Why Can’t Catholics Support Planned Parenthood?

Catholic Identity, Planned Parenthood, and the Gospel of Life

By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese:

This past week, I was contacted by numerous people who expressed serious concern about a recent public display by some students and faculty at Saint Mary’s College that positively portrayed the services of Planned Parenthood. I was very saddened to learn that this show of support for an organization that is the largest abortion provider in our country occurred at a Catholic college in our diocese. At the same time, I have been heartened by those students, faculty and alumnae of St. Mary’s College who are committed to the cause of life and the authentic good of women and have expressed their opposition to Planned Parenthood and any positive portrayal of this organization.

The actions taken by the students and faculty in support of Planned Parenthood illustrate that even at a Catholic college, there are those who cling to the conviction that Planned Parenthood is an organization dedicated to the well-being of women. While I do not doubt the sincerity of those who hold this view, I do challenge them to seriously re-examine for what this organization stands in light of our common humanity and our Catholic faith.

 

The Evil Roots of Planned Parenthood

From its very beginning, Planned Parenthood came into existence as a means to promote the eugenicist vision of its founder, Margaret Sanger. Consider the astonishing words with which she expounded this worldview in her book, The Pivot of Civilization, published in 1922:

“The lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. The example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.”

The fact that Planned Parenthood continues to operate clinics primarily in poor, minority neighborhoods raises the question whether this original vision still largely informs its strategy and its mission today. Planned Parenthood’s own website states that 80 percent of its clients receive “services” to prevent unintended pregnancy, and that the provision of contraception constitutes over a third of all the organization’s activity. From a Catholic point of view, contraception does not constitute true health care because it neither preserves nor restores the proper functioning of the body, but rather, damages one of its natural functions. In fact, there is increasing evidence that when a woman’s fertility is suppressed through the use of synthetic hormones, she is exposed to serious health risks. Especially in light of Pope Francis’ call in Laudato Si for a greater respect for human nature and an integral ecology, can’t this be seen as a lack of stewardship and care for the ecology of our human bodies? Even more problematic is the fact that the most effective contraceptives available today can also function as abortifacients. Is it any wonder that the first feminists condemned both abortion and contraception as offensive and injurious to women? Instead, they called both men and women to mutual respect and self-restraint in marriage as a way to live responsible parenthood. To the extent that Planned Parenthood does provide any legitimate health services for women — such as cancer screenings or testing for sexually transmitted diseases — those services are already widely provided by others. Community health centers, for example, provide free or low-cost services to 22 million patients in urban and rural areas and outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 13 to 1.

 

The Relationship between Contraception and Abortion Revealed

Many people have come to believe that contraception is part of the solution to the problem of abortion. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is just how closely abortion and contraception are connected. Contraception is not part of the solution to the culture of death — it is part of the problem. This is because contraception attempts to sever the link between sex and procreation, which, if unsuccessful, can be definitively accomplished through an abortion. In his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II emphasized this connection:

“Despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

One in three abortions in our nation is currently performed at a facility operated by Planned Parenthood, up from one in five abortions in 2005. In a strategy designed to increase their market share, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in 2010 stipulated that, by 2013, every affiliate must have one or more clinics that perform abortions on site. A few affiliates left PPFA rather than comply with this requirement, but most did not. That this strategy was successful is evidenced by the fact that as in 2013 alone — the last year for which complete data is available — Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 327,653 abortions. In fact, 94% of the “services” that Planned Parenthood provides for pregnant women are abortions, either surgical or medical, (by means of the abortion drug RU-486), outnumbering other options 16 to 1. In fact, since 1970, Planned Parenthood facilities have aborted over 5 million unborn children, and abortions currently account for over one-third of the organization’s income.

 

The Throwaway Culture

Pope Francis has called abortion the product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” When he addressed the bishops of the United States during his historic visit to our country in September, Pope Francis urged us not to look the other way or remain silent in the face of such evils:

“The innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature — at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.”

The Gospel of Life is a seamless garment covering many issues involving human life and dignity. Respect for human life from the moment of conception is an integral part of the message of salvation and the mission of the Church, and the first principle of its social teaching upon which every other human right is founded. Catholic institutions, including Catholic colleges and universities, must not look the other way or remain silent in the face of attacks against the most vulnerable human beings among us, those as yet unborn. According to the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities” in all aspects of campus life at a Catholic college or university.

Catholic identity is not only about what we stand for; it is also about what we will not stand for. Just as we would be rightly scandalized to see a public display portraying a racist organization like the Ku Klux Klan in a positive light, so too, we expect Catholic colleges to refuse to lend any kind of respectability to organizations like Planned Parenthood that play such a significant role in the culture of death. Authentic freedom, academic or otherwise, is always linked to the service of truth and love. It is also ordered to the formation of the human person in truth and love, formation in which Catholic colleges and universities play a critical role.

Saint John Paul II summoned us to do better by the young adults with whose formation we have been entrusted in this beautiful but difficult area of life: “It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. … Only a true love is able to protect life.”

— Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

 

Bishop Rhoades: Notre Dame Chooses Indiana Law on Same-Sex Unions

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades: Notre Dame Extending Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses

by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Today’s Catholic News

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

Last week, I and the other Bishops of Indiana expressed our disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on October 6th not to review Indiana’s appeal of the court ruling that the prohibition of so-called “same-sex marriage” is unconstitutional.

The Church continues to oppose the redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex since such redefinition denies the truth and reality of what marriage is: the lifelong partnership between one man and one woman ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. In God’s plan, sexual difference is essential to marriage. Marriage is a unique form of love and commitment, a “communion” in which “the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Church believes that homosexual persons are certainly equal in dignity to heterosexual persons. The Church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination in regard to homosexual persons should be avoided” (CCC 2358). Not allowing two persons of the same sex to marry is not unjust discrimination. The “right to marry” is the right to enter into a relationship that is unique and rooted in a nature that includes sexual difference.

I and many others have been worried about the many possible threats to our religious freedom as a result of the redefinition of marriage. Changing the legal definition of marriage may threaten the liberty of the Church and our institutions in numerous ways. One example could be the government forcing religious institutions to extend any special spousal benefits they afford to actual marriage to “same-sex marriage” as well. This past week, the University of Notre Dame decided “to extend benefits to all legally married persons, including same-sex spouses,” since “the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages” (quotes from public statement issued by Notre Dame).

Notre Dame

Many have asked for my opinion on this decision of the University of Notre Dame. I must admit my uncertainty at this time about the legal implications of Indiana’s law for our Catholic institutions. Notre Dame believes that the law requires the university to extend the legal benefits of marriage to “same-sex married couples” in its employ. I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage. Our Indiana Catholic Conference is studying these issues.

In announcing its decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses,” I am glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it “endorses a Catholic view of marriage,” though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than “a view.” The heterosexual nature of marriage is an objective truth known by (right) reason and revelation. As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. I have communicated to Notre Dame my conviction that this affirmation should also include efforts to defend the religious liberty of our religious institutions that is threatened in potentially numerous ways by the legal redefinition of marriage, including the government forcing our Catholic institutions to extend any special benefits we afford to actual marriage to same-sex “marriage” as well. I have asked the Notre Dame administration to work together with the Indiana Catholic Conference on these efforts.

Living in conformity with our Catholic teaching that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman needs religious liberty protection so we are not forced to treat same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage. Just as it is not unjust to limit the bond of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, the Church teaches that “it is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice belong to (true) marriage alone” (USCCB, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination”). It is important that this not be interpreted as an attitude of intolerance or bigotry against homosexual persons. The Church strongly upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons while also strongly upholding the truth about marriage. The Church affirms that “persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people” (ibid). The Bishops of the United States, in the Pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” stated the following:

Basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is (true) marriage and the family, and without violating the religious liberty of persons and institutions.

I wish to extend my own commitment as bishop to all persons in the Church with a homosexual inclination, especially to your pastoral care and growth in holiness. Our Courage groups in Fort Wayne and South Bend exist to help you in this growth. All of us have the vocation to love. This vocation is lived not only through the vocation of marriage, but also through chaste friendships. I hope you know the Church’s love for you. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ. I encourage you to persevere in your faith within the Catholic community as together we strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus.

 

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades