A Northern Virginia candidate for Congress boasts of having asked the Federal government to allow women to buy oral contraceptives over the counter. She also says she is a pro-life Catholic. Can she have it both ways?
Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute located in Front Royal, Virginia.
FRONT ROYAL, VA (Catholic Online) - Author's note: I am not stranger to controversy, having been fired by Stanford University for my reporting on forced abortions in China's one-child policy, but the reaction to my article below, first published in Crisis, has surprised even me. It seems to me a straight-forward enough principle, namely, that Catholic politicians should not run from their faith in running for public office. But it turns out that, just as most of Our Lord's disciples abandoned him at key points in his ministry, so do many of his latter day followers, especially in matters concerning the political realm. I would like to thank Deal Hudson for first drawing public attention to one particular politician, Barbara Comstock, and the compromises that, in my opinion, she has made. He has done us all a service.
Sometimes pro-life leaders must disagree, as when I read in these pages an expiatory article about Barbara Comstock by Austin Ruse, followed by an endorsement of her candidacy for the U.S. Congress.
My difficulty with Comstock, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Virginia's 10th congressional district, is that she has, in her own words, "spearheaded a request and a letter from House of Delegates members to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ... make birth control pills available over the counter without a prescription for adult women."
Reading this hit me where I live, since I have spent the last 30 years fighting for a Culture of Life around the world. (In fact, I helped to set up C-FAM back in the late nineties, hired Austin to direct it, helped to fund it, and served on its board for many years.) Comstock's letter seemed to me a betrayal of Catholic teaching. Why would faithful Catholics not question whether it is right to support her, given that there are other credible Catholic candidates in the race, such as Rob Wasinger, who haven't made such compromises?
We all understand that many Catholic politicians, starting with the sitting Vice President, are more than willing to compromise on Catholic teaching to win elections. And I have some Catholic friends who are apparently ready to do the same--in private. One of them, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote me the other day that the purpose of her letter was not to spread contraception, but was instead an effort to take the 'war on women' away from the pro-abortion left. Besides, he continued, making birth control pills available over the counter would reduce the incidence of contraceptive use.
This is a curious defense, since Comstock herself asserted that her goal was to "provid[e] easier access to birth control" and "enhance women's access" to "oral contraceptives." If this doesn't mean that her goal is to "spread contraception," I am not a native speaker of English. And since when do we violate the consistent teaching of the Church through 20 centuries in order to score political points? (Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, don't answer that.)
And, finally, how exactly does making a drug available over the counter reduce its use? (I'm fairly certain that marijuana sales in Colorado are skyrocketing now that almost anyone can walk in off the street and buy it, aren't you?)
When I raised these objections with my friend he switched gears and went on the attack. He didn't agree with Comstock's letter, he now told me, but it was no worse than what we did in 2000 when we supported George Bush who believed that it was OK to kill some babies.
Well, that's not quite accurate, at least as far as I am concerned. I did not endorse Bush in the primaries because there were pro-life alternatives available. I did support him in the general election, as my friend correctly recalled, because Gore (and later Kerry), were both apparently untroubled by the wholesale slaughter of innocent unborn children up to the point of childbirth.
Besides, it is glaringly obvious to me that there is a world of difference between attempting to change the policy of a U.S. government agency in an anti-life direction, as Barbara Comstock openly declares she has done, and George Bush's promise to try and move the country in a pro-life direction, by limiting abortion-on-demand, even if he didn't go as far as I would like.
Then there is this: It may be just me, but I find it easier to accept an evangelical candidate who compromises on the Life issues than a Catholic candidate who does the same thing. After all, an evangelical does not have the fullness of the Truth as taught by the Catholic Church. A Catholic should know better. If such a candidate still chooses to stray--as in this case--well, I am more inclined to hold them accountable.
To this riposte, my friend shifted ground a third time, and began arguing that contraception is less serious than abortion. He wanted me to agree with him that there is nothing worse than abortion, because abortion kills and contraception doesn't.
In its own way, contraception is an even greater tragedy than abortion. Why? Because it involves the deliberate rejection of God's creative power, a spurning of His gift of life. Remember that the only creating that God has done since Genesis is the creation of each individual, spiritual soul. And He requires our cooperation.
Those couples who contracept, according to the soon-to-be Saint John Paul in his Discourse of Sept. 17, 1983, "claim a power which belongs solely to God, the power to decide, in a final analysis, the coming into existence of a human person."
And Benedict XVI added, at the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate, that "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."
As Prof Charles Rice has pointed out in his new book, Contraception and Persecution, God has chosen to depend on human cooperation for the creation of new citizens for the kingdom of heaven. The contracepting couple reject that gift by altering the conjugal act to prevent that creation. What they say to God is something like this: "For all we know, God, it may be your will that from this act of ours a new person will come into existence who will live forever. For all we know, that may be your will. And we won't let you do it."
That is a non serviam with eternal consequences. The souls of aborted babies are with the Father, the Blessed John Paul taught us. The souls contracepted out of existence are -- nowhere.
That is why the Blessed John Paul, in the same discourse I mentioned above, went on to say: "Contraception is so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God."
I am not a theologian, but would this not make contraception a violation of the First Commandment as abortion is a violation of the Fifth?
My friend backed and filled a fourth time, and began arguing that opposing contraception is political suicide.
He's probably right. We all know how hopelessly addicted our society is to sterile sex, after all.
Then again, no one is asking Catholic candidates for public office to make opposition to contraception the centerpiece of their political campaigns.
But is it too much to ask them, as a matter of personal honor and integrity, not to openly promote it?
I don't know why Barbara Comstock is advocating easier access to abortion-causing birth control pills. Someone should ask her. But, in general, I have had more than enough of Catholic candidates who compromise Church teaching for political gain.
Besides, it is our duty to remind them that, while election cycles are short, eternity is long. While global warming is not a problem in the here and now, it might be a problem for some of them in the hereafter.
Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute located in Front Royal, Virginia. Steven W. Mosher has endorsed Rob Wasinger in the Republican primary in Virginia's 10th Congressional District. This article first appeared in Crisis magazine and is used with permission.
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