I recently attended a meeting during which a member of the audience asked a Catholic pro-life leader why more wasn’t being said about the connection between contraception and abortion. The response was “Not everyone has the same charism.”
Rendered momentarily speechless, it occurred to me that this type of vagueness is one of the problems that has plagued pro-life efforts for the past 35 years. Few Catholic pro-life stalwarts ever admit that there is a connection between contraception and abortion—let alone say it publicly!
So what is a charism? Webster defines “charism” as “an extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that a charism is a “grace of the Holy Spirit” that directly or indirectly benefits the Church and builds up the Church for the benefit of all men.
Anyone who honestly examines the scientific facts about contraception coupled with the full body of Catholic teaching on the subject spanning several centuries would conclude that speaking truthfully about Catholic teaching on contraception is not a charism; it is an obligation. Clearly, there are those who disagree, but relegating the recognition of a fundamental Church teaching to the category of a “special charism” is not only ill-advised but incredibly divisive.
Pope John Paul II taught in the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae,
It is frequently asserted that contraception … is the most effective remedy against abortion. … [T]his … is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the "contraceptive mentality"—which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act—are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. …
… [C]ontraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. … [I]n many cases contraception and even abortion are practised 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 … a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. 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.
The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which … really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.
That was 15 years ago! Where has everybody been?
Recently, one of Italy’s most astute reporters, Sandro Magister of L’Espresso, reported on a new book which reveals the fundamental problem we are dealing with when collaborating with Catholics who are in denial about contraception’s inextricable link to abortion. As he reports, a “divergence” has existed for many years between what the Church teaches and what Catholic lay people believe to be true and required of them on a personal level if they wish to remain true to the Church. He writes, “The condemnation of contraceptives would be the subject of papal documents, but already at the level of the bishops it would hardly appear in preaching. The clergy, for their part, would be almost completely silent on it. And would continue to be very understanding and indulgent in the confessional.”
Indeed, the responsibility for this failure to teach the truth about contraception and its link to abortion falls at the feet of the very men who are entrusted with the alleged charism to teach truth. The fact is, they are not teaching it; nor have they taught it for many years.
So it should come as no surprise that, even at the level of Catholic bioethics, there is all manner of dodging Catholic teaching at even the most prestigious levels. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), for example, recently published an article by Marie Hilliard, Ph.D., JCL, RN in which she assails the Catholic Health Association for its failure to properly address the morning-after pill as treatment for rape, but fails to point out that, because any such pill may abort a child, none should be used.
As the Vatican has clarified through Bishop Elio Sgreccia, former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, among others, the morning-after pill may not be given as a treatment for rape because of the potential to abort.
Here again it would seem there is a divergence of charism or, more accurately, a denial that the truth trumps anyone’s agenda.
Until such time as Catholic leaders are of one mind on the intrinsically immoral nature of contraception and its identity as the root cause of abortion, the pro-life movement will continue to spin its wheels politically.
You cannot have two kinds of truth, one for doctrine and another for politics. Such a situation does not represent a charism; it represents a victory for the devil.