Father Jason Tyler introduces a special series of columns written by Catholic women on family planning and contraception issues to appear in the next six issues of Arkansas Catholic.
If you haven't read the U.S. bishops' April 12 statement "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," it's worth a few minutes of your time. In seeking to uphold religious liberty, the bishops do not rely solely on references to sacred Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church (as good as those may be). Rather, they cite such notable American heroes such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Martin Luther King Jr. They correctly assert that religious liberty is a principle sacred to us as Catholics and as Americans.
The bishops cite various examples of recent assaults on religious liberty, including the latest and probably best known example: the recent HHS mandate that most health insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs. As bishops around the country stated in late January when the regulation was announced, we cannot comply with a directive that would force the Church to act contrary to what she teaches. Our bishops have clearly cast the mandate question in the light of religious liberty, and rightly so. The Church does not seek to criminalize contraception; we simply want the freedom to teach that it is wrong and to proclaim such teaching with integrity.
Some observers have attempted to shift the debate, claiming that this issue only exists because the Church is "anti-woman." Sadly, even some Catholics seem to believe that is the case. I find such accusations to be offensive when I think of my mother passing on the faith to my siblings and me or when I think of my two sisters, one of whom is preparing to teach at a Catholic school this fall and the other of whom is passing on the faith to her two young children.
Of course, I could spill a lot of ink in explaining how the Church is not "anti-woman" and never move the minds of those who think that. Thankfully, one of the blessings I've experienced as a priest is that of knowing many Catholic women who embrace the Church's teachings about human life and sexuality wholeheartedly.
With those observations in mind, I sought six such Catholic women to write about six different aspects of living out the Church's teaching on the gift of sexuality the transmission of human life. Dana Dodge will write about how she discovered natural family planning and how it changed her life for the better. Erin Pohlmeier will share her thoughts on why contraception is bad for women, followed by Anna Ostrom's writing about the physiological consequences of contraception. Mary Stengel will offer her reflections on the dignity of motherhood, and Franchelle Jaeger will speak about responsible parenthood. Finally, Brooke Glover will discuss the compatibility of being both a faithful Catholic and a working woman.
These six women came to embrace the Church's teaching at different moments in their lives. Some have always been convinced of it while others came to such a positive understanding later on. All of them are convinced, however, of the good that this teaching has been for their lives. Three of them work outside the home, and three are full-time, stay-at-home moms. All of them are married Catholic women of child-bearing age. If the Church's teaching were oppressive to women, these six are among the group that ought to feel such oppression. Yet, they don't feel oppressed or attacked. How exactly do they feel? Well, you can find out by reading what they have to say in the next six issues of Arkansas Catholic.
Father Jason Tyler is the pastor of St. Edward Church in Little Rock and the diocesan ethicist.
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