Jindal teaches the Catholic Church a lesson

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal


Bobby Jindal, the conservative Catholic governor of Louisiana, attracted some attention last week for a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he advocated making oral contraceptives available over the counter without a prescription. And for his pains, he received a slap on the wrist from his local archdiocese.

Jindal made his case on libertarian and partisan grounds: People should have a right to buy products free from government restrictions, and letting them do so in this case (as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends) will take contraception out of the political arena (where the Democrats are using it to kick our butts).

In response, the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ communications director told the Times-Picayune, “We disagree with the governor’s opinion because, as the Catholic Church teaches, contraception is always wrong.” And so, presumably, the more readily available it is, the greater the quantum of wrong in the world.

This archdiocesan stance hardly comes as a surprise, but rather than simply let their knees jerk, Catholic powers-that-be would do well to heed Jindal’s more subtle message. The relevant two sentences:

As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others.

Jindal recognizes that implicit in the religion clauses of the First Amendment is a quid pro quo: American society gives you space to conduct your affairs according to your religious lights in exchange for your acknowledging that others have a right to proceed according to theirs. What gets peoples’ backs up is when religious bodies demand exemptions from prevailing norms and at the same time take action in the public square to push their norms on society at large.

Yes, they have a right to behave that way. But they are wise to pick their spots carefully, to know when to beat a strategic retreat, and to make it easier, not harder, for those on the other side to meet their needs.

If the Catholic bishops really wanted their schools and hospitals as well as any employer with religious scruples to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, they would be helping the Obama Administration find a way to provide free contraceptive coverage to all women–or at least not getting in the way of the Administration’s doing so.

  • james

    The West is dying and aging due to abortion and contraception.
    Feminists and progressives continue to complain about the dangers of overpopulation though the evidence is the entire world’s population can fit shoulder to shoulder in the city of Orlando Florida.
    Contraception is wrong and killing the West.

  • james

    BTW, its good the Church never listened to those who complained about its antislavery and anti-segregation positions as pushing its values on society.
    It’s better we let amoral relativists and secularists do this?

  • It’s funny that for the past nearly 2,000 the Catholic Church has been teaching the same thing on these issues, and up until about 90 years ago the world agreed with us on marriage, divorce, abortion (included non-surgical liquid abortions via women’s contraception drugs), eugenics and a host of other things. Now here in 2012, most countries disagree with us on these issues, and for some reason they world wants us to change, while we would like for the world to simply recognize the truth they it once did.

    Gov. Jindal has now officially become a part of the SO-CALLED Catholic crowd; joining the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. A shame and a disgrace! We pray that he repents of his position and come back into full communion with the Church.

  • Nor, James, did the Church listen to those who complained about its pro-slavery and pro-segregation positions when it held them. And, David, you should check the world’s positions prior to 90 years ago. The Jews have always had divorce, as have the Muslims, as have the Protestants. Marriage around the world has often been polygamous. Abortion, to say nothing of child exposure, was also practiced widely. On some issues where the world has changed (e.g. slavery and segregation), the Church has changed; on others, not so much. Even on abortion, however, the Church’s position has evolved. In the Middle Ages, when the Church held to the view that ensoulment took place at quickening (about the end of the first trimester), it took a much milder view of first-term abortions than it does now.

  • Tom Downs

    James and David:
    You are entitled to your opinions and loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, but you will need to sharpen your arguments… or at least leave the church’s history out of it.
    Christians of all sorts were complicit in the enslavement or oppression of countless peoples over the centuries. Even today those among your best thinkers who would advocate for the liberation of the poor and oppressed in the third world are hunted down by the Vatican and removed. It was little more than 250 years ago that the Church universal began to shift here and there toward the abolution of slavery. 90 years ago legal slavery was gone but defacto slavery was very much will us… and you would have been hard pressed to find a pastor or bishop would speak out against.
    God is calling us to change again, do new things, and once again the Church is dragging its feet. God will have his way nonetheless.

