Thursday, February 9, 2012

"But Everybody's Doing it..."

In the past few days much fuss had been made about some statistic that claims that “98% of Catholic women HAVE used contraception.”  The administration, and mainstream media, take this skewed statistic as evidence that Catholics don’t really believe the Church teaching that contraception is wrong, and therefore, Catholic consciences won’t be violated.  It takes a special, twisted sort of logic to reach that conclusion, but I guess if you really, really, really want something to be true badly enough, you can just decide to believe it, regardless of reality. 

I even heard a panel on MSNBC say that even “devout” Catholics contracept and then say that there aren’t really any lay Catholics that try to live by all the Church’s teachings.  To hear that panel speak, and pat each other on the back, you’d think that the entirety of the Catholic laity is waiting, sharpening our pitchforks, ready to rebel against our Church and turn it into a dysfunctional democracy, and that the President and Ms. Sebelius are just trying to help us along.   

Now I realize that I live in a place that is a little bit different from many parts of America, but since moving here it’s not abnormal for me to have conversations with friends about the evils on contraception (in fact it’s very likely to come up during the girls’ play date this morning because the HHS mandate has made it such a popular topic!).  In fact, I’ve even heard a few debates about the morality of NFP, since arriving here six month ago, along with various conversations pondering the definition of “serious reasons to avoid” and the meaning of being “generous” when deciding whether one has a reason. 

My personal experience, combined with my earlier blog poll in which 36% of readers say they use NFP and 43% said they use neither NFP nor Contraception, gives away the lie that the White House would have us believe, that there aren’t Catholics out there that follow this particular teaching.  Anyone can create a skewed poll and say it represents America (and JoAnna has a great post on just how dishonest the 98% statistic is in the debate). 

And the dishonesty of asking if a woman “ever has” used contraception is also quite apparent in the 98% statistic.  If asked if I have taken the Pill in the last six months even, I would have to say yes.  That idiot doctor who thought I was making up the whole “retained debris” thing, said that the only cure for my problem was taking the pill (my NFP doctor pointed out that it was at such a low dose that it never would have done anything… so he was basically using it as a placebo…). 

As a result of the possibility of the pill preventing implantation, our family never questioned what our we would do at that point.  We would abstain until I was off the medication.  We couldn’t bear the idea of a life being formed and destroyed, which is very much a possibility, with the way the pill works.  But if I was asked if I’d been on the pill in the last year, I’d have to say yes (until my new OB realized I needed surgery and that the Pill was doing far more harm then good). 

The 98% statistic also takes into account all the Catholics who used contraception in the distant (or not so distant) past, either because they didn’t believe it was wrong, or didn’t know it was wrong.   Some likely even knew it was wrong, did it anyways and repented when they realized that the Church teaching was correct.  It doesn’t take into account converts who stopped using it when they converted.  And it doesn’t take into account 15 year old girls who are given it for cramps or acne, or whatever other reason, or girls and women who are given it for a variety of medical reasons (although I’d strongly suggest trying to find a NaPro doctor if you are on it for medical reasons, because, as with my case, the pill can mask problems, but doesn’t fix them, and with NaPro technology, problems can be uncovered and treated instead of just masked).    The statistic also doesn’t differentiate between  “Catholics” who never set foot in a Church and are about as “Catholic” in reality as I am “Irish” (well my great grandfather came over from Ireland and he was Irish...), and Catholics that actually adhere to the Church’s teachings. 

But perhaps the greatest point is that all of these points don’t really matter.  They aren’t the incredibly important underlying issue that needs to be addressed here.  The underlying issue is religious freedom.  The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong.  Therefore Catholics shouldn’t be required to provide contraceptive coverage for anyone. 

You see, saying that most Catholics don’t follow this teaching, misses the point.  Can we tell the federal government that pretty much everyone has told a lie, so perjury is okay?  The fact that people fall short of ideals, doesn’t mean that the ideal to do what is right should be tossed away.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that the faithful should be stripped of their religious liberty and their right to strive for those ideals.

