Bjorn Philip Beer

Bjorn Philip Beer

Bjorn Philip Beer
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
December 31
Weekend Writer, Software Executive, and Father in Charlottesville, Virginia. Graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Frequent contributor to Earth Island Journal.

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MARCH 9, 2012 12:28PM

A Hard Pill to Swallow: Catholic Contraception Policy

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While I laud Georgetown University President John DeGioia’s recent call to civility in light of rabid right-wing attacks on a Georgetown law student, we must not forget how uncivil the Catholic anti-contraception position is. In some parts of the world, it continues to cause more human suffering than any words Rush Limbaugh could utter.  As someone who deeply values Jesus' moral message, I believe this anti-contraception belief has no foundation in scripture. It is not moral. It is not civil.

As we are swept up in the echo-chamber theater of the American news cycle, it is easy to forget that this anti-contraception position perpetuates the vicious cycle of starvation and suffering in lives across the globe.  If, according to one CDC study, 98% of Catholic women in the United States have used birth control, this policy must also be seen through the lens of its effect on developing countries where people in need of birth control methods have trouble obtaining them.

Dogmatic opposition to birth control is much easier to maintain if one is callously quarantined from exposure to the plight of so many around the globe who don’t have access to contraceptives.  I have accompanied physicians to religiously-based clinics in Africa where mothers receive HIV retrovirals, but not birth control pills.   In that chauvinistic society, she couldn’t say no to sex, nor could she say yes to condoms.  She thereby couldn’t say no to passing HIV on to her children.  These children – if they receive retrovirals – will either end up in an orphanage or in some slum where otherwise banal diseases like diarrhea and malnutrition run rampant.  If contraceptives are against God’s will, it implies this human suffering related in part to the lack of contraceptives is also God’s will.  It implies that the quantity of life on this planet is more important than the quality of life. 

Here we come to the crux of the matter. This Catholic stance on birth control is abominable not because it is Christian; rather, it is unconscionable because it is not very Christ-like.  Although the Nazarene said nothing about birth control (or any of the other modern Culture War issues), he did pal around with prostitutes and displayed compassion to those deemed by his society as unclean, immoral, or unchaste.   If there had been a drug to prevent a prostitute from getting an STD or from having an unwanted pregnancy, I most certainly think this healer would have provided prophylaxis to those in need.   I doubt he would have made a bureaucratic distinction between the birth control pill for polycystic ovarian syndrome versus the birth control pill to prevent conception.  Such a distinction is a luxury only enjoyed by someone living comfortably out of touch with the reality of human suffering in this world today, suffering which is preventable for the first time in human history. 

Further, when Jesus said “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” I don’t think he was referring to the dystopian reality of poverty, disease, and despair which is directly related to overpopulation and inversely related to women’s empowerment, education, and health.   At a time when only 200 million people lived on the planet, Jesus most certainly was not referring to the projected 9 billion by year 2050. It is simply magical thinking to believe the earth – with its ecosystems currently in peril – can support that many people, especially if they have the environmental impact of a resource hog like me and most of my compatriots.  Sustainable prosperity for everyone on the planet necessitates we find a birthrate more in line with the finite capacities of this planet. 

If Jesus were here today, he wouldn’t be in a Catholic Church preaching about an American woman’s access to contraceptives.  Rather, he would be providing birth control pills to mothers in forgotten villages and slums throughout the developing world. He would be giving men condoms so they wouldn’t pass on HIV to their wives, lovers, girlfriends, prostitutes, and the children they’d have without birth control.   Although these efforts may moderate the quantity of life, they drastically increase the quality of life when women can invest more resources in their current children, their businesses, and their educations.   In contrast, Pope Benedict XVI informs us that the distribution of condoms “aggravates the problems.”    

In contrast to the Church’s focus on female chastity, Jesus interacted positively, compassionately, and constructively with women who had more believable and realistic sex lives.  I doubt he would have pinned his hopes for public health on a naïve and unrealistic abstinence-only policy, nor on impractical Natural Family Planning techniques.  Not even priests today seem capable of holding to this high standard of celibacy.   In light of recent child abuse scandals, Catholic pontificating on sexual mores and sexual health is a sure sign of something weaker underlying.  As Jesus said, “let he who is without sin...”

