Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contraception: A Hill Worth Dying On!—CATHOLIC STAND

Is contraception “a hill worth dying on”? asks Austin Ruse, one of the Catholic Church in America’s most sage, most lucid commentators.

There is no question that the Catholic politician is duty bound to limit and then to stop legal abortion. After all, abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. Protecting the innocent from abortion is not a uniquely Catholic matter. Is contraception the same as abortion, or is it more like divorce, a fundamental Catholic teaching but one that we do not seek to impose on others[?]. We may seek to convince others but we do not seek to impose it on them through public policy.
There are good public health reasons to be against contraception. Hormonal birth control pills can cause cancer, for instance. And this is a very important point to make when we properly try to undermine public confidence in contraceptives. But this is not a Catholic reason to vote against them …. We do not see any great Catholic campaigns against smoking and smoking probably causes more cancer than the pill. [Bold font mine.—ASL]

Ruse warns us, “Abortion advocates everywhere are eager to use contraceptives as a cudgel to beat us with and they would love nothing more than for us to actually fight on that ground.” Indeed, the vast majority of Catholic Americans, both men and women, have registered dissent on this teaching, if on no other. Seemingly, to be against contraception is equivalent to being a Holocaust denier or a proponent of the flat-Earth theory. After all, according to Angela Bonavoglia anyway, “every major health organization maintains that [contraception] is crucial [to] the health of mothers and babies”; whether or not that statement is true, it’s certainly part of the mythos of the sexual revolution that women need access to birth control and abortion for their health.

(A myth, Michael F. Flynn reminds us, is “an organizing story by which a culture explains itself to itself”. In this sense, a myth is not necessarily false or fictional in its details; modern histories fulfill this function as well as did the tales of the Celtic bard or the Norse forteller. The major difference between, say, Herodotus or Suetonius — or even Homer — and the late Stephen Ambrose is footnotes: history is story at its very core … the tale we tell about us.)

Ruse’s comments come in the context of a couple of specific fights, in which open opposition to the sale of contraceptives is playing a role. However, to speak of “a hill worth dying on” is to speak of the contraception issue as if it were extractable from the rest of our fights.