Basically every Catholic writer has already written a post on the HHS mandate, and many have done a fine job, but I thought I would jump on the bandblogon (yes, I think I just made that up) and add my 2¢ today. My wife was on facebook a little while ago when she noticed that one of our friends had posted an article about how the government is preventing Catholic military chaplains from reading a letter from the US bishops, protesting the mandate. The first commenter responded:
[Commenter]: 95-98% of catholic women use contraception by their own admission so what’s the problem? http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/Ninety-eightPercentofCatholicWomenUseBirthControl.asp
I’ve seen this silly argument multiple times in this debate. I’ll discuss the dubiousness of the numbers at the bottom, but I’d rather get right into the ridiculosity of the argument itself (perhaps I just made up that word, but silly arguments call for silly words). My friend gave a well-reasoned first response:
[Friend]:I think the problem is the gag-order [Commenter] – that is, specifically, it seems that it ought to be within the purview of religious organizations to conscientiously object to heavy-handed government mandates that, at least attempt, to force religious organizations to act against their own well-formed beliefs – which is precisely what the gag-order is attempting to stifle. N.b., in my opinion, as much suggests that Obama has failed to adequately appreciate the nature and scope of the first Amendment with respect to both free speech and to the non-establishment clause for religion.
I thought an illustration might make the concept a little more concrete:
Casey Truelove: [Commenter], let’s look at your argument, using another Church teaching. Let’s use stealing. The Church says stealing is wrong. What if 98% of Catholics decided they weren’t going to listen to the Church and that stealing was okay. Does that make stealing okay? Of course not! What if President Obama mandated that all states take their anti-stealing laws off the books, and mandated that all schools (Catholic schools included) had to teach that stealing was good? We Catholics who follow what the Church teaches would again be up in arms. Who cares how many Catholics don’t listen to the Church? The fact is that the Church understands that stealing is wrong and isn’t willing to call an evil thing good. The Church shouldn’t be forced to promote evil–regardless of how many of its members have rejected that teaching. It’s about objective goodness, not popular opinion. If one is looking for a popular-opinion-based Christianity, he should go to the Methodists (they vote on what they believe every 3 years). If he wants a religion that is actually concerned about truth and goodness, he should go to the Catholics. The Catholic Church isn’t forcing anyone else to be Catholic. It merely proposes the truly Catholic way of life, and it should be free to exercise that way of life without the president trying to impose his own views onto the religion.
Once you take away people’s emotional attachment to contraception so that they can see the actual situation for what it is, one would think the person should be able to move to a rational understanding of how horrible of an act it is that the president would try to force Catholics to do what they believe is evil. I hope you can all see this. I hope the Commenter sees it too.
The Numbers Game
Now we also need to look into whether his “95-98%” statement holds any water. The article to which the responder links doesn’t actually cite any studies that prove their claim. It’s written by an organization that is blatantly subversive–whose whole mission it to try to make Catholics turn against their religion–so we can start off knowing that they clearly have an agenda (red flag #1). With no proof at the source, I Googled the topic to find this article, wherein I found that the 98% number comes from a study by the Guttmacher Institute (an arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s #1 provider of contraception/abortion–red flag #2), which states that 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control (red flag #3). Ah those tricky statistic words! “98% of the women have used . . . ” An easy way to bump any statistic to make it look more overwhelming is to imply that anyone who has done something supports that thing, and believes that it is right. A common problem in our society (and this statistic) is forgetting that people can have a conversion. They can be doing something wrong, then realize that it is wrong, and change their life accordingly. Anyone in that situation would still be part of the 98%. The article goes on to later state that the number is actually around 70%. This is still a large number, but that extra 28% really makes it look impressive, so they can’t help but use that to make it look like they might have some sort of point.
Even if we’re going to trust the contraception giant on their numbers, we must return again to the above discussion and realize that even if 100% of Catholic women were using some sort of birth control, their argument still wouldn’t have merit. If the Church recognizes that something is evil and teaches that it is evil, it shouldn’t be forced by the government to provide that evil thing to society–especially when members of society can very easily find it free elsewhere.
If you’re looking for discussions of why the Church recognizes that contraception is evil, there are many. It’s not, as I have heard suggested before, just because some “crusty old men in Rome say so.” Here are some links:
- Humanae Vitae (Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical on Human Life)
- Contraception: Why Not? (A Presentation by Dr. Janet Smith)
- A search for “contraception” at Catholic.com brings up many articles.
- Sex Au Naturel by Patrick Coffin