Wednesday, April 04, 2012

from The Roman Catholic Bishops: Are They Killing Their Church?

by John Shelby Spong

“I never thought I would live long enough to see birth control become a major political issue. Nor did I think I would ever hear the desire to provide women with safe and effective contraception be referred to as “a war on religion on the part of the Obama administration.” Granted that presidential election years frequently reveal the politically bizarre, it still seems that this year’s rhetoric has reached a new low on the scale of the absurd.

“First, if the national polls are to be believed, about 98% of the American population uses contraception at some point in the course of their lives. That statistic appears to be true whether the users are Protestants, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, non-believers or atheists! There is no correlation between one’s religious tradition and one’s use of contraception. The “pill” has been determined to be not only safe, but of great benefit in the emancipation of women from being chained to their biological destiny. Family planning is no longer regarded by significant majorities the world over as a sinful thing to do, but has become an absolute virtue in our overpopulated world.

“Contraception has also been demonstrated to be a strong bulwark against abortions since it dramatically lowers the unwanted pregnancies that fuel the number of abortion seekers. The Roman Catholic Church’s leadership, however, still acts as if it has the power to dictate what public policy is or what it should be on this issue. Unable to gain the loyalty of those they call “the faithful” they have now apparently decided that they will seek to impose their practices on the entirety of the nation’s citizenry. The idea that once emancipated from biological necessity women can now be coerced to return to the practices of yesterday is not just unrealistic, it is an act of violence!

“Ecclesiastical influence always declines when church leaders overstep the limits of their power and seek to impose upon their people an authority they no longer possess.

“Though already given a “conscience” exemption of not being required to provide contraceptive coverage in the health care offered to employees of Catholic churches, they are now demanding the right to impose that teaching on employees of their Catholic universities, hospitals and charitable institutions. Those institutions, while Catholic sponsored, serve a diverse population and receive public state and federal money to carry out their work. They have many non-Catholic employees and many Catholic employees who do not want Catholic teaching imposed upon their own health care decisions.

“The bishops have gone on to argue that any business run by a Roman Catholic CEO should also have the right to opt out of the requirement to provide contraceptive care to their employees. If this principle of exemption for Catholics is allowed, where will it stop? Some religions practiced in America object to blood transfusions, others do not believe that any medical intervention should be allowed since sickness is thought of as punishment for sin and still others have in the past sought to be exempted from the law that requires only one partner in marriage. Must the laws of America respect their consciences also?

“When the public good and religious values have come into conflict in the past, the state has always protected its understanding of public good and the various religious bodies have had to accommodate that policy. That is what it means to live in a multi-cultural state where no religious system can impose any religious principle or practice on the entire nation. Are the Catholic Bishops and those politicians who want to dictate the details of health care that will be offered to employees of religiously affiliated institutions now find that this basic American premise is no longer acceptable? That is a frightening change.

“This Church has also carried out a destructive public campaign against justice and equality for gay and lesbian people over the last fifty years. They have used their money to defeat initiatives that would have provided equality before the law and end all forms of discrimination against homosexual people. They have done this despite the fact that this definition is almost universally dismissed as little more than dated ignorance in scientific and medical circles. How long do we tolerate religious ignorance that diminishes American citizens?

“I do not understand religious imperialism in any of its forms. Religious imperialism is what gave us the rampant anti-Semitism that finally erupted in the Holocaust which Pope Pius XII watched without lifting a finger.

“It has given us the Vatican led Crusades against the people of Islam that marked the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and that still today feeds the hostility of radical Islamic fundamentalism costing countless lives on 9-11 and in the continuing wars in Islamic countries. It has given us the Inquisition in Europe in the 14th century that burned at the stake, quite legally, those who dared to question that Church’s teaching. Now this institution, which has never allowed equality for women, wants to be permitted to determine the limits of health care for women who work for Catholic institutions.”


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