Devon, PA.  Cursed with a lousy city newspaper rife with good coupons, I sat down with my coffee this morning to read Karen Heller’s latest column, “What?  Birth Control?  Again?”  You can read it here.  What follows is a note I sent her that I thought merited reprinting in this venue.  For, while the attack on religious freedom manifest in the HHS mandate is patent and worthy of vigorous resistance, it may serve as a blessing insofar as it prompts Christians and others concerned with living in docility and joy within the natural order to consider more seriously what it is we have wrought in an age of biological and cultural sterility and technocratic absolutism.

Dear Mrs. Heller,

I am sure you have received many emails and letters in response to your misleading, crude, and thoughtless column in the Inquirer this morning; and so, I thought I might as well add my voice to the chorus and make a few answers to your rhetoric.

You point out that most “people employed, attending, or using church-affiliated institutions don’t have objections to contraception,” and then cite a Catholic politician whose position is both a violation of Church teaching and a compound of silliness.

Where to begin? What does it mean to “use” a “church-affiliated institution”? The mission of the Catholic Church is to proclaim the revealed truth of Christ. It does not make itself available for our use, like a therapist’s couch, but proposes truths to be followed if we would live well in this world and by happy in the next. It offers a truth we may serve, not one intended to be “used” by us at our convenience. The truth can be difficult to follow, and so, if many Catholics do not object to contraception, then that is merely a sign that the gospel needs to be proclaimed with greater force and phrased in a language that can penetrate the typical consumerist solipsism of our age.

The representative you cite, Rosa DeLauro, claims to be a “committed Catholic,” but it is unclear what that phrase means. Does not commitment in such a context mean fidelity to the truths Catholicism teaches? Or does commitment in her sense of the term mean just that she attends Mass on those Sundays when the weather is agreeable? Her claims justifying contraception coverage are patently bogus. It is not “gender discrimination” for medical insurance not to cover contraception while it covers treatment for, say, cancer. What distinguishes a drug to repress a woman’s fertility from a drug that kills cancer cells is that one frustrates a process that is a natural and normal development in every person’s life, while the other frustrates a process that is specifically unnatural, i.e. the perversion of normal cell growth from its proper course. It is the object of treatment, not the patient treated, that would evidently determine the differentiation in coverage here. So, it is condition discrimination, not gender discrimination.

Further, consequences of contraception are sufficiently documented to indicate that women’s health is not improved by its use. Granted, if by “women’s health” one means simply keeping women’s wombs free of babies so that they may not be distracted by the gifts of their own nature, then contraception would seem, at least in principle, to benefit women’s health. But if one means the actual prevention of disease, blood clots, hormonal imbalances that hurt mental health; if one means a healthy body and a healthy environment (i.e. the hormones in birth control pills have been found to pass through women’s urine and contaminate ground water, which in turn adversely affects marine wildlife); then most contraception clearly works contrary to women’s health rather than for it.

How sad it would be if “98 percent of Catholic women, have used some form of contraception banned by the Vatican.” I would contest the figure, but let’s grant it for the moment. I bet you that 100 percent of all Catholics have said an unkind word to their mothers; I bet you every Catholic has had an ill or lustful thought. Is ubiquity the sole criterion of morality? The Church does not have to teach us what lousy things human beings do — we know them all too well already and, at our best, confess them to the Church. But, the Church partly fulfilles its responsibility when it teaches us, again, what we must do if we would live well. And the obvious truth in regard to our sexuality is that it is an act proper to and fulfilling of marriage; that it is naturally fruitful, and that one function of marriage is to provide the natural context for that fruitfulness. To separate sexuality from marriage and from an openness to children is to violate the proper end of the act, degrading it along with the man and woman in the process.

Incidentally, what do you mean by saying “the Vatican” instead of “the Church”? If the Pope spoke qua Vatican, he would merely be speaking as Bishop of Rome. But it is the whole Church that preaches the evils of contraception and abortion.

After the sneers at Catholic teaching, you turn to conservatives, issuing a series of claims: “Birth control is smart business and cost-effective, a powerful weapon in combating poverty, lowering health costs, reducing abortions, allowing couples to have children when they’re ready, while enriching the economy with more working women.” That’s quite a litany; or rather a concatenation of incoherent phrases, false claims, and unattractive proposals.

Birth control is “cost-effective” compared to what? Seriously . . . I’ll leave you to puzzle that one out.