The Catholic position is at odds with the spirit of care and radical compassion taught by the first Christian, Jesus.  Due to my respect for the moral vision of Jesus Christ, who espoused what Richard Dawkins calls the meme of “super niceness,” I cannot respect this anti-contraceptive position, nor am I required to respect it just because it is faith-based.   A policy that hurts our fellow human is not worthy of our respect, only our well-deserved public condemnation and informed criticism.  In a civil society, we are called to point out the uncivil ideas in our midst, however politically incorrect it may seem.  This is civility.



Bjorn Philip Beer

Writer, Software Executive, and Organic Farmer outside of Charlottesville, Virginia

Georgetown University - School of Foreign Service 2005


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Very sensible. Your thinking makes much more sense to me than what I've been reading about Washington these days. I am amazed at this seemingly sudden reopening of issues I thought were settled years ago. And I think you're right: Jesus would be an activist working to hand out condoms and educate folks in AIDS-ridden areas about prevention.
Excellent commentary. This issue will be the reason I finally leave the Church for good. Even the Mormon faith has no official abn on contraception. Rome is on a collision course with itself, and is doomed to complete irrelevance as people become wiser. My mother had 6 kids. While she has no regrets, if she were starting over today, she would not adhere to this ridiculous patriarchal mandate.
I think that the author missed the point of the letter of the Georgetown President supporting Ms. Fluke, in particular, and civil discourse, in general. The letter has no, "But ...." It never goes on to say one word of support for the Catholic hierarchy's position on birth control. It doesn't take any sophisticated thinking to get the point of the letter regarding the overarching issue.

You can object to about anything of the Catholic hierarchy's position on birth control. However, the Georgetown's President's letter can't be included in that general criticism. (Anything written by a Jesuit should be presumed to have some careful thinking behind it.)
Excellent. You won't get through to the true believers for whom birth control is a proxy issue for their own need to dominate others or their fears about societal change. But showing the real world consequences of these abstract debates will resonate with those with minds still open to hear and see.
I think that the Catholic church, like all churches, is driven by a need to constantly increase its membership, and thereby improve its revenue stream. Birth control means fewer people whose minds you can control, so it must be stopped. Great article!
Wonderful article, wonderful post, very much based in reality, and therefore incomprehensible to the Vatican or the Church. Although I still believe in Catholic philosophy, I left the Church decades ago because it has maintained its unchanging attitudes about birth control, sex, women's place and so many other things.

A few years ago I even dug up a copy of the book that opened up those wounds: A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church by (former) Father James Kavenaugh. It was the 1992 version of the book, published just after his death. It was moving and sad because of what the intervening years visited upon him. Kavenaugh was practically raised as a cloistered priest, had emotional problems, and briefly fell into alcoholism. But he still stood by the protests he made back in 1962, and it's comforting to realize that the principles he raised back in 1962 still have meaning and still inspire people today.
Is it possible this embarrassment is coming to an end, probably with the next pope? Both the birth control fiasco and the infallibility of the pope are newer than Mormonism or Christian Science. We have seen the demise of fish on Friday, Latin Mass, and Limbo--can Purgatory be far behind? Disaffected Catholics might be able to see a church that is not merely run for the fans, but for all of us.
This is attack hiding under the guise of "Civility". Sincerity would be plausibel if you attacked those that refused to innoculate their children with equal passion. The child is incapable of getting this care without parental consent but, women have tremendous access to contraception. Many liberals choose this path against tremdous scientific FACTS.
If you were honest with yourself you would see this is an attack on the Constitutional protected rights of a religion to worship and practice freely. You hiding behind the fact that Jesus interacted with prostitutes thus we should ignore the hierachy of the Catholic Church is lazy and weak although nicely packaged. The Richard Dawkins reference was better served if referencing an episode of "The Family Feud then anything the reknown Atheist has put forth in his incessant attacks on Catholic principles.
This is not about the CHurch being right or wrong, if you do not like it, do not be a Catholic. This is about the Constitution and the protection of the Church from the State."Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The "Separation of Church and State" is a phrase that does not exist in the Constitution except in the minds of those that want to deconstruct this great document
"...if you do not like it, do not be a Catholic."

