Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Bishops, GOP Wrong on Contraception, Houston Chronicle Letter-Writers Say

Three letters to the editor posted yesterday on the website of The Houston Chronicle (and published in today's print edition) explain why the Obama administration is right -- and the U.S. Catholic bishops and their conservative cronies are wrong -- on the subject of requiring church-related colleges, charities and other institutions to provide their employees access to contraceptives.

The first two letters are the most cogent.  The first argues that for decades Catholic women and Catholic married couples have gotten the morality of birth control much more accurately than church leaders:  the real sinners are those who promote unbridled, unsustainable global population growth.  The second says that the bishops are trying to get the U.S. government to force Catholic employees to accept contraception teachings that violate their consciences.

(The third letter, arguing that institutions that take government money should follow government rules, is not as helpful -- in that the Obama administration is correct whether the institutions in question are getting government money or not:  the public funding is not the primary issue, but rather the right of every employee to follow his or her conscience on family planning.)

Here is the text of the first two letters:

Outdated notion

Regarding "Battle lines form over reproductive rights" (Page B12, Sunday), Kathleen Parker is quite correct that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church opposes providing birth control in Catholic hospitals. What she is overlooking is the fact that the hierarchy and the parishioners are in completely different places.

For years the Catholic leaders have said that the use of contraception is unnatural and a sin for those who use it, and for years women all over the world have wisely ignored those teachings. One recent study found that over a lifetime at least 90 percent of women have used contraceptive devices of various types.

All of these women have sinned against God according to the church. Yet, despite this the church leaders continue to stubbornly cling to outdated notions about what is and is not natural.

The human population of this Earth is about 7 billion and growing steadily. Because of the growth in some areas, people have trouble obtaining clean water, adequate food, sanitary facilities, basic medical care and other necessities. That's sinful.

Instead of resisting new health regulations, I invite the leaders of the Catholic Church to think about what is really moral.

We need to get this planet's human population under control. People are entitled to a decent existence, and if we are tied to worn out thinking by our church leaders and the silly notion that it is a sin to use contraceptives, we are just not going to get there.

Robert L. Fischer, Houston

Archaic ideas

Kathleen Parker charges the Obama administration with "utter disregard for religious liberty" because the new health care law will require Catholic institutions to provide birth control coverage in their insurance packages. Actually, Obama is protecting the Catholic laity and non-Catholic employees of Catholic institutions from the Catholic hierarchy's archaic ideas.

What the Catholic Church wants is for the federal government to enforce a policy on its members that it is unable to enforce itself on 90 percent of them.

If you look at the percentage of Catholics using birth control or even the pill, it hardly differs from the American average.

It wasn't that long ago that the Catholic Church was arrogant enough to use the government to force its birth control doctrine on everyone in the state of Connecticut, including married couples in the privacy of their own homes. It blew up in their face, and the Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) helped to establish the right of privacy that figured heavily in Roe v. Wade.

Personally, I would be more comfortable if Catholic institutions were allowed to offer their employees two insurance options, with or without birth control coverage, were it not for the risk of retaliation against Catholic employees who opted for coverage of contraception.

Walter D. Kamphoefner, Bryan

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