Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mandates and Opportunity

The Federal Government (The Department of Health and Human Services) says that Catholics must pay for contraception.  This is bad news.  But why?  Mostly, we hear the religious liberty argument, which goes roughly like this: the Catholic Church says that Catholics must not pay for contraception; people should be free to follow their own religious rules; so Catholics should not be required to pay for contraception.  The argument is meant to appeal to a broad audience.  Who, after all, could be against religious liberty?

The religious liberty argument, however, can distract us--if we are not careful.  Don't forget how the federal mandate violates our religious liberty; don't forget what the mandate will force us to do.  Remember that it forces us to pay for contraception.    

If we focus entirely on religious liberty, then we will miss the chance to say what's wrong with contraception.  And this is a real shame.  The Church has (enjoys?) a lot of public attention as a result of the mandate.  Why not use this time to speak, not only about the importance of religious liberty, but also about the Church's positive teachings on life, marriage, and the family, and how contraception is poison for all these things.  We should be using this time to communicate.  Regardless of whether or not the mandate stands, contraception is an enormous problem.  We have to deal with that problem, and this is a good time--perhaps the only time we have left--to deal with it.

This is also the perfect time to deal with contraception within the Church.  The Bishops say they will go to jail before following the mandate.  That's quite a witness.  Let's talk about contraception against the backdrop of their witness.  It is a perfect time for Catholics to step back and say: "Wow.  Apparently contraception is a big deal to the bishops and priests.  Maybe there is something wrong with what I'm doing.  Maybe I shouldn't be on the pill."  A perfect opening for teaching--or for discussion. 

I propose, for the next few posts or comments, that we talk about reasons for the Church's position on contraception, in its various forms.    

1 comment:

  1. Very good points.

    Several months ago I wrote the following in a post:

    "The Church, or rather those in leadership positions within the Church, should see the national controversy over Obama's birth control mandate (for now the burden of insurance companies) as a golden opportunity to educate the faithful on the reasons behind the Church's teaching on artificial birth control. Instead of just playing defense against the outside political establishment, bishops and pastors should be pursuing an internal catechetical offensive geared to lay Catholics in the pews on Sunday. Now that the issue has been so dramatically brought to the fore, why not take the time to catechize the faithful on this sensitive subject, rather than simply talking about the First Amendment violation and the chutzpah of the federal government?"

    Sadly, I think there is an enormous reluctance on the part of some in leadership positions to take up this matter. It is simply way too unpopular among Catholics and non-Catholics. One of the most powerful forces in society, for individuals and groups, is a consuming, paralyzing fear over what others will think of them should they be who they are, in other words be authentic. Some live their entire lives governed by this fear. It's my personal belief that this force silences a lot of those in prominent positions from speaking up when they should.

    The ship left dock long ago and 95% of (at least Western) society jumped onboard the contraception bandwagon. Clearly, Catholic leadership here missed a golden opportunity to educate the faithful and the culture on this subject. We're now left holding the bag.

    John Paul II wrote, and Catholic American intellectuals like Robert George continue to write exceptionally powerful essays, dipping into personalism and metaphysics, to explain the perils of contraceptives. I've always found the argument from dualism very persuasive, that is to say, the way in which contraceptives operate off the Cartesian vision of the person, separating the person into an impersonal body to be used as an object, and a mind that pulls the strings, as it were. Others, like Joseph, could unpack this far better than I. With the explosion of the pornography industry along with a host of other sexual depravities, it is evident that the goal of the objectification of the person/body has been overwhelmingly successful.

    Science has only fortified the position of the Church that such artificial measures are anything but salubrious to the body (and that's not even getting into the birth-control/water supply contamination issue). Of course, since this is a multi-billion dollar industry, no-one dares to report any of this in the mainstream, secular media. Money makes the world go 'round.