John Zmirak breaks down widespread resistance and dissent among Catholics on the issue of contraception in “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for The Catholic Thing. The most salient facts of the situation:
On a grave moral issue where several popes have invoked their full moral authority short of making an infallible declaration, 95 percent of U.S. Catholics (the number is surely higher in most of Europe) have rejected the guidance of Rome. They are not “bad Catholics” so much members of a new, dissenting sect – which happens to occupy most of the seats in most of the churches, and many of the pulpits and bishop’s offices, too.
I’m not sure that I agree that they are not “bad Catholics.” To the extent that they have been poorly catechized, this might be the case. Many of us know from personal experience however that there are plenty of people who say that they are Catholics, understand that Catholics must abide by the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and simply don’t. However they rationalize it is really not important to me.
On the other hand, Zmirak makes a convincing case for extending a tolerant and understanding olive branch to well-meaning dissenters (and that does not include all dissenters, mind you); they’re over 90% of the Church, perhaps over 95%, at least in the developed West. H also makes a good point about conservative/traditionalist circles that, while doctrinally orthodox, suffer from ideological stagnation and social isolation. The 90-95% need those who believe that truth is not optional to speak boldly for it, but not in a way that is alienating or unsympathetic to their concerns.
If, for instance, the problem with contraception is that an otherwise willing Catholic family feels it simply can’t handle the financial burden, then those of us who would have them hold to the teaching of the Church should be devising creative solutions to that problem. Perhaps living as self-contained nuclear families in a mass consumer society is not the way to live as Catholics. Perhaps local, voluntary, and bold projects are needed to unite people who wish to live the faith authentically, to share burdens and responsibilities – something beyond the mere handouts so often advocated by leftists. The pro-life movement has had great success with crisis pregnancy centers and other forms of relief for pregnant women; I see no reason why we can’t take it a step further and devise forms of relief for struggling parents.
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If you think you’ve found the key to a better life, the most natural thing in the world is to want to rush out and convince everyone else to do likewise. We want to shout from the rooftops, “Hey! Better life to be found here! You can too!” As someone who finds significant meaning and happiness in the Catholic understanding of sexuality and prohibition of contraception, this view (and the approach to natural family planning that springs from it) is indeed something that I think other need to hear — but as a result it’s doubly frustrating when it seems like it’s being “sold” wrong.
This is why my teeth went a little on edge when I ran into what ought to have been a very encouraging article to see in the Washington Post detailing the efforts of young and faithful Catholic women to re-explain the Church’s teachings on contraception to the modern world. Here’s the section that threw me off:
Yet the images the church uses to promote its own method of birth control freaked her out. Pamphlets for what the church calls natural family planning feature photos of babies galore. A church-sponsored class on the method uses a book with a woman on the cover, smiling as she balances a grocery bag on one hip, a baby on the other.
“My guess is 99 out of 100 21st-century women trying to navigate the decision about contraception would see that cover and run for the hills,” McGuire wrote in a post on her blog, Altcatholicah, which is aimed at Catholic women.
McGuire, 26, of Alexandria is part of a movement of younger, religiously conservative Catholic women who are trying to rebrand an often-ignored church teaching: its ban on birth control methods such as the Pill. Arguing that church theology has been poorly explained and encouraged, they want to shift the image of a traditional Catholic woman from one at home with children to one with a great, communicative sex life, a chemical-free body and babies only when the parents think the time is right.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that my limited experience of dealing with interviews is that what you say and the way you come off in the article are often very, very different. So I don’t want to suggest that McGuire was misrepresenting NFP. It may well be that the WaPo writer talked to her for a long time, wrote up the article in good faith, yet ended up infusing it with an attitude that’s just — off. (And indeed, I see that Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (quoted elsewhere in the article) feels like what came across in the article is not exactly what she was trying to convey.)
