President Obama Is Between a Roman Rock and a Republican Hard Place

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I am not much of a political writer.  I don’t really like arguing about politics, because I feel ill-informed most of the time.  I feel like I am ill-informed, because much of the information in our “news” media is biased (most likely for the purpose of stirring controversy in order to boost ratings and advertising revenue – but, that’s another rant).  I feel like the available information regarding politics and politicians is biased, because politics is an industry that puts some in control and makes many wealthy.  Oh, for Pete’s sake, I think you get the point – I digress.

 

In any case, however, I am occasionally stirred to write about political goings on.  Today, I have finally been agitated enough that I need to pose a question to the public, just to make sure I understand the facts (And you, out there in cyber-space, are as public as it gets – a well kept secret that someone should let the general population under the age of 25 in on some time).  I am talking about the recent brouhaha surrounding the Obama administration’s determination that health insurance plans ought to cover birth control – this, of course, includes health insurance plans provided by charities, hospitals, and universities.  This, of course, sets off the Roman Catholic Church (and probably others), because they run many charities, hospitals, and universities – institutions that belong to the church and employ Christians under the spiritual jurisdiction of the church.  Necessary qualifications should probably be made.  For instance, I am sure these institutions employ non-Christians.  However, I am too lazy to go looking for all such qualifications on a Thursday afternoon.  This is why I have you.

 

As I understand things, the Republican field of presidential candidates smells blood in the water, and has lunged at the opportunity to snatch up the Conservative Christian vote in the primaries.  They have spent a couple of days now relentlessly attempting to draw a mental association between President Obama and religious intolerance.  They are declaring that another term under the Obama administration will herald an age of Christian persecution at the hands of the federal government.  They intimate that another term will mean that more babies will be aborted, more people will be on welfare, and that the quality of life that all Americans experience will be diminished – all because the Obama administration wants Catholic (nay, ALL) women to have access to free birth control.

 

All of this causes me to gape stupidly.  First, I might be mistaken here, but where are all of these Roman Catholics that actually follow the church’s instruction not to use birth control?  Second, I might be mistaken, but doesn’t this equation follow logic: more birth control = fewer pregnancies; fewer pregnancies = fewer abortions; fewer abortions = better lives for women and the country as a whole?  So, somehow more birth control equals more abortions, and an open attack on religious freedom.  Third, doesn’t the following equation also follow logic: Fewer unwanted children = women that are healthier, happier, more productive; women that are healthier, happier, more productive = half of our nation being a more positive influence than when they are saddled with unwanted children;  preventing the conception of unwanted children = a better alternative to people being irresponsible (and in some cases criminal) and having an abortion as a way to deal with irresponsibility (or criminal behavior)?  Last, I am an educator at a private institution, and we get to set the agenda for our mission.  As some of the American Bishops have complained, the new rule violates their ability to decide what their instititions are “about.”  Well, point of order here, when private institutions accept federal money, they are giving up the right to call the shots exclusively – federal government’s money = federal government’s rules.  Are these institutions taking federal money?  I don’t know about all of these questions, so I am asking you, the people of the internets.  Help a brother out.

 

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31 Comments

  1. I think you’re right about the opinion of most Catholics, that birth control is a non-issue. It’s the USCCB that’s freaking out over this, not the laity (as is often the case.)

    Technically, the problem isn’t birth control itself, but that the Administration is telling the Catholic Church it has to do something which contradicts it’s official teaching: provide birth control without co-pays to employees of organizations run by the Church.

    But of course it’s not that simple. The Catholic Church runs a lot of stuff, and has a lot employees, many of whom aren’t Catholic but are still women. The conflict is between the Church’s right to refuse contradicting it’s own teaching, and a woman’s right to get all the healthcare services she’s entitled to (regardless of where she works.)

    But the USCCB has been picking fights with the Administration since Obama’s inauguration, and I suspect this is mostly just another excuse for conservative Catholics to get all up in Obama’s business because they just don’t like him.

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  2. I commend this article from The Atlantic:

    “The question for Sister Keehan and Father Jenkins, for Senator Casey and Sister Campbell, is not whether lay Catholics disagree with the Church’s teaching on birth control (a majority do) or whether nearly all Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lives (they do). It is not even whether some Catholic institutions already pay for employee health plans that include coverage for contraception (some do). The question is whether the federal government should be able to require a religious institution to use its own funds to pay for something it finds morally objectionable.”

