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The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, recently appointed as the new Archbishop of San Francisco, points out that the HHS mandate is not just about religious liberty but is also very much about contraception (as I've argued on this blog):

Surveys that ask people their opinion on whether insurance providers should include contraception in their coverage are missing the point. We would certainly hear different results if, instead, the pollsters asked: "Who should decide for a religious organization what its mission is, the religious organization itself or the government?"; "Who should define for a religious organization the people to whom it is to extend health, education and social services, the religious organization itself or the government?"; "Who should define for a religious organization who its members are, the religious organization itself or the government?"

While the leadership of faith communities throughout the country has rightly kept the focus on religious liberty and freedom of conscience, nonetheless, the HHS mandate has put the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood and the legitimate regulation of birth front and center.

Another question lurking in the background in this whole debate is this: Why would the government require, for the sake of women's health, insurance coverage of a medication the World Health Organization classifies as a Class 1 carcinogen? Yet, this is exactly what the WHO has done after dozens of studies over a period of many years have demonstrated a link between hormonal contraceptives and increased risk of breast and cervical cancer (as well as heart disease) in women (cf. www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/ageing/cocs_hrt_statement.pdf).

This is just the starting point — i.e., physical health — to understanding the wisdom of the Church's teaching in this area. In accordance with the principle of human ecology so well articulated by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical on the Church's Social Teaching, "Charity in Truth," all of the various dimensions of the meaning of conjugal love in marriage are interrelated, each one affecting all the others: the physical, the emotional, the psychological, the sociological, the economic, the environmental, the relational, the moral, the spiritual, and the theological and mystical. If any one of these is corrupted, it will impoverish all of the others.

This HHS mandate controversy, then, calls us to take advantage of this moment to educate our people on all the various aspects of the Church's teaching that, for grave reasons, a married couple may have recourse to the infertile periods of the woman's cycle in order to delay the begetting of new offspring. Sadly, there is much ignorance about natural family planning, even among medical professionals, and many people make very serious decisions about their own lives and those of others out of this ignorance.

We are sometimes even mocked for our belief by those who do not understand it, and, likely, don't want to, despite the fact that the physical practice of NFP is thoroughly based on science. We will, then, seize this opportunity in The Catholic Voice by publishing a series of articles, beginning with this issue, about the multi-faceted reality of Natural Family Planning and the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood, authored by people with expertise in these respective areas pertaining to this teaching of the Church.

Read the entire August 20th column on the Catholic Voice website.

 
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Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight.
 
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