Archive for the ‘Sexuality’ Category

Irresistibly Cute Gay Ortho-Catholic Graduate Student Rejects Scientific Consensus on Homosexuality, Opts for Celibacy

February 7, 2013
Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman

The consensus among medical professionals, all the way up to the World Health Organization, is that the so-called “conversion” therapies, which promise to “cure” homosexuality, are both ineffective and dangerous. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has long maintained that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered,” leaving gay parishioners a range of options that, unfortunately, do not include joyous self-affirmation. Among these are therapy, guilt, denial, sexual repression, celibacy, guilt, self-loathing, life-long confusion, self-destruction, secrecy with its attendant blackmail, and guilt.

A recent article by gay-but-celibate Catholic writer Joshua Gonnerman suggests that the Church is beginning to countenance skepticism regarding the efficacy of conversion therapies. The article—“False Hope and Gay Conversion Therapy,” First Things 2/2/13—counsels caution. While Gonnerman speaks of “positive effects” in many therapeutic cases, he also acknowledges certain “dangers:”

Too often, I have seen people who placed their hope in orientation change in this way come crashing down when they realized it wasn’t working. On a psychological level, it can lead to depression, to self-loathing, to suicidal tendencies. The message that the absence of successful change makes one a lesser Christian or some kind of failure is always present, either explicitly or implicitly.

Given orientation change’s low rate of success, and the apparently precarious status of that success, the odds of eventual failure are far, far too strong. Our response to homosexuality [orientation change] is playing with souls; surely, we should play the game that has most hope, rather than the one that seems more neat and tidy?

Gonnerman, studying for his Ph.D in historical theology at the Catholic University of America, is deeply committed to finding a path of reconciliation between his faith and his sexual orientation. No longer trusting reparative therapies, and unwilling to question the Church’s teachings, he has but one remaining option, and that is celibacy. “The path of celibacy,” he writes, “is really dependent on our struggles for Christian virtue, rather than struggles for a heterosexual functioning.”

One can only wonder why Gonnerman considers celibacy to be a surer bet than therapy. The Catholic Church itself has acknowledged that more than 50% of its priests are not celibate. Psychological consequences of dishonoring the chastity vow may include all the negatives that Gonnerman associates with “failed” orientation change: depression, self-loathing, and suicidal tendencies, especially for those who genuinely believe they were “called” to chastity.

The failure of chastity vows entails other, more far-ranging problems as well. Men and women who not only repress their sexuality but practice deceit and denial about their lapses are more likely to project their own guilt onto others. The high positive correlations between homosexuality and repressed or closeted homophobia have not gone unnoticed in recent years. A single Ted Haggard can become a scourge of gay men everywhere.

Nearly all the initial combox responses to Gonnerman’s  article were from conservative Catholics. Considering how thoroughly they chewed over what he had written, I was struck by how little knowledge any of them had of current scientific thinking about homosexuality. I refused to believe this was accidental. I left the following comment:

These discussions about conversion therapy are taking place in an echo-chamber that is hermetically sealed to exclude the consensus opinions of health and social welfare professionals on the subject of homosexuality and its discontents. I searched both the article and the comments and found not one mention of them.

Are you not aware that every major professional association of doctors, psychologists, pediatricians, and social workers in this country has unequivocally declared there to be nothing disordered about homosexuality? The World Health Organization has also made this very clear. Practitioners who ignore the consensus are usually motivated by religious teachings that have no basis in evidence.

Are you also not aware that there are millions of “out” LGBTs who do not struggle with either their orientation or their identity and who have done a complete “end-run” around all the problems that you seem to think inhere in homosexuality?

A British Medical Journal editorial almost ten years ago put it very succinctly:

“In spite of every mental health and medical association in the U.S. stating unequivocally that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, many religious organizations continue to declare homosexuality or homosexual behavior as sinful and immoral. This creates spiritual crises for many people who have grown up within anti-homosexual religious families and communities.”

It seems to me that the Church is far more interested in showing that homosexuality is a disorder than it is in helping homosexuals, whose path to psychological well-being will never, in the long-run, be through either celibacy or reparative therapies. And it will not result from the ministrations of the pious folks who have caused the very problems they are trying to cure.