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    1. Greetings Sam:

      I think your quote invites the question; if the government forcing the institutionalized church into doing something they don’t want to do is intolerable, why would the institutionalized church forcing its members into doing something they don’t want to any less intolerable?

      The quote you provided fairly clearly admits that the religious institution is out of step with its members. The church refuses to allow women the opportunity to participate in deciding what church doctrine should be, and then uses the threat of excommunication and damnation as coercion for compliance. To claim that the ban on contraception is a religious practice is odd considering that the Bible makes no reference to contraception whatsoever (I know this because I read it).

      So to paraphrase, if government oppression is bad, why is church oppression not just as bad?

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      1. Those are all secondary issues. Again: this has nothing to do with what one thinks about contraception. It’s about a religious organization’s ability to exist on its own terms.

        You might think that the Catholic position against contraception is stupid. You might think it unbiblical. But that is what the Catholic Church teaches (and the Catholic Church is, of course, hierarchically constituted, whether you approve of it or not). The government has no right to infringe on its ability to practice that teaching. The government doesn’t get to tell a religion the limits of its teaching authority. That is beyond its legal competence.

        The right to free religious practice is, we ought to add, mediated in our system by a conception of the common good that must be publicly discerned. It is well within the right of a society to declare that certain practices are so harmful as to be proscribed, however “religious” their adherents may claim them to be. The United States may say that contraception is such a fundamental right that religions which forbid it cannot practice. But that claim is precisely what is under dispute. You cannot settle the matter simply by claiming something for the “private” realm of religion. Is universal access to contraception such a fundamental right that it outweighs the success of the whole health care reform? You’re welcome to make the case, but there are not a few people who will strongly contest it.

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        1. I agree that the government should not tell a religion the limits of its teaching authority. My point was that there appears to be a considerable gap between what the church teaches, and what its congregants believe and practice. I am questioning the authority of the church to speak on behalf of the laity in this particular matter, especially where the church has systematically excluded women from any involvement in developing religious doctrine.

          I do think the government has the authority to make public policy regulations that apply equally and fairly to everyone. For example, the government does not violate religious freedom by passing animal cruelty statutes, even where that law may inhibit the religious practice of animal sacrifice. The government also does not infringe on religious liberty by outlawing the consumption of mescaline or peyote, even where some religions take these substances as a religious practice. Allowing religious exemptions from legitimate policy regulations would eventually erode the government’s ability to do anything. If one does not like a law, just advance the claim that it violates one’s religion and opt out. I think this leads to anarchy.

          The reason these things do not represent an infringement of religious liberty is that the purpose of the policy has independent merit, and it is applied equally to all. It is desirable to control health care costs by increasing the size of the risk pool, and this is most efficiently done through employer health plans. And employer health plans that offer a prescription benefit to men would be unequal and unfair if it did not extend coverage to women.

          Why would an employer’s religious liberty take precedent over the employees’ religious liberty? If the employee is not a Catholic, or is Catholic and disagrees with church views on contraception, why would they be excluded from equal insurance coverage? As I said in my first post, if an overbearing government is bad, why would an overbearing institutionalized church be any less bad?

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  3. The problem is, we have this little thing called the First Amendment. The freedom of religion, as you rightly point out, is far from absolute. (The examples you mention precisely are violations of religious freedom, but they are deemed to be acceptable violations.) But if the government — at least in this country, where religion is constitutionally protected — is going to tell a particular religious group that its views are simply proscribed, it had better have a damn good reason.

    Again: is universal free access to contraception such a fundamental good that it warrants such proscription. (Or likewise, that the lack of free contraception is such an evil that it warrants violating religious conscience.) That is something that has to be argued, not simply asserted. The comments about the RCC’s oppressiveness (lack of women leadership, etc.) have absolutely nothing to do with the question. Many liberal Catholics would agree with you there, but they also see the current policy as a major violation of free exercise.

