When President Obama proposed legislation that would require Catholic institutions to include contraception in their employee health plans, the hierarchy went ballistic. In our diocese, the bishop wrote a very forceful letter, which every pastor was required to read at Mass, urging all Catholics to contact the White House and express opposition to the proposal. Under a banner of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, Catholics raised such an outcry that the President backed down and moderated his proposal.
Pope Paul VIâ€™s encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, explicitly forbade artificial contraception. That ban is still part of Catholic teaching, and bishops must promote it, especially when some of what falls under the label â€œcontraceptionâ€ involves abortion, but the vigor of the hierarchyâ€™s campaign against the Obama proposal raises serious questions of moral priorities.
The last time an episcopal letter was read in all the parishes involved the issue of gay marriage, and the time before that involved abortion. Again, the Church has clear teachings on these issues which bishops are obligated to articulate, but the degree of opposition given to them dwarfs other concerns.
A friend of mine once mused, “I think you have to pay fines for your sins to get into heaven: a half million dollars for killing, ten thousand for stealing, a hundred for lying, and a quarter for masturbation.” The hierarchy seems to be standing this paradigm on its head.
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