(VIDEO) Listen to the Lives of Ordinary Catholics

Lon Newman

The president of Catholics for Choice, explores the political power and hierarchy of the Catholic Church, pointing to three questions on which to evaluate the Bishops' lobbying efforts and policy recommendations.

This article was originally published by Below the Waist.

Richard Doerflinger, speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, responded to a Wall Street Journal article about Wisconsin’s Medicaid Family Planning expansion saying: “It reflects a view of women which is extremely dismissive . . .” Mr. Doerflinger goes on to recommend that the expansion be rejected because family planning advocates are only interested in a woman’s reproductive function and making sure it isn’t used.

Jon O’Brien Interview from Family Planning Health Services on Vimeo.

Family Planning Health Services, Inc. and the Wisconsin Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association are very proud to release this engaging video interview with Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. Mr. O’Brien explores themes of political power and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. He establishes a clear three-question structure within which legislators and the public can evaluate lobbying efforts and policy recommendations like Mr. Doerflinger’s:

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  1. Is it factually correct?
  2. Who does the speaker represent?
  3. What are the consequences to ordinary working people?

Mr. O’Brien says that good Catholics can support contraception. He describes the history of the Vatican’s Birth Control Commission which was: “far less than divine inspiration. It was a matter of stacking the deck!” Even though the outcome was pre-determined to oppose use of the birth control pill, according to O’Brien, education and dialogue . . . “changed the hearts and minds of the bishops” on the Commission. “Can you imagine how many lives could have been saved,” O’Brien asks, “if the Pope had enough faith in Catholics to accept the Commission’s recommendations?”

Mr. O’Brien’s emphasis throughout the interview is that the bishops and legislators must “Listen to the lives of ordinary Catholics. He says: “We are the ones who go to the ballot box.”  On reproductive health issues, according to O’Brien, “The bishops have failed to convince Catholics not to use contraception. So what do they do? They go off to Capitol Hill or to your state assembly and behind the doors they try to pressure legislators into not allowing access to family planning.” With no equivocation he says: “There’s something that’s downright wrong and un-American about that!

O’Brien states that the information that the hierarchy gives on contraception and condoms is inaccurate and that the bishops do not speak for Catholic voters. But to make his most important point on testing the validity of lobbying by the bishops against family planning, Mr. O’Brien praises the courage and example of Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa. Paraphrasing Bishop Dowling, who has differed with Church teachings on the use of condoms to prevent HIV/Aids, O’Brien says:  “Using condoms to prevent AIDs is not about preventing the transmission of life. It is about preventing the transmission of death.”

If we apply the test to Mr. Doerflinger’s statement regarding Medicaid family planning, it is factually incorrect, it represents the view of some (but not all) of the 350 U.S. Catholic Bishops, and the consequence would be to reduce access to health care for thousands of American women. 

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