Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Contraception and Religious Liberty Fails

But the Advocate,* the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. - John 14:26

Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York said Feb. 13 that President Barack Obama's proposed revision to the contraceptive mandate in the health reform law did nothing to change the U.S. bishops' opposition to what they regard as an unconstitutional infringement on religious liberty.

Let me begin with the following letter sent to the New York Times, on February 6th.  from one of my favourite Catholic teachers about the above mentioned contraceptive mandate: 

To the Editor:

Traditional Catholic teaching rests on a tripod, including the hierarchy, the theologians and the sensus fidelium, the experience-fed wisdom of the laity. These three sources of teaching are, as Cardinal Avery Dulles said, “complementary and mutually corrective.” An accurate look at Catholic teaching on contraception today shows strong support for the position that contraception is not only permissible but even mandatory in many cases.

The American bishops are at odds with other bishops in the Catholic world, with the vast majority of Catholic theologians and with 98 percent of the Catholic laity who have used contraceptives. They are even at odds with Pope Benedict XVI, who has approved the use of condoms “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.” That concession logically ended the taboo on condoms since it said health care concerns can require the use of condoms.

The bishops’ claim that their religious freedom is threatened is bogus. The threat is to the religious freedom of their employees and to the conscientious freedom of the diverse public they serve in their tax-supported institutions.


The writer is a professor of theology at Marquette University.

The question of religious liberty, regarding individual conscience versus obedience to the Church was one of the hotest contested issues fought during Vatican II between liberals and conservatives. In the end it resulted in the now familiar constitution which reads:

“Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law that they have not laid upon themselves but which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and to avoid what is evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For they have in their hearts a law inscribed by God. Their dignity lies in observing this law, and by it they will be judged . . . By conscience that law is made known in a wonderful that is fulfilled in love for God and for one's neighbour. Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems that arise both in the lives of individuals and in social relationships.” - Pastoral Constitution on the Modern World

This freedom is further guaranteed and supported by the declaration On Religious Liberty which reads:

“The dignity of the human person is a concern of which people of our time are becoming increasingly more aware. In growing numbers people demand that they should enjoy the use of their own responsi­ble judgment and freedom and decide on their actions on grounds of duty and conscience, without external pressure or coercion. They also urge that bounds be set to government by law, so that the limits of reasonable freedom should not be too tightly drawn for persons or for social groups. This demand in human society for freedom is chiefly concerned with the values of the human spirit, above all with the free and public practice of religion”.

Finally one of my favourite Catholic teachers,Professor Daniel C. Maguire, posted this totally surprising commentary:
Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, in his younger and saner period, offered the following commentary on the Second Vatican Council: "Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against therequirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism". (Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II. Vol. 5, 1976.) What the cardinal, some day to be pope, was saying is that bishops and popes who try to usurp the sacred prerogatives of conscience are totalitarian and need lessons humble of heart." This reflects the wisdom of Cardinal John Henry Newman when he famously said he would toast the pope, only after toasting his own conscience. Only in cults are religious leaders taken to be a substitute for conscience.

Catholics have begun to realize their individual role and responsibility to dialogue (not monologue) directly with our Creator. This applies to all of the challenges and trials we face each day. Including abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc., etc., By listening to God with our hearts Catholics are not disobeying the Church but rather following the advice, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the hearts of the fathers of Vatican II.

Religious Freedom remains a thorn in the side of the most conservative and fearfilled element in our Church led by the present Pope. Imagine the loss of power and prestige is that is now at stake? The Holy Spirit’s desire to guide and teach the People of God has been ignored for too long.


I John 2:27

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Ephesians 1:17-18

John 16:13

Matthew 7:7-8a

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