Two perspectives from two committed Catholic women. The first comes from Valerie Schultz, an occasional contributer to America:
We Catholic women are often cast as "less than" by the policies of the religious hierarchy of our church. We are forbidden ordination, and yet we fill the pews, teach the children, run the offices, clean the parish facilities, care for the sick and minister to others in countless ways. We love our church. We trust that the Holy Spirit is moving among us in mysterious ways, and we attend to what is in front of us.
But enough already with the politics. Enough with the posturing about the Obama administration attacking the church, and the hyped-up outrage. This laywoman has a few things to say.
For me it is strange that contraception is suddenly a big Catholic concern. For over 10 years, while our own family was growing, my husband and I taught Natural Family Planning classes at our local parish. The Billings Ovulation Method is a scientifically proven way of charting the menstrual cycle in order to space the births of one's children without artificial contraception. It takes the guesswork out of the old Rhythm Method, and when taught and used correctly, is as effective as the pill in avoiding pregnancy. We used it ourselves, and it works. As Natural Family Planning methods are the only ones that are sanctioned by the Church, you might think that our classes were much in demand, standing- room only. The stark reality is that, in a parish of more than 800 families, we taught about 20 couples in 10 years. Twenty. And not all of them were even Catholic. Despite bulletin blurbs, newsletter articles and weekly announcements, our classes were usually individual tutorials. Judging by our experience, the reported statistic that 98 percent of Catholic couples at some point use artificial birth control rings true.
My point: In over 50 years as a Catholic, I don't think I have ever heard a homily on Natural Family Planning. I have only rarely heard a whisper from the pulpit regarding why the church opposes artificial birth control. Meanwhile, Catholic families have been shrinking, and Catholic spouses have been comfortable in following their consciences in the matter of family planning. And all has seemingly been well.
The ringing response by the Catholic bishops to the Affordable Care Act's stipulation that insured American women be covered for contraception at no cost, therefore, seems disingenuous. It reminds me of the scene in "Casablanca" where Captain Renault closes down the bar and protests to Rick, "I am shocked -- shocked -- to find that gambling is going on in here!" Just then, the captain is handed his winnings. The bishops simply cannot pretend to be shocked that contraception is going on in the lives of American Catholic women.
Teresa Tomeo offers a defense of the bishops' resistance to the HHS mandate in this interview with National Review Online. Ms. Tomeo is the author of Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture:
LOPEZ: You seek “to tell as many people as [you] can — especially women — that [you were] wrong and that the Church was — and is — right!” When the White House is moving against the legality of practicing some of the stuff Catholicism teaches, why the heck would anyone be receptive to such a message?
TOMEO: Because, as Glenn Beck recently said, “We are all Catholics now.” In other words, the HHS-mandate issue is about religious liberty and the right of conscience, which affects everyone of any faith — not just Catholics. The government does not have the right to tell any religion what it can and cannot teach — and that is basically what this administration is trying to do. They are trying to define their version of “religion.”
LOPEZ: What does the new “free birth control for all” policy of the United States mean to you?
TOMEO: That according to those in the current administration, there is only one acceptable ideology in this country — pro-contraception and pro-abortion. It’s their way or the highway, as the old saying goes; and it is very eye-opening as the lines are becoming much clearer. I see this, though, as a great opportunity for all people of faith — particularly in the Church — to lead the way in the fight for our basic constitutional rights.
LOPEZ: What do you think when you hear Catholic conscience protests dismissed because so many Catholics don’t practice what priests don’t even preach?
TOMEO: Most people go at least ten miles over the speed limit; that doesn’t make their actions correct. There is a very high percentage of young people who engage in underage drinking. That doesn’t mean we should lower the legal age limit to 14 just because “everyone” is supposedly doing this or that. To me, this is such an immature response. Just as with particular laws we have established in society, the Church has also established her own set of teachings for our benefit. It seems that this type of argument is only brought up when we are dealing with issues below the belt. I also question some of the statistics that the anti-Catholic pundits are using when it comes to the number of Catholics using contraception.