Your editorial Assault on the First Amendment begs for some relevant historical background.
In the1960s, the 72 person Papal Birth Control Commission, comprised of 7 cardinals, 9 bishops, 16 theologians, 13 physicians and 27 laymen and women, issued a majority report with 65 members declaring that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil. A minority of 1 cardinal, 2 bishops and 4 theologians held it to be intrinsically evil. The minority prevailed and Humane Vitae, the birth control encyclical, was issued by Pope Paul VI. It is no small wonder then that this non-infallible document has never been accepted by an overwhelming majority of Catholics in the developed world.
James McNulty, our then Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, dismissed close to a dozen of the more pastoral-minded priests from the faculty of our major seminary on Knox Road because they could not in conscience sign an oath to counsel the faithful in accordance with the ill-conceived encyclical. Those priests were transferred to rural parishes where they could not contaminate the thinking of the seminarians studying for the priesthood.
Fast forward to 1987: the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa prompted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to issue a statement declaring "The use of prophylactics to prevent the spread of HIV is technically unreliable and advocating this approach means in effect promoting behavior which is morally unacceptable." The respected World Health Organization, incidentally, held that good quality condoms consistently and properly used were upwards of 90 percent effective in blocking the transmission of HIV, a position essentially supported by the Catholic Theological Coalition on HIV/AIDS Prevention. But then the Hierarchy has been known to bend the truth to serve their purposes.
Since then and to their credit, 6 non-African national conferences of Catholic Bishops and several dozen individual cardinals and bishops relying on well-established principles of Catholic moral theology – double effect and the right to self-defense - have publicly stated the use of condoms to be a moral imperative if an HIV-positive person insists on having sex with an uninfected spouse or partner.
Nevertheless, since 1987 several million innocent, monogamous African women, Catholic and non-Catholic, have died of AIDS because Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which cares for the poor in Africa is forbidden by the USCCB to provide condoms to discordant couples and counsel their proper use. Thus CRS is guaranteed an inexhaustible of supply of dying women and of orphans for which to care. How perverse is that scenario?
The Vatican and its sycophants among the African Hierarchy preach abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage and rail against the use of condoms. Yet it is a fact that a married woman living in sub- Saharan Africa in all likelihood is already monogamous. It is her husband who is likely to be unfaithful and have HIV. Yet refusing a husband’s sexual overtures risks ostracism, violence, and destitution for herself and her children. Sadly, availability to the millions of at-risk women of an effective microbicide to prevent transmission of HIV during sex may still be years off and anti-retroviral medicine to prevent HIV from developing into AIDS must be taken lifelong. Then there is question as to whether there will ever a sufficient supply of those anti-retrovirals for all in need of them.
These poor women are not only the hapless victims of their male-dominated cultures but also of our male-dominated Catholic Church. This is the same male-dominated Church which declares validly-ordained Catholic women priests to be excommunicated criminals yet none of the hundreds of priest pedophiles have yet to be excommunicated.
You suggest that mandating coverage of birth control is the first step to legislating a one-Child America ala China. That sounds like something Santorum would pontificate. Then you state “it is fortunate for all of us that the Catholic Bishops didn't turn the other cheek.” I have yet to see any of our discredited wannabe monarchs in the USCCB, who covered up for the priest pedophiles, relenting in their efforts to control the lives of their serfs in the pews.
In the Philippines, as well, the powerful Catholic Hierarchy is blocking the distribution and use of condoms to slow down the explosive population growth there. This despite the fact the existing population, which is projected to double over the next 70 years, is already faced with a dangerously-depleted supply of fish in the waters surrounding their islands, food on which millions of poor large Filipino families with worn out mothers depend for sustenance. “God will provide” may not prove to be a reliable mantra for them.
But back to the current alleged assault on the the First Amendment. The unholy alliance of the USCCB with the Republicans, with or without Santorum, is no friend of women or of the poor.
Wm. J. Schuch
East Aurora &