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    1. The government does have a damn good reason. The institutions you’re talking about, hospitals and schools, are businesses and if they take federal money, they have to abide by the rules. No one requires the church itself to pay for contraceptives for its employees. If the bishops had the courage of their convictions, they’d refuse the federal money and their “moral problems” would be solved.

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  4. I am perfectly willing to argue the advantages of universal free access to contraception. From a public policy standpoint, it is clear that virtually all sexually active women, regardless of religious orientation, have occasion to use contraception at some point during their lives. The advantage to the woman and to families is that it allows them to plan their families as their financial resources and other circumstances are best suited. Moreover, universal free contraception allows individuals to make these decisions in private rather than having the decision made for them by outsiders. If individuals don’t want to use contraception, no one will force them. But if people want contraception available, it is advantageous to society at large to make it available in order to ensure responsible reproduction. People who want children, and can afford children, will be the ones actually having children.

    I have yet to hear any public policy advantage to restricting access to contraception. The opposition to universal access to contraception appears to be a purely religious doctrine. It is unreasonable for a group in society to impose its purely religious views on the rest of society without there being a public policy benefit. If there is a public policy advantage to restricting contraception, I would welcome hearing of it.

    Keep in mind that the current controversy is not limited to the institutions of the Catholic church. There are employers who are entirely unrelated to the church who want to assert the same exemption. Conceding this point would allow virtually anyone to avoid virtually any government regulation by simply advancing the claim that compliance is against one’s religion. What is to prevent the owner of a hardware store to cut his insurance cost by cynically converting to some religious view that provides him an exemption?

    I would add that the government is NOT telling a particular religious group that its views are proscribed. The law in question applies to all employers, and not to a particular group. And the church is perfectly free to continue advancing its views against using contraception.

    Furthermore, my comments about oppression by the institutionalized church have everything to do with this issue. I assert that religious liberty is best protected on the individual level rather than the institutional level. The religious liberties of individual non-Catholic employees, and Catholic employees who reject the church’s views on contraception deserve at least as much protection as the church itself. Those individual employees should not have their employer’s religious views imposed on them; they shouldn’t suffer a disadvantage or unequal employment benefits if they disagree with their employer’s religious views.

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  5. Say we grant the apparent public advantages to readily available contraception. (I don’t, in principle, but we’ll leave that aside.) Those advantages need to be shown to be so crucial to warrant violating religious conscience. Likewise, the lack of those advantages should be appropriately grave. The First Amendment is a serious concern here, and I don’t think you’re taking it seriously enough.

    No, the new regulations wouldn’t forbid the Church from teaching its views. But it would forbid the Church from practicing its views. This is the old modern assumption that religion is only a “private” matter. It’s fine if you practice your religion on Sunday, but don’t let it interact with the real world!

    It’s ridiculous to use a slippery slope argument about “religious exemption” here. Such things are judged by courts all the time. The Catholic Church has a long history of consistent teaching on the matter. Your cynical employer professing religious views for his own convenience can be easily dealt with.

    Lastly, the views expressed about individual vs. institutional liberty: it’s fine for you to think that, but imposing such a view would mean, again, that the government was telling a religious group what it was allowed to think about itself. You might totally disagree with the hierarchical constitution of the Roman Catholic Church, but that is how the Church is governed. To tell the Church that it cannot govern itself on its own terms would be, again, a violation of religious freedom under the First Amendment.

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    1. I would rather not leave aside the public advantages of the availability of universal contraception, because that goes to the heart of my argument. The need for universal free contraception is just as important as a public ban on animal cruelty and the ban on psychedelic drugs (for the reasons I have already stated). I am asserting that churches (any church mind you; it is not my intent to single out a particular faith) should comply with rules on insurance coverage just like other faiths must comply with these other rules. The point is that these rules represent compelling public policy goals. Furthermore, the impact on religious liberty involves a balancing between individuals and institutions, and I adhere to the view that religious liberties of individuals must be protected first.

      I disagree that the church would not be able to practice its views. An employer covering an insurance premium does not require anyone to take contraception contrary to their faith.

      Finally, I have no objection to how any church is governed, but if the government selectively enforces its laws to allow the church to impose its views on employees, that itself would be a violation of the First Amendment because it would fail to protect individuals equally. This case involves a conflict between the First Amendment protection for individuals balanced against the First Amendment protection for an institution. As I mentioned above, I think individual protection is better served.

