Catholic Morality, Contraception, and the First Amendment

The Battle over Contraception

The news wire last night contained an article from Reuters stating that the Bishops of the Catholic Church are prepared for battle over the current HHS ruling in regards to contraception.  You can read the Reuters article here.  The main points of the article are as follows:

1)      The Bishops state they are now “energized by battle”.

2)      The Bishops are outraged that the new law would violate the deeply held moral beliefs (of Catholics) against contraception.

3)      The Bishops have allied themselves with evangelic al groups, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Republican Party.

4)      They have called this an all out war on religious freedom.  To that effect, they have hired lawyers, a lobbyist, and plan to take out television commercials to promote their beliefs.

5)      They will not accept compromise, they insist that the HHS ruling be repealed, and further, that small business owners should also be exempt from “covering any medical treatment he disagreed with as a matter of his personal faith” (Reuters).

6)      They evangelical groups and Southern Baptists have pledged support and money to the Catholic cause.   Further, they are considering asking their pastors to preach the Catholic message from Protestant pulpits.  This, as noted, by them, would be unprecedented.

7)      Archbishop Dolan, who is being confirmed as a Cardinal in Rome as I write this, has stated that religious freedom “is now increasingly an in unprecedented ways under assault in America.

8)      Rather than follow laws that it disagrees with, in this case allowing a gay couple to adopt, the Church has shut down organizations such as adoption agencies in three states.  They view this as a violation of their religious freedom as well.

9)      Be prepared for a battle in this election year,  the comment from Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty group, that “chaos is sometimes the price you pay for freedom”, states quite clearly how far they are willing to take this “battle”.

What a declaration.  I would like to address each bullet point one by one to discuss why it is offensive to any rational person—religious, atheist, agnostic, or anyone who can think for themselves.

1)       The Bishops are now “energized for battle”.  Really?  This is what energizes them?  Where was this energy during the height of the sex abuse scandal?  Where was this energy in tracking down errant clergy?  Where was this energy when they should have been doing everything they could to try and make a terrible situation more palpable to its flock and the rest of the world?  The answer: the energy was directed at covering it up.  The energy went to hiding scandals, and moving clergy around the country.  It is morally offensive, at least to me, to see the amount of passion the Bishops have for this movement, in light of the Church’s recent history.  Last question…Where is this energy in the actual battles that Catholics face?  In numerous spots around the world, Nigeria is one example, Catholics are facing nothing short of genocide.  There are actual Catholics dying in actual battles right now for no other reason than the fact they are Catholic.  That is real religious persecution, not birth control!  Where are the Catholic Lobbyists and energies in trying to garner attention to the real battles of religious injustice?  It is downright insulting to imply that the issue of birth control is 1) a battle and 2) an infringement of religious liberty.  Look around the world.  The Church is attempting to use explosive catch phrases from the First Amendment to bolster their cause.  The causes they should be bolstering would be the very real suffering and dying occurring in other parts of the world.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

2)      The Bishops are outraged that the new law would violate the deeply held moral beliefs against contraception that Catholics have.  Let us begin by pointing out that every study that has been conducted in the last few months illustrates that at minimum, 98% of Catholics do not have a moral problem with contraception.  Because Church leadership has an issue, does not give it the right to speak for its entire flock in a functioning democracy.  Our society does not work that way.

Second, I do not think the Church is in a position to dictate moral values to anyone.  This is a commonly held belief by non-Catholics.  The usual argument is to quote the Bible’s encouragement of things such as slavery, genocide, infanticide, etc.  I agree with those arguments, but am not going to make them here.  For my argument today, we need look no further than Monday’s New York Times.  In the article, His Eminence in Denial,  the author relates an interview with Former Cardinal of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan (yes that is the same job that our Current Archbishop Dolan is in the Rome to receive), has recanted the apology he publicly made during the high point of the sex abuse scandal.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You may want to pause and read it again.  Cardinal Egan made the following statements regarding the apology, “I never should have said that”, regarding the abuse of children he states, “I don’t think we did anything wrong”.  He also holds the opinion that the Church was under no obligation to report abusive priests.  Cardinal Egan fought to keep church records of abuse from becoming public record, he personally moved abusive priests from one parish to another, and personally oversaw the paying out of “hush-money”.  He failed to report a teen pregnancy caused by a priest, in this case the teen was under 18.  Cardinal Egan is currently living in a Church retirement home in Connecticut.  Does anyone reading this, regardless of his or her religious leanings find that to be a model of morality that we should uphold?  This is the same Church that NOW has a moral outrage?  The solipsistic arrogance, ignorance, and nerve of the Catholic Church to claim a moral high ground in the twenty first century is no longer valid.  We do not need to dig through the Bible to point that out.  The proof is right in front of you.  Further, let me be among the first to call upon the good State of Connecticut to head down to that retirement center and arrest Cardinal Egan.  Why? Because if you did what he has done, you would be in jail.  He should not be treated differently than you.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.  How’s that for liberty Your Eminence?

 

3)       The Bishops have allied themselves with evangelical groups, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Republican Party.  Can we just pretend for a brief minute that everyone who tells me the Christian right does not exist is a not thinking clearly.  Thanks.  The Church is fully entering the political arena.  I suppose it has the right to do so.  You know what that means?  Like every other group in the political arena, it has the right to lose.  Just because it cannot have everything it wants, does not mean that religious freedoms are being violated.  The Church is subject to the same laws as every other organization.  They want to be viewed as an exception to our Constitution.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

4)      They have called this an all out war on religious freedom.  To that effect, they have hired lawyers, a lobbyist, and plan to take out television commercials to promote their beliefs.  Again, it is offensive that they mobilize this quickly and to this extent for “the pill”, and not for child rape, but moving on…  It is also offensive for one pretty large reason; the goal of their lawyers, lobbyists, and television spots is to force their doctrine(s) on all Americans.  I would argue that it is a violation of MY religious freedom to not have access to the same health care as my neighbors because of where I work.  Do not attempt to make the argument, “go work somewhere else”.  That is a short sighted argument.  Look around at the economy.  If someone is a nurse, and the hospital in town is Catholic, where are they supposed to go?  Not to mention that simply asking them to work elsewhere is a violation of that person’s religious freedom.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

5)      They will not accept compromise, they insist that the HHS ruling be repealed, and further, that small business owners should also be exempt from “covering any medical treatment he disagreed with as a matter of his personal faith” (Reuters).    So let me get this straight; the Church is fully participating in the democratic process, yet does not want to, nay– refuses to compromise.  Someone please get the Bishops a link to wikipedia so they can look up how the democratic process works.  Further, not only will they not compromise, they will accept nothing less than a NEW law to further their doctrine!  Again, this is a violation of MY First Amendment rights.  To force me, to pay for a part of health care, that one group in society disapproves, when that group is a Church, violates my rights and yours.  End of story.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

 

6)      Evangelical groups and Southern Baptists have pledged support and money to the Catholic cause.   Further, they are considering asking their pastors to preach the Catholic message from Protestant pulpits.  This, as noted, by them, would be unprecedented.  This statement takes my previous objection a step further.  In their words this level of unity is “unprecedented”.  What that translates into, and do not be deceived by this, is an unprecedented attack by Christianity on our society, government, and Constitution.  Again, regardless of your religious leanings, that cannot be allowed to happen.  It violates the very religious freedom that was so important to the founding of this country.  We are not a Christian nation.  We are a nation where each and every one of you reading this has the right to believe whatever you choose—Christianity or not.  Make no mistake about what is happening before your eyes.  This is a war, and the attack is being led by the Christian Right.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

7)      Archbishop Dolan, who is being confirmed as a Cardinal in Rome as I write this, has stated that religious freedom “is now increasingly an in unprecedented ways under assault in America.  Continuing my previous argument…do not be fooled by the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The Bishops have tried to play semantics and turn this issue around.  It is they who are using, religion, birth control, and women’s rights as a political football to advance their own agenda.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

8)      Rather than follow laws that it disagrees with, in this case allowing a gay couple to adopt, the Church has shut down organizations such as adoption agencies in three states.  They view this as a violation of their religious freedom as well.  Let us not forget that this is the Church that claims to be a bastion of human healing and aid to the suffering.  Let me ask the question, with the closing of adoption agencies who suffers more a gay couple or an un-adopted child?  If the Church closes its schools and hospitals, because it does not agree with the HHS ruling who suffers?  Here is a short list:  patients, students, women, children, elderly, the poor, all of the employees (so the economy would take a huge hit), etc.  They have threatened to do this, and as pointed out, have already done so regarding adoption clinics.  This is supposed to be our bastion of morality, healing, charity, etc?  Make no mistake about it, they care more about ruling your bedroom than they do about , patients, students, women, children, elderly, the poor, all of the employees and hence the economic well being of this country.   Also do not forget that the Catholic Church has been one of the largest advocates for a national health care system on the grounds that everyone deserves to be covered, especially the poor who cannot afford it.  Now, because they do not want to cover one aspect of that health care, they will damn the poor, that previously and piously lobbied for.   Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

 

9)      Be prepared for a battle in this election year, with the comment from Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty group, states that “chaos is sometimes the price you pay for freedom.  Really?  I would say that this statement stands for itself.  When taken in light of all of others, it can be proven that the Religious Right really does find itself at war.  And in their words are not afraid to unleash “chaos”.  I am not exactly sure what kind of “chaos” Mr. Land is referring to.  However, any form of “chaos” perpetrated by a religion on our society would be a violation of many laws and rights.  Do not stand by and allow it to happen.

