Catholic bishops promote ‘natural’ family planning amid battle over contraception mandate
When the Obama administration in January announced that employers will have to provide contraception coverage to their employees, U.S. Catholic bishops took the lead in fighting the mandate.
Allied with other denominations, the Catholic hierarchy has organized an energetic, nationwide effort to overturn this new federal rule. The Catholic Church calls birth control a sin, even as many Catholics practice it.
The bishops are hoping to change that with their Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, an annual campaign that begins this Sunday (July 22). It’s the church’s only acceptable form of birth control, even as many sexuality educators consider it relatively unreliable.
Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, then, may provide a window into a church teaching that is helping to drive the most serious standoff between the church and the federal government in decades.
Even the bishops acknowledge that the church’s efforts aren’t winning many adherents to natural family planning, by which a couple charts changes in a woman’s body to determine when she is likely to be fertile.
A 2011 survey shows that just two percent of American Catholic women at risk of unintended pregnancy rely on the method. And an overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics reject the church’s ban on artificial birth control.
“Sadly, the majority of Catholics still do not know about Church teachings on married love nor understand why the Church considers artificial contraception immoral,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
“This, tragically, is due to inconsistent education and formation since 1968. Over the last 30 years, we have been striving to correct the situation,” said Rhoades, who chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The birth control ban was codified in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, “On Human Life.” The Catholic Church continues to strive — mostly alone. It stands as the only major religious denomination in the nation to oppose what it considers “artificial” contraception. [More]