That said, I think the message that the article conveys is problematic in that it simply doesn’t reflect all that accurately what it’s like using NFP, and when your advertising message doesn’t fit the reality of your “product”, user dissatisfaction is sure to follow. Emily Stimpson covers this well in a post titled Truth in Adverstising: Continue Reading
We have all seen the supposed polls indicating that 99% of Catholic women use birth control. However, has anyone ever bothered to look at who conducted the poll? It was the Guttmacher Institute; the driving force behind abortion and other leftist social movements. Finally someone in the Mainstream Media (The Washington Post) has weeks after the fact realized the untruthful nature behind this canard. This is just one of many red herrings thrown at religious conservatives to discredit and mock them. It seems some in mainstream media are making it their mission to ask former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum every question imaginable with regard to birth control. Whatever happens to Santorum in the primary race, it does seem as if the Hand of Providence is helping bring up the topic of birth control and the faithful alternative of Natural Family Planning.
While there is some dispute between Catholics and some Evangelicals on birth control; there are signs that many Evangelicals are seeing what Catholics and some Orthodox Jews have long believed about birth control. In my previous book and forthcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, I cite quotes from Chuck Colson and R Albert Mohler, two towering figures in the Evangelical world. They have genuine affection for Pope Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which cemented the Catholic view on birth control in the modern birth control pill era. If you want to really rile up a militant secularist you might mention that it wasn’t until 1930 that the first religious group (the Anglican Church) even approved of birth control. The Progressive Teddy Roosevelt said the idea of birth control was “ridiculous” and even liberal hero Dr Sigmund Freud said the whole concept was “narcissistic.”
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) the late women’s rights activist, who used birth control back before any religious group approved of it, spoke out forcefully against abortion and birth control once she converted to Catholicism later in life. She told men and women that in using birth control they were becoming engaged in a culture that was disconnecting them from God’s plans, along with not using their bodies in accordance with the Holy Spirit. Though her women’s rights and libertarian economic views remained, she became a social conservative, who lashed out at Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, something you aren’t likely to hear or read in the mainstream media.
Families that adhere to the clinically proven facts of Natural Family Planning are treated as if they are some sort of religious nuts. Militant secularists in the corridors of power (Legislative and Fourth Estate) have even thrown out their favorite term “sexually repressed.” Now this term is so widely repeated in our popular culture, perhaps we should examine where it came from. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) of the infamous Marxist “Frankfurt School” came up with the term. Marcuse left pre-World War II Germany and taught at Columbia. Marcuse believed in free love and surmised that the more narcissistic society was with regard to sexual relations, the better the world would become. Before his death, he claimed his prized student was 1960s militant radical Angela Davis. Marcuse was way out in left field in his day and yet the militant secularists in our pop culture have made him seem as mainstream as Dr. Phil. When societies turn away from religion they embrace the crazies like Marcuse; sadly something has to fill the vacuum and it is usually the ideas which come from the half baked among us that do so. Continue Reading
In a bizarre way President Barack Obama, through his Health and Human Services Mandate (HHS) has united religious orthodoxy across the spectrum as never before. In its wake liberal religiosity is going the way of striped pants, bell bottoms and lava lamps; something that is only seen on rare occasions usually when too much alcohol is flowing. At the precipice stands liberal Catholicism, for soon there will be no need for them to retain any religious presence. Liberal Catholic mouthpieces like the National Catholic Reporter are destined to go the way of so many other products whose users outgrew the usefulness of what they read and believed. Mainline liberal churches have imploded all the while the numbers of Catholics and Evangelicals continue to grow. Apparently the liberal religious elite are so smart, they have disappeared into the mists of history. Even if the current baby boomers remain religious, their liberal minded children have by and large abandoned the faith to the whims of Hallmark and Deepak Chopra styled spirituality.
In my last book The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I noted that having worked in the Church with a good deal of liberals I cannot think of a single instance in which their children retained their liberal views and also practiced their Catholic faith. I have met their children and while some have become Evangelicals and others have seen the light and come over to orthodox minded Catholicism; those who have remained liberal would only darken a church door if a close relative passed away. Sadly not only have they left their faith but many can’t find a single good thing to say about it. Their compliments are reserved for Big Government and Libertinism.
