LegalWorks Apostolate - Counsel for a Culture of Life

Speaking the Truth

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge

Friends of ours recently attended Mass at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. After Mass this morning, our friend gave me a copy of a letter written by Fr. Nathan Reesman-Pastor of St. Frances Cabrini-that had been distributed in conjunction with a letter from Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Archdiocese of Milwaukee) regarding the current attack on religious liberty from the Obama administration.

After reading the plainspoken, discerning letter, I searched and found an e-mail address for Fr. Reesman. I asked permission to post his letter on this blog and he responded in the affirmative.

This is what the very wise young priest wrote:


Dear Friends:

I wanted to add my own thoughts to those of our own Archbishop regarding the matter of contraceptive coverage in all health insurance plans effective in August of 2013. Many of you have asked me about this matter, and some have asked for some insight on how not to become upset at those who disagree with us on this issue.

I agree entirely with the comments made by Archbishop Listecki in his letter (on the reverse side of this note), and with Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, and many other bishops who have vowed a fight on this issue, arguing on the grounds of a fundamental attack on our religious freedom which is a cherished right in our great country.

I do want to make two additional points that so far I've not seen anyone else raise on this topic. One point that must be stated is that while it is tempting to become angry at "the other side" on this, the reality is that the Church has no one to blame but ourselves for this sad turn of events. Catholicism has always been a persecuted faith in this country, and what the Administration is doing is legally inexcusable?true. But the fact is that for nearly 50 years now, the bishops and priests of the Church have done a horrible job of articulating the truth about why contraception and sterilization (in and out of marriage) are gravely immoral actions. I include myself in this indictment. We should not find ourselves surprised that the Obama Administration is claiming access to contraception as a natural right, regardless of the teachings of the Church, when in fact only about 5% of all Catholics even agree with our Church's teachings on the matter. If we as a Church had faithfully taught this issue, and lived it out, then I find it doubtful that any Administration would risk angering one-fourth of the American population (68 million US Catholics). That would be political suicide. We have dropped the ball on this issue a long time ago and it is to our great misfortune because the issue of how we regulate births is of immense importance to the human condition and to our future as a culture.

Which brings me to the second point that I want to mention to supplement what our bishops have already courageously said. It does make legal sense to construct an argument on the grounds of religious freedom. However, the unfortunate consequence of doing so is that it creates the impression that being opposed to sterilization and contraception is a matter of religion alone, or that it is only "a Catholic thing." There are other religious groups that have raised alarm with us on this issue which is encouraging, because it must be understood that this is broader than being just a Catholic issue, or even than a faith-based issue. The immorality of contraception and sterilization is binding on all peoples everywhere-it is about the truth of our nature as men and women, and we misunderstand this to our peril.

The widespread mindset that fertility is a disease to be treated, and that children are a consequence to be avoided, has led to a cultural situation in which we now choose greater material prosperity and unchanged social status over having more children. To put it another way, we've contracepted ourselves right out of a retirement plan in our country (and in Europe). Not to mention how contraception has brought about the loss of the true meaning of sexuality which must always be at the service of life and rooted in mutual respect between spouses. It is no wonder no one knows how to define marriage and family life any more when sex has simply become about personal recreation- once that happens, we are free to re-define it however we wish, and indeed we do. It would be unfortunate if the result of this whole legal fight we are undertaking was that the truth about contraception would be publically perceived to be something that only a fringe group of religious extremists believed in, thereby pushing Catholicism even further out of the public square.

If we are going to pray and fast about all of this (and we should), I would like us to pray and fast for the conversion of our own hearts to understand these truths, as well as for the conversion of the hearts of all of our opponents. This is not "us" vs. "them" -it is all of us together. Blessings to you.

Father Nathan

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