SALINA, Kan. - "Alarming" is a word that is, well, alarming. Used by editorial writers, politicians, and others, it gets attention, perhaps moves folks to action. But let's cool off, here. As Isaiah said, "Be not dismayed."
The latest alarm's about providing contraception insurance for women working in religious institutions. The Catholic Conference of Bishops and various Republican candidates/officials say it's "an attack on religious liberty."
Roshana Ariel, however, points out in her Salina Journal column that, despite 1968 Catholic doctrine that "it's always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings," two years later, "two-thirds of all Catholic women and three-quarters of those under 30 were using the pill and other methods banned by the church." Today it's remains clear that for years the alarmed Conference of Catholic Bishops -- and other evangelical leaders -- have had little effect and, like the emperor of the story, no clothes.
The nakedness of their posturing comes smack up against these women's self-chosen best interests. They refused to be knocked down and will choose when to be knocked up.
These women's choices seem a near-perfect definition of "liberty" in the best American sense. That, I imagine, is why the Bishops failed to level the canon of excommunication at them. Politely, silently, and consistently, these women have repudiated the extremism of their religious leaders.
We know that all such leaders are not this extreme. Few bishops, priests, pastors, or religious leaders agree with every single doctrine. But those who adopt this alarmist hardening of right-wing ideological rhetoric need to stop. Cool out. "Be not dismayed."
This seems a hard lesson for religious or political ideologists. Saturday's Journal religion section featured the now former priest of St. Mary's Church in Mount Carmel, Illinois. When the Pope and international hierarchy changed missal language to hew closer to the old Latin meaning (as they understand it), the Reverend Bill Rowe decided to stick to language his parishioners could understand. Rowe was admonished, refused the order, and now, after 47 years of service, he is gone. Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, director of Divine Worship for the Conference of Bishops, is unrepentant. The "missal" must adhere (or be pretty close) to the Latin.
This is indisputably a misguided missal. But bad as it is, it doesn't touch the refusal of church fathers to offer even the opportunity for insurance to cover birth control for women employees at their schools, hospitals, and universities. Not abortions -- Birth. Control.
It would be distressing enough if such closed-ear responses were limited only to this patriarchy. But Republican poo-bahs and even our local Journal editor have joined the cacophonous chorus, saying we should be "alarmed."
When it comes to contraception, who plays the chorus organ? Their clueless whine ignores the churches' own special exemption -- an exemption hanging its female employees on their own special cross.
We might admire the attractive young church secretary whose devotion to the local Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, or Catholic Church is such that she finds her mission there. Yet if she wants control of her own body, perhaps to be of better service to said church, she is out of luck--unless she pays out of her own pocket, from a likely meager salary.
Now the President -- noting that 99% of all women have used birth control at some time in their life -- has offered a compromise. Insurance companies, not church schools, colleges, or universities, will cover the cost. In effect, this gets them off the hook from Jesus' admonition: "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"
While the cock crows, they have more than thrice denied their responsibility. Not only that, they and the R chorus only respond shrilly, "This is an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country!" Really? Whose freedom?
With Christian Liberty comes Christian Responsibility, and the actions of the pious have seldom seemed so far removed from their professed faith -- or from common sense.
I want to call this alarming. But I won't. Like Isaiah, I won't be dismayed. But you birth-control alarmists: it's time you examined why you bought this particular mess of pottage. And in the process, consult your wife, if you have one.