I am not writing this to sound clever or flippant or negative, simply to relate what I see. In many ways, the tide is turning like never before, and we can’t say that Jesus didn’t tell us that wheat would be separated from the chaff. Indeed we can’t serve two masters and the liberals by and large have thrown their lot in with the Herod’s of the world. While the liberal elite pretend to live oh so sophisticated lives; they in reality are nothing more than a fallen character in a 1980s hair band ballad video, succumbing to the vices on Sunset Boulevard that the liberal elite relegated to some degenerative red state tourist. As angry as we may be at the religious left’s venom and their apostasy, they most certainly need our prayers and we should never forget that supposedly wise people can be fooled as much as anyone by the dark side.
In my previous article, I noted the striking metaphor of the pall of smoke hanging over the Acropolis in Athens caused by rioting Greeks who could no longer pay for their extravagant lifestyle. They are merely the first example of a culture that has aborted and contracepted itself into oblivion, prophetically predicted by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. For the Greeks, Big Government had the answers and their Epicurean ancestors had the lifestyle that seemed oh so appealing. However in reality they couldn’t pay the bills because charged with the simple mission of reproducing they felt it too complicated of a task. Continue Reading
The militant secular left thinks they have won a victory with President Barack Obama’s “Accommodation” with regard to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate ordering religious based institutions to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and the morning after abortion pill. Some of the left couldn’t contain their glee, one guest on MSNBC described President Obama’s move as “brilliant.” In their distorted thinking they surmise that since not all Catholics adhere to the Church’s teachings, especially on birth control, they can cause a split in the Church.
First of all, the militant secular left continually cites the Guttmacher Institute’s polling, which is about as accurate as the daily pronouncements of Syria’s Bashar Assad. Secondly, it is one thing for Catholics to go against the Church’s teachings, it is quite another to say they are proud of it and want more Big Government telling them what they and the Catholic Church to do. The sheer nuttiness of this was illustarted in a discussion which occurred on Sean Hannity’s the Great American Panel seen on Fox News last week. One of the participants Jehmu Greene told fellow panelist Andrea Tantaros that without birth control she wouldn’t be here. When the incredulous Tantaros wondered how that could logical be, Greene went on a tirade that demeaned women who have children and or decide to work at home.
For years the militant secular left has treated pregnancy as a disease and families as inconvenient truths interfering with their own narcissistic ends. Powerhouse television shows like Sex and City helped to illustrate this point. Katharine Jean Lopez of the National Review wrote some time ago how disgusted she felt seeing men demeaned as objects in the Sex and City movie, the very treatment feminists have railed about for years.
However with the narcissistic Sex and City lifestyle comes another reality playing out in the streets of Athens, Greece and soon to come to a city or country near you in the western world. The declining birth rate means the youngest among us will have to eventually have to pay for a culture that aborted or contracepted itself into oblivion. The generous benefits demanded by those cultures, especially from the militant secular left can only last so long. As the old saying goes; “The problem with Socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The ancient Greek world gods who hailed narcissism and hedonism and whose lifestyle was proselytized by the Epicureans seem as irrelevant as ever as the pall of smoke hangs over the Acropolis, a fitting metaphor for what the militant secular left has wrought. Continue Reading
Channel surfing the other night, I came across a slew of 1980s “coming of age” movies on cable television. With all of their flaws (too much sexual innuendo, which is mild by today’s comparisons,) one can easily see a positive theme of a bright future and endless possibilities running through this genre of films. I had almost forgotten that in the 1983 film Valley Girl, Julie played by Deborah Foreman actually chastises her hippy parents for their suggestion that if she and her new boyfriend Randy, played by Nicholas Cage, want to explore their sexuality it would be alright by them. Julie rebukes her parents for having such beliefs as well as the nostalgia surrounding their involvement in the 1960s anti war movement; after all it was the era of Ronald Reagan. Everything seemed possible; it was Morning in America again. Many of these movies were set in California which at the time exuded excitement for those of us growing up in colder, Midwest climates. Economically, California was booming and it was also the heart of a growing and diverse music scene.