I am appealing to people of all and people without faith in a divine being in writing this.  I have stated many times “Do not stand by and allow it to happen”.  What can you do?  Write to your Congressman/woman, Senators, and other elected officials.  If you are not sure what to say, you can go to the Secular Coalition for America’s website, and download a prewritten letter.  The link brings you to the appropriate page.  Please understand, anyone can send that letter, even those of you with religious leanings.  You can also support and contact the ACLU or Planned Parenthood.  They plan on taking the lead in this fight and could certainly use your help.  Lastly, what you can do to help?  Put aside your political and religious affiliations.  Democrat or Republican, Believer or Atheist, this is an issue that goes to the core of what this country was founded on.  Stand up and fight for it.

If you agree with this article please forward it to others.  It is time to put religion aside and do what is right.

“Religion now comes to us in this smiling-face, ingratiating way, because it’s had to give so much ground, and because we know so much more. But you’ve no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.”—Christopher Hitchens

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

If you agree with this article please forward it to others.  It is time to put religion aside and do what is right.

p.s.  If you are having trouble leaving a comment, it may be that you are using windows explorer and your comment is too long.  It appears as though my comment program has a bug they are working on fixing.  Please feel free to divide your comment into two posts.

 

6 thoughts on “Catholic Morality, Contraception, and the First Amendment

  1. The Secular Thinker from Boston, MA, United States

    Absolutely excellent post, and quite timely as well :)

    "Archbishop Dolan, who is being confirmed as a Cardinal in Rome as I write this, has stated that religious freedom “is now increasingly an in unprecedented ways under assault in America"

    It never fails to amaze me that they will continuously use this excuse. When they say "religious freedom" they really mean their ability to shove their dogmatic superstitions down the throats of every American. How ironic is it that we, secular citizens, are the biggest proponents of true "religious freedom"?

    Reply
    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Thanks for the comments. This is a situation has really not sat well with me. Dolan and the rest of these guys are just out of touch with reality. I can't just sit by and not comment on it any longer. At times, I feel bad because it has been the subject of so many of recent blogs. I get over that pretty quickly when each day the Church seems to push it farther and farther. You comment, "When they say "religious freedom" they really mean their ability to shove their dogmatic superstitions down the throats of every American."—I could not agree more. It also agree—it is very ironic that is people like us who fight for religious freedom. I suppose those two things go hand in hand, I want the freedom to not have it shoved down my throat.

      Reply
  2. Simon from Burlington, ON, Canada

    The fact that there was a child sex abuse scandal in the Church (and this indeed was scandalous) has nothing to do with the Church's stance on this issue. Your logic is flawed. You have not addressed the issue rather you have brought up a red herring. For a blog called "Reason Being" I would expect it to BE reasonable. Furthermore, just because 98% of American Catholics reject Church teaching does not negate the fact that this is a deeply held moral belief of the Catholic Church. You also demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Church is. The Church upholds the freedom of people, however, as Catholics we DO believe that the Church does have the authority (Luke 10:16) to speak for the "entire flock." Now you don't have to believe this, but you do if you are a Catholic. I am not an American, and am no expert on the US Constitution but I do know and admire your country for its defense of freedom. Now answer me this, if the state forces me to violate my religious beliefs, is that not a violation of the right to freedom of religion?