  • Arnobius of Sicca

    Jindal didn’t teach the Catholic Church any lesson. He merely showed how uninformed he was about the faith he professes to believe in. Unfortunately, the author of this piece also seems to be uninformed on the positions of the Catholic Church, such as his statements in the comments on ensoulment.

    While some theologians believed in “ensoulment,” it did not change the fact that the Church even then condemned the following positions you seem to say it held.(See Denzinger 1184, 1185):

    1184 34. It is permitted to bring about an abortion before the animation of the foetus, lest the girl found pregnant be killed or defamed.

    1185 35. It seems probable that every foetus (as long as it is in the womb) lacks a rational soul and begins to have the same at the time that it is born; and consequently it will have to be said that no homicide is committed in any abortion.

    (Note, these positions were condemned, not approved)

    I also think, Mr Silk, you could stand to look up some Church encyclicals on the topic of the condemnation of slavery. You might find the Church condemned the enslavement of people long before any nation freed their slaves.

    See for example Pope Paul III in 1537: http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pa03sd.htm

    Or consider this one from 1435: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Eugene04/eugene04sicut.htm

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Thank you for your spirited defense of the Church and your references.

    Unfortunately we are frequently inundated by remarks which are biased and which reflect a certain ignorance of actual Church dogma and teaching.

    Bless you, Arnobius! And I WILL pray for our detractors that they might take more time to study before they speak.

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  • Arnobius and Dean Jim, here’s a quick timeline that shows how the Church has changed its approach to abortion over the centuries: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_the_Catholic_Church_always_unequivocally_oppose_abortion. I presume neither of you hold to the view that the Church has not changed its views on moral issues for 2000 years.

  • Mack

    “Powers that be” — as opposed to powers that don’t be? “Slap on the wrist.” “For his pains.” “Beat…a retreat.” “Political arena.” “Gets people’s backs up.”

    What does the reader learn from this catalogue of cliches’?

  • Mark, my apologizes, when I referred to the world I arrogantly was referring to the WEST, not the east, and more precisely I was referring to Protestant countries. Actually the Churches position did not change on race based slavery, inasmuch as some Catholics and Catholic countries either practiced or promoted it, just as some Catholics and Catholic countries today allow for abortion. You are also incorrect on the Church evolving on the issue of abortion. What you are referring to is St. Thomas Aquinas statement on when life begin, which was NEVER a doctrine or dogma of the Church.

  • Tom I think I responded to most of your points in my reply to the author of this article. As for your last paragraph, God has never called on man to sin. Never. God is Holy and He is actively in the process right now to conform into the image of His Son Christ Jesus. The Catholic Church participates in the great work through its sacraments, by preaching the Gospel, and through charity.

    We will continue to better understand God’s will for the world. We will continue to better explain divine revelation. We will continue to be the only counter-cultural Church in the world. As the world continues to slip down the path of relativism and secularism, the Catholic Church will find itself more out of tune with the world, and for that it will be persecuted more and more. If you want a Church that changes with the winds of popularity and opinion, please see any local Protestant Church. But if you want a Church that holds fast to the truth and preaches the truth no matter what find the Church that Jesus built on Peter; the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.

  • You left out “kick our butts,” Mack.

  • Mark that was the dumbest article I ever read. This is a common error people make when it says this is when the Catholic Church taught this or when it started teaching that. They draw from sources that do not/cannot be used as a source of Catholic doctrine or dogma. If you want to know what the Church teaches please go to the 21 Ecumenical Councils. Today you would just go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What you do go to is Papal Bulls, Decrees, Didache and etc. While those are good source in time teaching and history – THEY ARE NOT valid sources for the authentic doctrine and dogma of the Church. Again, go to the Ecumenical Councils. And even there what you won’t be able to construct if a timeline when it was first taught, but rather a consensus that this is what we believe.

  • Wm

    I’m frankly surprised Professor Silk would cite ‘Wiki’ as a source. We teach our HS students not to rely on it and to seek out more authoritative sources for their research.