      Let me conclude by stating that my persistence in this is motivated by sincerity, and I likewise do not doubt yours. Accept my views, as I accept yours, with all due respect.

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  6. The policy would require Church institutions to pay for something they find morally objectionable.

    Say the government decided that pork was a really important part of school diets. (Putting aside how silly that sounds.) Say they mandated that all schools, public and private, include pork on their menus for the sake of public health. An orthodox Jewish school would rightly object to that policy. No, it wouldn’t force anyone to eat it. But it would force an institution to do something contrary to its governing principles. (In both cases the individuals employed by the institution are free to make their own decisions.)

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    1. I do not accept the validity of that hypothetical because I do not agree
      that it is analogous.

      However, it is not my intention to be a troll. I never expected to persuade you to adopt my views, and it is unlikely that I would be persuaded either. I am satisfied to have the opportunity to express my views clearly in order to demonstrate that this is indeed a bona fide dispute on how best to protect religious liberty rather than an insidious and hateful plot to oppress a church. I believe I have accomplished this goal, so I won’t trouble you with repetition of what I have already written. I cheerfully concede to you the last word in this conversation.

      Best regards.

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  7. To address Shawn’s first question: My wife and I have two sons who have been taught by him. We have never practiced artificial birth control. We exist….and pay tuition! 🙂

    As to the HHS mandate, for practicing RCs, the primary issue is the clear and egregious violation of religious conscience. The mandate doesn’t only require free birth control, it also mandates the free provision of sterilization procedures (tubal ligations and vasectomies) which violate the Church’s understanding of the proper use of the gift of human sexuality, and the free provision of certain abortifacient drugs.

    Friday’s “accommodation” is a cynical charade that ignores the fact that nothing is free. The seeming shift away from employer-paid benefits to health insurer-provided “benefits” with “no cost sharing” (i.e. “free”) flunks Econ. 101. Someone is paying…and it isn’t the health insurance company.

    While the Church’s (and faithful Catholics’) primary opposition to the mandate is the violation of freedom of conscience, the serious question of artificial contraception DOES remain. I would recommend that readers of this blog prayerfully study Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and Dr. Janet Smith’s talk found here: “http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html”. Ask yourself if the consequences predicted by PPVI in 1968 haven’t manifested themselves with dire personal and societal consequences.

    The questions and quandaries raised by the Administration’s rule-making WRT to contraception/sterilization/abortifacient drugs involve fundamental assumptions about what constitutes women’s health, constitutional limits and finally our commitment to live out our baptismal promises.

    I’d also recommend Kimberly Hahn’s writings about her efforts to disprove the Catholic faith with a theological critique of artificial birth control. She and her theologian husband, Dr. Scott Hahn, converted to Catholicism after much prayer and study because they realized only the RCC’s consistent teaching on the gift of human sexuality upheld Scripture and Tradition.

    For bracing cultural and philosophical ruminations on these and related issues I’d recommend John Senior’s “The Death of Christian Culture.” Not for the faint of heart. Absolutely for the courageous. Not to worry; Prof. Senior followed that up with “The Restoration of Christian Culture”. 🙂

    God bless you all, especially Mr. Wamsley, whose Bible classes have had such good effect on our boys.

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    1. Isn’t it ironic that one of the rare times I blog about politics I have a “unicorn” Christian, who is one of my tuition paying parents reading it? 🙂

      (By “unicorn” I mean one of those seemingly mythical families that actually obeys the teachings of the church)

      After reading all of the comments here for days and listening further to representatives of the Church and the Obama administration, it seems my worst fears are true. This may really be one of those places where theology and politics intersect (which, of course, is one of the primary reasons I posted my initial questions).

      So, for those morbid enough to continue, here are a few more questions. Although, first, I still have not heard from anyone whether these institutions are receiving federal money for funding – if they are receiving federal funding, why do Catholics expect anything but federal interference? Is that too cynical?

      On to theology, “Sed Contra” you make a critical observation – one that I have been pondering over for a while. The Roman church’s doctrine on sexuality seems to be fairly air tight as it stands. However, what happens if any of it gets tweaked even a little bit? Is this what is really at issue with the current Administration’s efforts toward providing birth control for women that want it?