That's exactly the point. The vast majority of the country *isn't* Catholic and doesn't want to be. It's the Catholic Church trying to force their doctrines on everyone who has any contact with them, right down to the janitors who mop floors in Catholic hospitals.

If it's all about "religious freedom", do you agree that Jehovah's Witness organizations have the right to deny coverage for any medical procedure involving a blood transfusion?

And, BTW, just because Mr. Beer chose not to write about your personal topic of vaccines doesn't invalidate what he did write on the topic he did choose to write about, which is birth control. If you have something to say about vaccines, by all means, write your own post.
Dienne, He is quoting Jesus as a criticism of current CHurch practice. He is thus attacking present church doctrine. His attack is on the Church and he want the Government to force them to conform am I wrong?
Thanks--great commentary.
If a Jehovah Witness group decided to start a hospital then, I would support their right to not perform blood transfusions. I do think your analogy is a stretch as I do not think they feel"Life ends at Transfusion".
You also assume that there is no access to birth control if you work at Catholic run organizations.
Can you site one case where somone could not get birth control that worked at a Catholic institution?
This is an attack on organized religion pure and simple.
Here Mr Beer attacks the policy not Constitutional but, at it's very core which should concern us all. He is now interpreting Church Doctrine for all of us which would be silly if not so scarily supported
Good analysis, Bjorn. The public voice of the Catholic Church has lost touch with the everyday people Jesus cared most about. The Bishops need to get out of the business of policy advocacy on these marginal issues, and focus instead on becoming relevant to their members -- not to their peers in the hierarchy and ivory towers. The focus should be on meeting the needs of the least. There are many in the Church who dedicate their lives to the poor (e.g., Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services). Serving the material and spiritual needs of the poor is the great work of the Church. It's time to get back to basics.
I think your view of the Catholics in this country presents itself as rather uninformed and unfair.

Many practicing and devout Catholics in the U.S. and around the world are peace loving and charitable people, who are very happy to quietly go about practicing their own beliefs, without judging the beliefs and practices of others. To pass judgement on Catholicism based on the (I believe) minority of them who are obnoxious and insensitive in there promotion of their beliefs is an insult to the many Catholics who only wish to practice there religion in peace without forcing there opinions down anyone's throat.
Is it "civil" to use others as objects? You forget that the Catholic Church and all other religious institutions are NOT always practical. Their job is to present the ideals instead, even if we fall short. Of course, we all fall short including the imperfect Catholic Church, but never the less, its their job to help all of us reach for the ideals which include saving sexual intercourse for marriage; using natural birth control as taught by the NFP organization (which is just about as accurate as the pill); loving others without using them for your own pleasure; forgiving no matter what etc. Why should women have to put poison in their bodies when they can work with their bodies controlling fertility naturally without risk to their health? You see the pill as a solution. Have you ever considered that the pill may have actually hurt our society instead? Look at the statistics after the invention of the pill. Abortion rates went up; divorce went up, depression is rampant, sexually transmitted diseases went up etc. People think the pill has given women freedom where in actuality it has possibly harmed us in countless ways. Maybe the correlation is not direct, but how do you explain the decline in morality and therefore the diseases and unwanted pregnancies, along with the abortion rate and depressions? Do I think God punishes? No, but I do think he allows the natural laws to govern.
By the way, I am for separation of church and state. Therefore, I do not think the government should mandate artificial contraception as illegal. That is ridiculous. We are all free to choose our religions and follow our consciences. No one should try to take that away from us.
This post is a great example of let's sling mud at a wall and see if we can get some of it to stick.

Yes, the vast majority of Catholic violate church doctrine. Christians are not perfect. I tried walking on water once. Dang near drown. So what is your point? That just because people are not perfect in their faith the church should change their doctrine so that they are?

