May We Please Keep Talking About Family Planning Until November?: Garry Wills Smacksdown E.J. Dionne Watch
Contraception’s Con Men: By a revolting combination of con men and fanatics, the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office. Take the controversy over contraceptives. American bishops at first opposed having hospitals and schools connected with them pay employee health costs for contraceptives. But when the President… [said] insurance companies can pay the costs, the bishops doubled down and said no one should have to pay for anything so evil as contraception. Some Republicans are using the bishops’ stupidity to hurt the supposed “moderate” candidate Mitt Romney, giving a temporary leg up to the faux naïf Rick Santorum; others are attacking Barack Obama as an “enemy of religion.”
Pusillanimous Catholics—Mark Shields and even, to a degree, the admirable E. J. Dionne—are saying that Catholics understandably resent an attack on “their” doctrine (even though they do not personally believe in it). Omnidirectional bad-faith arguments….
The Phony Religious Freedom Argument: The bishops’ opposition… is a way of imposing Catholic requirements on non-Catholics. This is religious dictatorship, not religious freedom. Contraception is not even a religious matter…. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of “natural law,” over which natural reason is the arbiter—and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil…. To disagree with Catholic bishops is called “disrespectful.” an offense against religious freedom…. Yet a man who believes that contraception is evil is an aberrant from the American norm, like the polygamist or the faith healer.
The Phony Contraception Argument: The opposition to contraception has, as I said, no scriptural basis. Pope Pius XI once said that it did, citing in his encyclical Casti Connubii (1930) the condemnation of Onan for “spilling his seed” rather than impregnating a woman (Genesis 38.9). But later popes had to back off from this claim, since everyone agrees now that Onan’s sin was not carrying out his duty to give his brother an heir (Deuteronomy 25.5-6). Then the “natural law” was fallen back on…. But a primary natural purpose does not of necessity exclude ancillary advantages. The purpose of eating is to sustain life, but that does not make all eating that is not necessary to subsistence “unnatural.” One can eat, beyond the bare minimum to exist, to express fellowship, as one can have sex, beyond the begetting of a child with each act, to express love.
The Roman authorities would not have fallen for such a silly argument but for a deep historical disrelish for sex itself….
The Phony “Church Teaches” Argument: Catholics who do not accept the phony argument over contraception are said to be “going against the teachings of their church.” That is nonsense. They are their church. The Second Vatican Council defines the church as “the people of God.” Thinking that the pope is the church is a relic of the days when a monarch was said to be his realm…. When Paul reaffirmed the ban on birth control in Humanae Vitae (1968) there was massive rejection of it…. [T]he document formed to convey the idea that papal teaching is inerrant just convinced most people that it can be loony….
The Phony “Undying Principle” Argument: Rick Santorum is a nice smiley fanatic. He does not believe in evolution or global warming or women in the workplace…. He equates contraception with the guillotine. Only a brain-dead party could think him a worthy presidential candidate. Yet he is praised by television pundits, night and day, for being “sincere” and “standing by what he believes.” He is the principled alternative to the evil Moderation of Mitt Romney and the evil Evil of Newt Gingrich…