Birth control “combats poverty”? We can clearly see in the abstract that one’s having more children than one can provide for would by definition result in impoverishment. There’s no logical fallacy here, just a factual one. For, it is not the case that countries with lower birth rates are more prosperous in virtue of that fact. Rather, poorer countries with expanding populations are, thanks to that expansion, better equipped to rise out of poverty for the reason that you speciously gesture toward at the end of the quotation above: a growing population makes for an ample “work force” and is absolutely essential for the kinds of social welfare programs that (I imagine, based on reading your past columns) you support. Shrinking populations render such programs explosive long term costs.

Birth control “lowers” health costs? In what sense? Once again, compared to what? As I shall indicate immediately below, the effects of birth control use on sexual behavior are demonstrably costly — and not just in monetary, but in moral and spiritual, terms.

Birth control does not “reduce abortions.” That is a patently false claim and you know it. The rise in contraception use has been accompanied by an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, an increase in divorce, and an increase in abortion rates. The rates of disease transmission have become epidemic through the wide-spread use of contraception. In Africa, the “gospel” of condoms has exacerbated the spread of AIDS, while the teaching of abstinence has, where practiced, brought that epidemic swiftly under control.

What you call “smart business,” most people would call the attempt to control by chemical and other technocratic means what should be governed by the well formed moral consciences of husbands and wives. On that note, I turn to one last point. You speak of the Catholic Church’s approval of “one form of birth control, the rhythm method, which is contraception for stupid people.” As a young man, brought up while the baby boom generation still preached its gospel of libertinism, I find your “baby-boomer” slang here hideous. The “rhythm method”? That is just the tart epithet of an ignorant hedonist . . . but it is not your language to which I primarily object.

It is true that natural family planning is sometimes articulated as “birth control” the Church can live with — and not only by its opponents, but by some of its advocates as well. This is misleading. Natural family planning is hardly a natural equivalent to contraception: it will not reduce fertility the way that contraception can, nor is it intended to do so. The intention of those many couples who practice natural family planning is not to suppress fertility, but to make use of their reason in the spacing and conception of children while always remaining open to the gift of new life. It entails a commitment on the part of husband and wife that, while hardly onerous, is real. Like the commitment of a farmer to his land, or a craftsman to the work of his hands, natural family planning tends to become a way of life, or at least a significant force in shaping the lives of those who practice it: constraining their freedom to do as they like, when they like, but giving additional shape and depth of meaning to their lives. Like every substantively good thing, natural family planning gives form to freedom. You should listen to the testimony of the couples who practice it some day, and hear if what they say sounds “stupid” to you. I suspect it will sound much more like the joyful testimony of couples whose marriages have been strengthened by a shared sense of commitment and deepened by an alertness to the workings of their bodies that stands in powerful contrast to the well-documented numbing of desire and fertility brought about by contraceptive chemicals.

I wish I could credit you at least with the consistency of a position. Your prose style makes pretentions of giving voice to “no-nonsense” pragmatic liberalism, as if the test of every moral and political question were a government-generated statistic. But, aside from the objectionable nature of such a utilitarian approach to ethical life, I would point out that (as indicated above) you do not even rely upon accurate measurements in support of your claims. Contraception is bound up with the off-the-charts epidemics of disease, abortion, and divorce that are the nightmare of our age. The solutions offered by your “practical wisdom” would make these things, and perhaps many others, worse.

Sincerely Yours,

James Matthew Wilson

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James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. An award-winning scholar of philosophical-theology and literature, he has authored dozens of essays, articles, and reviews on subjects ranging from art, ethics, and politics, to meter and poetic form, from the importance of local culture to the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty. Wilson is also a poet and critic of contemporary poetry, whose work appears regularly in such magazines and journals as First Things, Modern Age, The New Criterion, Dappled Things, Measure, The Weekly Standard, Front Porch Republic, The Raintown Review, and The American Conservative. He has published five books, including most recently, a collection of poems, Some Permanent Things and a monograph, The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry (both Wiseblood Books, 2014). Raised in the Great Lakes State, baptised in the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, seasoned by summers on Lake Wawasee (Indiana), and educated under the Golden Dome, Wilson is scion of a family of Hoosiers dating back to the early nineteenth century, and an offspring of Southside Chicago Poles whose tavern kept the city wet through the Depression (and prohibition) years.  He now lives under the same sentence of reluctant exile as many another native son of the Midwest, but has dug himself in for good on the margins of the Main Line in Pennsylvania with his beautiful wife, dangerous daughter, and saintly sons. For information on Wilson's scholarship and a selection of his published work, click here. See books written and recommended by James Matthew Wilson.


