In the six weeks since Pope Francis’ election, those who have followed him in the media have been treated to a series of tantalizing headlines about his promising views on women.
The wave of excitement began during Holy Week, when Francis washed the feet of two women (and 10 men) and followed this tradition-breaking act a week later with a sermon that stressed the “special role” of women in the church.
And earlier this week, the Francis-induced spiritual high continued to soar with the rumor that Francis would be handing women a record number of positions in the Holy See.
But there has been sobering news, too. Last week, we learned that the new pope will move forward with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s mandate on Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As many will remember, last year, the doctrinal congregation accused LCWR of “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes” and doing little to further the hierarchy’s teachings against contraception, marriage equality and abortion.
So where does Francis really stand on women? Last week’s publication of the English translation of On Heaven and Earth offers some illuminating clues. Originally published in 2010, On Heaven and Earth is essentially a series of conversations between then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka on issues both contemporary (like globalization and same-sex marriage) and eternal (like the devil and death).
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Each topic is given its own chapter. Chapter 13 is titled simply, “On Women.”
Since Francis’ comments on women in this chapter run just shy of 400 words, I have included the full text below in block quotes. (In the interest of space and focus, I am not including Rabbi Skorka’s ideas.) Although I have broken up his statement to offer commentary on specific ideas, Francis’ words are presented in the same order in which they appear in the book.
In Catholicism, for example, many women lead the liturgy of the word, but do not exercise the priesthood, because in Christianity the High Priest is Jesus, a male. In the theologically grounded tradition the priesthood passes through man.
Women can’t be priests, Francis argues, because their anatomies do not match that of Jesus. In this quote and throughout his comments on women, Francis echoes an ancient idea that was thoroughly developed and articulated by Pope John Paul II in his 1988 apostolic letter* “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” (Mulieris Dignitatem).
John Paul II believed that while women were of equal worth and dignity to men, the differences in the physical makeup of male and female bodies were reflections of the different roles, purposes, strengths and weaknesses God intended for us. Men and women were designed to complement each other, which is why their genders must dictate their distinct roles in both church and society. Ultimately, to paraphrase Sigmund Freud, John Paul II believed anatomy is destiny. And Francis seems to agree.
The woman has another function in Christianity, reflected in the figure of Mary. It is the figure that embraces society, the figure that contains it, the mother of the community. The woman has the gift of maternity, of tenderness; if all these riches are not integrated, a religious community not only transforms into a chauvinist society, but also into one that is austere, hard and hardly sacred. The fact that a woman cannot exercise the priesthood does not make her less than the male.
Here Francis is evoking John Paul II’s notion of the “feminine genius,” which argues that women have a natural, unique capacity to offer tenderness and nurture to the community. This is the reason Francis, in his highly touted post-Holy Week sermon, spoke about women’s “special role” in the church. But special is not equal, which is why women cannot be priests.
It seems outside the imaginations of Francis and John Paul II that a male could offer nurture or tenderness or women could bring strength and leadership to the church. Our anatomies decide the nature of the gifts we can and cannot provide to the community.
Moreover, in our understanding, the Virgin Mary is greater than the apostles. According to a monk from the second century, there are three feminine dimensions among Christians: Mary as Mother of the Lord, the Church and the Soul. The feminine presence in the Church has not been emphasized much, because the temptation of chauvinism has not allowed for the place that belongs to the women of the community to be made very visible.
For a second and third time, Francis invokes Mary, the mother of Jesus, who according to Catholic doctrine remained a virgin until her death. Again we see the influence of John Paul II, who believed there are two dimensions to a woman’s vocation: physical and spiritual motherhood and virginity for the sake of the kingdom.
It is somewhat telling that Francis reaches back to the ideas of a second-century monk to explain the three feminine dimensions of Christianity rather than lifting up the rich images of the sacred feminine that have emerged in Catholic scholarship and spirituality in more recent centuries. He does recognize that chauvinistic tendencies have obscured women’s rightful place in the church. Of course, women’s rightful place in the church seems limited to some variation of mother or perpetual virgin.
Catholics, when we speak of the Church, we do so in feminine terms. Christ is betrothed to the Church, a woman. The place where it receives the most attacks, where it receives the most punches, is always the most important. The enemy of human nature — Satan — hits hardest where there is more salvation, more transmission of life, and the woman — as an existential place — has proven to be the most attacked in history. She has been the object of use, of profit, of slavery, and was relegated to the background; but in the Scriptures we have cases of heroic women that have transmitted to us what God thinks about them, like Ruth, Judith …
Here, Francis seems to be exploring the deeper meanings behind the traditional practice of symbolically identifying the church as a woman. Women and the church have endured similar experiences of power and victimhood throughout history, Francis argues: Both are great givers of life, and both have been violated and misused.
I wonder if Francis understands the negative effects the limits placed on women’s roles in the church have had on the dignity of women both inside and outside the walls of the church? Although the magisterium insists women have a “special role,” the sad truth is that they still have no decision-making authority in the institutional church and no power to lead the community in sacramental celebrations. Women didn’t even have a voice in the creation of notion of “feminine genius” that John Paul II and his two successors have promulgated.
Women may be valued for their maternal instincts, but ultimately it is the male hierarchy who defines and controls their role in the church. Like his predecessors, Francis doesn’t seem to understand how the strict limits the hierarchy has placed on women’s power inside the church has helped reinforce the powerlessness that women suffer in society.
What I would like to add is that feminism, as a unique philosophy, does not do any favors to those that it claims to represent, for it puts women on the level of a vindictive battle, and a woman is much more than that. The feminist campaign of the ’20s achieved what they wanted and it is over, but a constant feminist philosophy does not give women the dignity that they deserve. As a caricature, I would say that it runs the risk of becoming chauvinism with skirts.
Francis, like John Paul II and countless critics of feminism from the past century, employs the same old misrepresentation of feminism as a belligerent imitation of male domination. (“Chauvinism” is the translation of Francis’ word machismo.) Apparently Francis believes feminists should have been satisfied when they achieved the right to vote in the 1920s. (Is he aware of the irony that women, by virtue of their anatomies, still have yet to achieve any approximation of voting rights in the Roman Catholic church?)
In a world where women account for 70 percent of the global poor, half of all pregnant women lack adequate prenatal care, and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population is made up of women, Pope Francis wants to insist that any further fight for equal treatment under the law and equal standing in society should be understood as women trying — like vindictive macho men in female drag — to insist on their superiority over men.
If feminism is such a failure, what will, at long last, defeat all of the injustices that ail women in our world? Given all he has said in this interview, I’m sure Pope Francis would agree with John Paul II, who wrote, “the true genius of women,” that innate, unending female drive toward care-giving and mothering, will “overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.”
And, after all, who are chauvinists in skirts to challenge the opinions of men in long, flowing robes?
*An earlier version of this column misidentified the type of document.
[Jamie L. Manson received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her NCR columns have won numerous awards, most recently second prize for Commentary of the Year from Religion Newswriters (RNA).]
Editor’s note: We can send you an email alert every time Jamie Manson’s column, “Grace on the Margins,” is posted to NCRonline.org. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert sign-up.
The sun was just setting on a late summers’ afternoon in the Argentine capital when the news broke: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected pope. The man no one expected and no one had counted on. Bars and cafes filled, and shouting and a happy chaos filled the streets as people laughed and celebrated while pointing at the screens that showed live broadcasts from Rome and the news on their mobile phones.
A maintenance man for a high-rise in the expensive neighborhood of Belgrano weeps with happiness about the new pope: “I am very proud that the new pope is from Argentina. I hope that his words will influence all those who with mean and silly things to say.”
Clear and concise words
Argentines across the country celebrated ‘their’ pope
In Villa 31, one of the city’s notorious slums, there’s an impromptu Mass celebrated for the new pope, for “their” pope. He knew poverty and hardship and he fought against it since he became archbishop of Buenos Aires. It was with short, snappy and pointed statements like “debt is unjust, immoral and illegitimate” that he made a name for himself in Argentina. Bergoglio spoke out against Argentine and Latin American women being abducted and being forced into prostitution. “In a major town, slavery is the order of the day.” He was a supporter of the poor and those without a voice.
As archbishop, now Pope Francis didn’t use the official car but took the bus or metro like everybody else – in a city of millions where the public transport is a disaster. He could have lived in a villa provided by the church, but instead rented a simple, small apartment. He doesn’t drink expensive wine but goes for local tea. And it’s exactly that what makes him credible in the eyes of the people. This, however, does not mean that he’s a left-wing liberal. When it comes to homosexuality, contraception, priests’ celibacy or female priests, the new pope is uncompromisingly conservative.
Conservative, frank and open
It’s the mix of conservative doctrine and social commitment that make Francis special – and ensures him respect in his home country and beyond. He is considered to be a pope who could open the church, who knows the real problem of his flock and has solutions ready at hand. He’s not an abstract theologian behind the thick walls of the Vatican – but rather a real shepherd who knows what life is about.
Kirchner was a critical of the new pope while he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires
But that necessarily leads to conflicts with the government: Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner congratulated the new pope saying she hoped his fruitful pastoral work would stand for justice, equality, fraternity and peace. They words of praise she never had for the former archbishop. The president and her predecessor had frequently tried to get Bergoglio into court on charges of allegedly cooperating with the Argentine military dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. His rejection of gay marriage and legalizing drugs also did not make his easier for Argentine politicians to work with.
But for now, it’s the people who are celebrating. Francis, they are convinced, will lead the church out of its numerable ongoing crises. As a stern conservative and a voice for the poor and disadvantaged he seems to many to be the right man to open a new chapter in the history of the Catholic Church.
The pope has renounced the papal throne. Long live the progressive pope! Such are the rallying cries from establishment voices wanting to see the Catholic Church loosen up now that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to step down. But maybe people should listen to the Church’s actual views.
Mary Hasson from the Ethics and Public Policy Center has been doing some unique work looking into what Catholic women know and want from their Church. It’s scandalous and yet not entirely surprising that she found only 13 percent of Catholic women who occasionally attend Mass accept Church teaching on contraception.
It’s not a shock given that the average Catholic Mass goer is not exactly being taught the theology and even practicality of the Catholic teaching on sexual morality.
“On the one hand, the number is small, no question,” Hasson acknowledges. “That 13 percent includes not only weekly churchgoers but also women who attend less regularly, perhaps a few times a year. However, if we look only at women who attend Mass weekly, the percentage accepting the Church’s teaching on contraception goes up, doubling (to 27 percent) among young women ages 18-34. That’s a sign of hope — in spite of decades of dissenting theologians, silence from the parish pulpit and distorted cultural messages about sex, these women have heard the Church’s teaching and embraced it. These women form a solid core of faithful Catholics who can attest to the personal benefits of following the Church’s teaching on sexuality and family planning.”
Some Catholic women have a similar relationship to Church teachings on contraception: 37 percent, in Hasson’s findings, were unsure about the specifics.
“The 37 percent seems to confirm the stories that abound of Catholic women who went to Mass every week for years and to confession regularly, but never heard that contraception is wrong.”
A cover story in glossy New York magazine recently dared to question the good of the birth-control pill based on the damage it had wrought on women’s lives and bodies. The one institution that proposes a radically different way might just have something to offer the world — if it only taught it and lived it.
Pope Benedict has been a teacher, first and foremost, reintroducing a proposal that Christ himself offered. Men and women living in service for love of God are good to have around. Enough with the campaign for less Catholicism in the Catholic Church. How about a welcome mat for a good and faithful shepherd who, with confidence and humility, speaks with clarity about the teachings of the Catholic Church, “proposing the good news of Jesus Christ to a disenchanted world,” as George Weigel puts it in his book “Evangelical Catholicism.”
The world doesn’t need a Gospel of misery but of hope. The Church has it, and we should expect the next pope to teach on, infused with a generous and contagious spirit of engagement.
Kathryn Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online www.nationalreview.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By LOUISE RADNOFSKY
The Obama administration on Friday offered an updated compromise to its requirement that employers cover contraception in workers’ insurance plans, a step aimed at settling a yearlong contretemps over a mandate in the health-care overhaul.
The proposal is aimed at addressing the argument of Catholic bishops, along with religiously affiliated universities, hospitals and charities, that requiring employers to provide contraception violates their religious freedom. These objections sparked an election-year furor, along with a number of lawsuits seeking to void the requirement.
Obama administration will announce next steps in its attempt to resolve a controversy over health insurance coverage of contraception. Any change would be aimed at alleviating concerns of the Catholic church. WSJ’s Louise Radnofsky reports (Photo: AP)
The updated policy, proposed Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services, still guarantees that workers at religious nonprofits would get such coverage. But it specifies a way for employers to avoid funding it. The employers would be allowed to omit contraception, including the morning-after pill, from their insurance plans if they morally object to it.
Instead, insurance companies handling the policies would be responsible for informing employees that they were eligible for separate insurance plans covering contraception with no additional premium or out-of-pocket expense. The new rules would require insurers to pay the upfront cost.
The White House first outlined a compromise last year, but it was rejected by the bishops and Catholic institutions who had been its main opponents, and they went on to file several dozen new lawsuits challenging the requirement.
What is new about Friday’s proposal is how insurers would pay for contraception coverage, and how the workaround applies to employers that directly pay workers’ medical claims. The federal government would credit insurers for providing the stand-alone coverage for those employers by reducing a user fee insurers must pay starting in 2014 to sell policies to millions of Americans through a federally run health-insurance exchange.
Shirley Bierman, of Meridian, Idaho, stands with fellow protesters during a demonstration in Boise to oppose the Obama administration’s health-care mandate for religious institutions in June 2012.
“Nonprofit religious organizations like universities, hospitals or charities with religious objections won’t have to arrange, contract, pay or refer for coverage of these services for their employees or students,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services. “At the same time, women who work or go to school at these institutions will have free contraceptive coverage and will no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could be going to rent or groceries.”
As of late Friday afternoon, it wasn’t clear whether the latest offer would win over the policy’s main opponents. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, associations representing Catholic hospitals and schools including the University of Notre Dame didn’t immediately offer a substantive response, saying they were still studying the proposals.
But it was evident the deal didn’t appease some opponents of the policy, including several businesses suing the administration. The revised policy would provide no relief for companies that don’t have formal religious affiliation but whose owners oppose contraception coverage. Many foes of the mandate have said they wouldn’t be satisfied unless the requirement were eliminated altogether.
“The federal government continues to rely upon accounting gimmicks to address the concerns of religious nonprofits that do not qualify for the exemption,” said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican who brought an early suit against the requirement. “This rule utterly fails to address the concerns of for-profit corporations with religious objections to providing coverage for services contrary to their beliefs.”
Supporters of contraception coverage cautiously praised Friday’s proposal. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a written statement that it “delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without copays no matter where they work.”
The contraception requirement stems from a piece of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that requires insurance policies to cover preventive health services without charging out-of-pocket fees to enrollees. The Obama administration decided in 2011 that contraception counted as such a service, citing the health benefits of planned pregnancies for women.
Catholic hospitals, universities and charities are among the leading plaintiffs in the lawsuits challenging the requirement. For-profit companies suing include Hercules Industries Inc., a Catholic-owned Colorado heating-and-cooling company, and Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., an Oklahoma City craft chain whose Christian owners consider the morning-after pill to be a form of abortion.
A handful of judges have allowed cases against the requirement to proceed on the grounds that the employers could be protected by a 1993 statute that requires the federal government to consider the rights of religious groups when crafting policy. Some have been tossed out by judges that contended they could not be considered until the administration’s proposals had been fully detailed.
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm representing several of the companies. “We are confident that we have the support of the Catholic Church and other religious organizations in the for-profit cases.”
The fight over the requirement has been bruising for both sides. The White House has struggled for months to reconcile the objections of the religious groups, as key allies including women’s groups insisted President Barack Obama stand by a commitment to expanding access to contraception. The issue has divided Catholic groups, and priests across the country have used Sunday homilies to take sides on it.
Earlier efforts to come to an accommodation with religious groups had run into problems because many large employers, including big Catholic institutions, self-insure, meaning they act as insurance companies by assuming the full responsibility for the health costs of their workers and use traditional insurance companies only for administrative services.
The proposal to shift the costs and responsibilities for contraception coverage directly to traditional insurance companies is likely to be met with skepticism by the industry. The main trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said Friday it was still reviewing details of the plan.
—Colleen McCain Nelson contributed to this article.
Write to Louise Radnofsky at email@example.com
A version of this article appeared February 2, 2013, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Contraception Opt-Out Offer.
No. And if it seems that way it is because society is overly sexualised. The Church must be clear in its condemnation of illicit use of sex, contraception, and other social problems. If not then it is false charity on our part and thus a sin.