Don’t you see that your “cures,” together with all the horribly toxic body- and sex-hating theology that they bring with them, are the problem?

Mr Gonnerman, before your life is completely spoiled by self-denial and guilt, my advice is: look for a better way. There is one, and you will find it if you look. Believe me, I have been through all this and have come out in the sunshine. I am about to be married to my partner of 13 years, and life has never been better. I simply cannot believe I was ever confused about this. I see your confusion and just want to tell you: Don’t miss your life. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.

deviant behavior

deviant behavior

Anon wrote:

Doughlas: The world is full of credentialed misfits. The truth is same sex acts are deviant regardless of how many credentialed people claim otherwise.

I responded:

Anon, the medical and social welfare associations that I am talking about have well over a million members all told, and they represent many more millions of practitioners and researchers. I would not dismiss them lightly. These are the people you go to when you have a medical or psychological issue. If you are going only to your priest with such issues, then you are denying yourself competent and qualified care. The Church has no expertise in mental health and it cannot give accreditation or certification in medical fields. Instead, it has a set of doctrines to which it gives absolute priority over any fact-based source of understanding or treatment. The closed nature of the system poses real dangers to those who get drawn into it. This is just as true of Catholicism as it is of Scientology or the Mars Hill Church, and among those most at risk in this current political climate are homosexuals. What particularly alarms me is to see “out” gays and lesbians turning to Church teachings for guidance. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, and I would urge them to “break the spell” and break out of the closed system of Catholic thought on this subject.

David Nickol and Howard Kainz discussed whether Freud believed homosexuality to be a neurosis. I interjected:

David and Howard, why are you even concerned about what Freud thought of homosexuality? As the founder of psychoanalysis, he was a hugely important figure, but he was wrong about almost everything, and his theories were based on very limited numbers of case studies and were unfalsifiable. For the latest and greatest on homosexuality, you’ll need to look to sciences that didn’t even exist in Freud’s time, starting with neuroscience. There’s an abundance of reliable information out there. You could start with the APA. Or you could just google a few terms and be careful to avoid any so-called “studies” that emanate from religious institutions, because they are likely to be biased. Remember: religion starts with conclusions; science starts with data.

David Nickol responded:

You are, of course, correct. The consensus about homosexuality among psychiatrists and psychologists, and the agreement of the AMA and almost all other medical associations counts for almost nothing in discussions about homosexuality here. However, studies that purport to show negative aspects of homosexuality or gay people are accepted without question.

Yan wrote:

SmokingHow can you possibly quote approvingly the BMJ statement that there is no basis in evidence for homosexuality being a disorder? What about all the evidence that made the profession almost universally conclude that it is was a disorder prior to 1973? Did this evidence disappear? Has all the evidence stopped coming in?

What both you and the BMJ statement do is conflate evidence with a conclusion based on the evidence. What has changed is the conclusion from the evidence, not the evidence itself. It is fair to observe that this conclusion is what most of the smart people think and to give it the weight due to the opinion of smart people generally. But it is also fair to observe that previously most of the smart people thought the opposite.

When you say there is no evidence, that is shorthand for saying, ‘don’t argue with me. My mind is made up.’

Apparently you have no use for Church teaching in this regard. However, it is not right to say the Church has no competence in the area of mental health. Psychology is the study of psyche, the soul. The Church has deeply concerned itself with the health of the soul for 2000 years. You should acquaint yourself with some of the treasures it has accumulated in that regard over these past 2 millennia.

To which I responded:

ComputerYan, you ask why I discount pre-1973 science about homosexuality? It’s for the same reason that I discount pre-1973 science about aeronautics, cancer, electronics, climate change, the effects of smoking, and just about everything else. Science progresses. Why look to Kepler for information about the stars when you can visit the NASA website?

And no, the evidence hasn’t stopped coming in about homosexuality or about climate change. But we do know that homosexuality is not a disorder and that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.

I maintain that the only real purpose of these bizarre, evidence-free discussions about homosexuality is bias-confirmation. You and other bloggers here are studiously avoiding the scientific consensus about homosexuality because you are committed to upholding the Church’s teachings, which, in your view, will always trump any amount of science.

