Birth Control and True Liberty

By: Caitlin Bootsma, Office of Communications

When you read in the Washington Post that, “A provision in the law expanded preventive health-care benefits for women,” you could think that it is a positive development and simply skim to the next article.

If you look deeper, however, you’ll discover that recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandated that private health plans cover female surgical sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the FDA as contraceptives, including drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother’s womb.

The same Washington Post article explains that Catholic hospitals are concerned that they will be required to provide birth control under this new legislation and will not be eligible for a conscience exemption. The Post quotes a representative from the National Women’s Law Center who says that, “all women do use contraception at some point in their lives” so essentially this mandate should not provide a problem.

The clear bias of the article may make it difficult to recognize the real problem.

First of all, claiming that all women will use contraceptives is a vast generalization.

Secondly, this mandate ignores that contraceptives, including ella (which can destroy a human life weeks after conception), are morally reprehensible to many people, not only Catholics.

In other words, this legislation – without adequate conscience exemptions – goes against one of the founding principles of our country: freedom of conscience, the very liberty that we pride ourselves on as Americans, that our country is founded upon, that we write patriotic songs about.

This roadblock to our pursuit of true liberty is expressed by Cardinal DiNardo:  “Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families or their employees. To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”

It is easy to treat this as just one more news story. However, except for a very narrow religious exemption that primarily affects churches, this new mandate will not only affect Catholic hospital. It will also require others who provides health insurance to their employees, including Catholic universities and schools and social service agencies such as Catholic Charities, to provide health insurance that  must now include free birth control.

So, what can we do?

  1. Keep the discussion alive. Too often, media or others can treat these debated issues as if they are done deals, that there is nothing else to be said, that everyone agrees. Let others know that this is a violation of your religious beliefs and, therefore, your right to liberty as an American.
  2. Pray for and support those health care workers or insurance providers who are fighting for conscience exemptions that will not force them to provide substances such as ella which can destroy human life.
  3. Let your voice be heard. Help ensure that a meaningful legislation on conscience exemption is enacted by Congress. Take a few minutes to write to your legislators about the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179). By writing, you tell your legislators how to best represent your view. The Virginia Catholic Conference offers the mechanism to do this on its website:

The way I see it, liberty is not only a right, but also a responsibility. We have the opportunity to exercise our freedom of conscience and enable others to secure that right as well.

One thought on “Birth Control and True Liberty

  1. The morality in and of the human soul can be intuited by the fact that our eternal destiny is so much a consequence of the morally informed choices that we make.

    Even the souls in Hell can be said to possess a morally informed nature for the reasons, some of them anecdotal, given below.

    First, the souls in Hell suffer because they do not see GOD face to face in the Beatific Vision. The mere fact of the resulting suffering indicates an un-met need of the souls in Hell, otherwise there would be no pain in such deprivation. Thus, we can intuit the moral truth and moral aspects of the souls in Hell simply from the fact that they long to see GOD but know the cannot. This inner longing reveals a moral nature of the souls in Hell in the sense that, however dormant or latent, there is a desire to perhaps be in Heaven. These souls would not miss the Beatitude in Heaven if they were not is someway suffering due to such deprivation. In a sense, a need signifies a desire and a deprived all-consuming desire is one of the deepest reasons for and measures of suffering.

    Second, is the Biblical account of the rich man in Hell who desires consolation when he sees Lazarus in Heaven. The rich man begs for a drop of quenching liquid, but when his desires are refused, the rich man begs that his relatives on Earth are warned so that they do not suffer the same fate as he does. Whatever the personal motives of the rich man, he had the morality to ask that his relatives would not suffer the same fate as he has. In a sense, such morality seems hard to distinguish from charity.

    Third, I remember reading of an account in a popular spiritual book where two men lived squandering and revoltingly immoral life styles. I believe that at least one of these men was a military general. These two men made a pact that whoever died first would come back and tell the other what the afterlife is like. One of the two men died and according to the story, did not repent and as a result, went to Hell.

    The condemned man at some point appeared to his still living comrade in a profusely sweaty and overheated appearance, and with great discomfort, pleaded with his still living comrade not to continue living a depraved lifestyle or else the living comrade would suffer the same fate as the deceased man had.

    Note that we need not shirk too much from the above third example, as modern Catholic understanding of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders holds that each confer an indelible supernatural character or seal within the human souls of recipients, and that such characters per du into eternity, even amidst the metaphorical fires of Hell.

    I don’t know, but this act of warning to me seems like an act of charity of the ultimate form since the condemned man evidently knew where he was to be consigned for all eternity. Yet, he was presented by GOD the opportunity to help save his living comrade and did so.

    I am reasonably sure that in the annals of human history, past, present, and future, other cases of such almost bazaar seeming acts of charity will be revealed if additional ones have not been revealed already.

    Fourth, every time a human person attends the Sacrament of Confession to come back into a state of grace, or into a higher level of grace such as when no unforgiving mortal sins are present, a moral predisposition is already manifested by the penitent in his or her knowing that he or she needs to confess.