      Let me elaborate a little. As I understand the Roman Church’s understanding of sexuality it makes a nice little circle that reinforces itself. Sex is for procreation, procreation is for family, family happens in marriage; therefore sex is for marriage because of procreation and family etc. etc. If you are married, you should be planning a family, and things like birth control interfere with that system as God instituted it. However, if birth control is allowable, then it seems sex may be for some things other than procreation.

      Now, I do not assume to have this mastered, because I am not a Catholic. What am I missing? Is this about birth control or is this about the Church protecting its right to define marriage and gender role within Christian tradition?

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      1. Shawn: This dispute is primarily (not solely, but primarily) about freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, the bedrock of the Bill of Rights. The Obama Administration mandated that the Church (and her institutions that serve the broader public) pay, via her health insurance coverage, services and products that violate her consistent teaching….her consistent understanding of God’s purposes in designing and gifting human sexuality to His children.

        Friday’s “accommodation” was laughable, purporting to eliminate employer complicity while maintaining the mandate….which will be paid by someone.

        The Church teaches that sex has two integral purposes: procreation and union. Both its unitive and procreative purposes (and joys) anticipate and faintly mirror the fecund union we hope to experience in the Beatific Vision.

        To understand the Church’s political reaction to the HHS mandate you need only reflect on the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience enshrined in the American founding. It’s frankly based on a straightforward reflection on the Natural Law, not revelation per se (just like the Declaration of Independence).

        The passion of the Church’s reaction (and that of unicorn Catholics) is based on understanding that we’re not talking about “masses of undifferentiated cells” when we talk about “morning after” pills. We’re talking about the eternal souls of children.

        The fundamental contradiction of contraception is that it deliberately frustrates the total, mutual self-giving of husband and wife, which is the heart of Christian marriage. Read PPVI and, especially, JPII’s “Theology of the Body” series.

        This entire dispute revolves around fundamental differences regarding the dignity of the human person. I’ll be the first to admit that bearing and raising children is a LOT of work. We have seven children. But, given the true purpose of life for a Christian, do we really have something better to do?

        If the mandate is not rescinded, there will be widespread civil disobedience, and not just by Catholics. It cannot stand. It’s capitulation to Leviathan. It’s Un-American.

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        1. Sed Contra,

          I have long respected your input and you know I love your family, and so, it is easy for me to hear not only the words of your message, but also the heart of your message. I will attest personally (for whatever it’s worth) that I think you are a family that practices your faith as genuinely as anyone could.

          I hope it isn’t too ancillary, but my mind jumps immediately to the HIV epidemic in Africa and the position that the Church has taken on birth control. Perhaps you could give me your perspective on reports like the following? http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/world/europe/24pope.html

          Anyway, I am cynical by nature,(not a completely foreign concept to Scripture, Jesus didn’t trust men because he knew what was in them, after all Jn 2.24) and I am having a hard time accepting there isn’t more politics than theology in this whole issue.

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  8. Shawn: Plato reminded us that the state is the soul writ large. It’s an unavoidable glory that theology and politics will intersect. Men are inseparable bodies and souls. So it’s not mean thing to have a discussion about the political implications of our theology. It is, in fact, noble. We do it every day without, normally, consciously realizing what we’re doing.

    Make no mistake: the politics of the issue is real and consequential, because the theology of the issue is real and consequential.

    I’ll be happy to discuss BVXI’s comments reported in the NYT article….after we’ve had a conversation (or three) about Humanae Vitae. Without first having an understanding of the reasons for the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception, it’s premature to jump to extreme cases. Festina lente. Make haste, slowly.

    If you’ll read Humanae Vitae and Janet Smith’s article, I’ll buy the coffee or {craft} beer, if we can find it locally.

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  9. Praise God for unicorn Catholics!

    Good comments are being made above about Church teaching on contraception (and, importantly, things that I failed to mention early, the small number of abortifacients that are even more problematic). I do think there are arguments to be had about the manner in which the Church approaches the question (in casuistic fashion and in isolation, it seems to me, from the whole virtue tradition), but such things can be done, in the complexity of theological conversation, in perfect submission to the magisterium.

