This link takes you to the letter from our Bishop that treats the recent Department of Health and Human Services mandate that employers provide contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilization as human services. Following are my personal reflections.
Whenever I take the opportunity to share something of my personal vocation story with people, I mention my early fascination with the sights and sounds of our Catholic liturgy—the music, the vestments, the preaching and celebration of the sacraments. I grew to love the whole Catholic experience: our teachings, our liturgy, our morality, and our prayer. I continue to enjoy learning about the faith, engaging prayerfully in communion with God and people, and practicing the Gospel principles in every dimension of life. Sharing this great gift is my path to fulfillment, to salvation.
I must say, however, that until recently I didn’t think that my work would be so concentrated on convincing people of the goodness of their own existence! In many respects that’s what the priesthood is about. Oftentimes we get stuck in the mindset of Job: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? He is a slave who longs for the shade.” Our wounds, losses, and inconveniences get the better of us. This is understandable, given the economic situation, the fear of personal commitment, not to mention the sinful choices that we’ve made or that others have made, with all their far-reaching consequences. So much of life involves our firm acceptance of responsibility wherever appropriate, and our heroically virtuous responses, however small they may appear to be.
I have not altogether lost the virtue of Christian Hope, which the Catechism defines as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (1817). We fall together, lest we fall apart. In this we identify with Simon speaking to Our Lord on behalf of the crowd: “Everyone is looking for you.” Wherever people may be looking, whatever they may be discovering along the way, they are looking for Him; and they who seek will find.
And yet our desire for the kingdom of heaven and eternal life must direct all the choices we make along the way, if we are to reach that goal. We would want to know the right means to the right end; and we would want to follow it once we learned of it, persevering amid the difficulties that might arise. Perhaps, for example, it simply hasn’t occurred to many people that the willful, mechanical separation of fertility from the marriage bond (if people even call it that) basically amounts to a denial of the goodness of our own existence. Whether the popular mind recognizes it or not, contraception, sterilization, and abortion are now considered "treatments" for a "disease." A disease there is, but it is actually spiritual. People do not grasp the intimate connection between the bond and the baby. They place the good of pleasure over the good of parenthood.
The Church has consistently advocated the goodness of human existence in a culture that either doesn’t know better or knows but denies it. The Church also has insisted on a well-formed conscience, open to learning the truths of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as they apply to the choices we make. Among the various Christian bodies of the world, the Catholic Church is the most vocal promoter of life and opponent of contraception, sterilization, and abortion. The Church invites us to learn this sound teaching, to align our hearts with it, and to act according to it with consistency and joy. She will have nothing of a government that attempts to force its citizens to act against their well-formed consciences. This will all come down to the local level, where Catholic institutions must refuse to support oppressive government policies, no matter what the result.
Please God, these events may galvanize us to become the Catholic voice that we are supposed to be; if they don't, we will have decided to be the last religious body that can be persecuted without consequence. When you and I stand to profess the Creed, we can begin once again to reflect on all that it means for us, and what we ought to do about it.