Yes, it does seem to be overly focused on sexual morality. Considering how little Jesus said about sexuality and how many, much more pressing, issues there are, it is quite bewildering, especially to outsiders, how much the Church focuses on sexuality or the prohibition of it. I think the reason for this seeming to be overly prominent in the life of the Church might be that the internal struggle surrounding that topic is very visible to outsiders; plus all the attention ‘equal’ marriage has attracted…
I think I have to agree with Thomas, I often feel like the focus on sexual morality to the neglect of other areas of theology obscures the beauty of the Church and Her message of unconditional love. In fact I think that the wider media focuses on these issues because they know how to make the Church seem most ugly. At the same time I think that sexual morality should not be hidden and ignored and the Church does a great service by simply being stable and clear on its stance. The challenge as ever is to communicate the truth but not legislate beyond that. A focus on sexual morality can even be healthy as long as what it communicates is a message of love and not of discrimination and judgement.
I think the challenge is expressing Catholic teaching on marriage, family and sexuality, and its connection to wider social issues, in a thoughtful and clear way. What I mean is to explain the difficult social processes by which a society with strong families helps alleviate material and cultural poverty, helps facilitate hospitality to the stranger, helps to bring about better working conditions, stronger links between people and politics, and so on.
If we can show how these values relate to building a better world, we can make them relevant. Too often, media and Catholic apologists take an approach that counts these things as obvious, and this just looks like magical thinking. We need to avoid magical thinking that suggests ‘if we get rid of abortion and divorce then the world will be perfect, God will bless us, and we won’t have to worry about climate change or the recession ever again!’
Obviously this isn’t true, and it isn’t what the Church teaches, but sometimes it is what people hear when the Holy Father talks about social ills and same sex marriage in the same sermon. Our task is to explain to the world how the two are rationally linked.
In reality sexual morality is almost never mentioned at the local level. Then again, it is much the same with all the other virtues too—they may be mentioned a bit more often than chastity is, but too often they are reduced to platitudes which are meaningless in front of the real temptations of everyday life. What is needed to dispel false impressions is a far clearer proclamation of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on sex, and at the same time a far more rigorous approach to all moral issues. ‘Sin’ and ‘virtue’ need to be restored to our vocabulary—and the real struggle to be virtuous that we face, in all areas of life, needs to be recognised.
I don’t think the Church focuses enough on sexual morality since it is a significant issue that affects a lot of young Scottish Catholics who are trying to find their way in the world. I was glad when I heard Pope Benedict XVI address the young people of Glasgow in 2010 when he said: “There are many temptations placed before you every day—drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol—which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.”
I am 32-years-old and have never heard a homily on pre-marital sex, contraception, Humanae Vitae, pornography, abortion or co-habitation. The truth is that we don’t hear nearly enough about these issues in the pews. I don’t know if the priests bottle out of it, or if they’ve been told to go easy, or that they don’t see it as appropriate, but the truth is unless you get the message across on a Sunday, most people won’t hear it at all. The overwhelming majority of the Faithful don’t read the Catholic press or frequent internet pages like this. I seriously doubt if even 10 out of 100 Mass-going Catholics in Scotland could explain the Church’s position on contraception in terms of what the doctrine is and why. Given that is so, it doesn’t surprise me that few people abide by it.
The problem is that teaching on these matters has been left to a few people, mainly recent Popes, who are pilloried in the press for it while there is silence locally. This leads to the false impression of a ‘sex-obsessed Church,’ and widespread dissent in reality. We need to hear the truth, often and locally, otherwise the struggle to be virtuous is just too difficult (and again, this goes for all the virtues, not just chastity).
I don’t think so; it is just given the importance needed. There are many resources that the Church puts at our disposal for us to understand better the place of our sexuality in God’s plan. However I am not sure how many of us are aware of them and consult them. But I think everyone would benefit from them and would find more about the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.
NEXT TIME: Do we take Lent seriously enough? How can we make the most of it in this Year of Faith?
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Disparity between Church and media perceptions of it
Feb 1 2013
We can see that there are two issues here: firstly, whether the Church subjectively appears to be too focused on sexual ethics; and secondly, whether the Church objectively is too focused on sexual ethics.
The first is essentially a question of perception, and so the answer will vary depending on our own experiences. This clearly shows through in the discussion. In the secular media, most stories on Catholicism involve questions of sexual morality, but in the day-to-day life of an individual Catholic at the parish level, these questions may in many cases rarely be discussed. It certainly seems fair to say that there is a discord between the Church’s image in the media and what is actually taught within the Church. It could certainly be argued that the one seems too focused on sexual morality while the other does not seem focused enough.
But why does the Church talk about sexual morality at all? Simply put, a right understanding of human sexuality is essential to any understanding of human being and meaning. Of course, sexuality goes beyond the sexual act to all that it means to be male and female. We find this meaning in the Creation story (Genesis 2:25) and it is also reemphasised by Christ (Matthew 19:4-5): human life and sexuality flow from our being created male and female. And so we can see that a faulty understanding of human sexuality can prevent us from fulfilling our true being and potential.
It is also true that the Church can seem so focussed on sexual morality simply because that is what people are interested in and take notice of. For example, this discussion topic was easily the most popular of all our discussions so far. In the secular press, the problem is exaggerated yet further: while there would be no space for a story on belief in Christ, there would be for a story on the Church and contraception. When it comes to the Church, it is only the stories about sexual ethics that make it into the mainstream and so become widely known.
Even so, we do have to be careful not to talk about sexual morality at the expense of other aspects of Catholic theology and teaching. Instead, it must be part of a well-rounded presentation of life in all its fullness and beauty.
All this leaves a few questions for us all to ponder: How can the Church teach the truth about sexual morality without seeming obsessed by it? How can we get people interested in the fullness of the Gospel message, and not just sexual ethics?
And how can we within the Church become more familiar and appreciative of the depth and breadth of these teachings?
WASHINGTON D.C.—Facing challenges to religious freedom has helped one Catholic businesswoman grow in her convictions as she works to put her principles into practice.
“It has clarified and intensified so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group.
