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Appealing to Catholics

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 14, 2012

Recently an ad placed in the New York Times by the Freedom From Religion Foundation made an appeal to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ catholics that it is time for them to cut their ties to the Catholic Church. Here are some of the highlights:

The ad

  • “It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark ages? Do you choose women and their rights or Bishops and their wrongs?”
  • “If you think you can change the church from within…you’re deluding yourself…you are an enabler and it’s got to stop”
  • “…your church’s irrational opposition to medically prescribed contraception…[has resulted in it] launching a ruthless political Inquisition in your name”
  •  “Apparently, you’re like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place to go…there is a more welcoming home for you”
  • “Why put us with an institution that discriminates against half of humanity?”
  • “You’re better than your church, so why stay?”

Now the context and pretext of the ad revolves around the uproar that has arisen over an Obama initiative that would ensure all women would have access to free contraceptives. This is a move the insurance companies like because contraception is cheaper to cover than pregnancy. Women liked it because for many women, contraception is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ but integral to positive health.

Although not exclusively the Catholic Church, it was the largest force that pushed the argument that ‘forcing employees’ to pay for contraception and that would violate their religious freedoms.

The Obama administration responded by first excluding religious institutions (church, monasteries, etc) from this initiative and where religious employers (such as the Catholic Network) did not want to pay, the cost would be covered by their insurance companies.

Most insurers were okay with this; however in a few instances there are some religious businesses (such as Catholic hospitals or schools) that are self-insurers.

So, the FFRF say an opportunity to expose the hypocrisy and immorality of the Catholic Church’s positions and how out of line it is with its memberships. It turns out that up to 95% of Catholic women have used contraception at some point.

Now, I did have two issues with the ad itself. First, not to equivocate but this ad claims that this would ‘use secular law to out outlaw contraception’. This is a think overreach and weakens their message. It is true the opponents to Obama’s initiative would like to see contraception outlawed…the defence of pre-conceived, as some have put it.

However, those who will be affected (now that the Blunt amendment failed, which would have allowed any employer to claim an ethical exceptions) are employees of church institutions and businesses. This would include their non-catholic employees which became fodder for claims of infringement of freedom in the reverse directions.

Now, I agree as a good communist that being unable to afford something is equivalent to being denied it. However, that is an economic argument and no one has yet argued for reformation of capitalism. So in context, I think saying this issue amounts to a ban on contraception is a stretch.

Okay, I have re-read the ad, and it could be argued that this ‘ban contraception’ is the general aim of the church, and that it would like to make it the law of the land. I still think they are conflating making contraception illegal with this latest kerfuffle, but it could be argued otherwise.

The other thing is at the end of this well thought out and powerful appeal for people to abandon the Catholic church…this stance taken on moral grounds…the FFRF have a donation appeal at the bottom of the ad. Don’t get me wrong, I understand they can use the money…the ad cost them tens of thousands of dollars but the intent, I believe, was not to promote the FFRF but to liberate women (and men) from the grasp of the pope. The begging at the end cheapened what I thought a fantastic ad.

Okay, now that I have vented on what I acknowledge are minor issues with the ad, I would point out how this is part of what I would call Full Spectrum Atheism. There are a number of atheists; I would include myself as one, who are fundamentalist in their attitude. We are the loud un-accommodating people who tend to turn off the religious minded. However as I have argued before, in our attempt to free the world from the shackles of religion we need diversity in forces. The fundamentalist are not to convert but to reinforce those who are already atheists, to provide push back against the bombast on the other side and provide motivation to never rest and move forward in the liberation of the world.

That said, we cannot all be cannons…this FFRF is a great example of the soft sell. This is where those who are religious but faltering may be persuaded to make the break and join the forces of reason.

I am not sure i could have been as tactful or as patient with the religious wafflers but i am glad that there are groups/people like the FFRF who are.

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