#522 – Dick Bernard: After Ash Wednesday, 2012

Wednesday noon we attended Ash Wednesday service at the local Catholic Church, and that afternoon I walked around with ashes on my forehead (“dirt” as the Priest described it), not making a particular statement with it. It’s the one time of the year when you can sort of figure out who might be Catholic.
Back home, the first e-mail I saw was the following from a colleague in Peace and Justice efforts.
As a lifelong Roman Catholic, I’m happy to oblige to help a little in passing this message along.
“Here is a statement published in the Feb 21, 2012 Philadelphia Inquirer that was written by my friend and former neighbor Paul Stubenbort. I think it should go viral. Paul had been a member of the Catholic ministry and withdrew over issues of conscience such as this.
Paul Stubenbort
Bensalem, Pa. 19020
Dear Editor:
Religious leaders in Philadelphia are opining that the U.S. Government is antireligion.
Archbishop Chaput claims that Obama’s healthcare stance is the most “aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country…in recent memory.”
This public discussion about freedom of religion and birth control is puzzling. I see no relation between the two. Most Catholics practice artificial birth control, or did, or will, and see no impropriety in it. Our church defines itself as “The People of God.” So most of the millions of the “People of God” practice birth control in this country. Only the Catholic Hierarchy finds something wrong with that. And its opposition to birth control is based, not on the scriptures, but on its own quaint reading of natural law, whereby every conjugal act has to be open to the procreation of children. To deny artificial birth control to societies that cannot even feed the people already here is morally irresponsible.
For the government to insist that all have access to birth control is socially responsible and morally defensible. The U.S. Government imposed its will on slaveholders in spite of slaveholders’ recourse to scripture to defend slavery. It likewise imposed its will on those who based their defense of polygamy on religious concepts. And just as the government intervened to stop evil, it has the right to intervene to promote good. The government has the right to legislate for the health and welfare of women, any religion notwithstanding. To accuse the government of being anti-religion in this question of birth control is more than foolish, it is political.
Paul Stubenbort
Roman Catholic

I routinely check to see if such a document is real, and appears as stated, and this one is real, and does appear in the Inquirer for February 21.
“Fair and balanced”, there is a long and passionate response against Stubenborts opinion in the same paper, which essentially mirrors the standard declaration of faith that (in this case, the Catholic hierarchies) religious freedom gives them the right to take away others freedom to believe differently….
Long and short, Roman Catholicism’s “feet in cement” position on contraception (and by extension its seamless notion of the sanctity of life from before conception to unnatural (Schiavo) death), is rooted in the decision of a single person, Pope Paul VI, in 1968, when he adopted the minority position of a Catholic Commission on the matter. Read any reasonably fair and balanced report of the genesis of that portion of Humanae Vitae, and you’ll find what I say is true. All the rest is argument, supporting or refuting the Pope.
This doctrine is not God or Jesus talking; rather it is Pope Paul VI, supported by the current political structure in Rome, and ignored by the vast majority of practicing Catholics.