    Reply
    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Simon—There are many problems with your comment, I will address them one by one.
      You write “The fact that there was a child sex abuse scandal in the Church (and this indeed was scandalous) has nothing to do with the Church's stance on this issue. Your logic is flawed. You have not addressed the issue rather you have brought up a red herring. For a blog called "Reason Being" I would expect it to BE reasonable.”
      —-I have no idea what you are talking about. The Church’s stance on child rape was to COVER IT UP. That IS the ONLY issue worth discussing, yet you claim it has nothing to do with the scandal. That is disgusting to me. You state I brought up a red herring…I have called into question their lack of energy in preventing child rape in the first place, stopping it once they knew about it, and dealing with the fallout of the last decade. You are hearing only what you want to hear. Go back and read my post. The Church’s vigorous attempt to hide this scandal is a fact. The fact that Cardinal Egan personally worked to that end is factual, and supported by Rome. My opinion is that their energy has been grossly misplaced. That is not a red herring, it is disgusting moral policy, that erodes any credibility the church has in the 21st century to claim a moral high ground. My reasoning is not flawed, you are not facing reality. If you acted the way the clergy has, you would be in jail, and no one would claim that you have any moral high ground. Welcome to the real world.
      You write, “Furthermore, just because 98% of American Catholics reject Church teaching does not negate the fact that this is a deeply held moral belief of the Catholic Church. “
      —-You are wrong again. The Catholic Church is made up of people, unless of course you are referring to the building itself. It is the people who need to deeply hold moral beliefs—not a clergy or books. If the people overwhelmingly do not deeply believe something, then it is not deeply believed. Period. It may be an important moral teaching of the Church, but guess what? No one is heeding the lesson. The clergy cannot say that something is a deeply held belief of the flock, if it is not deeply held. One person cannot claim something is deeply held, by other people just by stating that it is so. That is the equivalent of me stating that you deeply hold to the ideas of an atheist. If you don’t believe that sentence, then it is not true. You the “believer” need to buy it, I can’t just say it. The idea that using birth control is a mortal sin is not a deeply held moral belief. Once again, your reasoning is faulty and you are seeing only what you want to see.
      You write, “You also demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Church is. The Church upholds the freedom of people, however, as Catholics we DO believe that the Church does have the authority (Luke 10:16) to speak for the "entire flock." Now you don't have to believe this, but you do if you are a Catholic”.
      —-Again, I don’t think I misunderstand anything. Your logic is once again flawed. First, what freedom of people is the Catholic Church upholding in relation to the issue of birth control? Second, you state that Catholics recognize the authority of the Church to speak for them. Then why are so many Catholics not standing by their church on this issue? Clearly you are incorrect. Lastly, you point out that I do not need to believe in this, but Catholics do. You are wrong again. Neither I nor Catholics need to believe that. 98% of American Catholics do NOT believe that the church speaks for them regarding birth control. If you want things your way, I suggest you start a campaign to remove those people from the Church. They are not following your rules.
      I appreciate your appreciation for my countries stance on Freedom. It is my hope that will continue for eternity. Yet you write, “Now answer me this, if the state forces me to violate my religious beliefs, is that not a violation of the right to freedom of religion?” The answer is simple. No one is forcing you to do anything against your religion. No one is forcing you to use birth control. What you would be forced to do is to allow your employees access to it. You do not need to use it or to pay for it. How does this violate anything you hold dear? ———-On the other side of that coin, how can forcing everyone in the U.S. who is not Catholic to follow these rules not a violation of THEIR religious freedom?
      Simon—I appreciate your comments. Thoughtful discussion is always good, but I am afraid that I must very much disagree with all you write.

      Reply
      1. Simon from Hamilton, ON, Canada

        —-"I have no idea what you are talking about. The Church’s stance on child rape was to COVER IT UP."
        Wait a minute, isn't your post subtitled: The Battle over Contraception? Is it about contraception or not? If it is then I definitely do smell a smokescreen. Deal with the issue without trying to deflect it with another.

        "The Catholic Church is made up of people." You are right about this. About 1.1 billion people. So 98% of American Catholics is about 7% of the world's Catholic people. So I don't know if you can say that all Catholics reject the Church's teaching on contraception. You say, "It is the people who need to deeply hold moral beliefs—not a clergy or books." Quite right. However, it is a belief of faithful Catholics that Jesus did give his authority to teach to people (and last time I checked members of the clergy were people). Jesus said "He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me." And even if the other 93% of the world's Catholics rejected the Church's teaching on contraception it would no more make the teaching wrong. Your reasoning is wrong to think that because a majority of people reject something then it is wrong. Truth is not determined by a majority vote.

        "First, what freedom of people is the Catholic Church upholding in relation to the issue of birth control?" I was speaking in general terms of human freedom. People are free to do as they choose. "God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730), and "Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility." (CCC, 1731). Now you may well be correct in saying that many "Catholics" are not standing by the Church on this issue. As to your question as why this is, perhaps selfishness, or disobedience. I recognize that you as an atheist may dismiss outright the notion that people should be obedient to the Church and that is your right. But, people cannot lay claim to the name "Catholic" on the one hand, and reject her teachings on the other. It would akin to saying I'm a boy scout but I refuse to "Be prepared." Furthermore, I would tend to agree with you in principle on having these people removed (and indeed there is automatic excommunication from the Church for some actions) from the Church.

        "No one is forcing you to do anything against your religion. No one is forcing you to use birth control. What you would be forced to do is to allow your employees access to it." I must admit that I am not an expert on the legislation, but is it not the case that by what you call accessing really means subsidizing? As a faithful Catholic I would not be able to subsidize something that I believed was a direct violation of my conscience. It would be like asking you to subsidize a religious organization.

        Reply
  3. Pingback: Atheists and the “War On Christmas” | Reason Being from Columbus, OH, United States

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