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Ben Johnson and Fr. Mark Hodges


‘Devout Catholic’ teacher: I lost my faith because Church wouldn’t pay for my IUD

Ben Johnson and Fr. Mark Hodges

March 23, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The media have used every argument imaginable – and a few that hadn't crossed our minds – to justify the Obama administration's HHS mandate. They have ignored the constitutional freedom of religion enshrined in our founding documents and advanced the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate on every pretext from curing endometriosis to improving the health of nuns.

This week, it trotted out a familiar gem: The Christian Church is turning people away from God by upholding what she believes to be His teachings.

On Tuesday The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Sonia Guizar, an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles and a lapsed Roman Catholic. She writes that the Roman Catholic Church blew their relationship by refusing to change its teachings to suit her lifestyle.

"My religion has always been a big part of my life,” she wrote. “I was raised Catholic, received a Catholic education and taught at a religious school for years. My daughter is in Catholic school now.”

“But the church’s attempts to block my access to health care have made me feel disillusioned,” she wrote.

By blocking her “access to health care,” as you may have imagined, she means that her Catholic school would not use parents' tuition money to pay for her birth control.

“As a teacher at a religiously affiliated school between 2007 and 2015, my health insurance was managed by the archdiocese. It didn’t cover contraception,” she wrote. “We were told that the plan was in line with the beliefs of the church."

There is a simple reason she was "told" this was the case; it is in line with the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. We invite Mrs. Guizar to read Humanae Vitae or the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn the precise reasoning behind that decision. (The relevant section is here.)

Yet the fact that her employer would not violate its conscience to pay for her IUD - an abortifacient method of birth control - left her, we feel unreasonably, "angry and frustrated."

Rather than put up with such abuse, last year she took "a new job with a public school district.”

“I’m making more money now, and I have contraception coverage," she writes.

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That sounds like a win-win situation. A Catholic teaching position is not merely a "job"; it is a mission. Those who take it sacrifice a certain level of material well-being and personal autonomy in order to provide a good example of Catholic fidelity to the children – whose parents have sacrificially paid to have their children formed in just such an environment.

If Mrs. Guizar, or any other Catholic teacher, is unwilling to do that, he or she should follow Mrs. Guizar out the door and into a job in some other educational entity forthwith. That will benefit students, whose educational role model will no longer be undermining the faith they are supposed to be learning, and the dissenting teachers, who don't really wish to live by the faith or have a greater interest in money and benefits.

But walking out was not enough; as she slams the door, she slams the Church. "The extreme measures the church is taking to block women’s access to common health care — including the 98 percent of Catholic women of reproductive age who have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning — is turning me away from the Catholic Church,” she wrote.

“Frankly, I’ve lost a great deal of faith in its teachings,” she wrote. “I no longer celebrate Mass. They are out of touch with the people they claim to represent, and this time they’ve gone too far."

It's worth noting that laity do not "celebrate" Mass; priests do that.

But the “extreme measures” her archdiocese took to “block” her “access” to an abortifacient were declining to pick up the tab for it. Admitted, the Catholic Church engages in so many abundant and diversified forms of charity that for her to refuse to furnish someone with almost anything at her own expense may appear extreme. Therefore, we can eliminate greed as a motive immediately.

An organization with that outlook would only withhold something if it felt certain the item were bad for its recipients.

The 98 percent statistic that she deployed is both irrelevant (since statistics don't trump dogma) and more importantly, a known falsehood. According to Mollie Hemingway, the underlying study excludes many faithful women but includes women who use Natural Family Planning. The Washington Post has awarded media coverage of its findings two Pinocchios.

There is nothing new in Mrs. Guizar's argument, aside from the details of her personal life. Secularists have waged psychological warfare against the Christian religion for decades, often posing as well-meaning friends who gently warn that Christianity is in danger of alienating potential converts if it does not abandon everything that would distinguish it from a Bacchanalian mystery cult. The only way to be truly compelling is to eliminate everything that would distinguish it from everyone and everything else in culture. People will only prize Christianity's unique message when it is generously leavened with agnosticism until it loses its every noteworthy facet and exceptional feature.

Only when there is nothing to accept will the people accept it, we are told.

We demur. Only when the Christian religion is true to its 2,000-year-old message, and each church faithful to its own denominational teachings, does Christianity have anything to offer the public. Any attempt to bowdlerize the faith begs the question of why society should not also shed the empty trappings of Christianity - which, history has shown us, it often proceeds to do.

A Reader's Digest version of Christianity also produces adherents who, like Mrs. Guizar, react in shock and anger when they encounter the genuine article with its demands for daily self-sacrifice in gratitude for and imitation of the Eternal Sacrifice once offered for all upon the Cross.

The only conclusion we can reach after reading Mrs. Guizar's op-ed is that the Church did not drive her away from the Church, that her school's fidelity to the faith did not lead her to infidelity. The answer is far simpler: she never had a properly formed Catholic faith regarding contraception and abortion to begin with.

That truly is a shame and a common indictment, of churches of all dioceses and denominations.

If her experience has any salutary effect, it won't be to change the teachings of the Catholic Church, nor to convince the Supreme Court to force Christian institutions to disregard their most sincerely held religious teachings, to introduce people like Mrs. Guizar to them in the hopes that one day she may embrace them with as much love as the Christian Church would embrace her.

Fr. Mark Hodges is the priest at St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Mission (OCA) in Lima, Ohio

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