In a Jan. 9 interview with EWTN News, she explained that she was relieved and “filled with gratitude” to receive an initial court ruling protecting her company from the demands of the federal contraception mandate.
Yep helped found Triune Health Group in 1990, along with her husband, Christopher, who is the company’s president and CEO. The couple is among the dozens of plaintiffs, who have filed lawsuits challenging insurance requirements that force them to violate their religious beliefs in their business practices.
A new federal mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization.
Triune had inadvertently been covering these objectionable products and procedures when national debate over the mandate led to an examination of the company’s policy. The Yeps discovered the oversight and are now seeking to ensure that they can run their business according to their Catholic faith.
They are also challenging a similar state mandate in Illinois that was put in place several years ago.
“For us, this battle has been going on for a long time,” Yep said.
At the last minute, Triune was granted an injunction from a federal court blocking the mandate while the lawsuit progresses.
Yep finds hope in the ruling, and she is encouraged by the fact that the majority of other for-profit employers – 10 out of 14 so far – also received injunctions blocking the mandate.
These rulings show that the courts are “doing their duty to protect the rights of Americans,” she explained.
But while she is grateful to have obtained at least temporary relief from the mandate, Yep is also frustrated that the lawsuit was necessary at all.
“What right do they have to do this, to take away our freedoms?” she asked.
Yep also said that she is tired of hearing opposition to the mandate being described as a “war on women.”
“It gets old after a while,” she added.
Several months ago, an anonymous employee survey resulted in Triune being named the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area by Crain’s Chicago Business.
As a woman, Yep said that she does not lack compassion, but instead can see that the real issue is religious liberty. She explained that the constitution protects her right to free exercise of religion, which includes living out her faith in public life, not merely at home or in church.
The Yeps have said that they see their business as “a form of religious stewardship” and believe that they are obligated to operate it according to their Catholic faith.
Shortly after filing the lawsuit, Yep stated that she strives to live as an “integrated person” and cannot separate her identity as a woman, a business owner and a Catholic. She said that she strives to put her values into practice in all areas of her public and private life.
While the preliminary injunction will block enforcement of the mandate temporarily, the company must now win a battle in the courts in order to win permanent relief.
Yep observed that on the whole, Triune has had support from people in the community, who “see that we’re fighting for their religious liberty as well.” This is also true of the company’s employees, who can “see what is at stake,” she added.
“We have an American flag in our lobby,” she said. “They know what we stand for.”
Furthermore, Yep explained that the ongoing battle for religious freedom has changed her perspective as she continues to run her business as a Catholic.
She pointed to the manger scene that Triune displays in the foyer during the Christmas season and the religious cards that the company sends out.
“All of a sudden, it was not just a casual thing anymore,” she said, describing the heightened sense of conviction.
“We don’t take anything for granted anymore,” she explained.
Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 1:00 pm
Updated: 5:31 pm, Tue Nov 13, 2012.
Pay as you pray?
Due to the contraception mandate, come August the Archdiocese of Washington alone will be required to pay at least $4 million to practice the Catholic faith in the United States, a country that used to value freedom of speech and religion above all else. How soon is it before other churches are required to pay a fee to practice their faith?
© 2012 CapitalGazette.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thursday, November 15, 2012 1:00 pm.
Updated: 5:31 pm.
The 2012 U.S. presidential election surprised many Catholics, but it should not have. The result wasn’t exactly predetermined, but the writing had been on the wall for many months. As far back as January 2012, I had predicted that President Obama would be reelected. The one real bump in the road came when his administration imposed the contraception mandate on religiously affiliated institutions, but in retrospect, choosing to announce that policy nine months before the election was a political stroke of genius, because it all but ensured that most of the outrage—most notably among Catholics—would die down before Election Day.
And looking at the exit-poll data, it had. President Obama’s share of the Catholic vote dropped from 54 percent in 2008 to 50 percent, but that was enough to put him over the top. As in 2008, Catholics can be said to have provided the margin of victory for the most pro-abortion president in American history. This time around, of course, he had also proved himself virulently anti-Catholic: His choice of Joe Biden, a pro-abortion Catholic, as his running mate in 2008 was nothing compared with his choice of the rabidly pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius as his secretary of Health and Human Services, nor his imposition, through Sebelius, of the contraception mandate, which threatens to put many Catholic institution—colleges and hospitals, especially—out of business, not to mention thousands of small businesses owned by Catholics who refuse to violate Church teaching.
Twenty-five percent of those who voted in this election identified themselves as Catholic; 11 percent say that they attend Mass weekly, and 13 percent say that they do not. (The numbers on Mass attendance do not add up to 25 percent because not all of those who identified themselves as Catholics revealed their attendance habits.) Not surprisingly, those who attend Mass weekly were less likely to vote for President Obama (42 percent) than the average Catholic, while those attend Mass less than weekly were more likely to do so (56 percent).
Why 42 percent of weekly Mass-going Catholics would vote for a man who has never hidden his support for the intrinsic evil of abortion is something of a mystery; there is no proportionate reason that would justify ignoring that fact. Those who pointed to President Bush’s wars in 2008, and John McCain’s willingness to continue to fight them, could not use that excuse this time: President Obama continued to prosecute the war in Iraq according to President Bush’s timetable, and he actually stepped up the war in Afghanistan, which continues today. He added to those U.S. military action in Libya, which, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was opposed by the Vatican.
In the end, of course, the reasons why 42 percent of weekly Mass-going Catholics voted for a man who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion hardly matters; what matters now is that this President, who has shown his willingness to challenge the Catholic Church in the United States head-on, now has four more years to do so. And no one should be surprised if his administration steps up its attacks on the Catholic Church and other traditional Christian denominations.
