One claim that the authors of the letter make is that the Church's anti-contraception policy "has had a catastrophic impact on the poor and powerless around the world, endangering women's lives and leaving millions at risk of HIV." This, as usual, is quoted without comment in the mainstream media and is probably taken in without a thought by most readers, as well. The visual here is millions of Africans dutifully avoiding the use of contraception and passing HIV to their wives and girlfriends.
South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier recently commented on this perception during WYD in Australia. He pointed out that this perception is itself a subtle form of racism. Quoted from the AAP:
Napier, who is opposed to the use of condoms to prevent HIV, said that although South Africa has one of the highest condom distribution rates worldwide, it also is one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS. He added, "You expect that because people are hearing from bishops, 'You must use a condom,' that they will do what the bishops say?" According to Napier, Uganda has been able to reduce its HIV/AIDS prevalence through a program that includes abstinence, fidelity and condom use only for married couples.
According to Napier, the church has had faith in people to control their own lives and avoid HIV transmission. "At the moment, if you go on a policy of condom distribution as the only solution to HIV and AIDS, you are telling people that they cannot take control of their own lives," Napier said. He added, "[T]herefore, I think you are doing them an injustice by saying: 'You are so stupid. Even though this disease is a killer, you cannot take control of your own lives'"
This decline in AIDS transmission in Uganda and corresponding increase in other parts of Africa is discussed more in depth in this article from the April issue of First Things.
The second point I'd like to address is the Catholic identity, or lack thereof, in groups such as CFFC. I found a great article by Joel Mowbray of National Review on CFFC. He points out that CFFC's donors are not listed as donating to any other Catholic organizations other than CFFC, with the exception of billionaire George Soros' Open Society Institute. The list of donors for CFFC is very similar to the list of donors for NARAL and NOW. Heavy hitters include Warren Buffet's Buffet Foundation, charitable foundations set up by the families of the founders of Hewlett Packard, and the MacArthur Foundation. But by far the leading contributor during the period covered by the article (1996-2000) was the Ford Foundation, set up by the founding family of Ford Motors. It contributed $4.3 million to CFFC during this period.
What this amounts to is a political advocacy group, bankrolled by wealthy left-wing activist groups who are anything but Catholic, labelling itself as Catholic and agitating against the Church. This is at best dishonesty, at worst it is religious bigotry and interference. In my opinion, it is Big Brother at its finest, buying religion for political gain.
Another pang of despair resounded when I saw a major news wire service report that the Catholic Church only permits adherents to use the "rhythm method" of birth control. The media is committed to keeping the public in the dark about Natural Family Planning (NFP). Despite its effectiveness and foundation in scientific research, NFP has remained a complete enigma for the public at large. And it's not just the media that is either ignorant, malicious or both in its communication on NFP. I've heard stories of women being told by board-certified OB/GYN doctors that NFP is only 67% effective. Since a woman is fertile approximately 33% of the time, that's basically the same as no birth control at all.
I don't know who to get mad at here. It was funny that the ABC news site carried the story of the Catholic dissident groups on a page with a side bar ad for photos of "Selma and Sizzling Single Moms". You can't buy that kind of irony.
When it comes down to it, it's just silly. There are people out there who are committed to the idea that people just can't control themselves. For them, the answer does not lie in calling people to accountability but in removing the idea of accountability itself. Reality is persistent, however, and life is more complicated than that. The idea that we aren't really responsible for what we do is as old as the Apple, the Garden, and the Serpent. But here we are in the Fall and answers are few and hard to come by. There is one answer that has worked for a while, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We have to believe that we can live by this principle and that others can, too. But for some reason, we just can't.