What is dishonest about these discussions is that they pretend to respect science when they don’t. To maintain this pretense, they will draw support in the form of “scientific” studies that are in fact only junk science pumped out in support of foregone conclusions about homosexuality. This is not science. It is the antithesis of science.

What would it take to convince you that homosexuality is NOT a disorder? I maintain that nothing could convince you, because you’re not honestly interested in evidence.

(more…)

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Marriage Equality Opponent SHOCKED by Gay Pride Parades

January 2, 2013
Seattle Pride Parade

These people are gay.

Kevin McCormick writes:

It is a bit strange for the homosexual community to put these activities on display publicly in their annual “sexual freedom” rallies in San Francisco and elsewhere and then expect the rest of the world not to assume that this is the norm. One would have to conclude that the homosexual community is accepting of such activities and guess that the percentage of those that participate in them are vastly higher than the non-homosexual population.

I felt compelled to respond:

Kevin, there were approximately 128 contingents in last year’s Seattle Pride Parade. Most of them were just people walking together and carrying banners of support. Here are some of the names you’ll recognize or can figure out:

Boeing Employees Credit Union, Esurance, Group Health, Microsoft, Verizon WIreless, Expedia, Macy’s, Amazon, YMCA, Wells Fargo, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Orbitz, Alaska Airlines, PCC Natural Markets, Starbucks, Cupcake Royal, Best Buy, Seattle Men’s Chorus, Hands of Kali Bellydance, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Port of Seattle, Wallingford United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Churches of Greater Puget Sound, Seafair, City of Seattle, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Teatro Zinzanni, Washington Federation of State Employees, Bellevue College, [+ regional community colleges], King County Metro (transportation), King County Library System, Seattle First Baptist Church, Metropolitan Community Churches, United Churches of Christ, Lakeridge Lutheran Church, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Many of these, like Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon, are probaby companies that you patronize.

As usual at our parade, there were also elaborate floats with near-naked bodies gyrating to deafening rock music, and there were drag queens and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, etc. And there were the Dykes on Bikes. Big deal.

On a different summer weekend in Seattle we have another huge parade, the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, which mostly represents the “default” sexual orientation. Now, in that parade you will see literally hundreds of totally naked bodies—more with every passing year, it seems. There are the famous nude bicyclists—probably over a hundred of them by now—and women in every state of undress. There are also floats with near-naked bodies gyrating to deafening rock music.

You want to see for yourself? Just Google “Fremont Parade photos” and get a look.

Then come back and tell me that the heterosexual community is not accepting of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and public displays of  “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Haven’t you ever been to Mardi Gras? Or been to the movies lately? Or checked out the magazine racks?

What you wrote just confirms the old adage that “we see what we expect to see.”

These people are straight.

These people are straight.

Response to Dale O’Leary, author of “The Defense of Marriage Requires Honesty About Homosexuality,” Crisis Magazine, 12/20/12

December 20, 2012

[Read Ms. O’Leary’s article here.]

Ms. O’Leary, how ironic that your article calls for “honesty” about homosexuality but is so starkly and fundamentally dishonest in its claims. You would have us believe you are speaking as a professional, an expert, and perhaps even as a scientist: “It is long past time to educate the public and particularly the younger generation as to what we know about SSA,” you write. Who is “we?” Surely not the medical community, which has time and again denounced the reparative therapies that you advocate.

Maybe by “we,” you means the Catholic Church? But the Church doesn’t “know” anything about homosexuality. It is not in the business of research or the accumulation of scientific knowledge; it is in the business of propagating certain views of society that are often at odds with scientific knowledge.

So let’s be honest about where we’re coming from, Ms. O’Leary. This is a propaganda piece masquerading as health science, and one sure sign of this is the conspicuous absence of journal citations or even names of researchers. You refer to “numerous well-designed studies” without a hint as to their origin. You make easily disprovable claims from beginning to end, in the apparent conviction that none but the “faithful Catholic laity” for whom Crisis articles are intended will read your piece.

