- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

As a Catholic who has lived in the Washington area for more than 50 years, I was interested to see the Jan. 4 letter from Charles N. Davis concerning the Catholics for a Free Choice poster campaign against the so-called “ban” on condoms by Catholic bishops. Mr. Davis believes Catholic bishops speak only for themselves on family, marital or sexual matters and in no way speak for the laity, who, he says, almost certainly do not believe that abstinence or natural family planning are realistic moral choices for increasing spousal love, preventing unwanted pregnancies or restraining AIDS.

I venture to say that Mr. Davis has the whole matter completely backward. God did not poll the human race before issuing the Ten Commandments. Had he done so, he undoubtedly would have heard the same dissident voices to which Mr. Davis listens. God's own son did not change the teaching of His Father, for which He was crucified. Hundreds of thousands of Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity through the ages were martyred for refusing to deny their faith.

Present-day Catholic bishops do not “pretend” to speak for the laity. They are merely carrying out their moral obligation as representatives of the Catholic Church and as successors of the Apostles to preach and teach and attest to the truth of the Commandments regardless of Gallup polls, voting records or any other means of determining the views of those in the pews. If some members of the laity refuse to follow the bishops' teaching, for whatever reason, that's too bad, but it doesn't relieve the bishops of their obligation to continue to preach and teach the truth about condoms, contraceptives and any other matters that involve moral choices. It avails nothing to argue, as does the letter writer, that the bishops are wrong in their teaching simply because some Catholics disagree with that teaching.



The Jan. 4 letter by Charles N. Davis critiques the Dec. 24 article “Pro-choice poster campaign targets bishops, ” saying that Catholic bishops and church teachings, particularly on human sexuality, are out of touch. Yet he misses some basic points.

First, Pope Paul VI didn't ban contraception. Rather, the church has long opposed it because it separates what God has joined: the love-giving and life-giving aspects of the matrimonial act. In his encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), Paul VI merely confirmed this truth, which the church has maintained consistently.

Further, bishops must speak on matters of faith and morals. It is essential in their pastoral mission to pass on the teachings of Christ and his church. The church was established by God to save souls; it is not a democracy. While polls and surveys reflect Catholic practice in this country, they do not reflect church teachings.

Choices are not moral or immoral based solely on the intent of the person, as good as that might be. Rather, objective criteria exist for every behavior, and the end does not justify the means.

Bishops speak on contraception because the issue is of paramount importance to everyone, and our exercise of our sexual gifts can either help or hinder us in our pilgrimage toward God and heaven. As for the accusation that celibacy undermines the bishops' counsel on sexual matters: One does not have to have experienced all diseases to be a good doctor. Likewise, a female doctor can minister to male patients.

Natural family planning (NFP) is indeed a realistic choice for increasing love between spouses and preventing the spread of communicable diseases. My wife and I teach NFP classes, which are attended by couples from most other religions (including Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists). More than 20 organizations teach NFP in this country; four of them are active in the D.C. area alone. Couples who use NFP have less than a 5 percent divorce rate; it's marriage insurance.

Bishops should be more active in reaching out to the laity on these issues. It could save many marriages and souls.



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