Opposing those attacks politically, of course, will be very important; but even more important is the recognition that, in the words of the motto of the monthly magazine that I edit, there are no political solutions to cultural problems. And the problem of abortion, and the increasing attacks on religious freedom, are, at root, cultural problems. The changing political life of the United States simply reflects the changing nature of our culture; and politics lags behind the culture, which means that the results of this election reflect a culture that is likely even farther removed from its traditional moorings than President Obama himself is.
Those who are dismayed by the results of this election and by the cultural shift that it reflects can do one of two things: They can spend their time complaining about other people who have undermined traditional culture, or they can do something about it, starting in their own homes and neighborhoods and parishes. They can wait for the 2016 election, and continue to put their trust in Republican politicians to save the country, or they can follow the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 146:3): “Put not your trust in princes: in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.”
In the wake of the 2008 election, I wrote extensively about the changes that could be wrought in the American political landscape if faithful Catholics were to vote only for candidates who broadly reflect Catholic social and moral teaching. (You can find links to those pieces at the end of this post.) I still believe that the only way to change the political landscape in the long term is to break out of the mindset that we must vote for the lesser of two evils, and only cast our votes for candidates whom we can positively support. Imagine if 25 percent of the population (all Catholics who voted) or even just 11 percent of the population (all weekly Mass-going Catholics who voted) had abstained from voting for either of the major-party candidates this year, because neither reflected (albeit in different ways) Catholic social and moral teaching. Had that happened, Catholics would have been the group of voters most sought after four years from now, and potential presidential candidates would have had to bring their own positions more closely in line with Catholic social and moral teaching.
But our efforts need to go beyond the voting booth. We cannot expect to judge political candidates by how closely they reflect Catholic social and moral teaching if we don’t understand that teaching ourselves. If we reduce that teaching simply to opposition to abortion (because it is the most important moral issue of our time) and, for instance, dismiss the prosecution of unjust wars as merely a “prudential judgment” (without understanding what a prudential judgment entails), then both major parties can continue to take the Catholic vote for granted. The Republicans can continue to count on the votes of pro-life Catholics, without actually doing anything about abortion when they are in office; and the Democrats can continue to count on the votes of all other Catholics, while increasingly spitting in the face of the Catholic Church.
Our children need to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Faith. They need to understand what it entails beyond one hour at Mass every Sunday. But in order for them to understand that, we need to understand it first. And that means we need to start living our lives as if we believe that Christ is King—not just for one hour per week, but every moment of every day.
Do that, and the culture will begin to heal itself. Do that, and politics will begin to reflect a revitalized culture. Put not your trust in princes, and—oddly enough—we may begin to find that we have more princes we can trust.
More on Politics and Faith:
“We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.”
– Cardinal Timothy Dolan
If you can pry yourself away from NFL games for a little bit, you might notice there’s a great variety of entertainment in television and movie theaters this fall. There’s something rather shocking though – how many times a piece of entertainment seemingly unrelated to the “real world” in fact shows precisely what’s going on in our society. Take the newest selection of DVDs in stores. A sleeper hit from this summer, “For Greater Glory”, is now available on DVD. The film depicts the true story of Mexican peasants who revolted and took up arms in the 1920s, and was reviewed in one of my earlier Examiner columns.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the type of story that Americans could related to. Yet the movie turned out to be extremely timely and relevant with its message, because what the Mexican government did in the 1920s began to appear eerily similar to the Obama administration’s Health Care mandate in 2012. Both were draconian laws that forced Catholic institutions to violate their own conscience. Writing in the Washington Post, film critic Lauren Markoe noted: “For Catholics enraged by the Obama administration’s proposed contraception mandate, the film about the Mexican church’s fight in 1920s is a heartening and timely cinematic boost in the American church’s battle to preserve ‘religious freedom in 2012”. Around the same time the movie came out this summer, the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, noted, “We have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it.”
For those who haven’t seen the film yet and wonder what all the fuss is about, “For Greater Glory” is now coming to Chicagoland, and this time it’s available free of charge. The local chapters of the Knights of Columbus, along with the Respect Life Committee of St. Bernard’s parish in Homer Glen, are inviting the public to a free screening during a movie night they have arranged for later this week. It is especially being empathized for youth groups and Hispanics, but all are welcome to come.
The Diocese of Joliet, Ill. Is promoting the event on their website, stating: “This major motion picture tells the epic, untold story of the Cristero War in 1920′s Mexico and the nation’s quest for religious liberty. Come enjoy the all-star cast and hear the story that will resonate with you in light of current events. Bring your friends”. Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs, CO gives us a quote that nicely sums up why the film has gotten the buzz it has: “This deeply moving account of the Cristeros’ fight for the freedom of religion in Mexico is very much a story for our own times. The faith and courage of the Mexican martyrs—clergy and laity—makes us proud to be Catholics.” Advertisements for the movie screening are accompanied with an article for earlier this year entitled “What Mexico Teaches Us”, written Carl A. Anderson, and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. I highly recommend it.
If you didn’t have a chance to see the film and theaters and you’re curious about it, then you, my faithful readers, should consider coming to St. Bernard’s as well – especially if you live in the far south part of Chicagoland where the movie screening will occur. Date and time is as follows:
See the movie “FOR GREATER GLORY”
Friday, October 5th—7 PM
St. Bernard’s Pastoral Center
13030 W. 143rd. St.
Homer Glen, IL 60491
There is no charge to attend.
For Greater Glory: St. Bernard’s Respect Life Committee along with the Knights of Columbus, are sponsoring the film For Greater Glory at St. Bernard’s Pastoral Center, 13030 W. 143rd St., Homer Glen. The movie night is free to all.
