Put Out into the Deep

What Constitutes a Woman’s Issue?

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

This is the sixth of a series on issues pertaining to the upcoming elections.

As we head into the final weeks of the presidential campaign, I cannot help but be preoccupied by the tone of the debate surrounding what is being referred to as “women’s issues.” This language seems to be code for abortion rights and now a mandate upon employers to offer contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients to employees.

You would not be wrong for expecting the central issue of this campaign to be employment and the economy, as this is certainly a woman’s issue. Consider that 26 percent of households are now headed by women. Let us also keep in mind the many other households where the women are important contributors to the financial stability of their families.

Perhaps also our primary consideration should be about terrorism and a war that has claimed several tens of thousands of lives and seems endless. For the wives and mothers of our soldiers, as well as the civilian losses, war is a women’s issue. For others, a central issue might be immigration and the plight of the 11 million undocumented people living in our country. These all seem like critically important women’s issues to me.

Why then do the President and Vice President continually speak about women’s rights in the context of abortion and contraception as well as misrepresent the impact on religious institutions? I cannot help but think it is an effort to secure only the most fanatical “pro-choice” voters at the expense of those who are people of faith.

The reality is that we as a Church have failed to teach the truths of the faith in a clear and convincing manner to the Catholic faithful. However, the issue is not what we as a Church believe but whether or not we ought to be obligated to act in a manner contrary to our own belief.

In fairness, the administration has carved out a narrow religious exemption, but our position is that it is not for the executive branch, legislature or even the courts to decide which of our employees ought to be considered as essential or not essential to our religious mission.

Furthermore, moral opposition to all artificial contraception and sterilization is a minority and unpopular belief, and its virtually exclusive association with the Catholic Church is no secret. Thus, although the mandate does not expressly target Catholicism, it does so implicitly by imposing burdens on conscience that are well known to fall almost entirely on observant Catholics – whether employees, employers, or insurers. As a result, the President has senselessly made religious liberty a central issue in this campaign.

It is inconceivable to me how Catholics could support such policies. Indeed, Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the Church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger.

Is it possible to vote for somebody despite their support for these policies? To my mind, it stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option. The dignity and sanctity of human life are the foundational values upon which all other policies are built. Concern for the poor, the stranger in our midst, they are all predicated upon our belief in the dignity and sanctity of human life.

My hope is that our elected leadership could recognize that no child is unwanted, and each makes a profound impact upon our world. Each child, despite their socioeconomic condition, their health, their race or family circumstances, enriches the world. We must always remember that for every mother or father who is incapable of extending love, we all must step into the breach because these children are not just the children of a mother and a father but are brothers and sisters.

We as Roman Catholics need to put out into the deep. We love the child in the womb. We love the child who is poor, and we love the child who is sick, because of her great dignity and sanctity. After all, what Christ calls us to build is a civilization of love in the support of his or her life.

19 thoughts on “What Constitutes a Woman’s Issue?

  1. I will not be told by anyone how I should cast my vote in this election. How can the Church, whose bishops covered up the scandal of child sex abuse, tell me how to vote? Surely their actions were “outside the life of the Church.” The Church should clean its own house before telling me who belongs in the White House.

    1. Joan,

      I have no question about your honest disdain for the way that some of the hierarchy handled the issue of pedophile priests. It was by no means the entirety of the church nor the current leadership. There is no doubt that any abortion ends an innocent life. The length of the term of the pregnancy does not change this fact. Therefore, it is not wrong for the church to state that abortion is wrong regardless of its other failings. It is also definitely wrong for the government to force individuals or organizations to participate in practices that are in conflict with their consist beliefs.

    2. Joan,

      The good bishop has not told you how you should vote in the election. He has done his job as a bishop and informed you, and others, that supporting one candidate may jeopardize your soul. He would be remiss if he did not inform you of that risk. As you pointed out, the bishops failed to do their duty in the past to protect their congregations. I am happy to see the bishops taking their responsibility to educate their flock seriously now. Surely you must also realize as well that the failure of the bishops in the past does not relieve you of the responsibility to act appropriately now. Moreover, since you have apparently missed the fact, I am happy to report that the Church has been cleaning house for many years following the scandal. In fact, vigorous protections are in place in almost all dioceses now.

    3. How can this Administration tell me I need to violate my religious beliefs in order to pay for the sterilization of other women. The administration should respect the dignity of women instead of reducing us to our reproductive functions.

    4. The wheat and weeds grow together within the Church. Yet, pointing to the moral failings of others does not excuse one’s own complicity in supporting candidates who support laws which are intrinsically evil. Madam, if you do not like what the Church teaches, you are free to leave it. As Fr. Rutler once said “Merely declaring oneself Catholic does not make it so.” And as Benedict XVI recently pointed out, insincerity of faith–simply paying lip service to what one does not accept–is of the Devil. I implore you to reconsider your position and re-evaluate your conscience. If you cannot accept the Church’s teaching, then have the courage to walk away.

    5. Your argument is a logical fallacy called a “tu quoque”, Joan. Two unrelated wrongs don’t make either one right.


      And the bishop didn’t tell anyone how to vote. He reasonably applied Catholic teaching to the situation and said that he didn’t see how a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

      I see no reasonable justification for a faithful Catholic to vote for the most pro-abortion president in the history of the country. He is now even attacking our religious liberties with his immoral HHS mandate to the point that virtually all dioceses are suing his administration.

      First, one of Obama’s first acts was to rescind the Mexico City Policy. And now we fund organizations that abort children internationally.

