Timothy Herrmann

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Melinda Gates: I’m Catholic and contraception is not controversial

Timothy Herrmann
By Timothy Herrmann
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April 11, 2012 (C-FAM) - On Holy Thursday Melinda Gates publicly professed her Catholic faith and then personally attacked her Church over its position on contraception. I could not help but be reminded of Judas and his mysterious betrayal of Christ that night, sealed with a kiss.

In fairness to Mrs. Gates, her speech wasn’t expressly about the Church. It was about her foundation’s new “NoControversy” initiative to promote universal access to contraception. Her message was simple: Contraception is not controversial.  And to convince people of this, she argued that population control, abortion, and forced sterilization have nothing to do with the international promotion of universal access to contraception. If people associate them together,  they are just “confused”.

This is a life and death crisis. Every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth. About 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life.

I know everybody wants to save these mothers and babies.

But somewhere along the line, we got confused by our own conversations and we stopped trying to save these lives. We need to be clear about our agenda. It is not abortion. It is not population control.

But why attack the Catholic Church?  Well, because the Church isn’t confused about contraception. In fact, even if the contraceptive movement really had successfully cut ties with the population control movement and no longer had anything to do with the promotion of abortion, which is very hard to believe thanks to the work of UN agencies like the UNFPA, the Church would still refuse to change its message: Contraception is bad for people.

That is why Melinda Gates did what she did. As a Catholic, she knows contraception is controversial, and she knows that dismissing the controversy isn’t as simple as laying the blame on confused people making confused arguments about the very real dangers of contraception and its affects on human health, relationship, and society. So she knew she had to dismiss the Church’s teaching as unreasonable and to do it publicly. If she was going to prove to the world that contraception was objectively good, she had to dismiss the Church and, and particular the Church’s audacious claim that it speaks the truth.

In the tradition of the great Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings. One of the teachings most of my classmates and I questioned was the one saying that birth control is a sin.

I think one of the main reasons people are so uncomfortable talking about this issue is a lingering concern that separating sex from reproduction will encourage promiscuity. It’s a reasonable question to ask about contraception: What is its impact on sexual morality?

But like most women, my decision about birth control had nothing to do with promiscuity. I had a plan for my future. I wanted to go to college, and I studied hard. I am proud that I was one of the very few female computer science graduates in my class. I also wanted to have a career.

Judas knew Christ and was with Him everyday, even in public, and he still betrayed Him. It would be very difficult to deny that Judas wasn’t aware of his own actions. He went to see the high priests, he took their blood money, he brought their guards to Christ. But did he really know what he was doing? Or was Judas confused?

I imagine that the Apostles hardly ever understood exactly what Christ meant when he spoke about the inevitability of His impending death. All of them were used to Christ speaking beyond their comprehension. Some of them ran away from Him, one of them betrayed Him three times before the cock crowed. But not all of them handed Him over to death.

We also shouldn’t forget that for Judas it must have seemed like Christ was the one who was betraying him. Christ was the one abandoning him.  Christ’s death proclamation did not evoke images of the power, or the King, or the Kingdom that Judas has imagined. In fact it was beyond imagination and must have seemed to Judas to be an inconceivable and unnecessary sacrifice.

This was the same Christ who Judas had seen preform countless miracles and who spoke to Judas with an affection he had never encountered anywhere else. So, Judas betrayed Christ because Judas felt betrayed first. But the others did not. They did not because they belonged to Christ and his friendship, while Judas merely “participated”, unconvinced.

The others, even if they did not understand, were so caught up in wonder, so in love with Christ that they could only follow, continually convinced that what Christ had to say, even if it exceeded the confines of their imagination, was nonetheless true.

Today, most Catholics struggle with the Church’s teachings on contraception, but many are convinced by and in wonder of the person of Christ and the Church which continues to proclaim His truth. Within their struggle, they keep following, convinced by the overall attractiveness of the faith. Melinda Gates is not convinced, and so she chooses to deny its teaching, not because she hates the Church, but because she feels somewhat betrayed by it—because she can’t understand it, just like Judas couldn’t understand why Christ, instead of accepting to be turned over to the Romans, didn’t raise up an army of angels to take over and have Himself crowned King. However, we can’t forget, that those who stayed, eventually did.

In June the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the support of the British Government and the UNFPA will host a family planning summit in London. Her speech was meant to pave the way for its success and to call for the entire world to get behind what she claims is a very worthy cause.

Those who denied Christ also did so for what they considered a worthy cause, and this story, even 2,000 years later, continues dramatically today.

Timothy Herrman is the UN representative for the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Herrmann’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

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President Obama speaks at Planned Parenthood's national conference in 2013.
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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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