Let's talk about the law student. The question that I haven't seen an answer to is if she graduated from high school at a normal age then did four years for understudies that would make her in her early to mid twenties. She is 31 I believe. What did she do for the missing years?

She seems like a plant. We know she ran or was involved in a women's lib group that made it's bones on the BC issue. It has also been reported that she chose Georgetown Law because it's a Catholic college and the health insurance doesn't cover BC. If she needs insurance to cover her BC why didn't she chose a college who does provide it instead of one who doesn't?

Nobody seems to have heard of her, except in her circles, until the White House tried to make this an issue for a distraction for the President's reelection bid. Now, she has just sprung up, has contacts to get her invited to testify at Congressional hearings and is booked on all the liberal talk shows and avoids the others. We also found out that she is being handled by a PR firm that is run by one of Obama formal insiders.

She needs someone to pay for her BC. It's reported that she is in California for spring break. I'll bet her tab for spring break would pay for a whole year worth of BC.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one here who worked while in college. got up very early in the morning and worked a janitorial crew before classes started. I would get there and take a nap in the back of my van. If my friends saw my van there when they showed up they would check to see if I had gotten up or if I had just turned the clock off and fell back to sleep. Why doesn't she, and the rest, have jobs to pay for what they need?

Now these ladies should be willing to do what ever it takes to get through law school. I'm sorry but the average starting salary for a student is $160,000 a year. If my future relied on getting through school without having children I would do without sex or I would, if I was a female, tell the man you want sex you pay for the BC. Are you telling me that they would risk their entire future for an orgasm? And let's face it, there are ways to have sex that you can't get knocked up.

This is just a distraction started by the White House to get those who will follow the marching orders of the liberal elite, and the de facto leader of the Democratic party Bill Maher, to make sure the president gets a second term.`
Jay Richer - way to completely miss the point. Of course Catholic hospitals have a right not to perform abortions or provide contraception, but that's not what this is about. Do they have a right to force their religion an every single one of their employees, most of whom work in a secular capacity?

The analogy would be a Jehovah's Witness school. Would they have a right to deny healthcare coverage that covers blood transfusion to their employees, including cooks, janitors, etc. who work in a purely secular capacity? Such blood transfusions, mind you, would not be performed in a Jehovah Witness facility.
I Love Life - nice correlation equals causation argument. Did you happen to notice that the pill came around about the same time as abortion was legalized? So of course the legal abortion rate went up. That's not to say the actual abortion rate went up, because illegal abortions were happening all the time. Likewise, divorce rates went up around the same time because of the introduction of no fault laws which allowed people to get out of miserable marriages which weren't necessarily abusive or involved cheating. But I suppose your morals would say that we should all just stay in miserable marriages because that's what God wants? Kind of a funny God you worship there, and I don't mean funny like ha ha.
Catnlion - we're not talking about Catholic individuals, we're talking about the Catholic Church as an institition, which you admit 98% of the members disagree with, yet you seem to think that they should be able to impose their will on the rest of us who aren't even Catholic.

As for Ms. Fluke being a "plant", did you know that Rosa Parks was too? Guess we should throw out the Civil Rights Act, shouldn't we? But you know what, you're probably right that she was a "plant". Because ordinary people just trying to go about their lives in the face of the right-wing assault of the last 30 years don't just randomly wake up one morning and decide to interrupt their busy lives to go testify before Congress. Ms. Fluke saw change that needed to be made and she decided to be that change. Good on her.
Bjorn, I really like your argument. For Catholics to call this "faith-based" is self-deluding. It's RELIGION based. Big diffs between faith and religion.

The Catholic excuse to say "you can't make us do this because it's against our religion", and argue that religion somehow enjoys special privilege in justifying the unjustifiable, is just like the Iranian or Saudi theocrats arguing that Sharia law has to apply because anything else would be contrary to Islam.