    As I said above, I think the present issue is much more about religious freedom than about anything else. And the crucial distinction there is: the government doesn’t get to tell religion the limits of its territory. (Common sense and judgment can easily avoid the slippery slope of Joe Pious and his invented religion of convenience.) By prioritizing government policy over religious conscience the government says: thus ends the validity of your religious conscience; it goes no further.

    Public funding, by the way, is a red herring. If Catholic hospitals receive some kind of public funding (and I would not be surprised if they do from time to time) it is because their religious aims also happen to meet a goal deemed good by the government, namely saving lives. The money is not used for “religious” purpose in the sense of proselytization, but it is not somehow areligious. Think clearly about what it would mean for the government to always demand that things being funded be utterly free of religious commitment. That is not what the first amendment is concerned with.

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  10. Sam:

    I completely agree; the present issue is much more about religious freedom than about anything else. The issue of contraception is related, but distinct.

    I also confess to having relied on a more “casuistry” approach than a “whole virtue tradition” in my comments so far. (Though, when both are done well they have no quarrel with each other.) That’s because I’m a businessman and not a philosopher or teacher. I’ll get around to reading Alistair MacIntyre someday (my brother, who IS a professor of philosophy) advises me that AM is much better on God than on Man. And I enjoy following AM’s present acolytes such as Patrick Deneen and Rod Dreher (Mr. “Crunchy Con”).

    Here’s a link to a light-filled letter from Abp. Chaput (then of Denver, now of Philadelphia) on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae. He says (in 1998!) much more eloquently than I why the Church teaches what it does about contraception, in season and out of season:

    http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/~dewolf/chaput.htm

    Paul VI was almost universally criticized and ignored after he promulgated HV. It turns out he was a prophet. Thank God the truth is not determined by polls.

    This discussion reminds me of a quip by G.K. Chesterton: “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting so much as it’s been tried and found difficult.”

    BTW, the relevant chaper in John Senior’s “The Death of Christian Culture” is entitled “The Air-Conditioned Holocaust”. Not for the faint of heart. Recommended.

    Pax.

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  11. Just to clear something up: The HHS mandate applies to all employers, whether or not they receive federal funds. At issue is how narrowly defined the conscience exception is–covering only houses of worship.

    Let’s say there is a small, non-profit soup kitchen, committed to provide food for anyone who comes through its door. The soup kitchen is explicitly Catholic in its mission, although it its small staff may include a few non-Catholics. Obviously, many–perhaps most–of the poor it serves are not Catholic. As a matter of prudence, the kitchen excepts only private funds–nothing from the government. Under the conscience exception, such a organization is nonetheless deemed secular, and must provide insurance for its employees that violates the teaching of the Catholic Church. This strikes me as profoundly problematic.

    Who is the government to decide that such an organization is secular? The Church’s Catechism does say, after all: “The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is on of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

    A more hotly worded editorial makes a similar point here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-radical-power-grab-on-health-care/2012/01/30/gIQANB7XdQ_story.html

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    1. Two horrifying typos: “the kitchen accepts…”

      And, in the quote from the Catechism: “giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses…”

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  12. The popular religious scruples about practicing birth control make idols of the processes of nature, rather than permit men and women in their Spiritual Consciousness to be responsible for the processes in nature and their own bodies.
    The processes in nature are not holy in themselves. They are made holy only through Conscious God-Communion. Each person, not nature alone, must be responsible for their own reproductive potentials via a fully comprehensive non-squeamish process of emotional-sexual education.

    But the conventional religious point of view which is full of puritannical double-mindedness about every aspect of the body, tends to keep everyone irresponsible, eternally parented, as if only nature in the abstract (not in the form of fully conscious human beings) can be responsible for life.

    The notion of not wanting to “interfere” whether responsibly or irresponsibly, in the workings of “Mother Nature” is behind the common dogma relative to birth control.

    When people assume full responsibility for their emotional-sexual being and presence in the world they will not have the problem of conceiving a child when it not desired. In a truly human culture almost all reasons for abortion disappear ( although an abortion may be justified for medical reasons), and the matter of birth control is removed from the prohibitive medieval context wherein you are automatically guilty of tampering with the workings of nature.

