The recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include a mandate for all health care plans to include provisions for contraception, sterilization and abortion has raised a number of concerns among Catholics and other Christians. Sad to say, such concerns are often dismissed as inconsequential, just as the concerns about the racial segregation were often dismissed as out of hand in the deep South one hundred years ago. Yet dismissing a concern does not really address the issues raised by that concern. It would be helpful, therefore, for those with open minds, to address some of the questions often suppressed in the name of "sexual liberation".
Among these questions, which the American Catholic bishops believe should not be dismissed in such a perfunctory manner, are the following:
1) From whom does an individual receive the right to life and the right to live - from God or from society? Our Founding Fathers declared that these rights are endowed by our Creator. But our secularized society has sought for decades to assert that these rights are derived from the individual couple or, as in China, from the government. The secular perspective would have us think that such rights are not inalienable, but rather contingent on the choice or the permission of the couple/society. Which of these perspectives is more authentically human?
2) Is the human person sacred or merely functional? Are we to assert that a child has intrinsic value as a person? Or are we to assert that a person has value only if he/she is "wanted"? If we accept the second option, will we be falling into the tragic syndrome lamented in the song, Sweet Dreams, "some people want to use you, some people want to be used by you; some people want to abuse you, some people want to be abused by you."?
3) Is HHS correct in considering pregnancy a preventable venereal disease - with the pre-born child to be relegated to the status of a parasite or a malignant tumor, which is a threat to the health or the life of his/her mother? Are we thus build up our children's self-esteem by teaching them that they began life as parasites and, after they were born, became part of a serious "pop-pollution" problem?
4) Does a child have a basic right to be conceived in the context of the beautiful mystery of marital love? Or is a child to be considered an unwanted by-product of unbridled lust? Does God intend a child to be created as the fruit of the sacred love of husband and wife? Or is a child to be considered an accident, a punishment or merely as the product of medical manipulations designed to suit the desires of the consumer?
5) In view of the 1965 decision of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to redefine "conception" as occurring at the moment of implantation, rather than at the moment of fertilization, are we ignoring the fact that some "contraceptives" actually act as abortifacients by preventing a newly formed human life from implanting in his/her mother's womb?
6) What percentage of woman have suffered strokes, heart attacks or even death due to blood clots caused by the pharmaceutical contraceptives?
7) Is contraception limited to sexual fertility - or does it lead to other forms of suppression? If man believes he has the right to force a woman to suppress her fertility in order to appease his lust, will he be more or less likely to demand that she suppress other dimensions of her uniquely sacred personhood for the sake of his agenda and desires?
8) Since proponents of contraception, sterilization and abortion have promised for over fifty years that these practices would lead to happier marriages and to decreasing rates of domestic violence, child neglect and divorce - how true have these "prophecies" proven to be?
9) Is there any indication of a statistical correlation between the use pharmaceutical contraceptives and abortion before a woman has a full term delivery of a child and the rate of breast cancer?
10) At Auschwitz seventy years ago, the Nazi SS consigned new arrivals to either death or to slave labor. Are we gradually being drawn into a similar mentality, whereby we are consigning our posterity to either death by abortion or to involuntary servitude to pay off a $15,000,000,000,000 national debt that is projected to grow by over $1,000,000,000,000 a year? Is this the proper way to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity?
The concern of the Catholic bishops, therefore, goes beyond merely religious convictions. To American Catholics, it is a reminder that, during the Exodus, the golden calf was built and worshipped at the behest of all the Israelites while Moses was on Mt. Sinai - and they were seriously in error. To the rest of our citizens, it raises several important issues. Do we want to build our nation on resentments or resilience? Do we want to promote real virtues like chastity, or do we want to promote virtual reality
and the masking of sexual addictions as machismo? Do we want marriages based on reverence and respect or on the arousal and appeasement of our more base instincts?
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was sent into this world not to confirm our slavery to lust, greed, pride and resentment. Rather, He came to free us from sin and its consequences by shedding His Precious Blood for our redemption, our healing and our reconciliation. Do we want to seek salvation through His healing mercy, compassion and truth? Or are we to content ourselves by building our own salvation on a flimsy foundation of excuses and resentments? As the true prophets have warned us through the ages - just because something in society has become normal does not mean that it is morally normative. Salvation is not found in capitulating to evil, but in confronting evil with the truth and fidelity of Christ, proclaimed with the same love that moved Him to lay down His life, so that we could have life to the full with Him.
Spero columnist Rev. Tom Collins is a Catholic priest serving in Virginia.