  1. Well done!

    Anyone who has read Humanae Vitae will recognize many of the arguments you present here. It’s a shame that so many of the people who ridicule the Catholic position have never bothered to read that encyclical, let alone try to come up with a reasoned response to it. So we’re stuck making the same points, over and over again, patiently hoping despite all evidence to the contrary that perhaps this time they will sink in…

  2. I would like to see a citation for: “In Africa, the ‘gospel’ of condoms has exacerbated the spread of AIDS, while the teaching of abstinence has, where practiced, brought that epidemic swiftly under control.”

    Not because my first reaction is “What? That sounds made-up.” But because I know many people who will have that reaction if I bring it up.

  3. What business does an organization whose mission is to “proclaim the revealed truth of Christ” have in offering a portal to the secular casino of health insurance? What sort of faith tempts one to gamble that that one will get more in “health care” than one pays in premiums? If churches want to gamble that way, they should self-insure the “real” Catholics who don’t require contraceptives and let the heathens wallow in their false morality.

  4. Artie,

    That is precisely what the new “accomadation” from the Obama Admin seems to prohibit. Many Catholic groups do self-insure, but the admin. is poised to require all insurers to provde contraceptives and sterilizatoins free of charge.

    -Bob F.

  5. Thank you for breaking the silence here at the Porch on this most monumental issue. It was beginning to become rather embarrassing that no one here had an opinion.

  6. I would like to see evidence to support the following contentions made at various points in the latter half of the article:

    1) That a large or growing population increases the likelihood of a country emerging from poverty.

    I can think of no examples in which this contention is true. Some may point to China and India, but I don’t find these to be convincing examples. While it’s true that these countries have had some success in decreasing the number of people living in poverty. This success has been limited in scope, and has come at huge costs to the environment and long-term stability of both nations.

    On the other hand, I can think of several countries in South and Central America (namely Brazil, and to some extent Mexico) where economic growth and rising prosperity has coincided with the stabilization and/or decline of birth rates.

    2) Evidence that abstinence only education has led to a meaningful reduction in the spread of HIV/Aids in any African nation.

    3) The widespread availability of contraceptives has led to an increase in the number of abortions in any country.

    I should add that my intent here is not to play the now tiresome game of “got you,” but rather to point out that the author purports to address what he calls the false claims of the original piece by offering what I suspect are false or exaggerated claims of his own.

  7. 1) Countries with declining birthrates and substantial welfare programs depend on high rates of immigration to sustain their programs. The U.S. is a good example of this dependency in practice, though it is not working on account of the nature of the immigrants rather than the number of them: .

    If Bill Clinton is to be believed (and we all recognize that that is quite a tenuous premise), then a large population is an engine of growth:

    2) Edward Greene is the chief exponent of abstinence education in Africa as a means of AIDS prevention. In some of his work, he indicates what you call an “abstinence only” approach, in others merely an abstinence “mostly.” If I recall correctly, this article and his other more recent work advocates the former:

    3) I find Mary Eberstadt not always to be the best advocate for this last position, but I’ll cite her here, since I recall this essay of nearly four years ago as making the case with force:

    Note, however, that you reduce my general claim about the rise of contraception use with these various malignancies to one of a direct causal link of contraception and abortion. Though I did not make that specific claim, there is abundant evidence for it:

    I agree that the providing of these and other sources would naturally strengthen the force of the letter’s claims, and so offer them now. However, the letter really was a letter; not every form of communication can be equipped with smart links.

  8. Mr Wilson,

    Thank you for the above links.

    I honestly don’t think the Unz article supports your contention. In fact, I think Unz is arguing against the idea that a growing population, in and of itself, leads to economic growth and a diminished poverty rate. For instance, he points out that Mexico’s growing affluence has come as population growth has stabilized and fell to replacement levels. And isn’t the overall point of the article that we should reduce population growth by curtailing immigration via an increase in the minimum wage.

    As to President Clinton’s remark, what was he supposed to say: You need to get rid of half these people?

    I have read much of Professor Green’s work, and have learned much from it. However, I think even he would acknowledge that part of the success in Uganda came because the government there began openly discussing the HIV/Aids issue far earlier than in other countries. Additionally, much of the early success in Uganda was via a condom promotion program targeted at high risk individuals (e.g. prostitutes, soldiers, and people who frequented major trading centers).

    Finally, I apologize for focusing on the issue of abortion. I will study the link you provided in more detail when I have the time.

    Again, thank you for your response.

  9. Okay, so two points. Only one of which is a joke.

    First, most people who work for Catholic Churches and institutions are Catholic already, aren’t they? If so, it follows that most people won’t be needing their churches to pay for birth control in the first place, yes?

