The problem with the "practicing Catholic" Melinda Gates is not in her end of desiring to improve the life for everyone. This is a goal with which we of the household of faith will not be heard to quibble. The problem is in the means she has selected to achieve that end. She wants to teach parents in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that, to "bring every good thing" to their children, they must practice vice.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "To whom much is given, much will be required." (Luke 12:48) If there is anyone to whom much has been given--at least in wealth, though apparently not in fidelity to Christ and his Church--it is the self-proclaimed "practicing Catholic" Melinda Gates who with her husband Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Sadly, she disappoints. Instead of using her vast wealth to promote virtue--the real means to human happiness, human development, and social justice--she is using her wealth to promote vice. To quote St. Augustine: Quanta bona de auro quod habet bonus? quanta mala de auro quod habet malus? How good is gold in the hands of the good? How bad is gold in the hands of the bad?
Melinda Gates has recently announced that contraception promotion will be the primary goal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which, in terms of its financial resources of $34 billion, is the world's largest philanthropic organization. The supposed "beneficiaries" of her largesse: families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia who, in her view, need more access and more reliable access to artificial contraception. The goal: to raise $4 billion to assure that 120 million more women get access to artificial contraception. "This will be my lifetime's work at the foundation," she claims.
The secular promotion machine, well-oiled by its anti-Catholic animus and big pharma dollars, is churning its wheels and opposing all critics like a juggernaut. From a well-crafted speech posted on TEDxChange, to an article in Newsweek, to appearances with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN and Stephen Colbert in the Colbert Report, the propaganda machine is working overtime. We can expect to hear more from the propaganda machine as everyone gears up to the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, 2012, where Ms. Gates's vision will be discussed.
Ms. Gates proclaims herself to be a "practicing Catholic," and parades out her Catholic credentials as if they were family heirlooms instead of a living, breathing tradition. She makes a point of letting people know that her mom's great uncle was a Jesuit priest, and her great aunt a Dominican nun, and that she was educated by a gaggle of apparently "progressive" Ursuline nuns at the Urusline Academy in Dallas. But where is her devotion to the teaching Church? Where is her devotion to Peter? Did she ever learn the maxim ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi Christi est, where Peter is, there is the Church, there is Christ?
Melinda Gates, our contracepting and contraceptive-embracing "practicing Catholic," shrugs off any criticism from the teaching Church. She, of course, knows the Church's teaching and knows that what she is promoting goes against the Church's express teaching, so she's not one that can plead invincible ignorance. We cannot say in the spirit of Christ, "Forgive her, for she knows not what she's doing." (Cf. Luke 23:34) She knows exactly what she's doing, how she's doing it, and she has the money to do it. That is what makes her choice so tragic. It's what makes it a scandal.
According to Newsweek, Ms. Gates stated that denying the Church's teachings on contraception "was difficult," but in time such rejection "came to seem morally necessary." It seems that Ms. Gates views the Church's social and moral teachings to be something like a smorgasbord where we can choose food to our liking since she has to "wrestle with which pieces of religion do I use and believe in my life." Whatever this is, this is not what a "practicing Catholic" does. The Catholic thing is the whole kit and caboodle. You don't get to pick and choose what you like. If you do so, you invariably gravitate to the sweets and forget your vegetables.
Apparently, Ms. Gates further finds that the Church's social teachings are inconsistent or at odds. So she feels she has to reject the contraception "piece" so that she could serve the "other piece of the Catholic mission, which is social justice." What her concept of "social justice," is rather unclear.
In fact, her social justice doctrine seems spiritually obtuse. She insists that her contraceptive program is good because she believes "that all lives have equal value." But this is a massive non-sequitur. How does the principle that lives have equal value give rise to any possible conclusion on the liciety of contraception?
"We're not going to agree about everything, but that's OK," she tells Dr. Sanjay Gupta in her CNN interview. Oh such marvelous tolerance exhibited by Ms. Gates to the teaching of the Church and specifically the Pope! (The prior sentence, of course, is meant to be read with dripping sarcasm.) In all actuality, such insouciance to Church teaching when an intrinsic evil is involved is nothing short of demonic. One thinks of the rich young ruler who turned away from Christ. Had Dr. Gupta been there our rich young ruler might have said something equally self-justifying like, "We're not going to agree about everything, but that's OK."
No it's not OK. Methinks that Melinda Gates may have lost her soul.
Melinda Gates does not get it. She thinks that the contraception is but a neutral "tool," the vice to be avoided is promiscuity, and the end to be achieved is relief of poverty. In her view, contraception does not lead to promiscuity and relieves physical poverty. While all that is quite debatable, it should be pointed out that Ms. Gates seems only to care about material things. Not once does Ms. Gates seem concerned about her supposed beneficiaries' moral poverty. Not once does she talk about improving their virtue. Not once does she talk about their spiritual souls.