And in fact, Jesus himself derided the Pharisees and Sadducees because of their adherence to religious legalism. The Catholic church ought to ask itself: if Jesus came today in the form of a radical revolutionary (which he was in his time), who would be the modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees who accuse him of heresy?
If a talk show host calls a woman who presents a plea to a committee of democratic woman a slut, the radical liberal wing of the former Democratic Party swings into action with a broad based attack on the entire conservative movement growing in the country. That there would be such ranting is in keeping with the Obama Administration and its diversion tactics to keep the outrageous performance of their administration of government on the back burner.

At a time when about 13 million Americans are out of work, millions are losing their homes, and the number of people on food stamps has tripled since Obama has taken office, the "intellectuals" on the left are busily involved in the case of a 31 year old activist woman, a Protestant attending Catholic Georgetown University on scholarship, demanding that she should not have to pay for her recreational sex and the Birth Control pill to protect her social life from an unwanted pregnancy.

The Administration believes it has successfully diverted attention from the issues facing the nation from $5.00 gasoline prices already being seen in parts of the country, from an anemic economy show uncertain gains after the expenditure of trillions of dollars on government programs directed at supporters of the Administration, and loaded with waste, fraud and abuse.

And now, taking the lead from President Obama's vicious attack on the Catholic Church with his unconstitutional demand that the Church back down from its principles and provide insurance coverage for students wanting the pill for their active sex life. As Ms. Flake pointed out in her testimony, and I don't know if she sworn or not, "technically" medical issues by a female student were covered by BC pills if the therapeutic affect of the hormones would be beneficial.

The Church is not against a woman taking the pill if prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. Neither is the religion of Islam, which also prohibits the use of birth control pills, but does not withhold approval of condoms if the "wife" approved. Orthodox Jews also prohibit birth control pills.

However, it is the Catholic Church that has been targeted by the democrats for attack. My guess is you will NEVER see an ariticle on Salon attacking the orthodoxy of the Muslim community, not if you want to keep your head on your shoulders.

And so we have another liberal "hero" write this bigoted attack on the Catholic Church, professing his love for Jesus, but more than that, having the audacity to create a Jesus walking among us today and agreeing with Nancy Pelosi. I don't think so.

Hillary is out now as an attack dog for the Adminstration, giddy with delight at the success of their diversion, comparing the outrage against a Tunisian woman by Islamist extremists to the Bishops of the Catholic Church. The Secretary of State of the United States of America putting the Bishops of the Church in the same league as "extremists."!! She should be impeached.

With respect to the 98% of Catholic woman using birth control I have no idea who made up that number, and it is a made up number. It is true, however, that in the past fifty or sixty years there has been a tremendous, if uncounted, use of birth control in Catholic families.

HOWEVER, the major mistake being made by a self-proclaimed Christian President, and Hillary Clinton a Methodist, is that I have not heard an outcry from Catholic woman against their Church. In fact, what you are seeing at Sunday mass is a "circling of the wagons" around their church. Bigotry is Bigotry, but not if it is aimed at Catholics and their religious beliefs.

There ought to be a law against such bigotry. Hey..there is!
Guess we will have to wait for a Republican President and his Attorney General before we see any litigation.
I find myself distracted from the original articulate and well-reasoned and argued topic by the flood of commentary from more of the stream of blank avatar, empty blog Catholic apologists and irate defenders.

To them I say this: thanks to you and your ilk and this ridiculous birth control drummed up phony "controversy" I have taken my self from a devoutly committed lapsed Catholic to a strongly convinced anti-Catholic. I will not ever be convinced otherwise by any number of multitudes of good and charitable works performed by individual Catholics that the authoritarians ceaselessly tout as justification for the malevolence and malfeasance, though the inevitable sheer irrationality of their arguments always betrays them as merely distractions.

And for that you mindlessly devoted Catholics, remember that scandal is one of the great sins of your church. I refer you to Matthew 18:6 "it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea."

If only.
... justification for the malevolence and malfeasance, of the institutional church
The object behind being anti-contraception and the link that has to other things, such as the increase in divorce and abortion, etc., is to face being too lax across-the-board personally and societally. People haven't lived up to high standards, so there are people going about saying to lower them. However, there are many people in the world still thinking that talking up higher standards just hasn't been done enough and that then, obviously, the last thing we should do or advocate is to continue lowering standards. I Love Life's views above are more in line with this.

Dienne Anum, you need to reevaluate your critique of I Love Life's comments. The comments were clearly couched as a hypothetical in your scientific and statistical terms. As you know, correlation can coincide with causation. More to the point, when one is speaking about the social sciences, the question of root cause rightly should never be absent. In this case, it's the lowering of standards in general. It is also important to remember that there is contribution and that no one subcategory need be the sole cause. Contraception has contributed to greater laxness, which has impacted negatively in many areas of existence on this planet.

Also, to those who may think otherwise, the moral failings of certain members of the Roman Catholic Church is irrelevant to these facts.

Pull you head out of where you have it buried and get with the program. There is nobody working for one of the Catholic hospitals that has ever lost or was denied a job because they took the pill or used some other form of BC. If 98% agree and use BC I would guess Catholic operations are having trouble finding employees.

Show me one. You can't, can you. If there was one the liberal media would have her on all the talking head shows. You know why that is? It's because you are lying about this being an issue of access. It is not. It's an issue of payment and the government getting involved where it shouldn't be so the president can have an issue to distract you from all the real stuff that is going on. You are taking it hook, line and sinker.

"Because ordinary people just trying to go about their lives in the face of the right-wing assault of the last 30 years don't just randomly wake up one morning and decide to interrupt their busy lives to go testify before Congress"

Know why that is? Because "ordinary people" can't get near Congress to testify. Go ahead. Call and tell them you want to testify about anything. See how quick you get blown off and the cold shoulder. This chick isn't a plant. She knew exactly what she was doing in picking a school that didn't cover BC. She is also no Rosa Parks. Ms. Parks had just had enough and did something. This "lady" planned and figured and what she did was calculated to cause problems. She is just a trouble maker she doesn't come near Ms. Parks.
Excellent post. I applaud you.

Even when I was a practicing Catholic, I used the pill. I blatantly ignored the rules.

The only constant in life is change and it's time the Church makes some serious changes. I mean, let's get real. Jesus isn't Catholic. Jesus would be in the trenches, healing, easing suffering and dispensing the pill.

"Even when I was a practicing Catholic, I used the pill. I blatantly ignored the rules."

That is a classic.

Mr. Usher-a wonderful defense of I Love Life -and an excellent point regarding the negatives that contraception has brought to society without dismissing the positives.
I do not agree with all Church Doctrine but, the sanctity of Life is really not an area I see much negotiation taking place. The Church is a rudder for many and as flawed I am, I appreciate the guidance even when I wish to ignore it.
Thank you, Mr. Beer, for stating an argument I have been making for years so elegantly. The Church's sinful contraceptive policy is the reason I can no longer associate myself with it. Maybe the next Pope will step out of the thirteenth century, but I'm not holding my breath.
This post IS civility. You have spoken much truth here, truth as in the old saying: Those who imagine God is on their side should strive instead to be on the side of God.

While I'm not nearly so civil as you, I raised some points on this matter that are in desperate need of airing if this experiment in self-government is to continue much longer:

The Bogeyman
Excelllent points! The Catholic Church says it will save the life of a mother, but that is just words. Ask the nun who was excommunicated last year in CA for allowing an abortion on a woman, because if she hadn't the woman would have bled to death. The Church would have allowed it, but they wanted to make the decision-when there was no time. I was denied a tubal ligation at a Catholic Hospital when 5 phyisicans plainly told my husband and I that any more pregnancies would leave him without a wife and our children without a mother. (I have a rare clotting disorder) I was having a c-section, but the hospital would not even allow a discussion of it. In other words, not even conceived children ranked higher to them than a living, breathing wife, mother, and WOMAN. So how I am not to feel like a walking uterus to the Catholic Church? And Birth Control Pills are used by 40% of women for non-contraceptive purposes, so it is medicine-just like blood pressure and cholesterol meds, so it should be covered. And if Viagra is covered then contraceptive usage should be covered also. The Bishops are divided on this also, because they are grasping at the last of their 'power' straws. They cry it is about religion, but a reasonable solution was presented. Cardinal Timothy Dolan knows it and he is just grandstanding and trying to flex his miter!
I'm still trying to figure out why, if the Catholic church believes life begins at fertilization, it waits so long to baptize those "persons."
To think of all the good he could have achieved by endorsing the use of condoms in Africa. I fear the Pope will leave this legacy of mishandled opportunities for another to fix. Who will step up?