    Second, about the ‘rhythm method’ (RM). You cite two lines of reasoning in support of it: (1) the intention of the RM-couple differs from the intention of the modern contraception (MC) couple; (2) the testimony of RM-couples is overwhelmingly positive.

    So, (2) is easily dismissed as irrelevant to the legal question (though, I note that you weren’t making it with respect to the legal question, but in response to the ‘contraception for stupid people’ comment). For one, the government isn’t here to legislate between which activities will and will not lead to flourishing, in no small part because what’s necessary and proper for your flourishing may not be for mine. For another, there might be testimony of MC-users that’s equally positive.

    As to (1), though, I don’t think it’s obvious or even documented that the intentions of RM-couples differ from those of MC-couples. After all, how is ‘the use of reason’ in deciding about fertility inconsistent with the use of modern contraception? Especially given that conventional forms of modern contraception (I’m talking about the pill or condoms here; let’s leave what you rightly note in that link are abortifacients to the side) have error rates, couples can use MC with reason and still be ‘open to the joys of pregnancy.’ Thus, because MC-couples and RM-couples can have identical intentions, it isn’t clear to me how modern contraception isn’t simply a more effective version of the rhythm method.

    Unless, of course, there’s more to it than intentions.

  10. “First, most people who work for Catholic Churches and institutions are Catholic already, aren’t they? If so, it follows that most people won’t be needing their churches to pay for birth control in the first place, yes?”

    This is the irony of it – one would think that a ‘committed’ or ‘true’ Catholic wouldn’t have the nerve to ask their ‘provider’ for contraceptives or abortifacients. Yet polls reveal a large majority of Catholics – just like the rest of the American public – are just fine with these things, despite the ‘revealed truth of Christ,’ dogma, orthodoxy, etc. While these statistics don’t make the destruction of an embryonic human any more acceptable, they do show how shallow and chauvinistic the leaders of the church have become,when their followers can profess membership in the club while disregarding its teaching. Secular employers who provide health insurance to their employees make loyalty and honesty a condition of employment. It seems only natural that churches and religious organizations should do the same. If churches self-insured the true believers, they’d never need to pay a dime for contraceptives or abortifacients.

  11. “First, most people who work for Catholic Churches and institutions are Catholic already, aren’t they?”

    Not necessarily a good assumption there, Artie. There are Catholic hospitals all over this country that employ large numbers of non-Catholics. Probably a lot of other Catholic-run organizations in the same boat, but I don’t have any hard numbers on it.

  12. That was Arron’s rhetorical question – most people working for Catholic institutions are Catholic, aren’t they? And the implied answer is no, only some of the people working are Catholic. And the point is that non-Catholics want health insurance too, and some of them want their health insurance to cover contraceptives and abortifacients. If a non-Catholic working for a Catholic institution spends her own money for contraception, it is her wages from the Church that purchases the contraceptive, just as it inevitably will be when the insurance company ups its co-pays to cover for “free” contraceptives. The Catholic institutions don’t seem to mind if their employees – believer or not – use contraceptives and abortion, they just don’t want to think that they paid for it.

  13. Aaron,

    “couples can use MC with reason and still be ‘open to the joys of pregnancy.’ Thus, because MC-couples and RM-couples can have identical intentions, it isn’t clear to me how modern contraception isn’t simply a more effective version of the rhythm method.”

    You seem to be implying couples who use MC can have the same intentions. How do you come to such a conclusion? It’s true that both have a failure rate, however I fail to see how this correlates to “identical intentions” among users of MC and RM.

    “Couples who use RM are making a mutual choice to use selective intercourse as opposed to women who use MC resulting in spontaneous intercourse. Spontaneous intercourse involves the submission to emotional impulses while selective intercourse submits itself to choices evaluated and implemented through the incorporation of the intellect, the will and the values that the couple shares. The sharing that is involved in the implementation of any natural system, including the Creighton Model is also different from contraceptive approaches. These systems do not work unless the couple cooperates with each other. Technological systems are built upon the notion that such cooperation does not or may not exist. In this latter approach, the a priori premise precludes the development of cooperation in this important aspect of the married couple’s life. The preclusion can lead to stress, tension, resentment and, eventually, destruction of the relationship.” It’s clear that MC leads to most women at some point in time being used as sexual objects to satisfy the man’s carnal desire and vice versa.


    MC is not and I repeat not more effective than the RM. I think a distinction is needed here, the term for RM that I am referring to The Creighton Model and NaPro Technology. See source above for effectiveness.

