Dear Rev. Know it all,
How dare these old men in the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops interfere with a woman’s right to choose! I am incensed at the refusal of the Catholic Church to comply with the government’s defense of all workers to receive reproductive services even if they work for a repressive institution like the Catholic Church. Democratic Congress person Connolly could not have been more correct when on February 17, he blasted Bishop Lori who testified to a House committee that the Health and Human Services birth control mandate threatens religious liberty. I was delighted when the congressperson pointed out that they were “complicit in the trampling of freedom” and that Lori and the others were participating in an attempt to embarrass the President in an election year by overstating an issue. When will you catch up to the times?
Helena Hahn Basquette
Thank you for pointing out that we are not in sync with the times. The times stink. Hooray for the Church. I have nothing but respect for the office of the presidency and the majesty of the law. I only wish that the same Barak Obama who said at Cairo University on June 4, 2009, that “It is important for western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit” would extend the same concern to Catholic Christians.
All this excitement has brought the Catholic Church’s teaching on family life and children into the sharpest focus since Humanae Vitae was first published in 1968. I remember the outrage that greeted it then and still does. There was a poster plastered all over my seminary of a stern looking Pope Paul VI in an “Uncle Sam wants you” pose, finger pointing with the caption “the Pill Is a No-No.” It was all great fun. Some of our professors believed it was their duty to help us think our way around the Catholic prohibition of artificial birth control in a sophistry that would impress the most adroit Pharisee or the most subtle Jesuit. The Dutch Catechism of 1966, all the rage in my seminary days, pointed out that the Vatican Council had not mentioned artificial contraception. “Every one can ascertain nowadays, there are several methods of regulating births. The Second Vatican Council did not speak of any of these concrete methods… we can sense here a clear development in the Church, a development, which is also going on outside the Church.” (p. 402, New Catechism, Authorized Edition of the Dutch Catechism with Supplement.)
Councils, in the belief of many of my teachers, were superior to popes, thus what the council did not say trumped what a pope said, and we should be pastoral and help people to not have such big families because it’s just too hard and the world can’t take any more children and it’s hard on the poor to keep having all those babies and if you are a good priest you’ll let people slide on this one..... Thus my education on Humanae Vitae!
And then, for those more conservative professors, there was natural family planning as Catholic birth control. Well...alright! You can limit the size of families, but you have to do it with natural family planning because the old guys in the Vatican don’t want anybody having too much fun because well, we all know that you shouldn’t be doing that anyway and you should have been a nun just like Aunt Mary Margaret said!
I got no real education on Humane Vitae. It was all about the medical aspect and what to do in the confessional about what was done in the bedroom. It was nothing about an amazing and beautiful document that has turned out to be prophetic. In paragraph 17 of Humane Vitae, Paul VI warned us that
“a wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.... man may finally lose respect for woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, (and) may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
If you think that the past 40 years have brought greater dignity and freedom to women, think about all the pornography, the glorification of one night stands, the increase in divorce which has impoverished women and children, the objectification of women and sexuality in general by the computerized proliferation of pornography and the new and raging sexually transmitted diseases.
The pill gave us recreational sex that hasn’t really been as much fun as we had hoped, especially for women who now go to the same dreary jobs that men go to because the tax man demands a double income just to keep a roof over her head and that of 2.3 children. If daddy bails for the trophy wife, then mommy will just have to get a second job. Women can now be lawyers and senators and brick layers and waitresses and anything they want except mothers. Just tell someone you’ve got eight children, and see the look they give you. It says, “Don’t you know that children are a form of pollution, burdening the planet with their disposable diapers and green house gas emissions? Have you no self respect?” or my favorite usually addressed to full time mothers: “You mean you’re just a mom? Don’t you have a real job?”
Paul the VI was a prophet and my teachers who laughed at him were fools. The scandals we have had to endure were, I believe, a consequence of the whole sale rebellion against papal authority. My morals classes and confession practica were in large measure an attempt to teach us how to help the poor beleaguered parents in our parishes find a way around obedience to the ridiculous demands of Humane Vitae and its outmoded sexual morality. And simply put, it you can think your way around one sin, you can find your way around any sin, and we priests did a fine job of it. The pope was a senile idiot in the view of some of those who taught me and they made it possible for every man to be his own pope. That would account for the moral chaos from which we are now awaking like some drunk on the morning after who wonders what became of his trousers and his wallet.
Nothing gets anyone so riled up as the Church’s teaching about artificial birth control. When I go to a pulpit and say perhaps we need to look at this again, I can feel the narrowing of eye slits from women my own age who are past the time of child-bearing. I feel their thoughts. “Are you saying that I did the wrong thing? Are you saying that I sinned by having my tubes tied, or insisting that the old goat have his untied?” Now, let’s calm down everybody. I think there’s a way to look at this that will not result in riots and angry torch-wielding, pitchfork-toting mobs congregating on the rectory lawn once again.
To be continued.......