Fast forward some 25+ years later and many of today’s films have a dark undercurrent with more than a little subtle leftwing political and cultural propaganda running through them. While there are certainly hopeful signs in Hollywood, especially with the advent of stars like Eduardo Verastegi and his movie Bella and associated Metanoia Films, (Click here for my interview with Eduardo Verastegui,) the secular film industry has fallen even farther into the cesspool. Sadly the Golden State’s economic boom seems but a distant memory, which was bound to occur when California’s Big Government mentality rivaled that of Sweden or the Canadian province of Quebec. The bigger question remains; is California setting the trend once again for the nation and the western world, and if it is what hope is there? The hope remains as it always has not in mortal man and the latest left wing hypothesis about the world’s failings, but in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
There is a undercurrent in American society that somehow believes that if the mafia ran things, the country would be better off. There was one city (Newark, New Jersey) where the mafia once controlled much of the city. When their grip on power was done, the city was in tatters. The same could be said for liberals running religion.
In 2010 the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity in general are under attack because age old truths are being abandoned for the Dictatorship of Relativism. One might ask; how did we get here? It didn’t happen overnight; as a matter of fact many of those doing the rebelling actually think they are doing us all a favor. Centuries and millennium evolved into a construct of rebellion where self appointed leaders who thought knew better than the Church and society itself tried to change all that was sacred and holy into something, they but most importantly their friends in the intelligentsia, could accept. Too many cooks in the kitchen can be bad for your acquired culinary tastes, but when truth is watered down it is something entirely different and far more serious. In this instance, we are talking about souls, not taste buds. If this is so then how could the thesis of my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism be true? The answer is simple because the world is getting closer and closer to the precipice. Some may chose to jump but thankfully more will chose to come back from ledge into the world of reality and when they do they will see the many positive developments happening in the Church. One’s own mortality has a way of causing self preservation.
The dream of orthodox minded Catholics and Anglican liberals came true on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 as the Vatican announced that traditional minded Anglicans, clergy included, would be welcomed into the Catholic Church with their own Anglican style rite (though not exactly a rite of their own.) The promise Jesus made that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church is now once again being made manifest for those who chose to recognize it (Matthew 16:16-20.) What King Henry VIII started Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have salvaged. The English and their former empire (if they wish) can return home again.
Since many conservatives may now leave, religious liberals too have high hopes as the worldwide Anglican Communion can possibly fulfill their wish of unbridled liberalism. However, it is becoming plain to see that it is for all intents and purposes the liberal’s wish is now turning into a death wish. The irony of reading statements by traditional Anglicans thanking God for Pope Benedict’s statement coupled by liberal Catholic posters in the dissident National Catholic Reporter asking to be saved from Rome spoke volumes. Even with fawning mainstream media coverage, every liberal Protestant denomination has seen their numbers plummet in recent years, some as much as 50%, while Catholicism, with all the negative banner headlines, continues to grow around the world.
The Archbishop of Canterbury seems a truly tragic figure cut from a Shakespearean play trying to hold together what a murderous king wrought. It couldn’t be done and so we may now see the implosion of the Anglican Communion, especially in the only region that had any vibrancy, Africa. The African and Asian continents have long been the hope of the One True Church. Fortunately, the embers of truth can also be seen in North & South American seminaries and even in Europe, where the Faith had seemed all but dead.
His Eminence the polite and soft-spoken James Francis Cardinal Stafford head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary gave a lecture on November 13 at the Keane Auditorium at Catholic University of America last week titled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul“. In it Cardinal Stafford critiqued President-elect Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,“ and he further added that Obama ran an “extremist anti-life platform”.
Here are some highlights of his lecture:
“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”
“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.”
Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”
The lecture, hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, pertained to Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 and celebrating its 40 anniversary this year.
Stafford also spoke about the decline of a respect for human life and the need for Catholics to return to the original values of marriage and human dignity.
“If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion,” said Stafford, an American Cardinal and Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See. “In the intervening 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the United States has been thrown upon ruins.”