Friday, February 10, 2012

The Right To Be Wrong?

Never talk about politics and religion, they say... There's a forgotten facet in the fight over contraceptive funding that Catholic leaders, and their uneasy fundamentalist allies, are waging on the Obama administration.

The churches are framing this as a "religious liberty" battle. But inevitably, their feelings about the contraception "issue" - issue? A half century after Griswold v. Connecticut and contraception is an issue?!? Inevitably, their feelings about the contraception "issue" are coming out, let by Rick Santorum, boasting of his eight kids and openly saying contraception is wrong. Not funding of contraception -- contraception itself:
“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country,” the former Pennsylvania senator explained. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be...

[Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative.
That's a statement by a candidate, not a papal encyclical, but it pretty closely sums up the position. When we talk about this issue, we're not just talking about funding or religious freedom, we're talking about contraception itself.

And what the pundits of a prior generation (Chris Matthews has ranted on this three nights running) aren't getting is: An overwhelming majority of people, even within the church structure, disagree with the policy itself.

It's just one of a whole cluster of sex and gender related issues on which official Catholic policy is out of step with the larger society and even with their own membership. Abortion, certainly, but also same sex marriage equality, the restriction of the priesthood to men, and priestly celibacy. Not to mention handling horrible child sex abuse scandals so badly that it makes make Joe Paterno look like a whistle-blower.

This single cluster of issues, on which the Catholic Church is losing ground with each passing year, has led to an unnatural alliance with Protestant fundamentalists who just half a century ago were damning -- literally -- the first and only Catholic president as a "Papist." (You can still find the occasional ultra-fundamentalist Chick comic that condemns Catholics.) It undercuts the peace, education, and social justice efforts the Catholic Church has made on so many other fronts.

I'm a weak practicing Protestant, so I have no place telling the Catholic Church what its positions should be. But I will anyway. Enough of the polite indulgence of the aged male hierarchy: the Catholic Church's official policy on contraception is morally wrong. How much Third World overpopulation and poverty has it caused? How much has it facilitated the spread of HIV?

So I overstep my bounds. But as a political analyst I'll say this: The anti-contraception policy, and the rest of the gender inequality group of positions, only have political power to the extent that parishioners believe them and see them as voting issues.

So defend your rights, bishops. But understand that an American majority believes you're defending your right to be wrong.

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