“The Issue”

One of the strangest developments of this year’s presidential primary campaign in the Republican Party has been the repeated and public use of the word “contraception”. Major political candidates for the highest public office are being asked in the secular media their “stand on contraception”.  This does not betoken a renewed interest in what has been ( to be frank) a rather silent moral issue in our society but by the recent and ongoing controversy between the Obama Administration’s HHS “mandates” that contraception be included in the package of “health care benefits” that must be offered by Catholic institutions and employers and the response of the United States Conference headed by Cardinal Dolan. A few weeks ago all the priests in our Diocese were mandated by our Bishop ( unlike the aforementioned “mandate” this is a legitimate one) to read his statement on the issue. The Administration offered a “compromise” still problematic from the standpoint of Catholic moral theology.

The proponents of the Administration’s mandate immediately made it an issue of “contraception” not religious freedom of conscience. Here they feel they are on safe ground. For in todays’ world, what could be more acceptable than contraception? To say that contraception, extra-marital sex, and homosexual sexual practices are immoral is prima facie evidence that one is “extreme.” In fact these were mainstream views only a few decades ago.The “contraceptionists” make the point that nearly all Catholic women are said to use contraception, so what’s the big deal?

The proponents of the Bishops’ reaction point to the religious freedom issue that is at the heart iof American constitutional liberties not the narrower issue of contraception.

I think no realistic person can doubt that the traditional Catholic teaching on the inherent wrongness of artificial contraception most famously reiterated by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae is de facto a dead issue for  most Catholics, clergy and lay. An attitude exists that “it’s on the books..but…”

However, strangely enough, a defense of the Church’s teaching on contraception came from a secular journal, The Business Insider, in its Feb. 8th edition by the columnists 

“By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.

Instead of two parents being responsible for the children they conceive, an expectation that was held up by social norms and by the law, we now take it for granted that neither parent is necessarily responsible for their children. Men are now considered to be fulfilling their duties merely by paying court-ordered child-support. That’s a pretty dramatic lowering of standards for “fatherhood.” “

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