Vatican orthodoxy does not represent all American Catholics
“Quit the church … Put women’s rights over bishops’ wrongs,” proclaim the large billboards recently erected in Times Square, St Louis, and Arlington, Texas. Cleverly printed in patriotic red, white, and blue, the provocative slogan urges American Roman Catholics to prioritize women’s equality over their loyalties to the institutional church.
In the Los Angeles Times of 4 July, a full-page advertisement similarly announces that “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church” and urges liberal and nominal Catholics to vote with their feet and “please, exit en masse.” In March, a similar ad also appeared in the New York Times, and in May, it appeared in USA Today and the Washington Post.
The controversial billboards and advertisements are directed against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent “Fortnight for Freedom” and Catholic dioceses that are currently suing the US Department of Health and Human Services over its ruling that US women be offered birth control as part of their insurance plans. This campaign to leave the Church appears on the heels of the Vatican crackdown against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most of America’s approximately 57,000 sisters. In April, the group of sisters was reprimanded for reportedly supporting women’s ordination to the priesthood and the rights of homosexuals. The nuns also were accused of not taking strong enough stances against abortion and euthanasia.
The billboards and newspaper ads are sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a watchdog group founded in 1976 by Annie Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is the Foundation’s current co-president and author of Women Without Superstition: No Gods, No Masters. The Foundation and its 18,500 members should be applauded for promoting women’s rights to access contraception apart from religious interference. The group should also be commended for its nearly 35-year commitment to erecting a higher wall separating the church and the state: it seeks to end government funding for religious activities and works to halt illegal religious instruction in secular institutions. [More]
Claire Sahlin/The Guardian