    As I understand it, the 1st century Didache contains the earliest recorded prohibition on contraception & abortion, & debate over ensoulment, degrees of severity, etc. never changed the Church’s stance against either. Incidentally, the Hippocratic Oath also condemned abortion and abortifacients.

    Gov. Jindal seems to be unaware that Libs disregard the fact that the Pill is already widely available and easily affordable and insist that the more expensive forms of contraception i.e. implants, IUD, must be provided for in our health insurance on the basis that they are not as easily affordable.

    So Gov. Jindal’s argument for widening the availability of oral contraceptives/abortifacients was already disarmed before it was launched. His case for removing medical oversight for the distribution of the Pill will not, as he writes, “cut off a disingenuous attack line.”

  • Newsie54

    The point is simple: Jindal is a public figure. And here, in the United States, there is a clear and sharp line between religion and government. Jindal has his pro-life personal views, which is great. And he should raise his children and encourage his church members to uphold those views. But the laws of this country do not allow his personal religious views to be placed in the public sphere, because not everyone holds those views–that’s the point of the first amendment. One person’s–or one religion’s– opinions cannot be the rule of the land.

  • Wm

    Opposition to abortion is not entirely religion-based. It is quite reasonable to take the moral philosophical position that destroying pre-born human life is wrong. One does not have to be a church-goer to draw this conclusion from natural reason. And it is certainly reasonable that a citizen would not wish to be coerced by government to participate in such destruction against their moral conscience, i.e. forced to pay for other peoples abortion-inducing drugs and devices. In any event, politicians impose their moral views, or seek to do so, on the public all the time regardless of whether “everyone holds those views” or not. Think of gun control, restrictions on fossil fuels, gay marriage, etc. Politics is a moral endeavor. And people of faith have the equal right as any other citizen to engage the public square toward bringing about their vision of the common good.

  • pmains

    I and others warned that Obamacare would lead to what we now know as the HHS mandate. Did the bishops or the liberal laity supporting the law take heed? No. I was attacked for not being sensitive enough. (They used the word “Christian,” but they meant politically-correct, sensitive or some other touchy-feely word.) Unfortunately, my prediction was proven true several months after I made it.

    Now that the bishops have created this mess — by giving cover to the Stupak crowd and getting those last, crucial votes for Obamacare — they want Jindal to clean it up. Unfortunately, they do not seem to understand the constraints within which he must work. Jindal must choose between two intrinsic evils. He can make chemical abortions more widely available — albeit marginally so — or he can force his fellow Catholics to pay for those abortions.

    The path Jindal has chosen does not embrace an intrinsic evil if we acknowledge that chemical abortions are already universally available. Getting a prescription is really just a stealth tax, as virtually no woman is going to be denied one. But there’s still the problem that he’s essentially repealing this tax. Ok. Let’s impose a more direct tax. Well, that would probably be struck down by the courts. Maybe we can have women sign a registry, like people buying Sudafed. What we would do with the registry, I don’t know, but it’s an annoyance and thus another stealth tax. Again, the courts are so pro-abortion, they will likely strike that down, too.

    I don’t have a solution. I don’t believe there is one — at least not in the short term.

  • Rockerbabe

    The common good does not include denying women their right to make their own decisons on reproduction and it attendent medical care. It is the women of the world who do all of the childbearing, the risk taking with childbearing and it is the women who will suffer 100% of the consequences for their own decisions. The Catholic Church doesn’t give a flip about what women want or need; so many of us have just moved on. Anti-abortion laws are not about babies; they are about controlling women. What women do or do not do, what they do and who they do it with, etc. Allowing a perfectly healthy women to die needlessly (as was done in Ireland recently) so as to not interrupt a doomed early second trimester pregnancy is pure folly, inhumane and grossly disrespectful of the woman involved. And the catholic church wonders why so many folks choose to disregard the “guidance” of the elderly, childless, single male priest and their ancient ideas about women and their roles in our societies.

