“Something about Contraception,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
A few years ago, I had a chance to come across and read an op-ed piece in the May 23, 2012 issue of The New York Times. This was an article by Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist I greatly admire under most circumstances.
Ms. Dowd objects to the position of the Roman Catholic Church concerning contraception. She begins her essay by stating that her parents were devout Catholics. She goes on to say and note her disapproval of the Catholic Church’s leadership fighting then President’s Obama’s attempt to get insurance coverage for contraceptives for women who work or who go the college at Catholic institutions.
Ms. Dowd argues and insists that the Church’s position constitutes some sort of war on women and is a way of maintaining women’s lower role and caste in the church. She believes the Roman Catholic Church is obsessed with sex in the wrong way and ways. She says the bishops and the Vatican care passionately about putting women in chastity belts, but are unconcerned about sexual abuse by priests.
Ms. Dowd is mistaken in her argument, and is erroneous in her thinking. She believes the Roman Church to be anti-female and to be conducting some sort of backward prejudicial war by men against women. The issue of free abortion and contraception are concerned with human life. For a Christian, all life and all human life and all human beings that were ever born or ever existed and whoever will come into being are created by god and in the image of Christ.
Christ and his church conduct no war against either sex but place ultimate and eternal value on every person old, handicapped, about to be born, dying, and about to come into the world to life.
I suggest to Ms. Dowd that the look at the Cross, in which we have an image of a God dying and suffering for all mankind. The position of the Catholic Church and of the believing Christian is not concerned with shallow feminist politics but with who are as human beings, whoever we may be and who we are capable of becoming.
Ms. Dowd objects to the position of the Catholic Church in this respect. I suggest the value she may attach to herself and her own life. The Catholic Church in fact is not concerned and obsessed with sex, as she seems to say and argues, but with the sanctity and worth of all human life, irrespective of race, sex, class, social status or age. For the Christian, equal value is attached both to the terminally-ill about to die and leave this world and to the infant about to be born. In fact, there is no difference between female and male but the difference in Ms. Dowd’s perspective and that of the Catholic Church lies in whom we see our fellow human beings in their essential personhood. Contraception blocks life from coming into being and in its formation and prevents a person being conceived.
I would like to offer another reason for the position of the Roman Catholic Church concerning contraception. Contraception and contraceptives in some sense, if freely available, distributed, and given to all who want them can result in promiscuous sexual conduct. The position of the church is that sexual activity should be confined on a moral and theological basis to the marriage bond and when the use of contraception is encouraged, sex as an act of love and connected with the creation of the family becomes nothing more than a means of selfish sexual pleasure. It is the position of the Roman Catholic Church, rightly or wrongly, that sex should occur in the love and nurturing bond of the family and marriage.
Contraception and the use of contraceptives strike at the institution of marriage and offer ultimately as a substitute free promiscuous sexual activity whose sole object is selfish sexual pleasure.
This essay is taken from my book “Essays on Faith, Culture, Politics, and Philosophy,” published by University Press of America.