(VIDEO) An Archbishop’s Rebuke for the Common Good


“A defender of the church,” proclaimed the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel headline for an extensive story about the new Archbishop-designate,
Jerome Listecki. The subtitle for the article was: “Archbishop designate Listecki
vows collaboration, but unafraid of debate.” The subtitle was probably derived
from the bishop’s description of how he planned to participate in the political
process. He said: “If we don’t challenge one another’s statements, then we’re
relinquishing our responsibility to the common good.


The following
month, young Catholics for Choice
(yCFC – a Washington D.C. based organization) and Family
Planning Health Services
(FPHS – an agency with family planning clinics in
eight Wisconsin counties) formed a unique sectarian-secular advertising partnership,
produced informational ads
for broadcast, and then embarked on a two-day Wisconsin “road-trip” to draw
media attention to their campaign and to build public (including the Catholic
public) awareness and knowledge about emergency
contraception
.


The purpose of
the joint media campaign was two-fold: 1) to inform the public about how Plan B
works so they would have it on hand in advance of need, and 2) to inform
Catholic women of reproductive age that the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops health
care directives
permit the use of emergency contraception to prevent
pregnancies resulting from rape.

In the January
2010 issue of the Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United
States, Ron
Hamel, Ph.D.
, makes it very clear that the ethics of access to emergency
contraception for Catholics needs to be fully examined and explained. Professor
Hamel’s article and the YCFC/FPHS EC campaign are an effort to fulfill that
responsibility when there is significant resistance.

The campaign
succeeded in getting a response from the Archbishop-designate and thus
succeeded in its secondary purpose. The headline on the Christmas Eve edition
of the La Crosse Diocesan newspaper is: “Bishop Rejects Young Catholics for
Choice Message.” The front page column ran adjacent to the departing bishop’s
message. But what he rejected so prominently: “ . . . that Catholics can
disregard Church teaching on contraception, abortion, and human sexuality in
general and remain Catholics in good standing,” was only weakly connected to
the message that yCFC
and Family Planning Health Services (FPHS) were promoting.

Bishop Listecki,
like most of the Catholic protesters in front of the FPHS clinic, will allow “no room for interpretation,”
once the bishop’s authority has been invoked. Many within the church see the bishop’s
pattern of authoritarian
rebukes
, condemnations, and admonitions as futile efforts to suppress
dissent and they understand they are not the views of other Catholics or even
the other American bishops.  Just
as importantly, the denials and condemnations are not solely inflicted on the
faithful. The prayer vigil protestors’ and Bishop Listecki’s efforts
to eliminate access
to emergency contraception, if they succeed, would
apply to women regardless of their faith.

Erik Cieslewicz and Brooke
Sperry
have produced a documentary about the joint campaign, launched the same day that another Lenten
prayer vigil
outside an FPHS clinic (which does not provide abortion
services) begins in central Wisconsin. The video shows the challenge as well as
the fun of the effort to educate the public in the face of consistent efforts
to suppress and to misinform. Earlier, “40 Days
for Life”
prayer vigils played a large part in motivating FPHS and yCFC to cooperate in the advertising
effort to correct misinformation being spread by their opponents.

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  • waterjoe

    I am not sure what the point is here. Whether or not you agree, in Catholicism, the local bishop is authoritative on matters of morals. It really does not matter what other Catholics or bishops say.

  • lon-newman

    Can it be a sin to tell the truth? In order to respect the bishop’s, now the archbishop’s, authority on moral teaching, it would seem that if the bishop would like to teach about emergency contraception, it should be based on evidence and fact. The bishop continues to ignore that the US Conference of Bishops health care directives permit the use of EC to prevent pregnancy as well as to deny the evidence that Plan B does not ’cause an abortion.’ FPHS is not a sectarian entity, so the partnership with yCFC brought a religious voice to the forum . . . but, from my secular point-of-view, it seems very wrong to claim moral authority from a position of determined, deliberate and persistent ignorance and denial.  

    –Lon–