Catholic Leaders Must Dial Down The Rhetoric
It’s just plain sad to watch the bishops’ efforts to dehumanize the women who are the breath and pulse of their churches. It’s alarming to listen to the increasingly violent language used by Catholic leaders to draw battle lines across women’s wombs.
The Rev. Henry described it as a “do-or-die” issue. Archbishop Timothy Dolan accused the White House of “strangling” the church. Bishop Daniel Jenky, a Notre Dame board member, compared the president’s position on religious freedom to the policies of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
It’s this kind of incendiary language that launched a brave response by faculty and staff members at another Catholic institution in Ohio — John Carroll University. (Full disclosure: My daughter, who is not Catholic, is a 2010 JCU graduate.)
Religious studies professor Paul Lauritzen, who has been at John Carroll for 27 years, decided in early February to ask his fellow faculty members to weigh in on the contraception debate.
“The rhetoric was worsening,” Lauritzen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We wanted to get out front of the incendiary language before some violent episode resulted.” He recruited two professors who established the school’s public health minor to help write the letter to JCU’s president, the Rev. Robert Niehoff.
“We … are committed to freedom of conscience and religious liberty,” the letter read, adding that the bishops have the right to “proclaim Catholic teaching vigorously and loudly.”
“However, we also believe that access to contraception is central to the health and well-being of women and children.”
The two-page letter ended with an appeal:
“We … ask that, along with the presidents of other Catholic and Jesuit universities, you urge the bishops to avoid the inflammatory rhetoric they have been using to attack the administration’s policy. We ask you to stand up to those who would play politics with women’s health.”
The letter was dated Feb. 14, 2012. Forty-seven faculty and staff members signed it.
Fourteen weeks later, those men and women who were brave enough to stand up for women’s health are still waiting for a response.
Meanwhile, countless people of faith are praying that women’s health never again becomes a “do-or-die” issue in America.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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