Catholic bishops fight to deny health care to the 98 percent

The 98 percent, that is, of American Catholic women who use contraception.

Some 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church, research published [in April] showed.

[An April 2011] report from the Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit sexual health research organization, shows that only 2 percent of Catholic women, even those who regularly attend church, rely on natural family planning.

The latest data shows practices of Catholic women are in line with women of other religious affiliations and adult American women in general.

“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” said the report’s lead author Rachel Jones.

She said most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant practice contraception, and most use highly effective methods like sterilization, the pill, or the intrauterine device (IUD).

Catholics are not opposed to contraception. Catholics are not morally opposed to contraception. Catholics are not theologically opposed to contraception. Contraception does not trouble the conscience of Catholics. Nor should it.

All of which means that it is simply not accurate in any meaningful sense to say that opposition to contraception is a “Catholic” position.

It is a bishops’ position and only a bishops’ position. And as such, it is not terribly meaningful, since Catholic bishops really shouldn’t ever have to decide whether or not they’re going to use birth control.

If one wants to know about the medical, practical, ethical, moral or theological implications of contraception, then a bunch of celibate men without medical degrees is really not the smartest place to turn. I’m sure they have opinions, but I have no idea why anyone would think their opinions — uninformed on every meaningful level — should be given more weight than the informed opinions of those who are women, or medical professionals, or both.

All the bishops bring to the discussion is their expertise and authority on theological and ethical matters. And on that point they fail miserably. Nearly all — 98 percent — of their followers have examined their consciences and found no qualm, trouble, worry or uneasiness with regard to the use of contraception. The bishops say it’s evil. The laity overwhelmingly and emphatically disagree — and unlike the bishops their assessment is based on meaningful experience. So on the subject of contraception, the Catholic bishops are reduced to telling their “followers” not to listen to their conscience. How is that a position of moral authority?

The bishops have this one wrong. The harder they dig in to defend this mistake, the more damaging it becomes to their credibility, moral authority and membership.

Does anyone doubt that what Brad DeLong says here is true?

Someday — maybe five, maybe 10, maybe 20, maybe 50 years from now — some Pope is going to say: “The fact that God gave us concealed ovulation means that birth control is completely fine. If God had not wanted humans to make love whether or not such lovemaking is ‘open to conception,’ She would have set things up so that human females went into estrus and human males were only aroused by females in estrus, the way it works with so many of our other mammal cousins. Paul VI and his successors John Paul I and II and Benedict XVI were narrow-minded misogynists who made serious theological errors.” That day is coming sure as the sun rises in the east every morning.

That day is surely coming. The only question is how many American Catholics will be left by the time that day arrives.


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  • Anonymous

    Dude, I was so sheltered when I was confirmed, I did not even know that there were Americans, in America, who practiced non-Christian religions other than Judaism.  I made that choice based on limited information and false assumptions, and deeply regret making it.

    Oh well.  “Simulating the ordination of a woman” is still an excommunicable offense.  Wanna get together and play-act ordaining me so we can both be excommunicated? :P

  • P J Evans

     I seem to recall reading that Thomas Aquinas considered the soul to be embodied at quickening, so somewhere in the 5th month. He’s a Doctor of the Church: his view ought to count for something.

  • Anonymous

     Mind if I ask what Path?

  • Kiba

    Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants to inform the Church that they no longer consider themselves Catholic and why I’m all for it. I was just pointing out that it no longer is an official way to leave the Church. 

    According to the old version of Canon Law, the version that used to allow for formal defections, once one formally told the Church that they were no longer Catholic and why it “supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.” Which meant you got excommunicated anyway. I would guess that the same would apply now; you get the excommunication just without the formal notice that you are no longer part of the Church.

    Mind if I ask what Path?

    Druidism. =)