  • Hab Anero

    You may claim “the moral philosophical position” that every girl or woman who becomes pregnant should be condemned by law to bear the child, whatever the circumstances. You may also claim that absurd position has nothing to do with religion, but few of us are so stupid to believe such nonsense. Such arguments are as transparent as “intelligent design” as an excuse to legally require teaching creationism in public schools. The carefully crafted characterization that abortion is “destroying pre-born human life” is a purely religious. Arguing that no tax money should be used for anything that might be against anyone’s “moral conscience” is ridiculous. Every war and farm subsidy would violate that rule. Criminalizing a woman’s right to control her own body violates my moral conscious, yet you want to impose your views over mine. Abortion foes are fighting a rear guard to subjugate women to their own religious beliefs. There is no “public good” in forcing any girl or woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy. It’s all about punishment and control, not saving “preborn life.”

  • Wm

    I stated that it is not entirely a religion-based argument. When human life begins, at conception, is a scientific fact. What we do with that fact in terms of public policy is a matter of moral philosophy. Some believe pre-born life should be protected. Others do not. Both have equal right to advocate for their cause in a pluralistic, democratic society.

  • Wm

    Some believe the common good includes pre-borns whose right to live trumps a woman’s right to abort. Many of those believers include women who contend that abortion has not been good for women physically, emotionally, or socially. I doubt that this is a control issue for the Catholic Church since it is a voluntary organization. The Church’s ethic on the dignity of the human person demands that it advocate for the basic equality of every human being, including pre-borns. In other words, ‘babes in the womb’ are to be worthy and esteemed as any person should be and are deserving of certain basic rights. The first of which is the right to be born since, if you’re terminated in the womb, none of your other rights matter. It may not be a popular idea in some segments of society (youth are generally more pro-life than their elders) but the modern concept of equality flows from the age-old Catholic belief that all are ‘made in the image and likeness of God’ and are therefore equal before God.

    In the Ireland case you refer to, an obstetrical abortion is not prohibited by Irish law. And the lead reporter on this story, Kitty Holland, has stated (in the Guardian UK) that it is not clear whether failure to perfom this procedure was a factor in the tragic outcome. In any event, the vast number of abortions performed (95%+) are for birth control, not extreme medical events. It might be reasonable to contend that 1.2 – 1.5 million abortions per year (in the US) is too much. And it is worth noting that Ireland, a country for which abortions are banned is rated by the WHO as having the lowest or second-lowest maternal mortality rate in the world.

  • Wm

    For the secular pro-life perspective, you might check out secularprolife.org

  • A Catholic who advocates a position against Catholic teaching as important as the contraception is NOT a “Conservative” Catholic but rather a “Cafeteria Catholic” who may like many of the conservative condiments but nevertheless still picks and chooses what he puts on his plate.

  • The Catholic Church was a leading force in abolishing slavery. Much as abortionists are automatically excommunicated today for participating in a sin society considers a right, slave traders were automatically excommunicated for participating in slavery which society considered a right back then.

  • The timeline, like the article, has a lot of mistakes. Unlike really sour milk, this article and that timeline take more than a sip to realize it is not fit to drink. Augustine true view of abortion can be read at the link “Modern Look at Abortion Not Same as St. Augustine’s” below. Anyone really searching for the truth can find refutations of the other errors and misdirections. http://www.ewtn.com/library/bishops/vasapelosi.htm

  • Just out of curiosity, Adoration S., does that go for opposition to the death penalty?

  • John Haas

    Most Southern clergy during the Civil War supported the Confederacy and its peculiar institution. Jean-Marie Odin, the Archbishop of New Orleans, took his support a step further and became a Confederate spy.

  • Marie Lynch

    Hooray for you and sticking to the point that is, if you profess to be a Catholic then you are 100%. I am a believer that the so-called believers are putting themselves up against centuries of the best minds in the Church and better reconsider before it is too late . If you can’t stand up in public office for the beliefs of the relligion you say you are, then don’t call ;yourself Catholic

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