Good Catholics use condoms.
That is, according to the group Catholics for Choice, who blithely takes a strong stand on abortion and contraception-namely, in favor of them.
They even have a web site devoted exclusively to the use of the condom, appropriately named condoms4life.com. This site states its mission as an “unprecedented worldwide public education effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms.” This mission is carried out by press releases (with headlines like “The Pope Is Wrong on Condoms”), radio ads (explaining away “myths” about condoms), and full-size posters, one of them complete with an amorous gay couple. The image is underscored with the words: “We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms.”
Not far away in the land of cyberspace is another website; this time, for the supposedly Catholic group “Catholics United.” This group has officially endorsed the Senate health care bill, abortion and all, calling it a “necessary step” toward “reform that truly meets the needs of the uninsured.” Catholics United also has its sub-creation: Catholics for Health Care Reform. This “Catholic” group touts ads like this one, which resort to sloppy proportionalism in trying to justify state-sponsored abortion coverage (health care reform is “pro-life” because more money is going to pregnant mothers and children than to abortions. Right).
Add groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and others who adamantly support health care reform, and one gets an unfortunate cross-section of a disturbing number of America’s supposedly Catholic groups. Based on what groups like these teach, one would almost think that the Catholic Church’s official position on abortion and artificial birth control was the same as that of the American pro-choice lobby.
The last time I checked, the Catholic Church didn’t promote the use of contraception-not even a little bit. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says specifically that “legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means [of birth regulation] (for example, direct sterilization or contraception)” (CCC 2399).
The Church also says, quite clearly, that abortion is always evil. “Since the first century,” says the Catechism, “the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (CCC 2271)
If American groups wish to endorse abortion, contraception, or any other issue that the Catholic Church holds as morally wrong, they are free to do so. It is a free country. However, they need to recognize that by doing so, they are no longer truthfully representing Church teaching and need to distance themselves from the label of “Catholic.”
In other words, these “Catholic” groups are not really Catholic at all. Rather, they are groups that have appropriated the Catholic name, with the moral authority and prestige attached to it, and subverted it to a distinctly un-Catholic agenda. Even the funding sources for these groups betray their real background: Catholics for Choice, for example, has reportedly received money from such organizations as the Playboy Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, in addition to receiving its first office space as a donation from Planned Parenthood. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has known financial ties with left-wing radical George Soros. These are organizations and people whose opposition to Church teaching is well-documented and obvious.
And yet, as obvious as this basic conclusion seems, pointing it out to these groups is treated like nothing short of a hate crime. For instance, Deal Hudson, head of the website InsideCatholic.com, straightforwardly told Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good that they were “fake Catholic groups.” In December Hudson wrote that “the same fake Catholic groups that helped President Barack Obama get elected, have rallied to the cause of the health-care bill, abortion funding and all . . . Catholic teaching explicitly rejects such self-justifying tactics (see Veritatis Splendor 75), and the U.S. bishops have been unwavering on this point.”
For pointing out the obvious, Hudson was summarily crucified in the press and by Catholics United. Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, shot back that “abortion is legal in the United States, and there’s not much either Catholics United or Deal Hudson can do to change that.” He promptly went on to demolish his own Catholic credibility by insisting that his organization was neither “pro-abortion rights or anti-abortion rights,” but “pro-common ground.”
Bryan Cones of U.S. Catholic Magazine wrote indignantly that “you don’t have to limit yourself to what is finally the clumsiest of moral arguments and say that abortion alone is the make-or-break issue for Catholics when it comes to health care reform,” and that even though abortion was evil, “there is plenty of evidence that making abortion illegal actually does little to prevent it.”
None of these precarious arguments touch on the main point at stake here: which is that Catholic groups need to hold to the rigorous ethics regarding life that the Church has held so dear for so many centuries. Moral equivocations aside, the Catholic Church’s teachings on these matters are quite direct. Groups that call themselves Catholic should square up, or stop the masquerade. It doesn’t do anyone any good.