Obama and the New Evangelization

“Men’s anger will serve to praise you.” (Psalm 76:10)

God speaks to us: 1) through the Scriptures as interpreted by the teaching of the Church, and; 2) through the events of our lives. The hand of God can be seen in our time ensuring that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is widely known, despite years of ecclesiastical and pastoral neglect. And now in a surprising twist of God’s providence, one of His most useful instruments is completely unaware of his role in the work of evangelization.

Over the past half-century, many priests and bishops have stumbled over themselves, avoiding the embarrassment of confronting our sex-saturated culture with Catholic teaching on human sexuality in general and the evil of contraception in particular. Even today, after Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Contraceptive Mandate, the mantra of many bishops and their staffs is, It’s about religious freedom, not contraception. Of course, it has to be about both. There can’t be a religious freedom issue without an underlying cause. (It’s really a natural moral law issue more than a religious issue, but set that aside for the moment.)

While the somnolent hierarchy (NY Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan refers to the silence of the bishops on human sexuality as “laryngitis”) hesitates and equivocates, Obama and his henchpersons have been relentlessly shoveling contraception in every direction, raising its availability, touting it as an inalienable human right and demanding that taxpayers fund it.

They are not content with taxpayers alone paying for the drugs or with merely bullying the Church into submission. They insist that Church organizations must be morally complicit in the evil act. For example, they demand HHS Mandate waivers to be appropriately processed and signed off on, giving permission for contraception to be dispensed by others  – procedures completely unnecessary for bureaucratic purposes.

Still the government bureaucracy is unyielding, even fighting religious organizations in the courts. They really cannot tolerate any official teaching that stands in judgment of orgasms on demand.

Confronting the serious question of formal or proximate material cooperation with sin seems unavoidable under Obamacare – and its bureaucratic apparatus. Hence there is a need for a legal pushback by the hierarchy along with the encouragement of a popular Catholic prayer uprising (e.g., The Fortnight for Freedom.)

Meanwhile the drumbeat continues (by many in the hierarchy as well as good-willed supporters of the Church), especially after the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling: “We’re not taking away your right to contraception; we’re just claiming our right to religious freedom.”  This continues a largely political response that effectively masks a vital cultural and political issue, i.e. where is this right grounded in law or the constitution? But much more importantly, it masks a great moral issue.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori set the tone of the bishops’ game plan in 2012 when he suggested that forcing Catholics to pay for contraception is a little like forcing Jews to eat pork. Although he did not intend it, the evil of contraception is trivialized by the analogy, merely comparing Church teaching prohibiting contraception to religious dietary restrictions. (Archbishop Lori probably didn’t want to get embroiled in the war on women vitriol of the Obama machine by directly opposing contraception as a matter of good morality.)

The unintended effect of such posturing is to suggest that churchmen do not have much conviction in the matter, and have the ill luck of needing to defend an unpopular and archaic religious practice. In an attempt to be as clever as serpents the bishops have squandered a teaching moment.

The consequences of the sexual revolution and the widespread availability of contraception – all predicted, by the way, in Humanae Vitae – could have been easily demonstrated with a little grit in the face of Obama’s pro-contraceptive onslaught. The contraceptive mentality reduces men and women to mere objects of sexual pleasure, destroys marriages and is arguably the ultimate justification for “gay marriage.” 

But consider this a bit of good news: Obama’s vigorous war on women response to the bishops has ironically come to the rescue – of the bishops and authentic Church teaching. As the bishops necessarily dig in their heels, the relentless Obama attacks now make it impossible for any thinking Catholic – or any American – to mistake what the Church basically teaches about contraception: that contraceptive acts are always and everywhere immoral. If they’re really attentive, they will also notice that contraception is morally wrong not only “for Catholics,” but for everyone.

Indeed, by forcing the bishops to a response – any response in conscience, even if it falls short – Obama has set back the work of dissident theologians in the Catholic Church by decades. After all, the aging Humanae Vitae dissidents for years have been anticipating a “change in Church teaching” soon. But “soon” has given way to “much later” – and maybe it’s sinking in:  never. 

What the sophisticates in the Church have ignored or deliberately suppressed for decades has been resuscitated by Obamacare for all to see. On the Day of Judgment, it will be impossible for anyone except an illiterate few to claim a lack of knowledge of basic Church teaching opposing contraception. Who would have thought that President Obama would be a key player in this aspect of the New Evangelization?

“The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes his teeth at him; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.” (Psalm 37:12-13)

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.