    As for myself, a frequent attender of Confession, I can easily intuit a morally oriented human nature by the mere fact that I have often stood in a line for confession in a Church while at times being agitatedly anxious about whether the priest was going to give me a good verbal slam dunk of sorts. In spite of perhaps some very heavy sins to confess at times and the distress of standing and waiting, I have frequently gone to confession and will continue to do so, because there is something deep within my psyche that draws me to confession, even in cases where I could in all probability and objectivity have had one or more mortal sins to confess.

    Thus, it seems that the morality of human nature is inherent, absolutely ubiquitous, and eternal.

    Now the human soul is the substantial form of the human body it informs according to Saint Thomas Aquinas. Even according to the new Catechism Of The Catholic Church which does not so much emphasis a more dualist Scholastic approach of understanding of the Human Soul, the Human Soul is the form of the Body it is united to. Here, we use the word “form” more in a Platonian and Aristotelian sense of the word as a perfect abstract ideal that really exists.

    For example, a perfect circle or perfect square is an eternal form even though we could never draw a perfect circle or a perfect square, not even in theory, due to the quantized nature of space and time and of mass and energy as well as due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Thusly, the human soul is an abstract eternal form of the body in some sense.

    Perhaps the human soul as the eternal abstract ideal or form of the human body is more related to the human body’s substantial underpinnings or the raw featureless mass-energy composition of the human body and not so much to the accidental form of its physical and geometric extensity. Thus, perhaps the human soul can be an eternal abstract form without having any geometric or topological size, nor extension, of any sort.

    If the human soul is indeed a form, an aspect of its form-hood or form-ness is to be the substantial form of the human brain which appears to be the seat of consciousness in the form of emotion, intellect, affect, sensation, and volition in this life.

    To the extent that mass and energy can evolve to produce waking consciousness, as such definitely appears to have occurred in non-human animal life forms on Earth , many of which display noble behavior such as military service dogs and K-9 police dogs, such a mechanism is also most likely largely prevalent in human rationality and noble conscious behavior.

    To the extent that consciousness in the forms of emotion, affect, thought, memory, and will are generated within the brains of living humans and therefore appear to be at least somewhat of an aspect of raw mass energy, or if not, then specifically ordered mass energy in the form of a living human brain, then perhaps the human soul is a form-ness of said conscious, sub-conscious, and unconscious aspects of the living human brain.

    Such a form-ness would entail the human soul as being the abstract eternal form of our brain based conscious faculties and states. This form-ness would be very profound.

    Since I am a Scholastic, I do not buy the overzealous selling of the Theology Of The Body, that seems to be un-intentionally leading folks into a sort of moral cult of the body and into the denial of the existence of conscious human souls in the afterlife. Rest assure, the most fully alive and most dejected souls in Purgatory feel the same way when not receiving any personal prayers of the faithful for their release from Purgatory. Our Lady Of Fatima emphasized prayers for the souls in Purgatory with Divinely inspired Wisdom.

    To be in part the eternal, abstract, form of emotions, thoughts, active volitions, affects, feelings, and for especially 375 pound, more or less, average height guys like myself on Weight Watchers who still love to eat, also basic primal consumptive drives such as tendencies toward gluttony, is a wonderfully substantial aspect of the human soul. Perhaps I should not dwell on the later aspect. I have a sibling who would disapprove of such a broadcast. Note that I have greatly moderated my tendency toward gluttony, and no longer gulp down a half of a family size box of Cheerios at midnight, with the little Os occasionally rolling down my shirt onto the floor like a tire rolling down a hill. My past overeating was unfortunately a real freak show.

    Since all humans, dead or alive, manifest some level of inherent pre-disposition to latent morality, this morality can be interpretable as a an inherent aspect of the human soul or an aspect of the substantial nature of the human soul.

    This ideal or morality in the human soul is an eternal principle and abstract aspect of the human soul to the extent that morality exists in creatures. Since moral truths are higher than metaphysical truths, a likewise transcendental inherent aspect of the human soul is demonstrated especially that which is commensurate with the exalted status of moral truth over metaphysical truth.

    The morally informed nature of the human person as intuited from an existence of a radically free human will in a sense attests to a certain higher level or moral pre-disposition over any bodily intelligent extraterrestrial or any ultra-terrestrial races or species that have not sinned thus avoiding a fallen nature. We humans can radically go from serious mortal sin to radically sin-free states by Sacramental absolution and by making the intention to receive such forgiveness in an as common-place and ubiquitously ordinary act as standing in a line for the confessional.

    Even for non-Catholics, free choices and apparent restoration from sinfully lifestyles abounds just as assuredly as public figures, politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and professional athletes, can go from a proud fall into disgrace and then change their ways and start not-for-profit organizations to feed the hungry, help the addicted and mentally ill, shelve the homeless, heal the sick, or to mentor the youth.

    When we regain a sense of mystery about the human person especially with regard to all that goes on during embryonic conception, we will regain a sense of respect for the conjugal act and for human sexuality in general. Human sexuality has a profoundly spiritual dimension and such sublimity is sexy and attractive in its own right. Upon this realization, folks will see the error in the use of artificial contraception.

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