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.

  • Manfred

    Let us take this one item at a time. Notre Dame U., Georgetown U., and the Archdiocese of N.Y. provide contraceptives and, if my information is correct, abortion for their employees. The Green family, who are Southern Baptists, provide 16 types of contraceptives to their employees at their Hobby Lobby stores. Their lawsuit focused on abortifacients, which destroy the fertilized egg. They won on this narrow subject. The good news is that this narrow victory can now be expanded by future rulings which may extend to contraceptives themselves.
    There is very little here for Catholics to be proud of as almost all catholics of child-bearing age use contraceptives. Most younger catholics support same-sex “marriage”. In fact, most catholics no longer attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. Would it be any different if the Church had not existed for the last fifty years?

  • Augustine Thomas

    Isn’t Dolan too busy persecuting orthodoxy to defend it?

  • ron a.

    Father—You speak the Truth, plain and simple. Thank you for that. The battle lines should be drawn—and the “lukewarm” should (and will) be vomited out.

  • ron a.

    Manfred—The rise of Materialism has created an Age of Unbelief. Some would see it the other way. That would be disordered. Modern man has made his choice between God and mammon.

  • schm0e

    Pity His Eminence Dolan was able to find his voice when he was inserting columns promoting “universal healthcare” in parish bulletins during the alleged public debates prior to the enactment of Obamacare.

    Likewise he apparently had his voice when he thought he was winning an “exception” for the Church in a meeting with the president during that time.

    It all seems to be forgotten now, obscured be more recent, ostensibly “churchy” sounding quote material.

  • Bill Hocter

    Good article. We’re hearing a lot about marriage during homilies in the last few months. Perhaps it’s “battlefield preparation” to talk about Humanae Vitae as well.

  • Daniel

    Why all this preoccupation with the “rights” of the church. No one is forcing anyone to obtain or use contraception. The Church apparently believes it has the right to participate in civil society (employing people in various ways) but is not subject to civil society’s laws. If Catholics decide to use birth control, the Church has failed to convince them not to. Their attempt not to pay for what many people believe is fundamental health care addresses their failure to convince people not to use contraception. I am amazed.

  • Deacon Paul

    Thank you Fr. Pokorsky for pointing out that the President is assisting in making Church teaching more visible.

    I believe the battle lines have already been drawn and it’s time for the fighters to “man-up” and take their positions.

    The world teaches that we should prize pleasure more than purity, that we should value vice instead of virtue. They expect us to fall for temptation instead of to stand for truth.

    God said, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I don’t know if most people who call themselves Catholic truly know their faith or even know that we’re engaged in combat, but the time has come to choose between life and death, between God and the world, to take our faith seriously and to live it.

    Again, Thank you Fr. Pokorsky!

  • Leon Keller

    This is an excellent commentary on the current state of affairs in the Church. The realization that we are (should be) talking about natural law and not about some generic religious freedom idea is key. We Catholics have been afraid to talk about natural law in general because non-catholics would just laugh, and contraception in particular, the root cause of our cultural decay, because everyone is doing it. Also, to talk about most Catholics moral error might very well empty the churches. I see a tough “cleansing” time head for the Church. I say bring it on, it is long overdue. We have lost too many souls already!

  • schm0e

    @Daniel It might be clearer if think of it in these terms: imagine the gov’t ordering you to buy your neighbor’s heroin.

  • Jack,CT

    A good article and perhaps all true,
    do we ever get any where constructive
    with this disobedient in-fighting?

    I happen to notice the Dolan bashing as far
    back as 2008 and the Smith diner,why?
    He is a man of great integrity and he
    happens to play a role in our American
    Church,so people calm down on Dolan it
    is old and moving to Lori is just as
    wrong!! -thx Fr

  • Elizabeth Sheehy

    Like the ancient Israelites, we are a stubborn, thick-headed lot! God allowed for a fair amount of butt-whoopin’, as needed – we should prepare to have our butts whooped!
    Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, Pray for us (and help us clear the fog out of our brains!)

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Inspiring article. So inspiring that it prompted me to send off a letter to Obama thanking him for advancing the mission of the Catholic Church. I have also written to Pope Francis asking him to consider awarding the President the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal for his advancement of Catholicism in the Americas.

    By the way, I cc/d Dolan on this letter.

  • LAM

    A diagnosis more accurate than that of “laryngitis” for the failure of Bishops and priests to teach the Church’s truth on human sexuality over the past 45 years is that of a profound weaknesses in confidence associated with selfishness, that is, placing their comfort above their vocation to be spiritual fathers who lay their lives down for their sheep.

    St. Joseph strengthen our Bishops and priests.

  • Gracie in Arizona

    We are still missing the point. Teaching needs to happen with children in the Church; most RE programs are sorry, cut and paste, at best. My husband and I became Catechists so we could really teach our faith; get them thinking along these lines. Theology of the body makes sense, not religion. Shame on our Bishops for going along with the dumbing down of our children. Most parents both work; no time for RE; unless they can afford Catholic School or home school. That’s the work of the Devil. No wonder the young people are for the creep in office; and he is creepy/scary. They have no moral ground to understand what he is up to. The BVM tells us that wars have been avoided by prayer. Get on your knees everyone and try to Live Right. i.e. Holy as Our Heavenly Father is Holy. Gracie