Identical twins don’t share the same sexual attractions? Check again. More than half of them do. There is “no evidence” of a genetic or hormonal cause? Time to read up on the literature. By “the literature,” I mean the scientific literature, not junk-science articles in Catholic magazines. You want evidence? Just ask me. I’ve got it waiting in the wings. Homosexuality is caused by “masturbation with fantasy?” I suppose masturbation also causes pimples? … and hair to grow in the palms of your hand? All this is early 20th-century Catholicism redux.

If you are interested in disease control and prevention, follow commenter “Tim’s” advice. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and read what they have to say about HIV.  Here’s what I found:

“The effects of homophobia, stigma and discrimination can be especially hard on adolescents and young adults. Young MSM and other sexual minorities are at increased risk of being bullied in school. They are also at risk of being rejected by their families and, as a result, are at increased risk of homelessness. A study published in 2009 compared gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults who experienced strong rejection from their families with their peers who had more supportive families. The researchers found that those who experienced stronger rejection were:

  • 8.4 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide
  • 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression
  • 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs
  • 3.4 times more likely to have risky sex”

I hope that before you write another article about HIV, you will do some serious soul-searching about  the issue of responsibility for the HIV scourge. Blaming HIV on “troubled childhoods,” “narcissistic attitudes,” “[early] wounding,” “rebellion against the moral law,” and “[psychological] disorders” all adds up to homophobia, which is one of the three causes of HIV as identified by the CDC. If anyone needs conversion, it is you.

Doughlas Remy (The Bent Angle)

propaganda-despair

Catholic Media Begin Piling on Sister Farley’s “Just Love.”

June 11, 2012

Sister Margaret Farley

Robert Royal, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, doesn’t care much for Sr. Margaret Farley’s new book, though he admits (in “The Real Taboos,” June 11, 2012) that he has only dipped into it here and there. Farley’s Just Love, which has catapulted from 142,982 to 16 in Amazon’s rankings due entirely to the Vatican’s recent censure of the work, approaches masturbation, homosexuality, and divorce from an ethical perspective that does not perfectly match the Vatican’s own.

Royal characterizes the book, which he hasn’t read, as “utterly tired,” and “not Catholic” (though she disclaims any intent to channel Catholic moral teachings), and he dismisses her positions as “essentially congruent with the untroubled assumptions of the Zeitgeist.” What Royal fails to do, however, is address any of her arguments. Maybe that’s because, not having read her book, he doesn’t know what they are.

He concludes,

But the advocates of new approaches aren’t really interested in [fresh, alternative voices] and instead dedicate themselves to defending ideas and currents that over the past half-century have wrecked families, harmed children, and made the proper taming of erotic impulses – a task every civilization prior to ours has known is crucial to human happiness and calls for great wisdom – one of the real, not imagined, taboos in American society.

Mary E. Hunt, herself a Catholic a regular contributor to Religion Dispatches, hits the nail on the head when she writes apropos of Sister Farley’s comments about masturbation: “Sexual power is power, and more and more women have it. Apparently the struggle to wrest it back is high on the agenda of those who live on the 110 acres called the Vatican.”

Indeed, the Vatican’s teachings about sexuality seem intended for one purpose only: to uphold a patriarchal system of power over people’s very bodies and the most intimate aspects of their lives. And those teachings are consistently out of step with current medical knowledge about sexual and reproductive health. The Church’s sorry record in dealing with clergy sex abuse and with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is only matched by its obstinacy in challenging the entire medical community over homosexuality and reproductive health.

It’s one thing to deplore or dismiss “new approaches” to these issues. It’s quite another to demonstrate their inefficacy, and this is where Royal’s critique falls short.

Notify This! Vatican Bungles Response to Sexual Ethics Book

June 9, 2012
Sexual power is power, and more and more women have it. Apparently the struggle to wrest it back is high on the agenda of those who live on the 110 acres called the Vatican.

by Mary E. Hunt / Religion Dispatches, 6/9/12

Margaret A. Farley

If Margaret A. Farley’s fine theo-ethical work causes “grave harm to the faithful,” Catholics live very graced lives. War, poverty, ecocide, racism, colonialism, sex and gender injustices of all sorts come to mind in the “grave harm” category. But not in the wildest imagination of anyone other than a Vatican bureaucrat would Dr. Farley’s sexual ethics qualify. How fortunate we are to have a scholar of her caliber, and how appropriate that she is appreciated widely. Recent attention to her work only serves to deepen her impact and broaden her audience; 24 hours after news broke of the Vatican censure the book was propelled from an Amazon ranking of 142,982 to 16.