    My wife and I use the Creighton Model and the end result has been profound. In fact I fail to see how MC brings a couple closer together when the goal is to frustrate and separate the life giving aspect from the love giving aspect. Our Lord is a model for us, and he did not separate the two, he poured out both Love and Life unconditionally, and we are called to be imitators of Christ.

  14. David,

    In the original post, Wilson wrote that the two relevant features of the intentions of RM users that distinguish them from MC users are that RM users are open to the possibility of life and that RM users seek to use reason with respect to the possibility of fertility. Therefore, if the intentions of MC users could be found to have those two features, it would not be clear just how the intentions of MC users relevantly differed from those who use RM. That was my point.

    As for ‘open to the possibility of life’, I don’t see how MC precludes openness to life. Couldn’t you use MC and still take joy in any pregnancy that resulted? Or does ‘openness to life’ have some especially Catholic connotation that I’m just not familiar with?

    What about ‘using reason’ regarding fertility decisions? I don’t know what else to say except that this seems to be to be obviously what people using MC are doing. It’s not clear to me at all how this is different from what RM users are doing.

    The remaining point regards the virtues of RM, that it deepens a relationship, etc. The source you cite claims that, “Spontaneous intercourse involves the submission to emotional impulses….” This strikes me as dubious, or at least irrelevant to the question of legality. For one, you can use MC without having spontaneous intercourse. Just imagine a RM couple that also uses condoms. For another, just because you have spontaneous intercourse it does not follow that your relationship is shallow or less meaningful. I concede that this is likely a sociological matter, and so perhaps there is a survey or study that can settle the question more definitively. And even if it were true that spontaneous intercourse entailed shallow relationships, it is hardly the government’s responsibility to ensure that people do not engage in shallow relationships. See: Facebook. Finally, just because you practice RM, it does not follow that your relationship will be any less shallow than those of MC users. All that’s entailed by RM is a cooling off period between bouts of spontaneous intercourse – hardly a sufficient condition for depth in a relationship.

    I think that the most difficult point in this debate regards the purported virtue of a deepened relationship that results from RM. What is the nature of that deepened relationship? Does it result from practicing restraint with respect to when a couple has intercourse? This seems to be what RM advocates want to claim, and yet there is an enormous problem with the reasoning. As I understand it, one falls out of full communion with the Church by engaging in MC and remains in full communion by engaging in RM. Therefore, there must be something about MC that is distinct from RM in such a way that the use of MC fully precludes the possibility of flourishing in the way that the Church has argued is fit for all humans. But if that’s true, then what distinguishes MC from RM cannot be the deepened relationship that results from RM, if only because it is possible to engage in intercourse during the RM-prescribed times and still use MC during those times. Under such a schema, you secure the virtues guaranteed by using restraint in intercourse, but you would continue to utilize MC. This reveals that the use of MC does not preclude the sort of human flourishing that the Catholic Church champions by advocating RM, and thus that the deepened relationship cannot be the Church’s justification for advocating the use of RM and excommunicating the use of MC.

    This last point, I think, is one in this debate that demands a response from rhythm method advocates.

  15. Aaron,

    Thanks for your response. I will deal with your last point first but I would like to deal with the other posts as soon as I have time.

    The “nature of the deepened relationship” has nothing to do with restraint within the marital act. However I think we can agree that it helps cultivate the virtue of temperance. Would you be willing to make the same claim for MC users? The reason MC “falls out of favor” with The Church is, because it is in direct violation with the revealed Truth of Our Lord.

    For the unbeliever I realize this argument would not hold water. However we can appeal to reason and science to demonstrate why contraception is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. In fact all of Christianity knew this was revealed Truth for 1930 years, then the majority of protestants caved to the God of Relativism. This is an aside, how can Truth change? Back to reason and science. Here is the short and not so sweet list of MC:
    1. Stop the egg from ovulating
    2. Stop the sperm from getting to the egg
    3. Stop implantation of a pregnancy, thereby causing the body to abort the pregnancy, in case the first two don’t work.

    Here it is right off the label:
    “Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervicalmucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (whichreduce the likelihood of implantation).”
    Does it sound the same? No thats why we miss it, upon closer examination see link below.

    In the “RM” method or Creighton Model as I have referred to the couple are always mutually open to life. MC clearly, scientifically, and chemically removes this possibility. The very definition of contraception literally means you are against conception.