It all makes consummate sense to her. After all she and Bill used artificial contraception and apparently still use it (she's proud to say that she and Bill will have sex this year in her talk on TEDxChange eliciting guffaws from the crowd), and they are anything but promiscuous and they are exceedingly rich! It follows that the same good things can be expected from those in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia! They should all live like Melinda and Bill Gates, at least as it pertains to their sexual mores.
(By the way, Melinda, having sex while using artificial contraception even within marriage is a mortal sin against chastity, just like promiscuity.)
What Ms. Gates seems completely oblivious to is that the use of artificial contraception is itself a vice. And so her entire life is apparently dedicated to promoting a vice. And this is a tragedy.
The problem with Melinda Gates is that she is infected by a virus, a Trojan horse. That Trojan horse is utilitarianism. At heart, she does not have a Catholic moral view. The end of her project is vaguely to help those in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia "bring every good thing" to their children. "Where is the controversy in that?" she rhetorically asks. Of course, there is no controversy in the end if the end is defined that way.
The problem with Melinda Gates is not in her end in desiring to improve life for everyone. This is a goal with which we of the household of faith will not be heard to quibble. The problem is in the means she has selected to achieve that end. She wants to teach parents in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that, to "bring every good thing" to their children, they must practice vice.
Of course, Melinda Gates does not call it vice. Like a good technocrat, she calls the vice she's promoting by rather innocuous euphemisms: "tools," "technologies," "interventions," "method."
She can call it what she wants in a transparent effort to suppress her wounded conscience which knows better, but a "practicing Catholic" would know that there are some acts that are intrinsic evils (intrinsece malum). A "practicing Catholic"--at least one with Melinda Gates's acumen and resources--would know or should know that John Paul II in his encyclical on moral questions Veritatis splendor, ¶ 80, reiterated the existence of such intrinsic evils.
Intrinsic evils are things which we must never do, regardless of the benefit we believe we may get for ourselves or for others by doing them. The intentional taking of an innocent human life, for example, is an intrinsic evil. A "practicing Catholic" would know that one may not kill an innocent human being even if it were to save the whole world. Such a prohibition is exceptionless. To borrow an example from Honoré de Balzac's story Le Pčre Goriot, the prohibition against murder applies to protect even an old mandarin in China whom we could kill to our advantage and no one's knowledge simply by exerting our will without ever leaving Paris.
A "practicing Catholic" would know that the use of artificial contraception--including the injectable "contraceptive" Depo-Provera which seems to be Ms. Gates's contraception of choice to impose upon those victims of her misguided largesse--is such an intrinsic evil. Not only is artificial contraception against the natural moral law, it is against the express, unalterable, infallibly-proclaimed, and irreformable teachings of the Church precisely because it is against such natural law, which is to say against the eternal law of God.
(Aside from its medical side effects, which include osteoporosis and cancer and a host of other problems, the "contraceptive" injection Depo-Provera has both contraceptive and abortifacient effects. Melinda Gates's support for Depo-Provera gives a lie to her claims that she and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--which has notoriously supported Planned Parenthood and the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the past--is against abortions.)
Surely a "practicing Catholic" with the intellectual and financial resources that Melinda Gates has at her disposal can afford a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (¶ 2370) and understand its teaching which is announced in no uncertain terms: "Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, 'every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil."
Does Melinda Gates disrespect the bodies of the folks in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia? Does she wish to discourage tenderness between the spouses in these regions? Does she wish to deny them authentic freedom? Or does she simply wish to spend $4 billion to indoctrinate 120 million people against the teaching of the Church? Either option seems rather heinous for a "practicing Catholic."
Melinda Gates is infected by a virus, the virus of utilitarianism--the legal ethic that measures everything by cost and benefits and has known of an intrinsic evil, since anything can be justified by the supposed good ends. Whatever the virus, it has consumed her and her Catholicism. She is not a "practicing Catholic," regardless of her insistence.
She could be. It would be good if she would really be a "practicing Catholic." It would be better for her own soul if she would be a "practicing Catholic." It would be better for the souls of the 120 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that are about to get morally assaulted if she would be a "practicing Catholic." But to be a "practicing Catholic" means to believe that artificial contraception is an intrinsic evil and that no good--however great--justifies its use. It also means to try--with God's grace--to abide by that teaching. It also means that if we have sinned by our use of artificial contraception, we should confess our sins, and God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (cf. 1 John 1:9)
But that requires repentance, metanoia. A turning around. A new start.
In words Melinda Gates would understand, it would require her to reboot.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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