But perhaps historical dramas just aren’t your thing. Some of us like our film and television grounded in the true stories, like my mother does. Other people – like me – prefer escapist fantasy to take our minds off the dull and mundane real world. Such people enjoy viewing science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
One such well received television series – which unfortunately has now been canceled – was the recent remake of the classic sci-fi miniseries “V”. It was released on DVD just last year, and departs quite a bit from the 1983 original that it is loosely based on. But the premise is the same: a fleet of motherships from a distant planet arrive in Earth’s orbit, and hover above every major city on the planet. The aliens, who call themselves “the visitors”, seem to look just like us, but on the inside, it turns out they are actually reptilian creatures with a taste for live rats.
Of course, this is such an out-of-this-world premise (pun intended), you might be wondering what the heck it’s doing in a column about Catholic issues in Chicago. Certainly that has nothing to do with Catholicism, right? Think again. In both the original the 1980s V and the 2009-2010 remake, one of the heroes of the story is a Roman Catholic priest (Father Andrew Doyle in the original, Father Jack Landry in the remake) In both shows, the priest acts as a moral compass during the crisis of the invasion, and the television series address Catholic topics such as whether there is ever a just cause for war, and dealing with crisis’s like unplanned pregnancies. But even this plays second fiddle to a major plot point in the 2009 “V”, where the aliens motives and people’s reaction to them begins to eerily parallel the conflict between church and state in America and the battle over religious liberty today. One person reviewing the show found it uncomfortable, noting in his critique of the episode “Red Sky” . He wrote: “There is no wrath, after all, like an atheist socked in the face with preachy religious messages in the middle of a science fiction program that’s supposed to be about, well, science fiction, and I didn’t want to have a completely incoherent rant splashed all over search engines for the rest of time. “ What happened in the episode to distress him so much?
Over the course of the show, the characters begin to learn that the V’s intentions are often misleading and they are hiding their true goals. Much like our current government, the V’s argue that people are being paranoid and bigoted against them, and that they are scared of change when the V’s only want to help humanity by giving everyone access to free health care and bringing about a new era of peace. Catholic figures who question whether their policies are actually helping are swiftly attacked by major media outlets, who argue they are preaching “hate speech” against the V’s. One news reporter, Chad Decker, is convinced that the V’s “Healing Centers” cured him of a fatal aliment. But those who have researched the issue realize the facts. Father Jack Landry explains that the V’s actually induced the problem in the first place and then “cured” him of it to gain sympathy. He tells Chad, “Anna didn’t cure your aneurysm. She gave you one.” He then directs Chad to the area where the Visitors take the human guests “Live Aboards”. Chad finally realizes the evil of the V “health care”, as he witnesses firsthand the horrific testing being done on humans. Seeing the V’s drilling needles into people and torturing them makes him squeamish.
Father Jack Landry is constantly conflicted about whether to publicly speak out against the V’s, seeing how many people strongly support them and think they’re doing their best to help mankind when the Catholic Church stands in the way, but Fr. Landry realizes in the episode “Red Sky” he must abide by his conscience and do what is right, even if it means disobeying the orders of the church pastor who is sympathetic to the V’s. Fr. Landry’s concern is that people are turning away from God and increasingly seeing the V’s as God because of their mighty power and charisma. He speaks from his heart to his congregation with a homily entitled “The V’s as false prophets”. This is difficult in a Catholic Church, as many of the parishioner’s support the V’s in spite of their questionable actions. He tells them:
“I was lost, and now I am found. I lost the courage to tell you the truth, that you need to choose who you are going to follow—the V’s, or God? Because you can’t serve two masters… There is a war upon us, a war for our souls. With love, hope, and faith, we can overcome anything.”
When he begins to directly denounce the actions of the V’s, many parishioners walk out of St. Josephine’s Church, but some stay. Jack asks others to stand with him in this war for their souls, saying “Who among you will join me?” He notes:
“Let V no longer stand for Visitor, let V stand for Victory!”
By the time he has finished his homily, only about a dozen parishioners remain, scattered around the pews, but those who remain are standing in support of him. Although he is not a soldier, he proves he can be warrior through his faith. As a priest, he had a both a pulpit (literally) and an aura of moral authority. While the media is the mouthpiece of the V’s, he can be the public spokesman of the opposition.
Though they tell almost entirely different stories, both movies like “For Greater Glory” and television shows like “V” show us that Catholics are in a real war against the government for our very survival. In may not be a literal shooting war like we see on the screen, but the conflict is every bit as deadly and the stakes are just as high. What seems to be purely pieces of action and entertainment can teach us a lot about the problems of a government structure that does not see the sanctity of human life and understand the dignity of every human person, and a government that tries to impose its will and silence religion through bullying, scare tactics, name-calling, and raw force to coerce the public into supporting them and turning against Catholicism.
You may not have gotten a chance to see either of them first hand, but now with home video release, you can. “For Greater Glory” is expected to have a strong turnout for its screening at St. Bernard’s Church, and “V” is now available via live streaming on Netflix and other such sites. Both are certainly worth at least checking out once. When fiction becomes fact, what side will you take in the war?
September 18, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) – Back in February this year, when the battle between religious leaders and the Obama administration over the latter’s contraceptive mandate reached a new pitch of intensity, the White House defended its policy by alleging that 98 per cent of Catholic women had used contraception. If that was the case, we were meant to ask, what on earth were the Catholic bishops, for one, making a song and dance about? Hadn’t their own female constituency effectively deserted them on this issue?
The claim, quoted far and wide at the time, turned out to be a political factoid rather than a real statistic. People who analysed the Guttmacher Institute study it came from pointed out that the study was selective and self-contradictory. For a start it was based on a survey restricted to women aged between 15 and 44, so it could say nothing about women between 45 and 100. And one table showed that 11 per cent of sexually active Catholic women who did not want to become pregnant were using no method of contraception at all.