    The Church is crystal clear on the moral superiority of NFP when it is used in accordance with the mind of The Church. Would you agree that it’s a blessing to have a deeper, informed, awareness of how a woman’s body works in relation to sexuality? After all isn’t this one of the feminist many rallying cries? Self knowledge is both empowering and fascinating, drawing individuals into a deeper understanding of both themselves and others. This often creates deeper respect and a better ability to make healthy decisions for the future… And we all know how feminist want to be full of self knowledge and empowerment. The sad truth is the feminist are slaves to their body’s and can only be free when they submit to The Truth. And when I speak of freedom I mean true freedom not license.

    “RM is a shared responsibility between man and woman. Unlike contraceptives, the use of the Creighton Model facilitates a shared by both the man and the woman. Couples learn to understand and manage their combined fertility.

    Sharing responsibility creates a deeper level of care and respect, strengthening the couple’s relationship and deepening the quality of the relationship.

    Because the Creighton Model uses the body’s natural in-built capacity to regulate cyclical fertility, there are no harmful side effects from any synthetic hormones, devices or barriers which work by suppressing, impairing or withholding natural fertility. Normal fertility functioning is permitted to occur in the way it was designed to. This is important for couples who hope to achieve pregnancy in the future. Good ongoing communication is the KEY to any healthy relationship. It is the foundational building block for a solid and lasting relationship.

    Because the Creighton Model ideally involves both the man and woman, the system focuses on the couple together, working to strengthen their relationship and encouraging the sharing of the process. Education to enable this ‘couple-focussed’ approach is a holistic part of the education process. Men are encouraged to be actively involved where possible.

    Any system that encourages couples to work together, naturally results in a more profound ability to communicate. This does wonders to deepen the level of emotional and physical intimacy between couples.

    Many couples report how using the Creighton Model has helped them to appreciate one another in a new and exciting way, teaching them to communicate about this vital area of their lives. The ability to develop good communication skills in the area of sexuality and fertility, naturally spills over into other areas in a couple’s relationship, enabling them to communicate and develop deeper intimacy in many other areas of their lives. Understanding how the human body works is a fascinating process. Sadly, many women lack such knowledge and have never been taught about the ‘mystery’ of their fertility and reproductive health. Many men too remain ignorant about their own fertility and how female fertility works.

    To be able to explore this area of life together creates a deeper understanding and respect for the human body and the magnificent way it was designed. This in turn enables couples to make more informed decisions and choices about their fertility and reproductive health.” See Source below:

    MC is shallow and by comparison falls woefully short in building up the Body of Christ! Anyone who takes the time to read Humane Vitae will soon be convinced or has their head in the sand.

    I will address you other points when time permits. I just want to set the record straight about “RM couples who use condoms” There are no practicing Catholic’s who follow The Teachings of Rome who use condoms that follow NFP. But there are Catholics who use condoms but that is not relevant to the discussion.

    I hope this helps my writing skills are a work in progress.


    about “RM couples who use condoms” There are no practicing Catholic who follow The Teachings of Rome who use condoms that follow NFP. But there are Catholics who use condoms but that is not relevant to the discussion.

    I hope this helps my writing skills are a work in progress.


  16. “people employed, attending, or using church-affiliated institutions don’t have objections to contraception”

    I’m not going to bother reading the article you’re responding to, but isn’t it amazing that a statement that “few people have objections to X” somehow translates to “everybody should be required by government to pay for X”?

  17. Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for sharing this letter.

    I would like to weigh in briefly about contraception and natural family planning for Aaron. First, if they seem the same to you, and you have any questions about the morality of either, why not use natural family planning?

    I suspect you’ll say using them is different. If so, this points to an inherent difference (if not, seriously, give natural family planning a try). The main difference is that contraception changes the woman’s body (and, therefore, being). If a man asked me to use contraception, he would be telling me that he does not want me as I am, I must change first. He would be saying that he would like the sexual act to be use (mutual use, at best) rather than an act of self-gift, for how can I give myself if I must change myself first? Natural Family Planning allows the self-giving act to remain intact. It does not tell the woman her body is inadequate as it is, but uses the natural periods of fertility and infertility to help the couple achieve or avoid pregnancy. The act itself remains the same.

    Finally, I buy hormone free-milk and meat; why would I intentionally ingest a high dose of hormones to thwart a naturally occurring, healthy process in my body?

