Let’s pray the Fortnight for Freedom helps Barack Obama change his mind about the contraceptive mandate

The opening Mass for the US bishops' Fortnight for Freedom at a basilica in Baltimore (CNS photo)

Thanks to all those supportive and positive posts in response to my last blog. It is also always heartening to read posts from non-Catholics and non-Christians who defend the right to freedom of conscience. I’ll ignore the “ad hominem” attacks. We Christians are commanded to love our enemies, after all; easier said than done, I’ll admit.

Following on from that blog, I note that the US Bishops’ Conference has called for a Fortnight for Freedom, starting last Thursday and ending on July 4 – Independence Day. Its website describes this fortnight as “a great hymn of prayer for our country” and refers to Ss Thomas More and John Fisher “who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power”. The bishops appeal: “Please join us in continuing to pray each day for our Church leaders, for our civic leaders… and for religious freedom.” Amen to all that.

On this subject I have also read a very good article in Mercator online magazine by Fr Michael Giesler, a priest in St Louis, Missouri, which gives the wider context for the US bishops’ decision that they are not able to come to an “accommodation” with President Obama over the contraceptive mandate. Fr Giesler pulls no punches, declaring that “the federal government has no right to mandate a drug that is not really a health benefit to anyone”. The pill, he points out, is quite different from cancer treatment as it is specifically designed to alter a human organ and to destroy its natural function. Also, other medicines are now just as effective in regularising women’s cycles.

Pregnancy, Fr Giesler, reminds us, is not a disease and contraceptives should not therefore be included in any insurance policy. Looking at the wider implications, he argues that a combination of abortion and contraception have helped to cripple the US economy: “Without young people there are neither consumers or a growing work force… We are left with an ageing population, with fewer and fewer young people to support it.” He also makes the point that I have never read in any literature put out by environmental pressure groups or the Greens (or in speeches by the Prince of Wales): that the earth’s water is being contaminated by chemicals contained in the pill.

Fr Giesler adds: “I doubt that any woman, deep in her heart, believes the pill is somehow ‘liberating’ her.” Actually, I’m inclined to add it is enslaving her: frustrating her body’s natural fertility and turning her into a sex object. All these arguments are worthwhile natural reasons against contraceptives. However, as Fr Giesler also makes clear, the Church is opposed to them for deeper, theological reasons: that to separate sex from its natural purpose – the union of a man and a woman in marriage, open to love and to life – undermines marriage, leading to a huge increase in divorce in the US in the past 50 years and, more recently, to a demand for same-sex marriage: the logical conclusion to the “sex for pleasure only” principle. The bishops need prayer to stay firm. The President needs prayer to alter his unnecessary hard-line stance. It’s all about religious freedom.