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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Contraception's Con Men

Garry Wills

Excerpt from a read-worthy essay by historian and Pulitzer-prize-winning author Garry Wills - a Catholic but also a longtime critic of Vatican policies - in the New York Review of Books:
By a revolting combination of con men and fanatics, the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office. Take the controversy over contraceptives. American bishops at first opposed having hospitals and schools connected with them pay employee health costs for contraceptives. But when the President backed off from that requirement, saying insurance companies can pay the costs, the bishops doubled down and said no one should have to pay for anything so evil as contraception. Some Republicans are using the bishops’ stupidity to hurt the supposed “moderate” candidate Mitt Romney, giving a temporary leg up to the faux naïf Rick Santorum; others are attacking Barack Obama as an “enemy of religion.”

Pusillanimous Catholics—Mark Shields and even, to a degree, the admirable E. J. Dionne—are saying that Catholics understandably resent an attack on “their” doctrine (even though they do not personally believe in it). Omnidirectional bad-faith arguments have clustered around what is falsely presented as a defense of “faith.” The layers of ignorance are equaled only by the willingness of people “of all faiths” to use them for their own purposes. Consider just some of the layers:

The bishops’ opposition to contraception is not an argument for a “conscience exemption.” It is a way of imposing Catholic requirements on non-Catholics. This is religious dictatorship, not religious freedom.

Contraception is not even a religious matter. Nowhere in Scripture or the Creed is it forbidden. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of “natural law,” over which natural reason is the arbiter—and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil. More of that later; what matters here is that contraception is legal, ordinary, and accepted even by most Catholics. To say that others must accept what Catholics themselves do not is bad enough. To say that President Obama is “trying to destroy the Catholic Church” if he does not accept it is much, much worse.

To disagree with Catholic bishops is called “disrespectful,” an offense against religious freedom. That is why there is a kind of taboo against bringing up Romney’s Mormonism. But if Romney sincerely believed in polygamy on religious grounds, as his grandfather did, he would not even be considered for the presidency—any more than a sincere Christian Scientist, who rejects the use of medicine, would be voted for to handle public health care. Yet a man who believes that contraception is evil is an aberrant from the American norm, like the polygamist or the faith healer. . . .
Do go read the rest of this well-reasoned essay, and the comments section as well.

What I Say: The Republican Party, as currently constituted, is wholly unfit to govern. No further elaboration is necessary on this point, which is self-evident to any reasonable being.

And another thing: I don't care how many Bibles or bulls or birettas they pile up to support it, the Catholic teaching that contraception is evil is simply bizarre - as crazy as anything that, say, Scientology might teach, and is an evil lie. The Catholic Church, to speak in the most broad and general terms, has a much greater comprehension of history and human society than perhaps a small-town Baptist church out here on the prairie - but even so, as the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles state, "the Church of Rome hath erred . . ." and egregiously so in this matter so very necessary to the happiness of individuals and the wellbeing of society.

It's just damn wrong, and anyone who says otherwise is either a religious fanatic or a simpleton. It is nearly beyond belief that we are even having this debate now, in the 21st century - and yet, history offers ample proof that the wickedness and folly of the human race are inexhaustible.

See also: Andrew Sullivan's article, "The Politicization of Catholicism":
It's in this context that you have to understand the recent cruel withholding of communion to a lesbian daughter at her mother's funeral, or the abrupt firing of a gifted music teacher because he sought to marry the man he loves. As modern society shifts, and as its own flock shifts with it, the Church hierarchy has decided to double-down on its sexual absolutism. The cruelty comes with it.


Davis said...

Thanks for Posting Gary Wills excellent article and the link.

Russ Manley said...

Glad you liked.

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