NPR Can’t Get Basic Facts Right When It Comes to Catholicism

NPR Can’t Get Basic Facts Right When It Comes to Catholicism July 5, 2018

National Public Radio (NPR) is a well-known, respected news organization. So why can’t they get basic facts right when it comes to Catholicism?

Case in point, this story from July 3, 2018: 50 Years Ago, The Pope Called Birth Control ‘Intrinsically Wrong’

First quibble: The Pope didn’t call birth control intrinsically wrong — after all, NFP to avoid pregnancy is a method of birth control, and its use is sanctioned by the Church. He called contraception intrinsically evil.

Moving on to the very first line:

A papal encyclical issued 50 years ago this summer marked a turning point in the way Roman Catholics view the teachings of their church.

Um… not really? The Church had always condemned contraception. Pius XI condemned it in Casti Connubii, published in 1930, as a direct response to the Anglican Lambeth Conference. The response was needed because the Anglicans were the first major Christian denomination to give the green light to contraception. (They gave permission for married couples with serious reasons to use condoms. Look how well that turned out.)

Humanae Vitae, published by Pope Paul VI 50 years ago, merely reiterated existing Church teaching, so it should not have come as a surprise to faithful Catholics or really any Catholic that was paying attention.

NPR even admits this in their second paragraph (emphasis mine)!

On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI stunned Catholics around the world with his announcement of Humanae Vitae, “Of Human Life,” a document in which he forcefully reaffirmed the church’s previously stated position on the use of artificial birth control, calling it “intrinsically wrong.”

Humane Vitae came as a surprise to many Vatican observers. Though an encyclical issued in 1930 already prohibited birth control, a papal commission had been assembled to revisit that ban, and a majority of the commission members suggested that it be dropped. Moreover, a Vatican II document stipulated the right of man “to follow his conscience.”

Sorry, “but my conscience!” is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. That same Vatican II document said that a person’s conscience had to be properly formed. If my conscience told me to go and shoot up a school, that would still be a grave sin. I can’t go and do evil and claim my conscience said I could.

One recent survey found that large majorities of U.S. Catholics now think it’s possible to be a “good Catholic” without going to church every Sunday or obeying the church’s teachings on divorce, remarriage, birth control, or abortion.

A large majority of evangelical Christians think it’s possible to be a good Christian while committing adultery and sexual abuse, too, if our current President is any indicator. Sin makes you stupid — also not a surprise.

The whole article is rife with moral relativism and painful logical pretzels — as well as ignorance of Catholic teaching — but here is the part that bothered me most.

When Krista Sanders, 32, attended a marriage workshop with her husband at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Milwaukee, she learned that her church was still promoting the “rhythm method,” which advocates avoiding sex during the part of the month a couple is most likely conceive, as the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy. It did not impress her.

“They give you handouts with all these testimonials about natural family planning, with testimonials from couples who have done it,” Sanders says. “But I don’t know that very many people follow it. It’s kind of, like, ‘O.K., that’s a nice suggestion. I appreciate the information.’ But in this current day, I don’t know that it’s as relevant for couples like us or other people starting out their marriages in the Catholic faith.”

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT PROMOTE THE RHYTHM METHOD. It hasn’t in decades. For all intents and purposes, it’s dead.

Saying that the Church promotes the rhythm method is like saying that the Ford Motor Co. still promotes Model T Fords.

For crying out loud. The rhythm method and NFP aren’t the same thing. The rhythm method is the precursor to NFP, but it’s old and outdated and no one uses it anymore. There are many other methods that are much more accurate and effective, because they are based on trackable fertility biomarkers instead of random guessing games.

If Krista wants to meet people who use NFP, I help admin a Facebook group for NFP-users. There are over 15,000 of us — and it’s not the only NFP group out there.

Then there is this whopper:

U.S. Catholics however, show in their daily lives that the church’s official prohibition of artificial birth control means little in practice, even if it has some value in theory. As a rule, married Catholic couples clearly believe they have a right to control the size of their families, no matter what the church says.

Newsflash, NPR: the Church ALREADY TEACHES that married Catholic couples have the right to control their family size! And we can do that just fine without contraception!

And of course, NPR tries to suggest that Humanae Vitae is going to be revised or reconsidered, which is also bunk.

The whole article boils down to this: “If Catholics don’t like a teaching, they ignore it. Thus, doctrine should change!”

No. Just… no. Catholic doctrine won’t change just because Catholics are sinners. And thank God for it.

Image by Mr. T in DC/Creative Commons via flickr

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  • Mike Petrik

    Excellent post. Regrettably, NPR uses its restrained demeanor to mask its hostility to orthodox Christianity, especially Catholicism,

  • Marilyn Kaye Muma-Reid

    Triggered much?

  • NPR has a humanistic agenda. It’s a political organ of the left. There’s nothing they intend to do about this, so we just have to suck it up or boycott them.

  • JustTheFax

    “National Public Radio (NPR) is a well-known, respected news organization.”

    Really? Not sure who is in your inner circle, but I don’t know anyone right of center that respects NPR.

  • MichaelangeloA

    Hilarious: you write a column chastising NPR for its inability to get basic facts right, and some of your key points are based on such crappy reading comprehension that I’m going to give your intellect the benefit of the doubt by assuming it was deliberate and dishonest, rather than inadvertent and therefore simply inept. First, you cite “marked a turning point in the way Roman Catholics view the teachings of their church” and argue that this is wrong because Humanae Vitae did not mark a turning point in Church TEACHING. Did you just totally not notice the reference to how teachings are VIEWED, or just not care that these two are not at all the same thing? Of course, I suppose being a disingenuous ideologue — rather than the disinterested seeker of truth you pretend to be — you’ll simply say “well, they’re not REAL Catholics is they view Church teaching that way.” And it’s an insult to everybody’s intelligence to pretend that the quotation marks around “rhythm method” in your later quote don’t exist, or don’t mean anything: your ridiculous hair-splitting about “there’s no such thing, it’s NFP, and they’re stupid for not recognizing the difference!!!” sounds like a gun-nut saying “you called it an ‘automatic weapon’ when it’s actually a SEMI, so shut up about those kids who were slaughtered with it.” When a large sector of secular media — not just NPR — actually does badly botch facts about Catholicism so frequently, it’s embarrassing to see someone make up non-existent mistakes to attack instead — and it kind of suggests that NPR was a lot closer to having their facts straight on this story than you pretend, so here’s a thought: try the intellectually honest approach of saying “I disagree with NPR’s editorial slant,” instead of trying to justify your disagreement with an attack on their integrity.

  • captcrisis

    NFP is basically a kind of rhythm method.

    “Birth control” is usually taken to mean contraception. Even most Catholic sources use the term that way. See, for example, http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/life-issues-forum/life-issues-forum-11-07-28.cfm

    Humanae Vitae was a great shock; in light of new technology it was widely predicted that the Church would take this into account. HV certainly did change the way Catholics viewed Church pronouncements. The Papacy suffered a blow in credibility from which it has never recovered.

    One could say that the Church does allow couples to control the size of their families, but only by doing somersaults like NFP which turns sex into a labyrinthine game and which separates sex from love. Few Catholics take it seriously. If you want to control family size, contraception is the only realistic and loving way to do it.

    The NPR piece was mostly accurate.

  • No. The rhythm method is the earliest and least accurate form of NFP. Saying that the rhythm method is the same as NFP is like saying that a Model T Ford is the same as a Ford Focus. Yes, they are both automobiles manufactured by the Ford Motor Co. But no one uses or drives the Model T anymore, save classic car collectors.

    The new technology still fit the definition of contraception.

    How did the papacy suffer a blow in credibility given that all of the predictions made in HV regarding the dangers of the widespread use of contraception have come true?

    NFP separates sex from love? Quite the opposite. NFP keeps love and sex intact, and does not allow couples to use one another as objects.

    If you want to turn your sexual partner into an object for pleasure, contraception is the realistic way to do so.

  • In my experience, NPR is usually fairly credible. There are exceptions, and this topic (Catholicism) is one of them.

  • The teachings were not viewed any differently, either. Catholics prior to HV still used contraception. It was the sexual revolution and the lies it told that changed the way contraceptives were viewed by dissenting Catholics, not HV.

    I never said they weren’t “real” Catholics. I said they were dissenting Catholics. Unless you think that PETA members who eat bacon are “real” PETA members?

    The rhythm method is the earliest and least accurate form of NFP. Saying that the rhythm method is the same as NFP is like saying that a Model T Ford is the same as a Ford Focus. Yes, they are both automobiles that were or have been manufactured by the Ford Motor Co. But no one uses or drives the Model T anymore, save classic car collectors.

    An editorial slant is one thing (and I do disagree with it). Telling lies is quite another.

  • captcrisis

    NFP depends on the “rhythm” of the woman’s period.

    What HV did was suddenly turn Pill-using Catholic couples (and there were millions of them) into outlaws. They could not understand why they now had to do complicated workarounds so that they could only have sex during the times when the woman least wants it. Guilt-ridden men found themselves grinding away to assuage their lust inside wives who were only “doing their duty”. They were using their unwilling wives as “objects of pleasure”. While during her “horny” periods they had to sit around and just be antsy. This disillusionment increased if they learned of the silly bureaucratic reason Paul gave for rejecting the overwhelming recommendation of his own Pontifical Commission.

    As for the explosion of carefree sex starting around the time of HV, it would have happened anyway, particularly since it also involved an explosion of non-penis-in-vagina sex which contraception of course is not relevant to. But if there were no HV, contraceptives would have been seen as “respectable”, “orthodox” and something “devout couples” used. That would have been a different and (in my view) better world.

  • captcrisis

    I have to give you props for saying this. On the radio at least NPR is head and shoulders above any other news source. If people “right of center” don’t respect it it’s because they’re living in an alternate Fox News reality.

  • JustTheFax

    It may be because I study the media intently, but I can’t imagine taking anything NPR says on its face. I haven’t listened in a while, but a friend tells me its actually much worse now.

  • Good_Samaritan

    lol where do you imagine the center is?

  • JustTheFax

    Right, if someone disagrees with you, he is stupid or delusional (in this case, delusional). I can tell by using petty insults, you must be “left of center,” right? 😉 I am libertarian, but it’s OK. I’ll let you live peacefully in your alternate MSNBC reality.

  • JustTheFax

    It’s not about center, right, or left. Tim Russert was a strong Democrat who was amazingly fair. We don’t have any more of him in the mainstream media. I actually liked Gwen Ifill, but then she showed some serious bias before she passed. I think maybe Chris Wallace may be the closest thing to fair we have now. I used to really like Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper. Actually, both still do good work at times, but have shown way too many times what their opinions are in news stories.