Jesus told us that, should we choose to follow after Him, that many of those most vociferously opposing us would be those we are closest to, whether family or friends. While far from experiencing what Jesus went through, I have learned more and more of late the truth of this when attempting to fight in some small way the culture of death and jeopardy to religious freedom that we live in today.
Below, in context, is an example of what happened to our own Lord Jesus Christ when He “went home” after becoming well-known and arguably the most powerful spiritual leader within Judaism of his time or thereafter. The passage is Mark 6: 6-7, and the translation used is the Revised Standard Version, considered by many scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, to be one of the very most accurate available. The bold print is added by me.
1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
While this passage is dealing with the preaching of the Gospel in general, it with certainty applies extremely well to the recent HHS Mandate which will potentially force all religions (not only Catholic) to follow government guidelines on women’s healthcare or to be heavily fined or possibly even shut down if not. Since the Catholic health care system is the largest in the world, and Catholics make up the largest religious group in the United States, the effect on health care for both women and men could be staggering. The effects on religious liberty even more so.
Others have written more eloquently than I could hope to on this issue, and I would not waste your time or mine in repeating their words here (I have linked to some of them at the end of this post however). But what has prompted my post today is a series of comments made by Rush Limbaugh, who arguably made a rather rash and hasty judgment of the motives behind one Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who appeared before Congress earlier this week to state her case about the “needs of women” to have access to birth control during college.
I am not into name-calling. I do not agree with Rush or his attitude in how he presented his views here. He referred to her as a “slut” and has refused to apologize. His words have not helped the case in any way, but rather have simply lost him advertisers (ironically one has been Select Comfort, a bed company!!!). But Limbaugh for once makes a daring but valid point. A good friend and colleague of mine had a rather heated exchange with me on this whole thing last night, particularly in regards to the definition of “slut.” I think it may be partially a generational thing, as my colleague is younger than I, but to me “slut” and “prostitute” are pretty much interchangeable. To him they are not. Rather than wrestling about the words here though, the argument Mr. Limbaugh was actually making has some validity in my opinion. Asking the government to force payment for women (or men) to have sexual relations is “slutty” on many levels. At one point he (Rush) likened government involvement to prostitution for that very reason, and he does speak an element of truth here. By forcing payment for universally free contraception, “we the people” become the “pimps” of both men and women who choose to become sexually active, when, at least in most cases, no gun is being held to their heads to do so.
My friend rightly brought up two seeming inconsistencies, however. One is that insurance should not be forced to pay for Viagra either, since it would be doing the same thing for men. I think he is right to a large extent. We hand out “pleasure candy” to both genders and then wonder why they “eat and enjoy.” As I wrote earlier and reference below this article, we have become very good at “enabling” bad behavior in the United States and beyond. There is one difference between Viagra and contraceptives, however, and it is a “huge one” (please pardon the unplanned pun here!). Viagra can be used to create life, at least indirectly, in an otherwise infertile couple who is not able to have sexual intercourse and thus become pregnant. Part B of that difference is that Viagra or its other forms such as Cialis do not ever remove life from this planet, however tiny. Birth control pills on the other hand do, as does the IUD(inter-uterine device) and even more true with the infamous “morning after pill,” now becoming available in many cases over the counter for anyone over age 17! Each of those ingestible or otherwise invasive contraceptives have the potential of working after fertilization, and science and medicine have proven clearly that it is at that moment of fertilization where a new life technically begins. Not even an atheist can disprove that point, nor do they try.
The other inconsistency, which is the one Ms. Fluke spoke of, are the rare times when a woman really does have a health issue such as endrometriosis that can be helped or greatly aided by using a contraceptive such as the Pill. What interestingly appeared in a very passing way during her conversation with Congress was that Georgetown University already covers such use of those particular medications under their insurance in such cases! While it quite apparently true that she had a good friend who was denied this by the college’s insurance administrators, that would then be the insurance who is at fault in their processing of the claim, not the college or the Church. I do not think there is a person, Catholic, Protestant, or other, who would disagree that this was a terrible injustice done to her friend. And without putting words in His Excellency’s eloquent mouth, that would most surely include Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
But to change the entire way in which the contraceptive issue is dealt with by every single Catholic or otherwise religious institution in the nation due to the “fluke” (pun intended this time) of the Georgetown insurance providers is not only ludicrous, but was not seemingly her main reason for speaking on the issue at all. While extremely important, is nonetheless a side issue, albeit one that arguably must be included in the protection of women’s health on any final bill in regards to this whole complex set of issues. It, in fact, would be the only time that contraceptives ever even become a health issue. And as such, this has already been the long-standing policy of the Church on that topic. And that is no “new news.”
