My Take: Catholic bishops against the common good
The American Catholic bishops celebrating Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
April 15th, 2012
08:00 PM ET

My Take: Catholic bishops against the common good

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–The U.S. Catholic bishops who claim, increasingly incredibly, to speak on behalf of American Catholics hit a new low last week when they released a self-serving statement called “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.” As this title intimates, the supposed subject is religious liberty, but the real matter at hand is contraception and (for those who have ears to hear) the rapidly eroding moral authority of U.S. priests and bishops.

On Easter Sunday, Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CBS that the controversial Health and Human Services contraception rule represents a “radical intrusion” of government into "the internal life of the Church.” On Thursday, 15 of his fellow Catholic clerics (all male) took another sloshy step into the muck and mire of the politics of fear.

In “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” there is talk of religious liberty as the “first freedom” and a tip of the cap to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. But first and foremost there is anxiety. “Our freedoms are threatened,” these clerics cry. “Religious liberty is under attack.”

But what freedoms are these clerics being denied? The freedom to say Mass?  To pray the Rosary?  No and no. The U.S. government is not forcing celibate priests to have sex, or to condone condoms. The freedom these clerics are being denied is the freedom to ignore the laws of the land in which they live.

When I first heard of the HHS rule requiring all employers to pay for birth control for their employees, I thought it should include, on First Amendment grounds, an exemption for Catholic churches. And in fact it did.

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Moreover, when Catholic bishops and priests opposed the contraception mandate, HHS modified its rule, exempting not only Catholic churches but also Catholic-affiliated hospitals, universities, and social service agencies. (For these organizations, employees would receive contraceptive coverage from insurance companies separately from the policies purchased by their employers).

Once the Obama administration presented this compromise, I thought Catholic clerics would withdraw their objections. I was wrong. Instead they acted like political hacks rather than spiritual authorities, doubling down on the invective and serving up to the American public an even deeper draught of petty partisanship.

The bishops refer repeatedly in their statement to “civil society.” But think for a moment of the sort of "civil society" we would have if religious people were exempt from any law they deemed “unjust” for religious reasons.

Mormon employers who object to same-sex marriages could deny life insurance benefits to same-sex couples.

Jehovah’s Witnesses who object to blood transfusions could deny health care coverage for blood transfusions.

Christian Scientists who oppose the use of conventional medicine could refuse to cover their employees for anything other than Christian Science treatments.

And Roman Catholics could demand (as the bishops do in this statement) state financing for foster care programs that refuse to place foster children with same-sex parents.

As the Roman Catholic Church has taught for millennia, human beings are not isolated atoms. We live together in society, and we come together to pass laws to make our societies function. Virtually every law is coercive, and care must be taken not to violate the religious liberties of individual citizens. But care must also be taken to preserve the common good.

In their statement, Catholic bishops accused American political leaders of launching “an attack on civil society.” They also attempted to cloak themselves in the mantle of Dr. King. But theirs is a vision of an uncivil society, and their cause has nothing to do with the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movement succeeded because its cause was just, and because its leaders were able to mobilize millions of Americans to bring an end to the injustice of segregation. The effort by male Roman Catholic leaders to deny contraception coverage to female employees who want it does not bear even a passing resemblance to that cause. And even the bishops behind this so-called "movement" must admit that it is failing to mobilize even American Catholics themselves.

At least since the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s, Catholics worldwide have been asking, “Who is the Roman Catholic Church?” Is it the hierarchy–a collection of priests, bishops, and cardinals overseen by a pope? Or is it the "People of God" in the pews whom these leaders are ordained to serve?

In recent years, this question has jumped by necessity from the realm of Catholic theology into the rough and tumble of American politics. Does American Catholicism oppose contraception? It depends on who speaks for the Church. The 98% of American Catholic women who have used contraception?  Or the 15 male clerics who issued this statement?

According to “Catholics for Choice,” which has published a rejoinder to "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," “The bishops have failed to convince Catholics in the pews to follow their prohibitions on contraception. Now, they want the government to grant them the legal right to require each of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to set aside our own guaranteed freedom from government-sanctioned religious interference in our lives."