  18. Being annoyed by the coupons in the newspaper is an agreeable luxury. I would be deeply in debt if I didn’t carefully review every sale and coupon each week. I certainly couldn’t afford my preferred Health-Nut Bread, or the premium orange juice with pulp if I did not wait for it to be on sale, two-for-the-price-of-one. And thanks to a coupon good until February 29, I can afford celery to go in my tuna salad. (I get the tuna at Aldi’s, which is cheaper than anything with a coupon at Pick ‘N Save). Don’t even mention meat — I’m in mental pain that I have to pay more than $2.00 a pound, but with careful attention to coupons and sales, I keep it well under $3.00 a pound. I have to, or I couldn’t afford food, or there would be no rent money.

    OK, back to what the mission of the Roman Catholic Church means to me. Nothing. I’m not Roman Catholic. I accept the critiques of John Wycliffe, just as I accept Jacob Arminius’s critique of Calvinism. I belong to a church that has a rather modest episcopal board, but actually favor congregational church government. As James Matthew Wilson sat down to write his letter to Karen Heller, he clearly wrote as a sincere, devoted, obedient son of the Roman Catholic Church.

    While I thank God for the First Amendment and the Reformation, I also thank God that I don’t have to fight the Thirty Years War all over again with Mr. Matthews. I’d like to think we could even enjoy a pleasant lunch or ten frames of bowling together, without feeling the slightest need to slay each other. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, and to offer obedience to his church. But that says nothing about the civil laws of the United States of America. He gets one vote, so do I.

    If “The mission of the Catholic Church is to proclaim the revealed truth of Christ,” and I have no argument with that, what is it doing running hospitals and educating English teachers, biologists, civil engineers, etc? Oh, these are part of its charitable and educational missions, its witness to the world, ways of proclaiming the revealed truth of Christ in modern life? Well, then why aren’t these missions staffed with priests, monks, nuns, lay brothers and sisters under the discipline of an order of the church? Parochial schools USED to be staffed in exactly that manner. They were a lot cheaper, and more affordable to working class Catholic families.

    Yes, I know, there simply aren’t enough people choosing religious vocations any more to do that. And I once saw a pamphlet for a religious order that set as a prerequisite to even apply that you must have a bachelor’s degree! So, the church, or rather its semi-commercial subsidiaries, has hired paid employees who may or may not be Roman Catholic. Large numbers of them. It has also entangled itself with quasi-commercial sources of funding, such as private medical insurance, student loans, Medicare, Medicaid, and private pay. It has accepted various forms of federal funding, which are available not to proclaim the revealed truth of Christ, but to anyone who is performing more prosaic tasks like providing medical care to people who might not otherwise receive it.

    Now that does NOT mean (as Rod Dreher has emphatically and accurately pointed out) that the HHS regs are a condition of receiving federal funds. No, that’s not the federal mandate at work here at all. But it does mean the the church’s subsidiary institutions have become quasi commercial out-in-the-world business entities, and have become employers of employees. It has made these institutions “available for our use,” and accepted funds that are premised on precisely that. This crosses a line which removes “free exercise of religion” from the equation, as well as raising something other than “the revealed truth of Christ” to primary consideration.

    Birth control may or may not be cost effective. It may be beneficial to women’s health, or it may not. Probably, like most pharmaceuticals, it can be either beneficial or harmful depending on how it is used, and with what motive. But if there is broad general mandate to include contraception in medical coverage, then the commercialized entities initiated by the Roman Catholic Church, which are employers of employees, don’t get an exemption.

    What the Roman Catholic Church remains free to do, as it proclaims what it understands to be the revealed truth of Christ, is to teach, proclaim, proselytize, urge, abjure, in the public square, why contraception is never good, why and how it violates a woman’s God-given function and purpose. Perhaps some women will listen. Perhaps many women. Then there will be fewer contraceptives sold. If enough women accept this teaching of the Roman Catholic church, perhaps a broad public consensus will emerge that, as a matter of sound public policy, medical policies should NOT cover contraception, if for no other reason than that most of the women covered don’t bother to use them, and therefore, the insurance companies are pocketing a windfall profit.

    On the other hand, maybe a large fraction of the population will disagree with and reject this teaching. Perhaps a plurality, perhaps a majority, maybe even a large majority. If so, this is the United States of America. The truths the church proposes be followed are not binding on a free people. Sorry.

  19. Siarlys, you wasted an awful lot of breath just to ignore that the issue at hand here is the state stepping in to force employers to buy something for their employees which they morally object to. As John Gorentz so pithily noted, that you and many others do not object to a particular practice or product has no bearing on whether anyone has a right to have a certain thing purchased for them. In fact, neither does the assertion that a product or practice would be good for public health. This is because you are not being deprived of anything when someone else does not buy something for you. Rather, mandates such as the one in question do an injustice to the buyer, and this particular mandate may have pernicious results directly because of what it forces employers to buy.