I can’t help but feel more than a bit disturbed that the government and various media pundits best logic in this case seems to be:  “It’s okay because everyone’s doing it!”  Didn’t their mother’s ever teach them about that sort of thinking and where it could lead? 

Perhaps it’s for the best that the government decided to begin their religious persecutions with the largest “denomination” in the United States.  I have a feeling that they’re going to be surprised by the reaction of religious faithful across the spectrum, who are going to recognize this attack on religious freedom for what it is.  You don’t have to be Catholic to realize that this is wrong.  People of other faiths should take note, because while this violation of rights is beginning with Catholics, I promise you that it won’t end with us.  What do you think that government is going to force us to actively accept next? 

I have a few ideas…

They’d like to tell us that we can practice our faith privately… but only privately… They’d like to twist the Constitution so that we can only be faithful behind closed doors, or within the four walls of our Church.  While this infantile approach to faith may work for Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius, those who realize that faith is something that extends beyond Sunday mornings, must stand up now and speak out and let our power grabbing President know that this is unacceptable.  We must stop this violation of basic rights now, while we still can.  This violation of rights may start with Catholics, but I promise you, it will not end with us.  


  1. I totally agree. I don't know a single "faithful" Catholic who uses contraception. I know people who have in the past, but no one who does once they became stronger in their faith or have learned church teaching. Furthermore, I know several Protestants and even a few non-religious liberals who won't use hormonal contraception (for health reasons).

  2. Right on, Cam!!

    And can I just say how totally sick I am of hearing the 98% statistic???? First of all, for the reasons you outlined, that's not even accurate and it doesn't address the issue at hand. (Erin Manning of And Sometimes Tea dissected this in one of her latest posts, and it's well worth a read if you've got the time!)

    Second of all - even if that "statistic" were true and 98% of Catholics (who attend mass every week and live sacramentally, etc.) use contraception, what does that even matter? Does that excuse the government's intrusion into religion? Does that mean that birth control is any less morally illicit? Um....nope!

    Thank you for writing so eloquently on this subject!

  3. Cam,

    This is an absolutely wonderful post that hits every pertinent point and sums up this disturbing development very well.

    I hope that Obama and HHS discover that they have very stupidly awakened a sleeping tiger.


  4. Forgive me for playing the devil's advocate. It's a pastime of mine and it helps me understand my own actual beliefs, rather than my nominal ones... so I might say something I don't actually believe.

    Isn't it possible that the 98% statistic, while inflated, is an indicator nonetheless of majority opinion catholic families/women? I believe the cure for this problem lays not in limiting what health insurance must/mustn't be offered by employers, but on educating the laity as to the Teachings on the matter. I, for one, don't exactly hear the topic cropping up at Mass these days, and it's not like each of us is automatically imbued with the full knowledge of the catechism at confirmation.

  5. I completely agree with you on this. It's not even about being Catholic...this is about Government overstepping their boundaries...again, trying to mandate something that our Church believes is morally wrong. What's next?

  6. Cam,
    Like you I probably don't live in the most typical environment regarding this subject. I, like you, have had conversations with other Catholics about contraception and NFP. I find that most of the people who are catholic and use contraception tend to fall in the category of older women who take umbrage with more traditional Catholicism. (lets say feminists from the 50's - 70's and aren't using it anymore because they don't need it, and mother's of my teenage students who don't really want to listen to the churches teachings on anything.)

    I think the "not being informed about this topic" is kind of a out of date reason. I teach teenage students religious education. I also teach RCIA. Don't tell me you didn't learn something about what Catholics believe, when you didn't care to pay attention. Even if you may have slipped through the cracks I promise the Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty inclusive and now we have an easier version of it (The youcat). You also might have a skewed view because I get the feeling that your country provides birth control methods due to your socialistic medical system. (this isn't directed directly at you personally but more at your devil's advocate). More than anything I blame doctors on this specific point. Even more Catholic doctors proscribe birth control. Don't want to be them at judgment day.