    The question of birth control will thus not be a matter of whether or not to use such devices, but a matter of consciously chosen right and prudent use. Which is to say that in the context of a committed marriage relationship, men and women should ALWAYS use a non-toxic barrier method whenever they engaging in sexing occasions when they do not intend to produce/create a baby. Which is of course most of the time.

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  13. The essential absurdity of the Catholic attitude to the “sacredness” of each and every sperm was of course lampooned in a most hilarious style by John Cleese in the Monty Python The Meaning of Life film.

    Nothing more has needed to be said about this matter ever since.

    Has anyone ever noticed the fundamental absurdity of celibate Catholic clergy pretending to be the “authorities” on emotional-sexual matters, when they do not even do IT.

    In every other area of human life if one wishes to learn and master any kind of practical or artistic skill one goes to a fully qualified teacher who has mastered the skill.

    Yet in the matter of sexuality wherein almost everyone is confused and does not really have a clue as how to do IT with feeling-sensitivity, the presumed “authorities” on the matter have never done IT – that is mastered the necessary skillful art and techniques of pleasurizing and loving a woman (as described in the Kama Sutra for instance)

    Very strange indeed!

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  14. Greetings Shawn,

    First the political issue isn’t IMO about concraception. The issue is much, much broader. The Obama adminstration has determine that it is within its power to determine & therefore to define what constitutes religious practice. That view is very restrictive to the inclosure of the local church. All other functions outside the church structure is secular regardless if a religious organization is perform the task or not. IMO that is the greatest threat to the first admendment. Historically & Scripturally the mission of the church and therefore a religious vow is to care for the poor, console those in prison, educate the youth, care for the sick. Hospitals, orphanages & colleges were designed by the church 1,000 to 1,500 years before there was a constitution.

    As one who has been married just over 22 years my wife(who is Baptist) & I have used Natural family planning. I agree with Sed Contra point on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae essemtially foretelling of what would happen with increased use of the pill.

    Shawn “I might be mistaken, but doesn’t this equation follow logic: more birth control = fewer pregnancies; fewer pregnancies = fewer abortions; fewer abortions = better lives for women and the country as a whole?”

    I would strongly disagree. It seems that would be the case however based on Guttmacher data :19% of women at risk who use contraception inconsistently or incorrectly account for 43% of all unintended pregnancies. The 16% of women at risk who do not practice contraception at all for a month or more during the year account for 52% of all unintended pregnancies (see graph)
    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html

    The problem is that even when given contraception women generally don’t use if as designed and it results in unintended pregnancy. IMO increasing the access (actually if we use Guttmacher figures 98% already use it) but an increase in contraception use will given the failure to take the pill consistently will increase the unintended pregnancy & therfore increase the number of abortions as well.

    There is another issue of the replacement value of America. We are currently at 2.1 which is due to legal & illegal immigration. If we didn’t have this we would face a decreasing population and an increasing age rate, much like Japan. That causes it’s own economic cost.

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    1. I might still be missing something, but the last graph and analysis of the page proclaims rather boldly, “Contraception Works.”

      Only 5% of unintended pregnancies come from women who practice contraception consistently and correctly.

      Am I wrong in assuming that part of using contraception “consistently and correctly” also has to do with whether contraception is readily available and whether women have access to health care professionals and education programs that help them to use it?

      Reply

      1. Well given that 98% of women are already using contraception, I don’t think access is an issue at all. Every public HS teaches it (I don’t know if its mandated). Let’s face it, the method of application requires the women to take a pill everyday and that simply doesn’t happen.

        Reply

  15. Good, Shawn. It’s a subject well worth thinking about. (As I think I’ve implied, I am not always wholly convinced by the way the argument is framed by RC teaching, but I tend to find the critiques of it even less convincing.)

    Since there have been a few additional comments, I thought it worth adding one more thing on the public policy question. The coalition of legal scholars and church leaders that produced the document “Unacceptable” (full text here) made what was, for me, the most practically compelling argument:

    Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty. The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

    Again the crux: there is no question that forcing someone to pay for contraception can constitute a violation of religious liberty. The administration grants this. What they do not grant is that a hospital run by a church can constitute a religious institution. That is the interesting question, and the one where the issue has much less to do with contraception than it does with broader conceptions of church-state relations.

    Reply

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