    It should really make no difference whether the institutions are “religious” (especially in the limited sense in which “religious” is redefined in this mandate) or not. Employers were not forced to provide plans for their employees that included contraception until PPACA was passed, but at least that law provided a workable exemption for religious institutions. Whatever you think of the Catholic Church’s stand on contraception, and wherever you stand on non-religious employers being forced to pay for contraception, we ought to at least recognize the very clear legal protections for religious employers found in the 1st Amendment and violated by this mandate.

  20. Corey nails it. While I have no love for the Roman church, the admin needs to butt out of telling employers to do something against their conscience.
    Are they paying their employees their fair wages?
    If so, end of story.

    That the admin wants to promote its version of reality is no matter. Just because contraception is legal does not mean that everybody has to use it or provide it for others. Or do we really wish for China’s one child rule?
    That’s where we will end up.
    And that’s where govt. mandated healthcare is going.

    Resist the beginnings or you will rue the end.
    Another word for it is tyranny – of the hard variety – as opposed to the silk glove version we are starting to see.

  21. Corey, you betray an intense hubris when you insist that I should have responded to your views of employer-employee relations, RATHER THAN respond to James Matthew Wilson’s original post, which is what I did. I was more interested in his vision of the mission of the Roman Catholic Church, than in what you think the issue is.

    What the “real issue” is, is entirely in the mind of the beholder. You have made very clear what is YOUR priority, and further, that you think no small beans of yourself.

    I do not, of course, share Wilson’s vision. However, I grew up among a population that was perhaps fifty percent Catholic, I know that Roman Catholics have made good citizens of the United States of America, and I can’t let go of the notion that the First Amendment can fully apply to the Roman Catholic Church, without endangering our republic in the manner that the No-Nothings feared it would.

  22. Hagiographers have pondered aloud what would have happened to the revered saints, martyrs and other religious visionaries if they’d gotten prescriptions for Prozac and Vicodin from their HMO instead of enduring all those nasty dreams, temptations, slings and arrows, etc. Could it be that God had a plan for these individuals that would have been thwarted if they’d popped prescription drugs every time the ‘angel of the lord’ appeared? Is that Zocor you’re popping with your evening Martini stopping you from becoming the next messenger of God? It would seem that there would be any number of drugs that practicing Christians could take exception to, like the methamphetamine that’s prescribed to so many children and attention-deficit disordered adults. Are all of these drugs uniformly efficacious and without controversy?

    If religious organizations want to entrust the health and wellness of their flock to the secular casino of health insurance and pharmacology in order to get the savings and ‘risk mitigation’ that comes from being part of the vast pool of gamblers, it doesn’t seem to me that the church should get to decide which drugs the casino pays out.

  23. Fascinating set of thoughts Artie. I have similar, if secular, thoughts about the entire profession of psychiatry and counselling. Many in both fields consider someone disordered if they are unable to accept the world as it is. I would submit that anyone who CAN accept the world as it is must be either drugged, depressed, or insane. Prozac could be defined as a modern “opiate of the masses” to short circuit any desire to exercise our rights as free citizens to alter or abolish our current form of government. I can well imagine that a painful but hopeful prognostication of divine origin might be similarly suppressed.

    I’m not sure that any religious organizations have chosen to entrust the health of their flocks to health insurance. I suspect religious organizations can play a beneficial role in cautioning their flocks in a variety of ways that chemical solutions are not always the best solutions (although vaccination and judicious use of antibiotics seem to me to have their place in good health care). I don’t know any reason, in any case, that any church should to get to DECIDE which drugs the casino pays out. I, however, will keep a sharp eye on which drugs it offers me, and exactly why.

  24. Aaron:

    As long as your arguments flow from what appears to be your essential ethos-“[t]he government isn’t here to legislate between which activities will and will not lead to flourishing, in no small part because what’s necessary and proper for your flourishing may not be for mine…”-then you will disagree with most of the opinions expressed at FPR. Most porchers believe the opposite. What’s good for you is good for me. And what’s good for us is good for our community and our nation.


  25. As my beloved ma Babs asserted, she was not sure about birth control but damned if she could not see manifold benefits to retroactive birth control. I was a third son so she possessed ample probable cause.

    The very existence of this debate within the confines of a Federal Election provides all one needs to know about a system lost down a rat hole of no return. The conflating of “reproductive rights” with sexual recreation has created a beach head from which no principled debate can ensue.

    This besotted government loves distraction and sex works better than most diversions.

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