  7. Baroness,
    I think, your case, you're a particularly well-established parish/diocese. The reason I brought up that particular point is because I did, as you say, slip through the cracks. It wasn't that it wasn't covered in RCIA (though I still have my papers and it categorically was not)... it's that RCIA as an actual educational construct doesn't actually exist in my diocese... it was informal jazz sessions one-on-one with the parish priest. There wasn't a lesson plan, because there weren't lessons. Birth Control never came up, and if it weren't for me doing my homework in researching the faith on my own, I never would have known the catholic position.

    If it's past the point in your diocese where people no longer could be ignorant of the rule, then it's just more lay disobedience. Their spirits "aren't there", and all the lecturing and laws in the world won't necessarily stop them.

  8. Well, when people cite that statistic (generally 96-98%), they are not qualifying it to include only Catholics who are faithful to Church teachings. That being the case, it is probably (and unfortunately) rather accurate.

    I belong to one of the "better" parishes in a very large diocese and I would be surprised if our percentage was much lower than this. That's just the way it is. Many, many Catholics do not actually know or understand the Church's teaching (hard as that may be to understand or accept). Now, if I go to a homeschool get-together... sure, the numbers are going to be quite different. But we are dwarfed by the Catholic-in-name population; and that's what the numbers pretty accurately reflect.

    You are absolutely right though that numbers don't matter in this case at all. Even if two Catholic employers in the US remained faithful to Church teaching, they should be free.

  9. Great post! You are absolutely right.

  10. There's an extent to which it becomes a question of what constitutes a "catholic employer". Churches themselves are, from what I'm reading, exempt. That means that the major furor is over private business with catholic/majority catholic management. There's an extent to which I agree that morality should trump law. However, there's also the possibility that such an exemption would create Catholicism as a "Faith of Convenience", allowing managers to deny contraception coverage while only paying lip-service to something which is genuinely holy.

    Having said that, I'm at a... weird place with birth control right now.

  11. I totally agree with you. EWTN is planning on suing the Obama administration, so that's going to be interesting.
    P.S your daughter is stunningly sweet!

  12. Hi Zach-

    I think that this would be something that the government, because of our Constitution, would have to take Catholics at their word about. They aren't in a position where they should be allowed to decide how one practices ones religion.

    And while I agree that catechesis does need to improve in these areas (because I went through my marriage prep and RCIA without ever hearing that contraception was wrong... I read it on my own a few months after I'd been confirmed), I also believe that this isn't something that Catholic employers can be forced to pay for, according the the religious freedoms in America.

    I don't think any Catholics that this will stop anyone from using birth control. But as a Catholic business owner who could someday have employees, and also as someone who lives at an institution that would fall under this category (and where no one I know would admit to using contraception if they do), I have to say that we shouldn't be forced to pay for something that we believe is evil. And you can't infringe on basic constitutionally guaranteed rights because someone might lie and say they're more religious than they are.

    It's beside the point to mention that birth control is so simple to get in the United States and to get for free, that it is truly available for all, but in some ways I do believe that's pertinent, because this is just an exercise of power for our over bloated executive branch.

    Those are just more of my random thoughts though!

    (And I was surprised that some of you have seen use that high locally! That just tells me what a little bubble of Catholicism we do live in here! I forget that sometimes!)

  13. Hey Cam -

    That's the magic answer I was looking for. It's not even that it's an infringement of religious rights, which it is, but it's that, to my understanding, the government cannot require you to purchase a thing. Sure, it might require the employer to pay taxes or terrifs, but last time I checked, if the government wanted something covered that wasn't generally covered, the route to doing that was to mandate that insurance companies provide that coverage, not employers.

    Of course, my understanding of American law is derived entirely from watching the news and old episodes of The West Wing, so I could be totally off the mark.

  14. Zach and you, Cam, raise another pertinent point: the question of just what organizations (or businesses) could be described as Catholic, if (when, I think) an expanded exemption is announced.

    As I understand it, we are currently speaking about Catholic hospitals, universities, charitable institutions, etc., which, I imagine, have been designated as non-profits - 501 (c) 3. Whether a Catholic business owner (say, a Catholic who owns a restaurant, for example) will ultimately be able to opt out of contraception coverage for employees, as well, is another aspect of this discussion.

