”

  4. The Men Behind The War On Women
    By Laura Bassett
    11/1/2011
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/the-men-behind-the-war-on_n_1069406.html

    Excerpt:
    A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent.

    Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women’s choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.

    But the erosion of women’s rights didn’t begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama’s health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.

    Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops.

    “It is a very effective lobby, unfortunately, and now they have an ally in the Republican majority because both groups find this a means by which to fight women’s health issues in general,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. “The bishops carry a lot of clout.”

  5. Yep … he understands the importance of this issue and seems willing to stand firm.

    Take a look at Betty Sutton, Congresswoman from Ohio, and see if you want to help … http://sutton.house.gov/

    Like Warren, she is one of the good guys fighting off the US Chamber of Congress money machine.

  6. NOW and Planned Parenthood are okay with the modification as posted above. Obama is on the right side of the culture war. The republican candidates are not.

  7. Any word yet from the Catholic bishops on Obama’s “tweaking” of contraception coverage? I’m glad our president didn’t cave on this issue to the right wingnuts and the women-are-second-class-citizens folks.

  8. You have probably heard Obama’s modification to the contraception issue…

    I am of the opinion Obama completely outsmarted the Repubnuts on the debt crisis…. now think about this: the contraception issue will probably help Santorum especially now during CPAC… helping Santorum keeps the Republican primary war going and makes life tough for Romney…..

    Think of the political brilliance of Obama’s move in effectively helping Santorum which ultimately is great for Obama…..

    The guy is really a master political strategist.

  9. Catholic bishops cry wolf on contraception
    Bill Press
    Tribune Media Services
    February 9, 2012
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/sns-201202091600–tms–bpresstt–m-a20120209feb09,0,6652048.column

    Excerpt:
    I love protests, and have taken part in many of them. My first was picketing in front of Safeway in San Francisco, urging shoppers to support California farm workers and boycott grapes.

    But there are real protests and there are phony protests. And one of the phoniest we’ve ever seen is today’s protest by Catholic bishops against the Obama administration’s new rules on insurance coverage of contraception.

    Judging from the cries of outrage coming from the Catholic hierarchy, you’d think President Obama had shut down Catholic churches, defrocked all priests, sent nuns back to Ireland, and dropped an atomic bomb on the Vatican. On every cable news or talk radio show, Obama’s accused of trampling on the First Amendment, declaring war on religion, destroying religious freedom and, of course, Catholic-bashing.

    Nonsense. Here’s the truth. On January 20, the Health and Human Services Agency, under Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, issued a new rule that insurance policies, as part of their basic package, must offer contraceptive services with no deductible or co-pay. An exception was made for 335,000 churches, missions, or other places of worship where all employees were Catholic or members of any religion which opposed contraception as a matter of faith.

    Note: The new ruling does not require Catholic hospitals or clinics to provide birth control pills or devices. It does not force Catholics to practice contraception. It does not interfere with anyone’s religion. It does not prevent priests and bishops from continuing their appalling medieval and widely ignored attempts to convince Catholics that contraception is sinful. It simply says that there can no longer be two kinds of health insurance policies: those that cover contraception and those that don’t. All women deserve access to the same health protection. It’s up to the individual woman to decide whether to practice contraception or not.

    What makes this whole debate so appalling is that, in raising holy hell against Obama, Catholic bishops are being dishonest. They accuse the president of infringing on religious liberty. Yet they fail to acknowledge, for example, that not everybody who works in a Catholic hospital or university is a Catholic — and should not, therefore, be bound by narrow Catholic attitudes toward sex.

    Listening to the bishops squeal, you’d also never know that, long before the Obama administration acted, 28 states — including Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich’s home state of Georgia — had already adopted regulations requiring contraception coverage without co-pay. Eight of those states, by the way, don’t even provide an opt-out provision for churches. And you’d certainly never know that many leading Catholic universities — including Catholic University, America’s biggest Catholic university — include free contraception coverage as part of their basic health insurance for all employees.

    Let’s face it. Here’s what’s really going on. Ever since Pope Paul VI condemned contraception in his 1968 encyclical letter entitled Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth, the Catholic Church has been fighting a losing battle. Today, even though the Church is officially against it, 98 percent of Catholic women who are sexually active say they practice some form of birth control, this according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. So now, by demanding government permission to deny contraception coverage in their own health plans, what Catholic bishops are really trying to do is get President Obama to deliver where they have failed. And that’s not his job. His priority is to protect women’s health, not to enforce some outdated, anachronistic and unrealistic policy of an out-of-touch, celibate Catholic hierarchy.

    And that’s the real issue. Not Catholic teaching. Not religious freedom. But women’s health. Guttmacher found that 58 percent of women who use birth control do so, not just to prevent pregnancy, but for other important health reasons, like reducing the risk of ovarian cancer or treating uterine fibroid tumors and anemia.

  10. Erik Erickson said today that the crowd does not like Romney, and Santorum is the new frontrunner.

  11. I’d consider being married to Rick Santorum a form of “serving in combat.”

    Remember Senator Rick and the Terri Schiavo case? What a grandstander!

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