Commentary by Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President, Human Life International
On September 28th the Connecticut bishops issued an unfortunate statement allowing the Plan B abortion-causing drug to be used in cases of rape in Catholic hospitals. I have written respectfully and urgently to the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC) and to each bishop individually to ask them to withdraw this potentially precedent-setting statement, and I pray that they do so. I am extremely concerned that this statement will begin to have a domino effect on other Catholic hospitals and healthcare institutions, and I write to you today to ask your ongoing partnership in this concern.
First, let me be clear about our obligations as Catholics. While our bishops operate in union with the Vicar of Christ, no individual bishop or conference of bishops, however wise or holy, has the charism of infallibility. Our respect for our bishops is sometimes exercised in presenting them with the clear facts that their advisors may have missed. It is an expression of our filial cooperation in their ministry. In this case, we have no option but to humbly ask them to reverse their decision due to some extremely egregious errors contained in the statement.
Errors of fact
Error number 1: “The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work.”
The truth is that there is absolutely no doubt about how the Plan B pills work. Just ask the manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, whose product insert states: “This product works mainly by preventing ovulation (egg release). It may also prevent fertilization of a released egg (joining of sperm and egg) or attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation).” (My italics.) It’s that third item that makes Plan B an abortion-causing drug. The same can be said for every chemical contraceptive.
Error number 2: “…the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter….” Here, regretfully, Catholics are led to believe that Rome has not unambiguously addressed the issue of Plan B (a.k.a., the “morning after pill”) already.
The truth of this matter is evident by a simple recourse to a statement of the Pontifical Academy for Life on the Vatican’s website. The Academy stated in a document issued in October of 2001 that “from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure, are also morally responsible for it.” The Vatican did not need to invent any new teaching on the Plan B pills because these pills fall into the category of abortifacient contraception, pure and simple. The consistent teaching of our Church on abortion applies here.
Errors of judgment
There were other errors in judgment in the bishops’ statement that confuse the issue from a moral point of view. The bishops state that “to administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.” This type of language just confuses the issue. It would indeed be a seriously irresponsible act to administer a killing drug not knowing whether or not ovulation has occurred and a new life is present. It would be like a hunter shooting at something moving in a forest if he were not really sure that what he saw was an animal or a human being. To use the language of “intrinsically evil” would make us think – legalistically – that it would be okay to take an action if it were only possibly evil. Hair-splitting language like this does not give us guidance when our moral obligation is to err on the side of life whenever there is a doubt. Furthermore, Dr. Chris Kahlenborn has shown that Plan B only works to halt ovulation half the time. Thus fertilization may occur even after the pill is administered, and a chemical abortion would result.
The core of the matter
What we are faced with here is the long arm of the culture of death reaching into our Catholic institutions and coercing us to comply with its totalitarian dictates. The Connecticut state legislature, with the complicity of the governor, passed a law that forbad the use of ovulation tests in cases of rape – why? This unwarranted government intrusion into a purely medical decision was totally unnecessary and would not likely have affected any other institutions than Catholic ones. It is, in my opinion, a law that was drafted deliberately to coerce Catholic hospitals to comply with the contraceptive dictates of the abortion providers. Remember this same state was the origin of the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court case which legalized contraception! It is no wonder that Connecticut is reaping the rotten fruit of the seeds that it sowed over forty years ago.
The bishops were forced into a “reluctant compliance” with this law, according to Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Acts of blatant coercion of Catholic consciences are already far advanced and will only continue unless the Church is willing to stand up and rebuke the arrogance of these coercive measures and carve out strict realms of conscience which are unreachable by activist courts and corrupt politicians. That will require Church leaders to be willing to fight ferocious battles against the dictators of relativism in order to assert our rights of conscience and faith. All Catholics, but especially our leaders, will have to be clear-headed and uncompromising in the face of the temptations to put our Catholic institutions in league with the liars and manipulators of the culture of death.
I envision a day in which Catholic leaders may have to resign from lucrative positions in business and shut down Catholic healthcare institutions rather than cooperate in the arrogant and coercive programs of the culture of death. Actually, I think that day has already arrived.
What we can do
Our greatest weapon in this battle against the culture of death is prayer. I ask you to pray for the bishops, above all, who are usually the target of attack by the culture of death and are often surrounded by compromisers. We need their strong moral leadership unfettered by lawyers and “ethicists” who prevent them from taking up arms in the culture wars. We are at a point in our Church’s history where bishops and priests are being called to martyrdom for the sake of the Faith, and only prayer will give them that courage to embrace their vocations to the last drop of blood.
Secondly, we all need to make a firm decision to never be silent in the face of any form of chemical killing. Abortifacient contraception is a back-door plague which enters into lives, institutions and societies in the guise of the birth control “savior,” but it is just one more way to kill, and with greater frequency at that.
Finally, stay tuned for more battles in more states with more Catholic healthcare institutions. One phone call I had with the legislative advisor of the Connecticut Catholic Conference gave me the impression that the domino effect is already happening in other episcopal conferences, and that concerns me deeply. The vigilance of many great pro-life forces, coupled with prayer and massive protests from people of conscience will undoubtedly give our Church leaders the courage to imitate the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep.