Friday, October 5, 2012

While Bishops Slam Gays, They Ignore Contracepting Catholics: Why?

Archbishop John J. Myers, Newark, New Jersey

At the Mirror of Justice blog, Steve Shiffrin points out that while bishops like Myers of Newark tell those supporting marriage equality to refrain from communion, bishops don't ever tell Catholics using contraception or endorsing the use of contraception to stop communing.  And isn't that an odd oversight, when one reliable study after another demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of Catholics in the developed nations use contraceptives and approve of their use?  And when a majority of American Catholics defend the HHS guidelines calling for healthcare plans to provide contraceptives as a matter of basic best-of-practice healthcare?

Shiffrin writes,

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006 here insisted that “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.” In context, as I read it, a Catholic is obstinately rejecting doctrines of the Church if he or she has given up trying to believe that the Church’s moral teaching is correct. What distinguishes the letter of Myers from the statement of the Bishops is that Myers identifies the failure to assent to a specific moral teaching as bringing about separation from the Church. If Myers is right about this, it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of American Catholics should not be receiving Communion. To reject the Church’s teaching on contraception is to reject the teaching authority of the Church, and the overwhelming majority of American Catholics do exactly that. My guess is that relatively few of American Catholics who reject the contraception teaching are still trying to accept Church teaching on the issue.

And then he concludes,

If they follow the lead of Archbishop Myers in being specific about which moral teachings cannot be rejected while continuing to receive communion, Catholics will either leave the Church or contumaciously receive Communion anyway. In other words, the Emperor will lose many of the clothes that are left.

As I point out in the thread following Joshua McElwee's National Catholic Reporter article about Shiffrin's posting, since Catholic magisterial teaching about sexual morality condemns gay acts of intimacy and contraception use on the very same grounds--namely, that they are not open to procreation as the goal of sexual intercourse--the only justifiable conclusion one can draw from the silence of the bishops about contracepting Catholics as bishops lambast gay Catholics is the following:

In their anti-gay political activism, the Catholic bishops are motivated primarily by prejudice and the desire to keep discrimination against the gay community alive.  They are not motivated primarily by their desire to defend Catholic moral principles re: sexuality or the institution of marriage.

If the latter happened to be their motivation, they'd 1) apply the same principles they use to slam the gays and inform Catholics using contraceptives that they're unwelcome at the communion rail, and 2) they'd try to outlaw divorce, which is a real threat to heterosexual marriages unlike gay marriage, which is an imaginary threat to heterosexual marriages.

The time, money, and energy they invest in attacking the gay community leads to one ineluctable conclusion: the bishops' primary motivation in dealing with this vulnerable minority community is to keep prejudice and discrimination alive.  They do not and will not apply the same moral principles they claim to be defending as they attack a vulnerable minority community to the large majority of Catholics using contraceptives because, as several contributors to the McElwee thread note, this would put them out of business.

And it would empty the communion lines, as both Shirrin and McElwee rightly point out.

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