      Second, Obama opposed a law that would have protected unborn children whose only crime was that they happened to be the “wrong” gender (gender-selection abortion very disproportionately singles out girls, btw).

      Third, Obama opposed a law that would protect the lives of children who were *born alive* after a botched abortion attempt.

      Fourth, he arguably has given the most support to and has the closest ties with the nation’s largest abortion chain: Planned Parenthood. The president of Planned Parenthood is even out personally campaigning for him.

      Fifth is his immoral HHS mandate that forces Catholics (and others) to violate their faith and consciences by requiring them to pay for coverage for abortifacient drugs. The “exception” given by his administration is narrower than the accepted one given by even prior Democrats (hence the lawsuits filed by virtually all Catholic dioceses in the U.S. against his administration).

    6. Since when do 2 wrongs make a right. Yes, the Church was wrong for covering up the sex abuse but they were men acting with the limitations that humans have. Their wrong does not mean that pushing abortion and contraception on those who are against it is right. If you are a Catholic, the Church should not have to tell you who belongs in the WH. You should have been able to figure it out yourself!

  2. Ms. Jennings:
    No one should tell you how to cast your vote on election day. On the other hand, no person, even the President, should deny your First Amendment Rights, i.e, freedom of religion. Which is the effect of the Obama Care directives concerning abortion/ contraception/Catholic Institutions.
    I always find it amazing that the type of person who is horrified if shown a video of a man with a club killing a baby seal has no reaction when confronted with abortion of human beings, including post partum “abortion” that the President, as a legislator, has voted in favor of.
    In the September 23, 2012 Bulletin of St. Joseph Church, Sullivan Coounty, N.Y. (Archdiocese of N.Y.) a letter was reprinted from a Jew, a Mr. Sam Miller, of Cleveland, in which he called the lie to the Media abuse of your church (I presume).
    In additon to reciting the charitable acts of the Catholic Church, he points out that 1.7% of R.C. priests have been found guilty of pedophilia. And yes, it was handled badly.
    But, “in a study by the United Methodist Church 12% of 300 clergy surveyed admitted sexual conduct with a parishioner; 38% admitted other inappropriate sexual conduct; 10% of Protestant Ministers have been found guilty of pediphilia. This is not a Catholic Problem”
    As a Catholic you appreciate that while policies of your Church have erred, policies of your current President will result in irreparably harming your Church. This may be their aim.

  3. As Bishop DiMarzio points out, the Church has been stumbling before progressivist attacks for the last 50 years. Toleration of liberation theology, voting positions in opposition to irreformable moral truths, acquiescence to continual attacks against religious liberty by Catholic politicians, assaults on boys by male clergy, secularization of Catholic education–the list is seemingly endless–have precipitated the strange but understandable love affair between many Catholics and the most anti-Catholic president in my lifetime. The failure of Catholic education, from the pulpit and episcopal letter, as well as in schools and colleges, has resulted in the secularization of a large number of voting Catholics. How can a Catholic with poor or erroneous formation in matters of faith and morals be expected to differ from a secular voter in his approach to moral decisions?

  4. Joan – your comment surmises that Christ, through His Church, has nothing to teach us, His disciples, about politics but even a cursory reading of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church demonstrates how erroneous that premise is.

    It also appears that you may hold the belief that only those who are sinless should teach others to form their consciences. If that’s true, then how can you, a sinful being like me, presume to preach to Bishop DiMarzio.

    If you are only interested in following your own faith rather than the Faith started and sustained by Jesus Christ, please be honest enough to say that.

  5. Joan,
    I understand how you feel about those bishops, who were certainly seriously wrong in their actions or inactions. However, that does not change the fact that voting for any candidate (not just for the White House)who fosters or seeks legislation that allows intrinsically evil acts such as abortion, is seriously wrong and can jeapordize your soul. Voting for such candidates makes you complicit with their actions (in other words, makes you a partner with them in promoting evil acts). Abortion is one of the non-negotiable issues. These are areas that are intrinsically evil and cannot be supported by anyone who is a believer in God or the common good or the dignity of the human person. Some of the others are euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research. human cloning, and “homosexual marriage”.

    God chose to give you free will, so, you are right, no one can tell you how to vote. You can choose to use that free will to further evil, but be aware that choosing evil endangers your soul.

    God bless, and may the Holy Spirit guide you in the voting booth.


  6. This is an excellent challenge for Catholics. We are called to uphold the teachings of the Church in all of our affairs.
    To vote for a President who enforces policies which are against our faith is NOT upholding our faith, it is directly against it, which is what the Bishop states in a very well written article.
    The sexual abuse scandal was a scandal but it has nothing to do with this. It is used as a diversion and to get people to be anti-Catholic. Stay present, Stay with the issue. Vote with your conscience and with what you believe in but don’t dare state the Church should stay out of the White House when the White House is forcing its own anti-Catholic agenda.

  7. I do not see where in this article Bishop DiMarzio tells people how to vote. He voices his opinion and the Church’s stance. One’s own conscience and the godly gift of free will is what essentially guides us all. Additionally, one can not condemn a belief by the wrong doings of humans. Our own fragility is in making incorrect choices with our free will. This applies to everyone, including the hierarchy of the Church. The Holy Spirit will guide each of us to the correct choice.

    1. Well it looks as if Joan supported the candidate supported by the majority of Americans. Maybe there were a few other Catholics who voted for him as well. In light of the tragic shooting in Connecticut, I wonder how many of you staunch Catholics voted for or supported NRA candidates. What would Jesus say about that?