Wineke: Bishop’s Birth Control Assertions Raise Questions

By Bill Wineke Special to Channel 3000

I’ve kind of missed the controversy Madison’s Roman Catholic Bishop, Robert Morlino, can cause with his weekly column in the Madison Catholic Herald, but, last week, he was back in full form.

Morlino asserted that the nation’s new health reform law is Satanic and pretty much suggested Roman Catholic women are, too.

“The devil, the ancient serpent, has taken a new form. He has attacked us from a new front and we all know that. In our own time, there is a secular, Godless attack on the freedom of religion. We know what the church teaches about abortion and we know what the church teaches on contraception. That’s not the issue, here,” Morlino suggested.

What is the issue, he said, is that the health reform law “makes it impossible for a Catholic employer who has his own business and who wants to follow the teaching of the church, to follow the teaching of the church.”

The law requires that employers who are not directly involved in a church function — the Diocese of Madison, for example — must provide family planning and contraception coverage in their health insurance plans. Church-related organizations, like colleges and hospitals, would not have to pay for such coverage but their insurance plans would have to offer it.

“Catholic institutions will have to pay fines so as to go bankrupt, or violate their Catholic conscience. This is an all-out divide and conquer attack on the Catholic Church,” Morlino writes.

Since the leaders of many of those Catholic institutions now embrace the administration’s plan, I’m not sure Morlino knows what he is talking about; but, hey, he’s the bishop and religious leaders do often engage in hyperbole.

What really interested me in Morlino’s argument, however, is that he dismisses out of hand the idea that Catholic women use birth control measures at the same rate as other women.

See what you think of this argument:

“And though it may well be a fact that most Catholics accept artificial contraception, the reality is that, as Cardinal George recently pointed out, the bishops do not speak for individual baptized Catholics who may no longer have a clear conscience. The bishops speak for Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and the church and it can be that a majority of Catholics are simply not in tune with Jesus Christ and his church for lots of reasons that one can understand, but nonetheless we cannot allow those reasons to mislead us.?

The most common statistic I’ve seen suggests 96 percent of Catholic women use “artificial” forms of birth control at some point in their lives. One has to assume that quite a few of these women do so with the participation or, at least, acceptance of Catholic men.

If you are a leader and an overwhelming majority of the people you lead just flat out disagree with you, why would you assume that you are the one “in tune with Jesus Christ and his church?” Aren’t those people who disagree with you the “church?” And of the vast majority of the people you lead think you’re wrong, then why is your position one of “freedom of religion?” Whose conscience is being violated?

I know I’m probably in over my head here but I always thought that Catholics believe the church to be the “people of God.” Maybe I’m wrong.

Or it may be that, in a time when almost every traditional Catholic social teaching, from concern for the poor to the right of workers to unionize, to just war theory — just for starters — is under prolonged political attack, the attack by the “ancient serpent” isn’t concentrated on birth control.