When it comes to the history of Catholicism, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills is no one to trifle with. He has variously been characterized as “one of this country’s leading public intellectuals and American Catholicism’s most formidable lay scholar,” “a Roman Catholic scholar of awesome erudition,” and “one of the most respected writers on religion today.”
These credentials suggest that anything Wills has to say about the current controversy concerning American public policy on the issue of contraception — especially as it relates to Catholicism — is worthy of our attention.
In that regard, Wills doesn’t disappoint with THIS PIECE in The New York Review of Books:
Pusillanimous Catholics — Mark Shields and even, to a degree, the admirable E. J. Dionne — are saying that Catholics understandably resent an attack on “their” doctrine (even though they do not personally believe in it). Omnidirectional bad-faith arguments have clustered around what is falsely presented as a defense of “faith.” The layers of ignorance are equaled only by the willingness of people “of all faiths” to use them for their own purposes…
The bishops’ opposition to contraception is not an argument for a “conscience exemption.” It is a way of imposing Catholic requirements on non-Catholics. This is religious dictatorship, not religious freedom.
Contraception is not even a religious matter. Nowhere in Scripture or the Creed is it forbidden. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of “natural law,” over which natural reason is the arbiter—and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil…[W]hat matters here is that contraception is legal, ordinary, and accepted even by most Catholics. To say that others must accept what Catholics themselves do not is bad enough. To say that President Obama is “trying to destroy the Catholic Church” if he does not accept it is much, much worse.
There’s a lot more to Wills’ devastating argument. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
UPDATE: This video from the Democratic National Committee succinctly frames the current contraception controversy in a mere 73 seconds: