What the Catholic Church Condemns

February 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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You have heard a great deal lately about the Catholic Church’s adamant opposition to the mandated provision of free contraceptives by Catholic universities, hospitals, and even business owners under the federal Affordable Care Act. As I am writing, Brian Lehrer is discussing on WNYC the similarities and differences between New York state’s mandated contraceptive coverage and the Obama administration’s mandate. It’s been hard lately to turn on the radio and not encounter a discussion of this issue.

While all this is happening, I go on reading. Just now I’m a third of the way through James M. O’Toole’s The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America (Harvard 2008). O’Toole is discussing the ways in which the popes, in the first half of the 19th century, became “increasingly more enthusiastic in their denunciations of the ‘rejected innovations’ of modern life.” Among these, Pope Gregory XVI condemned railroads, calling them not “roads of iron,” but “roads to hell.” He also condemned freedom of conscience and of the press. (89)

Some will point out that none of this was infallible teaching; neither, as I have explained, is Catholic sexual teaching. The United Nations has stated that the global population will reach 10 billion by 2100. Since we lack the will to feed our current population of nearly 7 billion, assuming that we’re going to feed 3 billion more seems, to use a popular Catholic term, imprudent. Let me be clear here: I also believe that we in the US must radically change our life styles, consume less, reduce our CO2 emissions, live simply so that others may simply live.

At the same time, eventually, my church’s opposition to contraceptives is going to seem as inconceivable (no pun intended) as Gregory XVI’s condemnation of railroads. If only the Vatican and the hierarchy would grasp this before its stance causes more harm than it already has.

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