Still, nobody is pretending that hordes of Catholics don’t dissent from their Church’s “thou shalt not” regarding contraception. We do not need the Guttmacher Institute or the White House to tell us that. Nor do we need them to tell us why the many Catholics who never go to church would not bother with one of its more difficult moral teachings.
What we don’t know is why practising Catholics who do go to Mass—and even, if only occasionally, to confession—also feel entitled to reject the teaching.
Why, for instance, do “Catholic moms in minivans drop their children at the parish school and head to their gynaecologists to be fitted for diaphragms or to get a new prescription for ‘the pill’ —and think nothing of it,” as the authors of a new study, What Catholic Women Think About Faith, Conscience, and Contraception, put it.
Do the parish moms have an accurate idea of the Church’s teaching on family planning? After four decades of dissent it would be surprising if they all did. And when the teaching is presented accurately to practising Catholics are they more open to it? What are their reasons for rejecting it, and what would they like to know more about?
For all the times Catholic women have been surveyed on whether they have “ever used” contraceptives, no-one has asked those who practice their faith but not its teaching on family planning, “Why?”, say the study’s authors, lawyer Mary Rice Hasson, a Fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C, and director of the Women, Faith, and Culture project, and Michele M. Hill, a Baltimore Catholic and co-director of the project.
National survey of church-going women
To answer that question a national online survey of church-going Catholic women aged 18 to 54 was carried out in June and July of last year by the polling company inc./WomanTrend. (This is a preliminary report, say the authors, as further insights are expected from focus groups and ongoing in-depth interviews with 100 of the women.) Of the 824 women in the sample, half attended church at least weekly, while the other half attended less than weekly but at least a few times a year.
Their responses confirm that, on this issue at least, church-going Catholics have been influenced far more by popular culture than by Catholic teaching on sex and reproduction. Fully 85 percent of all the women believe they can be “good Catholics” even if they do not accept some of this teaching, including the 37 percent who completely reject it.
The picture, of course, looks decidedly better among regular Mass-goers. Among young women (18-34) who attend every week, 27 percent completely accept the Church’s teaching, and among those who both attend Mass weekly and have been to confession within the past year that figure rises to 37 percent. Just 24 percent of the women who go to Mass every week completely reject the teaching on contraception, and for those who have been to confession that figure drops to 12 percent.
Even among the dissenting majority, however, not all are closed to the Church’s message on this subject. Hasson and Hill point out that about a third of these women mistakenly believe that the Church itself gives them the right to make up their own minds about which methods of family planning are morally acceptable. Many do not reject the Church’s authority out of hand.
Top reasons for contraceptive use
Mistakenly or not, 53 per cent of all women in the study who dissent in part or completely from church teaching cite a couple’s “moral right” to decide which method of family planning they will use. This makes it the top reason given for rejecting church teaching on the matter.
Two other reasons are cited frequently among this group: 46 percent say couples have “the right to enjoy sexual pleasure without worrying about pregnancy”, and 41 percent think that natural family planning is not an effective method to space or postpone pregnancy.
The authors perceive two main dynamics shaping these views: the influence of a cultural mindset that divorces sex from procreation and promises “sexual pleasure without consequences”, and a deficit on the church side in presenting Church teaching.
The latter can be deduced from the fact that 72 per cent of women surveyed said they rely mainly on the homily at Sunday Mass for learning about the faith, and yet just 15 per cent of that group fully accept the Church’s teaching on sex and reproduction. The weekly Mass homily, the authors say, “seems to represent a lost opportunity when it comes to conscience formation on the contraception issue.”
As for cultural influences, they seem likely (although the authors don’t say so) to account for at least some of the scepticism about natural family planning given the systematic bad press NFP is give by mainstream family planners and the media.
For the pastors of the Church, all this represents a steep challenge. Yet Catholic women may be more receptive to the Church’s view of things than first appears.
Openness of the “soft middle”
Importantly, the survey shows they are more open to children than the average American, their “ideal” number of children averaging 3.5 (or 4 if money were not a factor) compared with the American ideal of two or fewer.
Also, say the study authors, “When presented with an accurate description of the Church’s teachings on family planning many Catholic women show reluctance to completely reject the Church’s teaching.”
Instead, three groups emerge: “the faithful” (who fully accept the teaching—13 percent of the sample), “the dissenters” (who completely reject it—37 percent), and the “soft middle” (who accept “parts” of the teaching). In addition, a significant number of women in the “soft middle” (about half of weekly Mass-goers) show openness to learning more about church teaching on contraception and natural family planning.
Good will shown by many women in the “middle” represents an opportunity for the Church, the authors point out—and natural family planning may be a good starting point for communicating the Church’s teaching about procreation. About one in four of those who attend Mass regularly shows an interest in learning more about the method: hearing from other couples about the health and relationship benefits of NFP, what doctors say about it, and scientific evidence about its effectiveness. Such messages may be more persuasive than spiritual or authoritative ones, the authors suggest.
But alongside their message that many Catholic women are “reachable” the authors warn that the task is becoming more complicated. While the survey shows 10 percent of church-going women have had abortions (lower than the national average), 17 percent of younger women have used emergency contraception. This means that the Church has to inform women about the potentially abortifacient nature of EC “as well as arguing more persuasively that contraception itself is wrong.”
The Catholic bishops are fighting the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate—that is, the policy of forcing all employers, including Catholic institutions such as hospitals and schools, to provide full cover for contraceptives, sterilisation and emergency contraception in their health insurance plans—as an attack on the free exercise of religion, which it is.
But in light of the information in “What Catholic Women Think…” the mandate may be a blessing in disguise. By forcing the issue of contraception to the top of the Church’s public agenda it has created an opportunity for the Church to have an internal conversation on the subject—the kind of opportunity that perhaps has not been seen since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in 1968.
The study from the Women Faith and Culture project shows that such a discussion is long overdue.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.
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