The late and great Father John Hardon of happy memory wrote on this exact thing a number of years ago (he passed away in December of 2000, almost 12 years ago ). In his highly informative Modern Catholic Dictionary, he writes the following on other uses of contraception rather than birth control: Again the emphasis is mine.
A gynecological illness caused by the abnormal presence of tissue that more or less perfectly resembles the lining of the uterus (endometrium) but growing outside of the uterus itself and distributed in other pelvic areas. Since this aberrant endometrial tissue responds to the hormone-induced changes of the woman’s menstrual cycle but, unlike the true endometrial lining of the uterus, is entrapped in other tissue such as bone and muscle, its cyclic changes of menstruation, causes the problem to repress, and even after the pregnancy improvement is sometimes sustained for a period up to three or four years.
Since a surgical approach to the problem is not always practical or successful, the so-called “contraceptive pill” has been recommended for use over prolonged periods to eliminate the cyclic changes of the menstrual cycle and thus eliminate the periodic pain of endometriosis. It should be noted, from a moral viewpoint, that although this progestational-estrogen type therapy is, in itself, essentially the same as that used in the “contraceptive pill,” it is not used in theses cases as a contraceptive. the purpose of the therapy is to ameliorate a seriously abnormal and indeed pathological condition insofar as it is aggravated by hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. Although temporary sterility is a side effect of the treatment, contraception is not the purpose, and thus the treatment in no way conflicts with Catholic teaching.
The point of this whole thing to me is simple: none of this has been hidden away in the proverbial “closet” somewhere. Taking certain contraceptives, if done primarily for health reasons and not reproductive ones, has not been and is not the issue here, nor will it ever become such. But when my friend’s Wisconsin Synod Lutheran minister is one day arrested for speaking out against homosexuality, just for an example, which he apparently frequently does, my friend may wish he had opposed what is the biggest affront to overall religious liberty in our time. The other point, more subtle but still serious, is that such invasiveness is pitting people against one another. My friend and I will do just fine–but some will not. And the idea of using such difficult and divisive issues to “divide and conquer,” as it clearly appears the Obama administration is expert in doing, is reprehensible to me. I have begun to believe it is his hallmark.
Last but not at all least, I would like to share Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s official letter, as of just yesterday, on this ongoing battle. If you are Roman Catholic, you are obligated as part of your Catholic Faith to be in willing submission to what he shares here. The Bishops, particularly the Bishop of Rome (Pope Benedict XVI) are the legitimate leaders of the Catholic Church. And that is not negotiable.
Much has been made about the fact that a significant number of Catholic couples ignore the prohibition on contraception, as if that somehow justified it. But as my dear, dear friend and brother in Christ the late Angel Cruz used to often say (and Angel knew, first-hand, having been a former heroin addict and dying of HIV/AIDS as a result in 1986, at age 33) “If the whole world decides to go to hell, that does not mean I have to.” I am with Angel.
I do not ever recommend for anyone to leave the Church. But if you truly cannot abide by her principles and precepts, then it is far better to leave in honesty than to stay and attempt to deliberately undermine the entire leadership as some have done in this fight. Perhaps Sister Carol Sheehan, Kathleen Sebelius, and Nancy Pelosi, among others, need to be reminded that they are neither practicing Catholics nor leaders within her sacred ranks. And pretending that they are is unbelievable hypocrisy and arrogance at best, and endangering their very souls at worst.
NOTE: After I released this article Mr. Limbaugh did indeed apologize to Ms. Fluke. I will leave it to the reader as to his reasons or sincerity, but at least it was not a “oops it was a wardrobe malfunction” type of apology. Here is a link to it:
Other related articles:
- With ‘Slut’ Rant, Rush Limbaugh Has Become GOP’s Own Worst Enemy (usnews.com)
- HHS Secretary: Decrease in Number of Americans will Cover Mandate Cost(constitutionclub.org)
- Lawmaker: Men Who Want Viagra Should Have To Watch Graphic ‘Side-Effects’ Video (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- Obama Calls Student After Slam by Limbaugh (newser.com)
- The HHS Mandate and Conscience Made Simple – Five Things You Should Do Now (integratedcatholiclife.org)
- Institutional “Enabling” And the HHS Mandate (theconservativehillbilly.wordpress.com) REPOSTED FROM CATHOLICBOYRICHARD