The June 4th Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) titled “Regarding the Book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M.,” left many scandalized by the intellectually embarrassing and morally tawdry work of a group that obviously needs a permanent vacation. William Cardinal Levada and company at the CDF are simply out of their league theologically when it takes them 6 years (the book was published in 2006) to comment on an important work—and they still get it wrong.

Continue reading this essay.

Hadley Arkes’s Twisting of Truth About Sex-Selective Abortions

June 6, 2012

Hadley Arkes

Hadley Arkes, a professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College and a regular contributor to The Catholic Thing, is a highly influential voice in the debates over same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception. His positions could hardly be more in step with those of the Vatican. In an article published yesterday in The Catholic Thing, Professor Arkes accuses liberal feminists of “evading the moral argument” concerning sex-selective abortions and claims to demonstrate that conservatives are winning that argument through legislative initiatives like the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act that Congress failed to pass last week.

Arkes’s candor about the right’s “step-by-step” strategy of dismantling Roe v. Wade is commendable and confirms widespread perceptions that the tightening vise of abortion regulations at the federal and state levels serves that end.

The partisans of ‘abortion rights,’ he writes, “thought that it was part of a scheme to unravel those rights, as indeed it was. … They were quite right that we were seeking to dissolve the sense of the “rightness” of abortion, working step by step.

So critics of PRENDA were correct in characterizing the bill as an cynical effort to drive a wedge into the women’s movement, pitting the rhetoric of women’s rights against the rhetoric of reproductive health. The GOP-sponsored bill’s heralded purpose was to prevent sex discrimination, a problem more caused by Republican policies than ever addressed by them. How could any legislator fail to see the real agenda behind this ploy, namely, banning all abortions and punishing those who provide them.

Arkes’s moment of candor doesn’t redeem his shameless spinning throughout the rest of the article. How can anyone write a 1000-word essay on abortion without ever once using the words “embryo,” “blastocyst,” or “fetus?” Answer: substitute the words “baby” (1x), “child,” (7x), “girl,” (1x), and “women” (4x). Yes, even gooey microscopic blobs are now described as “women.” Arkes has chosen words that are effective in triggering reflexive caring because his purpose is to bypass our critical faculties and have us believe that a fertilized egg is a “person” in need of protection.

But it is not. It cannot feel pleasure or pain. It has neither preferences nor intentions, nor any dreams for the future. Household pets have a better claim to personhood than early-term fetuses.

Arkes claims that Indian women are coming to the U.S. to get “late-term abortions forbidden even in the East.” But he doesn’t cite any evidence for this claim. Moreover, late-term abortions are already illegal in the U.S., so he needn’t blame liberal feminists if the laws are not being enforced.

He writes,

… the liberal feminists in America will not countenance any move to bar an abortion based on the sex of the child. The reason is plain: To admit that any abortion could be judged as wrong or unjustified is to break through the legal wall that protects the right to order an abortion at any time for any reason.

Coming from a professor of jurisprudence, this is an astonishing misrepresentation of the facts. Women categorically do not have the right to “order an abortion at any time for any reason” in this country. Nor do the majority of liberal feminists support their right to do so.

Professor Arkes correctly assesses the scale of the sex-selection worldwide but overstates it for the U.S.:

The evidence has become overwhelming, from this country and abroad, that with the diffusion of ultrasonography – with the means of discovering the sex of the child in the womb – there has been a persistent inclination to prefer males and abort females. The result has been a massive skewering of sex ratios, with portentous effects.

Compare this from the Guttmacher Institute:

Sex-selective abortion is widespread in certain countries, especially those in East and South Asia, where an inordinately high social value is placed on men over women. In those countries, sex-selective abortion has resulted in dangerously skewed sex ratios, with boys heavily outnumbering girls. In the United States, meanwhile, there is limited data indicating that sex-selective abortion may be occurring in some Asian communities, although the U.S. sex ratio, at 1.05 males for every female, is squarely within biologically normal parameters.