The Catholic Church stopped asking what Christ would do ages ago.

Rated and thoroughly enjoyed, thank you.
Thank you, I have done a lot of studying in social policy history and case studies. You are spot on. When Margaret Sanger first starting working towards providing birthcontrol in America, she had just returned from Socialized European cities. In France and Sweden families with more than 2-3 children were not allowed to live in the city. Many were forced to live in slums for simply having an unplanned child. In our society now it is not really much different as families cannot afford to live in cities with many children. Or that single mothers and children make up the highest population in poverty stricken and high crime areas.
Bjorn, I agree with much of your position here. The official house rule is that the church feels that we must embrace each and every and, as I remember, they were not at Sotheby's auctioning off even a token of their wide collection of art work to feed the masses. So, no matter what the company line, there are objective limits to its far reaching ability to give alms, feed, clothe and care for the extremely poor. They have turned their heads at women who chose to have a life that is truly free. It is not seen anywhere else that they seem to hold women in such poor esteem. Just recently, they have allowed girls to serve at services. Let's face it, they are not only out of touch, they do not have the ability to turn around, seek another direction -- much the way an aircraft carrier must take about a half an hour to turn around at cruising speed, they are too awkward to respond to many concerns of modern women.
I share your sense of what Jesus would be like, were He here to wade through these cultural wars. We often forget that He was truly a revolutionist to many, at least in a historical sense; the acts of being true were in conflict with the government and the perception that He was in conflict with the faith in which He was raised and brought into; they would sell Him out as one unlike themselves. Yeah, He would be right there advocating for our Blacks, Hispanics, gays and of course, our women -- who have given more and remain challenged at almost every turn. Is this the church that He envisioned? I have a hard time with this. Where are we anyway?
Here's the problem, I believe: I agree with Jon Stewart, who made the comment that some Christian sects don't want freedom of religion. They want special treatment of their religion. Period. So, they've come to believe that freedom of religion means things like prayer in school and letting companies opt out of paying for birth control, which is a completely legal medication.

This viewpoint is insanely shortsighted and stupid. Freedom of religion means ALL religions. This means that all companies must abide by the legalities of the federal government. Religious practices are personal. Companies, despite the bone-headed, greed-oriented ruling of personhood, are not personal in that regard. They must abide by federal law. If a person who is Catholic decides not to take birth control, that is their decision. That's freedom of religion at work. However, preventing others from being covered by a federally mandated health plan for birth control, that is not about freedom of religion.

It's about living in a secular country with freedom of religion but wanting to make others practice your religion only.

It's so clear and obvious. But, since it's about sex and women (oh noes!), it's been muddied with this nonsense about freedom of religion. Businesses backed by the Catholic church are not churches. They employ both Catholics and non-Catholics. They should respect that situation. Or, they should get out of the business of being in business. It really is that simple.

As for creating a state religion, or pretending "but we're all Christian!" ... no, we are not all Christian. And I will again ask the question I always ask, the one always met with the sound of cowardly crickets. Let's pretend you got your way and we became a theocracy. Just which Christianity would we be practicing? Would it be Catholicism? Protestantism? Let's not pretend those two sects get along. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, after all. If it's Protestantism, which one? Baptists? Evangelicals? Methodists? Church of Christ? Church of God? I can't remember them all! And they all have completely different belief systems. These situations are notorious for people killing each other, insisting one group follow the other. We have to maintain freedom of religion. So that everyone can practice his or her religion.

Part of freedom of religion is paying for federal programs with which we do not agree. How do you think the Quakers feel about paying for war? They probably don't like it. How do you think atheists feel about churches paying no taxes? But, we do that, at least in part, to keep church and state separate. And so on.

