Zika Does Not Justify Abortion or Contraception” declared the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Three powerful cardinals — from New York, Washington DC and Boston — plus five archbishops — including those of Los Angeles and Philadelphia — are among the board of directors.
“Republicans’ fears about the use of taxpayer money for abortion and possible increased use of contraception” are “lurking beneath the surface” of their opposition to legislation to fight the Zika virus.
Because the virus can cause severe birth defects in babies of infected mothers, Republicans have had concerns that taxpayer funds might somehow be used to help provide abortions.
As a precaution, Senate Republicans insisted on writing language into their measure on Zika financing that reiterated the Hyde Amendment — a provision named for the longtime Illinois congressman Henry Hyde that bans the use of government money for abortions…
There has also been debate about whether the government should stress contraception or abstinence in public education campaigns about how the Zika virus can be transmitted even more readily by sexual intercourse than by mosquitoes.
The Senate measure includes money for community health programs that might stress the effectiveness and importance of contraception.
By making contraception their bludgeon against Obamacare and the foundation of their “religious freedom” campaigns, the US bishops have boxed themselves into a corner. “Even though the Zika virus can be transmitted even more readily by sexual intercourse than by mosquitoes,” the bishops have no choice but to use their considerable political muscle to make sure no government funding provides for any program “stressing the effectiveness and importance of contraception.”
The administration and Democrats in Congress know that, at enormous taxpayer expense, as of October 2015 over 100 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. The vast majority were brought by Catholic bishops and their affiliated institutions.
Time is of the essence in addressing Zika. “This is no way to fight an epidemic,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in regards to Congressional failure to approve federal funds. “Three months is an eternity for control of an outbreak,” he said, adding: “There is a narrow window of opportunity here and it’s closing. Every day that passes makes it harder to stop Zika.”
So in the face of an epidemic, government funding may have to be restricted to eradicating mosquitoes in order to avoid lengthy legal battles brought by the bishops and their proxies.
In early May, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a nine minute video implying that our government will first become a police state and then brutally totalitarian unless their “religious freedom” to deny coverage for contraception prevails.
The first few minutes are devoted to extolling the care provided by the Little Sisters of the Poor who, we are told, “are being harassed by the United States government” for adhering to the “precepts of their faith.” The bishops don’t mention the nuns were only asked to file a simple form requesting the exemption offered by the Obama administration to religiously-affiliated organizations so they could deny their employees the contraception coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Skip to footage of Hillary Clinton with the narrative, “the government stopping us from practicing our faith.” Followed by disturbing scenes of storm-trooper-like militias battling protesters and marching down the street while a speaker intones “religious freedom is under siege.”
The video resorts to horrifying images of victims of ISIS brutality, at least five of ISIS prisoners being led to their executions and then triumphant ISIS soldiers. Voice-overs by clerics and academics imply this will be the similar martyrdom of American Christians at the hands of our government unless we stand with them for “religious freedom” against contraception.
The bishops followed their video with the “bi-partisan” National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 17 in Washington DC. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the “communications director” for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who can now afford such a position, were special guests. Justice Antonin Scalia’s son led a prayer favored by conservative Catholics.
The keynote speaker was Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, appointed by Pope Francis as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014. “In your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated,” Sarah told the attendees.
Sarah condemned same-sex marriage, contraception and transgender bathroom laws as “demonic idolatry.” “All manner of immorality is not only accepted and tolerated today in advanced societies, it is even promoted as a social good,” the cardinal declared. “The result is hostility to Christians and increasingly, religious persecution.”
The cardinal warned, “The violence against Christians is not just physical, it is also political, ideological and cultural. This form of religious persecution is equally damaging, yet more hidden. This is the will of the Evil One.” “Do we not see signs of this insidious war in this great nation of the United States?” Sarah asked.
“This is why the Holy Father openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children, and much more,” Sarah added.
National and International Unity
Unlike evangelical pastors, the 454 American bishops speak in national unity through the USCCB and, through the pope, unity with the global Church providing both political muscle and access to domestic and international dark money.
By June 2015, about $3.5 billion was spent on sex abuse settlement-related costs by US Church officials according to the USCCB. Yet, the bishops still have available “millions to fight clergy sex abuse accountability. Lobbying funds have gone towards opposing bills that would extend statutes of limitations for child sex abuse cases” for all Americans.
After the Supreme Court sent their lawsuit, Bishop David Zubik v Burwell, back to the lower courts on May 16, Washington DC Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said “this struggle will continue,” meaning the bishops’ seemingly unlimited funding is still available to continue fighting against contraception.
Unity with the pope on contraception
When asked about the Zika virus during an in-flight interview, Pope Francis said: “On avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape. [A]voiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”
Knowing that “avoiding pregnancy” is not a “conflict” between “You shall not kill” and “You shall not commit adultery,” that Paul VI did no such thing, and that the Church has always approved of “avoiding pregnancy” by abstinence or Natural Family Planning, the US episcopate and Cardinal Sarah are confident in disregarding the pontiff when he says what others want to hear. Except for this occasion, Pope Francis has always been firmly opposed to birth control.
In 2014, Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI, infamous for issuing the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which reaffirmed the Church’s prohibition of contraception. In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis praised his predecessor. Paul VI was “prophetic, he had the courage to take a stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural restraint, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism,” he said.
During his trip to the Philippines in 2015, “Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s ban on contraception, leading us to conclude that abstinence is his answer to rampant population growth and its consequential poverty and environmental destruction.”
Pope Francis “reaffirms the Church’s virtually absolute condemnation of contraception” in his April 2016 exhortation, “Amoris Lætitia.”
Pope Francis’ understanding of women is part of the same ideology that led to the creation of Draconian anti-abortion laws in El Salvador as well as countless Catholic-sponsored movements to keep contraceptives out of the hands of women, particularly poor women, whose need to manage the size of their families is a matter of life and death.
Unity with the pope on hyperbole
“Argentina is being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power,” Cardinal Bergoglio stated the year before he became pope when the administration “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand.”
Earlier, Bergoglio called same-sex marriage an “anthropological regression,” a phrase he repeated as pope in 2014.
In 2015, the pope compared transgender people to nuclear weapons.
[Pope Francis] calls the dominant “uniform thought,” atheist and “libertine,” the “new opium of the people.” His vision of the world is apocalyptic, of a cosmic battle with the devil as the great adversary. He speaks of it often, especially in his morning homilies. He is not silent about his aversion to the advent of new self-proclaimed families without “the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.” He is inflexible in calling abortion an “abominable crime.”
Unity with the pope on “religious freedom”
When Pres. Obama met in private with the pope in March 2014, the Vatican statement said the pontiff “pressed Obama ‘on questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection’ — all coded language for the fallout from [the Affordable Care Act contraception] mandates … In that light, it’s difficult to imagine it won’t come up in some fashion when Francis and Obama have their tête-à-tête in Washington.”
Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., author of the above quote was correct. At the White House last September, Pope Francis said: “[Religious] freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Christians are persecuted “for wanting to have and to manifest the values of a Son of God,” the pope stated on April 12. “We see every day that the powerful countries create laws that force us to go through this path … It’s a persecution that robs man of his freedom, even from conscientious objection!” he added. These persecutions have “a boss,” the pope said, meaning Satan. Pope Francis “has used similar vocabulary to object to what he calls an ‘ideological colonization’ of developing countries by Western nations … on matters such as contraception, abortion and gay marriage.”
Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).