HHS and a Revolutionary Church
Accompanying the HHS Mandate uprising and uproar from afar has not only brought me hope but also more admiration for the Church. About 90% of Catholic women use some form of contraception, it’s true. I suspect that in Europe (and Portugal, where I live) this number might even be higher. We may or may not win this current American culture war, it’s also true.
Yet as the quote goes, God doesn’t need us to defend Him, people need us to defend Him. This uprising brings me hope because it shows that people are deepening, articulating and fighting for their faith and its reasons. Maybe it’s good to shake things up precisely about this topic of birth control, if it will get people talking and teaching about it. It brings me admiration for the Church because this is one of the many examples in which she is really shining as lifeboat for humanity, as guide through the tricky cultural problems that come up throughout the centuries.
On the issue of contraception, the Church has been a prophet from the very beginning of the sexual revolution. Pope Paul VI predicted in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae that widespread use of contraceptives would lead to infidelity, moral decline, disregard for physical and emotional well being of women by men, that it would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of government and that the body would be looked at as a machine. (See the book ”Why Humanae Vitae Was Right” by Janet Smith) Not only has the Church’s teaching been consistent over 2000 years, it has been the only church to “stick to its guns” since the arrival of the pill.
Malcolm Muggeridge, a BBC correspondent who converted to Catholicism says “It was the Catholic Church’s firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . The Church’s stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honor that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster.” ()
It’s said that with every great heresy, God provides the Church with the antidote. Pope John Paul II started his papacy with a series of Wednesday audience talks over a period of five years called “Theology of the Body”. Here he gave the reasons behind Humanae Vitae, by giving an integral vision of man: what we were created for, where we are now, what we’re destined for and what the body and sexuality have to do with that. Why didn’t he publish this or implement it in some way? Many say so that it would bypass the press, and slowly make its way through the Church and take hold. George Weigel, the pope’s biographer, calls Theology of the Body “a theological time-bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences… perhaps in the twenty-first century.” David Macdonald’s site, a great explanation on the Catholic teaching on contraception, calls Theology of the Body “a quiet sexual revolution that is bringing the children of chaos back to becoming the children of the Light”.
It seems that Pope John Paul’s “quiet sexual revolution” has already taken some hold within the American Church and it shows in that there are so many people able to explain and educate Catholics and non-Catholics on the Church’s objection to birth control. The Church is leading a revolution and all we have to do is get on board. An article in the New York Times says, “’For evangelicals, an anticontraception position is not seen as exclusively Roman Catholic, as it would have been in the past,’ said Jenell Paris, who teaches anthropology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She pointed to several developments in evangelical culture to explain this shift.”
This seems like a great opportunity for Catholics in any teaching position whatsoever (parents, catechists, teachers, youth group leaders, etc.) to deepen their understanding on the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit, on Peter’s primacy through the Pope as “prime-minister” of the Kingdom and to take advantage of the wealth of resources available in the English language that unpack the Church’s teaching on sexuality and contraception.