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. Only the anti-woman GOP is suffering from it. The rest of us have a battle to fight.

  2. From the dailymail link… 🙂

    The Romney campaign pooh-poohed the notion of a brokered convention at which a dark horse would come forward. ‘Fantasy,’ said Stuart Stevens, Mr Romney’s chief strategist. ‘All my life I’ve heard that. Pigs will fly. Total fantasy.

    ‘It’s the same way that I could have sex with some supermodel tonight. It could happen. We could be on a plane, we could crash… No, it’s not going to happen. It never has.’

    1. “Lots of buzz about Jeb picking up the nomination:
      “Jeb Bush could emerge as GOP nominee at a brokered convention, says top Republican””

      I’ve been predicting Jeb here for at least six months. Romney is definitely unlikable and Jeb is very well liked by the base. Also never underestimate the desire of the Bush family to have a dynasty.

  3. Santorum: Birth Control Is Not Something ‘You Need Insurance For’ Because It Costs ‘Just A Few Dollars’
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 10, 2012

    Rick Santorum told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this morning that insurance plans shouldn’t cover contraception services because birth control “costs a few dollars” and is only a “minor expense” for women:

    SANTORUM: [I]nterestingly enough, here is what they are forcing them to do — in an insurance policy, they or forcing them to pay for something that costs just a few dollars. Is that what insurance is for? The foundational idea that we have the government tells you that you have to pay for everything as a business. Things that are not really things you need insurance for, and still forcing on something that is not a critical economic need, when you have an economic distress, where you would need insurance. But forcing them even more to do it for minor expenses.

    In reality, oral contraceptives or “The Pill” range between $35 and $250 for the initial provider visit and the cost of a monthly supply of pills ranges between $15 and $50 a month, which amounts to between $180 and $600 a year depending on woman’s medical coverage. This means some women without insurance coverage for contraception may pay over $850 the first year of their prescription. Other forms of birth control are far more expensive. For instance, the cost for a monthly supply of birth control patches ranges from $15 to $80 dollars, or between $180 and $960 a year. Combined with the doctors visit, uninsured women could spend over $1,200 dollars in the first year.

    Santorum has long opposed contraception and has pledged to preach about “the dangers of contraception in this country,” if elected president. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he has said. The former Pennsylvania senator has also claimed that states have the right to outlaw birth control.

  4. GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health Service
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 10, 2012

    Earlier today, in response to criticism from Catholic groups, the White House altered its regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide no-cost contraception coverage as part of their health care plans. Churches and religious nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith are still exempt from the requirement, but now religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that wish to avoid providing birth control can do so. Their employees will still receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer.

    But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:


    “(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —

    “(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or

    “(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.

    Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.

  5. I was raised as a Catholic. But i strongly disagree with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement denouncing President Barack Obama’s attempts at compromise as “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” . On the contrary, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comments are themselves a needless intrusion upon the proper functions of government. Someone should explain to them the concept of separation of Church And State. Perhaps if they moved to a county governed by Sharia law for awhile, they would be more enlightened? Just because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we cannot exclude or excuse them from obeying the law. They can legally attempt to change the law… not to deny it.

  6. SwM,

    I don’t like to mess in other people’s religion so understand what I’m trying to say … These Bishops are the responsibility of Catholics and as so many people tell devout Muslims to speak-up to Islam, I encourage Catholics to do as mespo did … if you disagree, let them know. It has greater impact coming from a member of the flock than coming from a non-member like me.

    Now, I have dinner with the ladies … talk with you tomorrow.

  7. Blouise, Just read the bishops are going to back the extension of unemployment compensation. The republicans won’t be supporting them on that. They are not so bad on economic justice. But when it has to do with women’s bodies, they are horrible. I decided they were crazy on that stuff in high school and tuned them out.

  8. (BTW id707 … raff is always the gentleman even when he’s pissed off … I forgot to mention that the other day.)

  9. House Republican Leader Price: ‘There’s Not One Woman’ Who Doesn’t Have Access To Birth Control
    By Scott Keyes and Travis Waldron on Feb 10, 2012

    WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) shed his usual placid demeanor when discussing birth control for low-income women on Friday, telling ThinkProgress that “not one” woman doesn’t have access to contraception in the United States.

    Price, who serves as the fifth ranking Republican in the House, made the comments to ThinkProgress this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Like virtually all Republicans in Congress, he opposes the recent Obama administration rule requiring employers and insurers to offer birth control at no cost.

    We asked Price, who is a medical doctor by trade, what he would say to low-income women who can’t afford birth control if it’s not covered by their insurance policies. Price responded by denying their very existence. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he demanded. “Bring me one. There’s not one”:

    KEYES: Obviously one of the main sticking points is whether or not contraception coverage is going to be covered health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether or not they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially for low-income women. Where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?

    PRICE: Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling of religious freedom and religious liberty in this country. The president does not have the power to say that your First Amendment rights go away. That’s wrong.

  10. REPORT: By A Nearly 2 To 1 Margin, Cable Networks Call On Men Over Women To Comment On Birth Control
    By Faiz Shakir and Adam Peck on Feb 10, 2012

    President Obama’s regulation mandating that health insurance plans offer free birth control is an issue that most directly affects women. And yet, the cable news chatter over this controversy has been driven mostly by men, according to a new ThinkProgress analysis.

    From Monday through Thursday evening, the leading cable news channels – Fox, Fox Business, MSNBC, and CNN – invited almost twice as many men as women onto their shows to discuss contraceptive coverage.
    Out of a total of 146 guests who discussed contraception, the cables invited 91 men compared to 55 women as commentators. In other words, males comprised 62 percent of the total guests who commented on contraception.

  11. Would it be too inflammatory to suggest that the Prelacy of the Roman Catholic Church are fully embarked upon an ongoing, world-wide Crusade Against Women?

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