    This opens up a wide spectrum of scenarios. Most interesting.


  15. Go Cammie!

    Such great arguments and reasoning and logic to discredit that awful and deceitful statistic. Satan is at work and he can (and will) be defeated. Yes, there are Catholics who have used (or who do use) contraception but to say that the majority of them do is not fair and I don't think it's going to change anyone's opinion.


  16. I know we're off the topic now, but it felt wrong to mention this on a post about the girls being cute (they're adorable, Cam!).

    On Friday, the nature of this particular beast got shifted. You can find my commentary in full at:

    No devil's advocate. Just a cranky canuck with a thing for intellectual honesty.

  17. Hi Zach-

    I think the point that's being made (for it's more than just rhetoric, with even the Bishops speaking up that this compromise isn't a good thing) is that nothing (at least when we're talking about this sort of thing) is ever free. The fact that contraception is now "free" means that the cost will be passed on to ever single person who's paying for insurance.

    Bad Catholic sums it up pretty well here:

  18. I suppose that much is true. However, that's true of anything, ever. Suppose for a moment you were a pacifist. Your income taxes would be a lot lower if you were able to opt out of your taxes being used for military spending.

    The problem here is, no matter how morally right a ban on contraception would be from the Church's perspective, your electorate is speaking pretty loudly and clearly. Americans, by and large, want contraception. Is it right? Mayhaps. Is it going to happen? I'd bet my beautiful false-ebony desk on it.

  19. That is a good point, but I think this is one time when the difference between the US and Canada comes into play in the explanation. Since we don't have socialized medicine (yet?) it's not expected (and at this point not favored by the majority) that everyone contributes to everyone's health plan. It is still expected that the government will fund defense. I think, theoretically, in the US, that's still the difference. Because while people want contraception and I have no doubt will get contraception, they don't want to pay for everyone else's.

    That's one thing that shows that this truly is a power lay. Contraception is free to the poor in our country. It's handed out at clinics. It's very cheap for everyone else. Forcing this issue was very much an exercise in power... and that's partly why there's such a backlash (on both sides).

  20. See, those two points are very true. It's hard to argue against reality.

    The only real point of contention is that those same free clinics that provide the contraception are very often the ones socially conservative groups are trying to defund. People can't lean on something that might not be there a quarter or two down the road. That's why they're calling for protection.

    What I find telling is where the divide lays. That press conference the Catholic universities held in favour of the protections? Priceless. Maddow'll run those clips for weeks, every time she talks about it.

  21. We are definitely trying to defund them, but that isn't really in conflict with the idea that most Americans don't believe that socialized medicine is the answer. With the huge amounts of money PP gets from corporations I doubt that will change even if it's defunded. But poll after poll has shown that Americans don't want our tax dollars paying for socialized medicine, which is exactly what taxes funding PP is.

    It would be different if it was a lifesaving medication. But let's face it. Contraceptives aren't a right. They would still be covered for other medical purposes. If people want to contracept they can pay for it themselves. That's pretty much the bottom line.

    I guess basically... I know other people are going to contracept... but I won't support the idea that either my tax dollars or the religious institutions of our nation, should pay for it.

    I think it just comes down to two different ways of looking at how these things should be funded. And while I most definitely support healthcare reform, because I know from experience that the system in our country is very broken, I don't believe that we have a right to free birth control set out as a basic liberty. Just like we don't have rights to owning a home or a car. Somethings people should have to pay for on their own. This is one of them.

  22. I believe I just found my sticking-point. I've been interpreting the use of the word "right" in your comments to mean the "freedom to" or the "choice of", but I think your meaning is closer to "inherent entitlement".

    In that case, yes. I agree completely. The american people don't want a socialized health care system. Whether that is because of a lack of understanding of its benefits or a visceral unwillingness to help thy anonymous neighbour is an open question and one I certainly don't get to comment on.

  23. And yet there are some who would say, contrary to your comments (and my own beliefs; let's get that straight from the beginning!) that if you are poor enough, not only should contraception be free and encouraged, it should be forced!


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