The bishops' statement gives lip service to “civil society” and the “common good,” but what these 15 clerics are trying to do here is destructive of both. To participate in civil society is to get your way sometimes and not others. To seek the common good is to sacrifice your own interests at times to those of others.

I will admit that the HHS contraception rule does ask these Catholic clerics to sacrifice something. But what is this sacrifice? Simply to allow the women who work for their organizations to be offered contraceptive coverage by their insurers. To refuse this sacrifice is not to uphold civil society. It is to refuse to participate in it.

Toward the end of their statement, the 15 bishops who signed this statement called on every U.S. Catholic to join in a “great national campaign” on behalf of religious liberty. More specifically, they called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” concluding with the Fourth of July when U.S. dioceses can celebrate both religious liberty and martyrs who have died for the Catholic cause.

As Independence Day approaches, I have a prediction. I predict that rank-and-file American Catholics will ignore this call. They will see that the issue at hand has more to do with women’s health than with religious liberty. And in the spirit of Vatican II, which referred to the church as the “People of God,” they will refuse to allow these 15 men to speak for them. Whatever moral capital U.S. bishops have in the wake of the sex abuse scandal that rocked the nation for decades will be insufficient to win over lay Catholics to what has been for at least a half a century a lost cause.

These 15 clerics write that American Catholics “must have the courage not to obey” unjust laws.  I think the courage called for today is something else—the courage not to obey those who no longer speak for them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Health care • Leaders • Politics • Religious liberty • United States

soundoff (783 Responses)
  1. Michael S

    People need to open their eyes and see what Obama is plotting. "Face piles of trials with smiles it riles them to believe that you perceive the web they weave." What a dangerous web Obama and the other socialists weave! Pray the Rosary.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Primewonk

      Awwww...another talibangelical tea bagger who is still pîssed the smart, well educated *gasp*black*gasp* man won the election.

      Obama is no more a socialist than Palin is a Mensa member. On a global scale Obama is actually a conservative. It's just that the religious right (oxymoron) is so far past the edge of reason that your cognitive dissonence doesn't allow you to comprehend this.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  2. Richard "BONEHEAD" Cheney

    For an organization rife with pedophiles one would think their approach would be to sooth the masses not inflame them.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Except the Church is not rife with pedophiles. Even victims groups acknowledge that the concentration is somewhere around 2%. That's about 1/4 what it is in the general population.

      June 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  3. David Rudmin

    Mr. Prothero may be a "religion scholar," but he clearly knows nothing of technical Moral Theology, and it shows in his clumsy analysis:
    1. Tell me, do Jehova's Witnesses object to blood transfusions FOR THEMSELVES, or to blood transfusion ITSELF (i.e. for everyone)? Obviously, the former, not the latter.
    2. Do Mormons object gay marriages, or to health insurance ITSELF? Obviously the former, not the latter. So they would clearly support health insurance (in principle)–probably even for gays–even though they don't support certain other things that gays do.
    3. Do Christian Scientists object to laboratory science as an objective evil, i.e. 'sinful,' per se, for everyone, or do they just elect to not do it themselves (since they put their faith in something else)? Obviously the former, not the latter.

    June 2, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Brad

      Wow, thank you, I am glad someone is capable of properly aligning modes of thought instead of taking everything out of context to create a shoddy argument.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Nathan G.

      Actually his analysis is not clumsy; you merely missed the point. All of those points are made as a "what if everyone was allowed to force their beliefs on others" argument. The difference here is that the Catholic church is not objecting to the use of contraception by their own members – if they did they would have no reason to argue as in their book, a "good Catholic" wouldn't use contraception anyway. They are objecting to having to provide it at all, despite such organizations functioning as businesses. Guess what – if you run a business, you have to obey business-related law. Who would have thought?

      July 11, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  4. Rachel Lee

    Do you mean "special" like a lawyer having the right to kill U.S. citizens without trial or charges? Yes, that would be wrong, wouldn't it?

    May 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  5. t3chn0ph0b3

    Once again, the laws of man and the laws of God are at odds. Sorry, Catholics, but on this planet, the laws of man take precedence. Disobey and go to jail. Please. We don't need your kind out in the real world.

    May 26, 2012 at 5:05 am |
    • denny

      A bit hateful aren't we...just because someone disagrees with you or your moral beliefs you want them arrested and you hope for this? You want to see harm come to those with a different view than yours. Wow, you and the left are soooooo tolerant...it's scary and embarrassing for you. But this is the norm for the left and liberals: demand tolerance from others, but offer none. Isn't that the definition of a hipocrite?

      Thankfully, our side of the argument doesn't even hope for any harm to you, instead we hope and pray for your salvation. Your only hope will be if God listens.

      July 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  6. DallasNE

    I fail to understand the legal objections the Bishops raise. In fact, it seems to me that what they are pressing for violates the 1st Amerdment establishment clause.

    May 26, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  7. Geri K

    It is obvious that anti-lifers having failed to persuade all women to limit their fertility using biocheimicals. Now they want to intice women to use contraceptives by making it free . "Almost free" for "almost everybody" wasn't working. Now they want to rewrite the definition of religious liberty by stating that one cannot practice his religion in the public square.

    May 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • withoutgod

      You realize that "practicing religion in the public square" for a very long time meant public torture and execution? Do you also realize that Jesus (Matthew 6:5-6) admonishes those who practice their faith publicly?

      June 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  8. Bill Deacon

    God Bless the Bishops!

    May 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  9. dreamer96

    We should start to tax the churches..maybe just 10%, to help pay for the country that gives them the freedom to practice their religion...We all need to chip in and pay the deficit bill..and these churches are getting a benefit from living in this country too..So many churches now are run just like a corporation, it is getting hard to tell the difference between a corporation and a church,...and the churches are pushing their way into our government, trying to push their religious beliefs, on the whole country..no matter what religion the rest of us might be..

    May 22, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • centeredpiece

      And then the churches could start billing the government for all the charitable services they provide to the poor – distributing food, admitting uninsured people to their hospitals, etc. I think the government would come out on the losing end of that deal.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Locksmith

      If the military (the so called .001%) pay taxes, I'm sure the churches can too.

      Last I checked you don't protect freedom praying on your knees, but standing up against those religious fanatics who want to destroy us.

      May 24, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Geri K

      Church members already pay taxes.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Michael S

      Now we need to buy our freedom??? Wow

      June 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  10. Ralph

    As a libertarian and an atheist, I don't see why letting the Catholics not pay for something they think is wrong is a bad thing. I would love not to have to pay for capital punishment or the war in Iraq. There's just not enough passionate, totally committed people who have some "rights" given by the government that they can use to uphold what they believe to make this happen. Good for the Catholics fighting for their freedom to do what they please.

    May 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Geri K

      Thanks! There is still room for prinicipled persons in this debate.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      Thanks for the support, Ralph!

      May 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  11. marsmotel

    The picture above looks like a Klan rally! What ridiculous outfits these small minded people wear to make themselves feel all mighty. Idiots!

    May 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Geri K

      You have no point to make, you are just name-calling. Shame on you. I am reporting your silly post as abuse.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • zharris

      The second revival of the KKK included in its ideologies Anti-Catholicism. Much of the hate of the Klan in the 1920s was directed specifically at Catholics (especially those who were recent immigrants). See the sections on the Second KKK in the Wikipedia article for reference:

      June 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  12. sarahsal0106

    So... I think I'm going to comment on the actual article, since that's what the comments section is for.

    The government has ruled (because at this point they ARE ruling) that insurance companies need to cover contraception. But they have NOT ruled that Catholics need to BUY contraception. I don't see how this an infringement on the rights of Catholics. I pay for benefits regarding prostate screenings. I'm a girl, don't have a prostate. Its just a generic plan.

    May 4, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Geri K

      The point is that Catholics of good conscience will not cooperate in the provision of unnatural contraceptives, not by paying for them, nor by engaging in an agreement to facilitate the provision by a third party.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  13. Ron B

    You call yourselves christians and yet:

    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from a rib, which means we are all inbred from 2 people.

    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in the "father, son, holy ghost" base of your so called religion.

    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life like a zombie, and then ascended into the sky.

    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs - though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian. ....

    May 1, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • KC

      Amen brother!

      May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Viva Cristo Rey

      May 5, 2012 at 3:01 am |
    • cindy

      VERY well put!

      May 23, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Ron B,
      Who are you addressing here? Catholics, Muslims, all Christians? Is this all from personal experience with Christians? I find it hard to believe that every Christian you have spoken with fits all of these descriptions.

      I am a Christian, and none of your 10 points apply to me. I never laugh at others' religious or non-religious views. I don't believe that everyone who is not in my denomination is going to Hell. I accept evolution as the most scientifically probable explanation for the origin of the human species. I also believe God created us, starting with Adam and Eve. I admire polytheist mythology for their rich imagery and creativity in explaining the origins of all things. I love discovering new parallels between the scientific history of our planet, Greek mythology, the Old Testament, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc. There are so many different people and cultures in this world to learn from. I would never shut my ears to hearing their stories.

      Why would I be intolerant of others just because they don't believe what I do? Then I would be an angry and aggressive like you.

      I don't need evidence to prove God exists. I have faith, and that is enough. That is the main difference between us.

      May 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • PingTech

      Brilliant...absolutely brilliant. Thanks for posting, Ron!

      June 1, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Brad

      Really? I am struggling to find any one of your reasons even partially true. Either you are assuming every accusation you are making on how Catholics think about these matters or you simply know some moronic Catholics you have no idea what their faith really teaches (and cannot properly explain themselves).

      July 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  14. Bob Lewis

    As a non Christian, I could never understand why you are compelled to employ a "middleman" or strict, dogmatic hierarchy to commune with God. It seems that the teachings of Christ were quite simple and direct, designed to inspire a total transformation of the individual to become one with God. What is the need for elaborate facades or following men who pretend to be inherently more holy than you?

    April 29, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      perhaps the middle-man isn't the extraneous factor so much as the driving force for the whole thing. the question isn't whether Christ needs the priest, but whether or not the priest needs Christ.

      April 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Geri K

      You don't understand what the Church teaches, because you are ignorant. Study the Church before you criticize, or at least have the integrity to be silent about things that are sacred to others, but that you know nothing about.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  15. DAC

    Thanks for this article. Consider switching to the Episcopal Church.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • Bernard

      . . . or no church at all, preferably.

      April 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  16. martog

    1. You believe that the pope has personal conversations with God (that nobody else ever hears) and is infallible when speaking on matters of Church doctrine. You then wistfully ignore the fact that Church doctrine changes and that former popes therefore could not possibly have been “infallible”. Limbo, for example, was touted by pope after pope as a place where un-baptized babies who die go, until Pope Benedict XVI just eradicated it (or, more accurately, so watered it down as effectively eradicate it in a face saving way). Seems all those earlier “infallible” Popes were wrong – as they were on Adam and Eve v. evolution, heliocentricity v. egocentricity, and a host of other issues that required an amendment of official Church doctrine. You also ignore the innumerable murders, rampant corruption and other crimes committed over the centuries by your “infallible”, god-conversing popes.
    2. You reject the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You are blissfully (or intentionally) blind to the fact, that had you been born in another part of the World, you would be defending the local god(s) and disdaining the incorrectness of Catholic beliefs.
    3. You begrudgingly accept evolution (about a century after Darwin proved it and after accepting Genesis as literally true for about 2,000 years) and that Adam and Eve was totally made up, but then conveniently ignore that fact that your justification for Jesus dying on the cross (to save us from Original Sin) has therefore been eviscerated. Official Church literature still dictates a belief in this nonsense.
    4. You disdain native beliefs as “polytheist” and somehow “inferior” but cannot explain (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, thousands of saints, all of whom apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, and all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands with magic-sacred powers of some kind.
    5. You bemoan the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees or the 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf (or the dozen or so other slaughters condoned by the bible). You also like to look to god to for guidance in raising your children, ignoring the fact that he drowned his own – according to your Bible.
    6. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that God impregnated Mary with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to “forgive” an ”Original Sin” that we now all know never happened.
    7. You disdain gays as sinners, but have no problem when Lot got drunk and committed father-daughter in.cest (twice) or offered his daughters to a mob to be gang ra.ped, or when Moses, time and again, offered his wife up for the “pleasures” of the Egyptians to save his own skin.
    8. You believe that your god will cause anyone who does not accept your Bronze Age stories to suffer a penalty an infinite times worse than the death penalty (burning forever in excruciating torture) simply because of their healthy skepticism, yet maintain that god “loves them”.
    9. You will totally reject any scientific breakthrough that is inconsistent with your established doctrine, unless and until it is so generally accepted as to back you into a corner. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you of the deep inanity of your silly faith, some priest doing magic hand signals over bread and wine is enough to convince you it is thereby transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because of the priest’s magic powers (or “sacred powers” to the extent you see a difference).
    10. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to Lourdes, Fátima and other magic places and prayers in general. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. The remaining 99.99% failure was simply “god moving in mysterious ways”. The fact that, if you ask for something repeatedly, over and over, year after year, sooner or later that thing is bound to happen anyway, has not even occurred to you. A stopped clock is right twice a day.
    11. You accept the stories in the Bible without question, despite not having the slightest idea of who actually wrote them, how credible these people were or how long the stories were written after the alleged events they record occurred. For example, it is impossible for Moses to have written the first five books of the Old Testament, as Catholics believe. For one, they record his death and events after his death. In fact, the chance of the Bible being historically accurate in any but the broadest terms is vanishingly small.
    Heavens, I could not fit them into ten. Maybe, if they pray hard enough to their sky-fairy, the Catholics can turn them into 10

    April 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • U

      I'm a devout Roman Catholic and I dont fit that description at all. It is not right to be so generalizing, about anything. Who is this "you" of which you speak?

      April 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • John

      The only way to hate a group with so much passion to generalize. But this isn't even generalization, it's bits of truth mixed generously with fiction....maybe it's the only way to justify your own beliefs but don't you think it's a serious fault in your personal dogma to base so much of it on the animosity you have for others & your perception of what they believe. What would happen to you if you found out that your perception was incorrect? Ah, that brings us back to the need for the generalization and fiction....boy, that's a tough little do loop to break out of....good luck.

      April 30, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • KC

      God's "love" indeed. To fill a world with hatred and violence, sin and temptation just as a childish test to see who qualifies to get into his heaven. If God wasn't an imaginary character then he's a cosmic psychopathy who cares nothing about humanity other then to test us with scientific indifference. If he wasn't a man made invention then it's he who belongs in Hell.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Geri K

      I see a great deal of disrespect in the criticisms of our Catholic bishops. In our Catholic faith, it is a matter of faith that Christ commissioned the Apostles to shepherd the disciples, and our bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Shame on your rude and crude remarks!
      What will Obamacare require next of Catholic organizations? That people are offended by the crucifix, and so it must be removed? That staff members must be addressed as Mister or Ms., because using the terms "Father", "Brother", or "Sister" offends people who do not respect Catholic religious orders?
      Fortunately for the United States, Catholic organizations have provided excellent service in the areas of education, health, and other social services for many generations. When Catholic organizations serve the public, they do need to sacrifice their moral standards to government whims. THE PUBLIC SQUARE BELONGS TO THE PUBLIC, NOT TO THE GOVERNMENT. The American Public holds a diversity of religious beliefs, which are respected by Catholic organizations. NO ONE NEEDS TO VIOLATE THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS WHEN THEY TAKE PART IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE.

      May 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Geri K

      Your 11 points are a mess of misinformation and ignorance. None of your comments reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church. If you don't like the Church, at least inform yourself before you spout off nonsense.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • withoutgod

      Geri K, although many people think that people of faith, such as these Bishops, deserve some kind of inherent respect, there are many of us who don't. If the Bishops want respect, they can adopt a worldview that fits with the best available evidence, and stop pointing to old myths as justification for their backwards beliefs. Faith is believing in something in spite of a lack of evidence (sounds an awful lot like "delusion", doesn't it?) and is not worthy of respect. There is no reason to respect someone who wants to impose their twisted vision of humanity on the rest of us, and the only evidence they can offer is faith. Faith is not evidence of anything other than wishful thinking and gullibility.

      June 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  17. Christi

    sam stone: if you say that all that is required is to follow one's conscience, then why is everyone upset that Roman Catholics want to follow theirs?

    April 28, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • sam stone

      christi: it doesn't bother me. they can follow whatever god they choose

      April 28, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • sam stone

      That being said, if they have been told what god is or is not, it is not their own conscience they are following, it is heavily influenced by church doctrine.

      April 28, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Geri K

      Conscience is not your personal take on the current situation, it is a deep human power. In the Catholic faith, one forms one's conscience by study and discernment, referring to great philosophers and spriritual writers from all of history. Conscience is not a knee-jerk whim.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Freedom

    The author asks: "Who is the Roman Catholic Church?” Is it the hierarchy–a collection of priests, bishops, and cardinals overseen by a pope? Or is it the "People of God" in the pews whom these leaders are ordained to serve?

    As long as the Catholic Church continues to be governed by what is structurally a dictatorship, the Church will not be a Church of the People of God. The Catholic Church needs democracy just as much as Syria or Cuba or North Korea need it. Democracy works for the good Ole USA, and is exactly what the Catholic Church needs.

    April 28, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Geri K

      The Catholic Church is structured in the manner that Christ created it: the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, shepherd the Church. This is our dearly held belief. Right and wrong are eternal truths, not the popular trend of the moment, or who won the last election.

      May 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • withoutgod

      Geri K wrote: "Right and wrong are eternal truths, not the popular trend of the moment, or who won the last election." Then why does the Catholic Church no longer support slavery? Witch hunting? Burning people alive for owning a Bible in English? The geocentric theory of the solar system? Why no crusades to retake the holy land? After all, they did these things based on "eternal truths". Could it be that they have gotten sucked into the popular trend of slavery being wrong, or the popular trend of believing that the sun is the center of the solar system? The Catholic Church, now that it has seen its power reduced significantly, is suddenly concerned with religious liberty and tolerance, yet the entire time they were in power, they never practiced these things. I guess we should assume that they know what's right, since their "eternal truths" come from a book that says a guy, 600 years old, got 400,000 species of beetles, from 6 continents (at least three of which he couldn't possibly have been aware of) onto a boat 450 feet long, in order to save them from a flood of 840 quintillion gallons of water, when there are only 366 quintillion gallons of water on earth to begin with. Gee, with credible sources like that, how could they possibly be wrong?

      June 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  19. Cardiac50

    I've been saying much the same about various religious based hospitals and businesses that will pick and choose health care treatments based on their beliefs.. say it's possible to trace your heart disease to caffeine?.. Mormons say."not going to pay".. eating meat?.. "7th day Adventists say much the same.. say you're a single nurse who is pregnant?. how long before any single women that are pregnant are denied health care coverage or prenatal care or post natal care for that matte,r as it's all based around a sinful incident outside the bounds of marriage?. where is the line drawn?.

    April 28, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Sra. Julia

      The article was spot on I'll bet there is a lot of grumbling in the pews. Church goers aren't as fearful as they used to be of the pointed hat brigade. As for me I gave up on the whole mess long ago and they can kiss my rosy ... (fill in the blank).

      April 28, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • centeredpiece

      The fact is that you don't need to go to a Catholic hospital if you want an abortion or contraceptive services. There are many other places where you can exercise your "choice." But if, as you seem to think, the government can force its "choice' on religious hospitals, where can they go to practice their religion? Read the First Amendment's prohibition against interference with the "free exercise" of religion.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Geri K

      You listed several disease conditions. What do your examples have to do with preventing pregnancy? Do you think pregnancy is a disease?
      The Catholic bishops only object to preventing pregnancy by unnatural means.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • withoutgod

      Geri K, so when God orders that women who are pregnant are to be ripped up (Hosea 13:16), is that considered "natural contraception"?

      June 11, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  20. xpert

    I completely agree

    April 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.