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The responsible use of contraception

Clark and AnnMarie R. Power | Sunday, February 12, 2012

Over the past few weeks, Catholic leaders have accused the Obama administration of insensitivity to the “Catholic conscience” and called for a reconsideration of the recent H.H.S. mandate that universities and other Catholic institutions include contraceptives in their health care insurance package.

President Obama has responded to their concerns by placing the burden of contraceptive coverage directly on the insurance companies. Catholic leaders should now heed the Gospel admonition that when we find fault with others, we should not overlook our own faults. “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

What better time than now for the Catholic community to return to a discussion of whether there is a moral difference between a “natural” and artificial contraception and to begin a discussion about the role that the responsible use of contraception may play in protecting women’s health and preventing unplanned pregnancies, too many of which lead to abortion.

The discussion of the morality of contraceptives abruptly ended in 1968 when in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI over-ruled the recommendation of his own commission that the Church change its teaching on artificial contraceptives.

The failure of this encyclical to convince Catholics and non-Catholics is a problem for the magisterium and the faithful. Catholic leaders should be no less concerned about the “sense of the faithful” than they are about expressing their objections to the H.H.S. mandate. Members of the Notre Dame community can do both the Church and the country a service by engaging in humble and honest self-examination.

Clark and AnnMarie R. Power


University of Notre Dame

Feb. 10