I would love to get my tax money (and by the way, nothing from your taxes will be going to this situation) back from all the wars. I would love to get my tax money back from a lot of things I do not support and in which I do not believe. But, I am a citizen of the United States, and living with and cooperating with others is part of that citizenship.

I know none of this will convince you. You want to believe you're right. But, I have to tell you, if you help to bring on a theocracy, be aware that, no matter how devout you imagine yourselves, you'll never be safe, even if you're the one leading others to the gas chambers.

If you really want freedom of religion, you'd work on being a better citizen, and stop trying to force your religious beliefs on others. And let me be clear. If you try to force women to live in with some sort of American Evangelical law, where women wear a costume to cover their bodies, stay at home and bear children only, you better be prepared for the fight of your life.
Sensible, compassionate piece. Thank you. R.
This to catnlion: What is so surprising about a 30 year old law student? Most urban law schools have an evening division for students who have full time jobs; law school then takes 4 years instead of 3. In addition, since there are no prerequisites for law school, many college grads try some other career before settling on the law. Finally, few people can afford law school after already laying out big bucks for four years of college, so they wait for a while.
Nice article. My mother, a staunch Catholic, told me that Jesus and his mother, Mary understand human suffering because they came here as human beings. So, I agree with what you wrote.
The willingness to dismiss a faith's rights because you disagree with them is disturbing, wait until they come for something you hold dear.

"To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
Thomas Jefferson
All: I thank all of you for your feedback, thoughts, and insights. I was inspired to make a new article on the contraception debate with some material which I regretfully removed from my first article. I hope you enjoy reading it:
opps, the link got cut:

A lot of great stuff said in the comments section. The last comment stuck with me. Jay Richer quotes Thomas Jefferson: "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

I believe TJ was speaking about tax dollars going to religious institutions. TJ also said: "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

Keep in mind that TJ is the guy who said he swore "eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man."

TJ also re-wrote the first four books of the New Testament. He removed all of the hocus pocus, miracles, etc, and tried to distill the thing that Jesus was pointing to. Most of us, just stare at that finger.

Best regards,

I agree TJ would not want tax money going to any institution but, to single out religous while supporting BC being covered by that which he feared the most 'government' is a disingenuous and yes his work on the four gospels was an effort to find "Diamonds in the dung hill".

That effort was give to evey congress until recently.
All, thanks again for your feedback and comments.

What do you do when a prominent right wing talk show host attacks you about your views on contraceptive access in the developing world? This is what I did when Laura Ingraham attacked me: Enjoy my new article “The Ire of Ingraham.”
Author's Correction:

Much ink has been spilled about the 98% statistic. To clarify, the study was of sexually active women in a certain age range. (see link below, which calls 98% into question as well). When this 98% statistic is used, it's obvious we're not comparing Catholic senior citizens to Protestant senior citizens or atheists senior citizens. The study was of 15-45 year old women and clearly shows that their sexual practices regarding birth control are indistinguishable from the general public. In other words, the independent variable of "Catholic" has no effect on the dependent variable "birth control use."

Trying to keep my article in the 800 word range, I can't explain each statistic. But clearly the statistic is about women of childbearing age. Post-menapausal and Pre-menarchal women would obviously not be included in a study about birth control.

However, even after this technical clarification, the point stands: in this country, catholic women of childbearing age use birth control like any other woman in this county. In other countries, they aren't so lucky.

Here's a candid review of that stat:

Further, in my haste I said CDC was the source. It is actually the Guttmacher Institute: This study shows the following:

"Among all women who have had sex, 99% have
ever used a contraceptive method other than natural
family planning. This figure is virtually the same,
98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women."


"Only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family
planning; even among Catholic women who attend
church once a month or more, only 2% rely on this
method (not shown). Sixty-eight percent of Catholic
women use highly effective methods: sterilization
(32%, including 24% using female sterilization,) the
pill or another hormonal method (31%) and the IUD
(5%). "

My point remains the same (or is perhaps strengthened with the statistic that only 2% of Catholic women use NFP).