Soraya Chemaly discusses the magnitude of the sex-selection problem in Asia and lays out strategies for addressing it in this excellent and comprehensive article from Huffington Post. Her conclusion:

… as people long immersed in this situation in India and China are all too aware, going backwards and curtailing women’s rights is not the solution and a woman’s right to have an abortion is not the problem.

When societies respect the equality of girls and women and “give” them control of their reproductive rights as a matter of justice, societies benefit. There is no contradiction between providing safe and legal abortion (particularly in the context of women’s health and family planning) and creating cultures that reject the elimination of girls. As a matter of fact if you do the latter, reliance on the former will be reduced.

NYT Columnist Takes Vatican to Task Over Censure of “Just Love”

June 6, 2012

Sister Margaret Farley

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday sharply criticized the Vatican over its belated censure of Sister Margaret Farley’s 2006 book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.” The book, which was languishing in obscurity until the Vatican’s announcement, is now on Amazon.com’s best-seller list.

Even for a church that moves glacially, this was classic. “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar — came out in 2006.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, spent years pondering it, then censured it on March 30 but didn’t publicly release the statement until Monday.

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

Read the entire article here
Read a related NYT article here.

Vatican Scolds Nun for Book on Sexuality

June 5, 2012

By Laurie Goodstein and Rachel Donadio / The New York Times, 6/4/2012

Image

Sister Margaret Farley

The Vatican’s doctrinal office on Monday denounced an American nun who taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School for a book that attempted to present a theological rationale for same-sex relationships, masturbation and remarriage after divorce.

The Vatican office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret A. Farley, was “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology,” and should not be used by Roman Catholics.

Sister Farley, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar, responded in a statement: “I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.”

Continue reading this article.

Vatican Criticizes Nuns’ Stance on Social Issues

April 22, 2012

Sister Margaret McBride

National Public Radio, All Things Considered, April 19, 2012.

Listen to the audio interview here.

Read a related post by Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Dish, here.

Revolt in the Catholic Pews Over the HHS Mandate

April 3, 2012

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the Catholic Church’s position on the HHS Mandate requiring Catholic institutions (other than churches) to include contraception in health insurance plans offered to employees:

LOPEZ: “What about the fact that so many Catholics — however many — use contraception and are advocates of legal abortion in their political lives?”

CHAPUT: “That’s the wrong question. Plenty of self-described Catholics also commit adultery and cheat on their taxes. That doesn’t make them right, and it doesn’t make their behaviors ‘Catholic.’ The central issue in the HHS-mandate debate isn’t contraception. Casting the struggle as a birth-control fight is just a shrewd form of dishonesty. The central issue in the HHS debate is religious liberty. The government doesn’t have the right to force religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions. But that’s exactly what the White House is doing.”

Catholics who advocate contraception and legal abortion shouldn’t be compared to Catholics who commit adultery and dodge taxes. The former affirm a moral position held by many fellow Catholics and the latter violate a moral position held by virtually all Catholics. Pro-choice Catholics are not doing anything unethical, but the adulterers and tax-dodgers are. Catholics who advocate family planning will vote their consciences and try to persuade other Catholics to join them. They are a force to be reckoned with, while the adulterers and tax-dodgers will never unite to advocate cheating, and so they are powerless.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

These are critical differences. What the U.S. Catholic bishops are facing is a revolt from the pews, and they know it. Timothy Cardinal Dolan admitted as much in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly last month:

It’s a tough battle because of [the fact that most Catholics reject the Church’s teachings against contraception] and our opponents are very shrewd because they’ve chosen an issue that they know we don’t — we’re not very popular on.” “[E]ven our — even — even very faithful Catholics, Bill, don’t like their bishops or priests telling them how to vote, a person or even on a particular issue.

Furthermore, Archbishop Chaput is mistaken in thinking the government “doesn’t have the right to religious believers and institutions to violate their religious convictions.” It does so all the time, and the legal precedents for doing so go back to the mid-nineteenth century and are very robust. Even Antonin Scalia has supported this principle.