Ms. Bertram in her article titled, “Obama’a assault on Catholics is a threat to the rights of us all,” begins with the standard debaters’ tactic: defining your opponent in your own terms.
I don’t know anyone who has stated or will state that pregnancy is a disease. In my brief tome, I stated that “most doctors would agree that contraception falls within the realm of public health.”
It is the reason most women receive prenatal care and most women desire to have their babies born in hospitals under the care of a trained obstetrician. It is also the reason chemical contraception must be prescribed.
In the absence of modern medicine a significant number of women died in childbirth, not due to disease but because it was childbirth. Henry VIII’s wife, Jane Seymour, died in childbirth but she was not diseased.
As far as infertility being a “disease,” I have no idea where Ms. Bertram found that gem, except within the confines of her mind and the extremes of some radical religious viewpoint. For people who wish to conceive and cannot, it is a tragedy due perhaps to disease but most likely to some other reason.
My point about Catholics not adhering to the “revealed truths” concerning the church’s viewpoint on contraception is merely this: The bishops of the church can’t even sell this extraordinary viewpoint to their own flock.
But she is right if she believes this fact has little to do with the argument because what the church believes or doesn’t believe is not germane.
If and when this case goes to the Supreme Court, several judges will explore the precepts with hypotheticals. One might be this:
You speak of revealed truths. What if tomorrow, the head of the Mormon Church has a vision that the church was all wrong when it renounced polygamy in order for Utah to join the union? What if the revealed truth of the Mormon Church is now that polygamy is church doctrine and it is expected of every Mormon? Are we then to overturn 50 state laws outlawing polygamy?
What if the Jehovah’s Witnesses open hospitals but declare they will not pay for nor handle blood transfusions? What if Scientologists open hospitals and declare they will no longer pay for psychiatric care?
Where would Ms. Bertram like for me to stop? There are a lot of revealed truths out there. We are talking about public health and establishing some uniform system for public health.
As Ms. Bertram points out the Catholic Church is a major player. And to lower the tone of the argument to “someone else’s bedroom choices” when speaking about the availability of contraception so that a woman may in fact control her own choice of when she wishes to be pregnant is both Victorian (the age of men, the responsibility of women) and unrealistic.
The unreformed church overstepped its bounds in the early 16th century, the final straw being the sale of indulgences (purchased forgiveness for sins committed or to be committed) in Germany, the proceeds of which were to be used to rebuild St. Peter’s Cathedral.
A priest, one Martin Luther, loudly protested this earthly forgiveness sale. His protest gathered steam as did his vitriol and the Christian Church splintered and remains splintered.
The men who gathered to hammer out a Constitution in Philadelphia were keenly aware of this history and extremely suspicious of religion interfering in the duties of governance. Whether deists or skeptics, the major thinkers of the time understood the dangers of mixing the religious with the temporal.
I can only imagine John F. Kennedy trying to have this conversation when he ran for President. “I will not be dictated to by Rome; however, there are revealed truths and encyclicals I will consult now and then.”
President Obama was right to take this on at this time. If religious organizations cannot follow the law as relating to public health or any other law created for society which does not directly interfere with the personal practice of their religions, they should confine themselves to their core institutions where they may claim shelter.
The rest of us will not be dictated to by either a bishop in New York or the Bishop of Rome.
Timothy J. Parker
Peachtree City, Ga.