Catholic Laity Fed Up With U.S. Bishops’ View of Birth Control

Catholics have long disagreed with the Church hierarchy on contraception

The New York Times/CBS News polling released this week backed up what most of us already knew: The majority of Americans (65 percent) support the ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include no-copay birth control in employee insurance plans. Fifty-nine percent believe that religiously-affiliated employers such as hospitals and universities should be expected to comply with this policy.

Though it’s harder to quantify emotions, quickly skimming the headlines these days is all it takes to see: Catholics are upset. The reasons for these strong feelings are much more complex than can fit into a headline, however, and in most cases very different than the ones expressed by the U.S. bishops.

For Catholics, as for everyone, contraception is personal.

Ever since the HHS decision was made public, Catholics for Choice has been hearing from Catholics who are indeed upset. We have heard from young women and retirees, fathers, mothers, lectors and church employees, many of whom have sat in a pew and listened to letters from their bishop condemning the HHS decision, experienced their personal contraceptive and political decisions becoming an issue in church like never before, or seen news coverage that didn’t reflect their own Catholic support for contraception. Parishioners may be encountering a new, political Catholic hierarchy, but the experience may yet create a new, political progressive Catholic movement in response.

A selection of the letters:

Does it matter to the Catholic church that girls have hopes and dreams?… How small of them all in this day and age. …

All of this has drawn me so far away from going to church that I could never imagine walking into a church of any sort ever again….  This is a nation for all religions. Not just for Christians, or for Catholics.

Patricia K.
Oklahoma City, OK


I was stunned to hear a political message in a Catholic church. I thought that only happened in a Christian fundamentalist church. A letter, written by Bishop Lennon, Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, was inserted in our weekly bulletin. It was incendiary, over the top and misleading. Words were selected for their shock value.

I’ve always held respect for our local clergy in spite of views that I’m sure we don’t share. But now I don’t know what to do. Should I continue to serve as a lector at mass when I’m no longer sure I belong there? And what about the envelope from Bishop Lennon on my kitchen table? I don’t want to compromise my modest donation to help the poor, but I’m so angry right now that I have the urge to throw it out.



My daughter takes birth control. She’s 27, single, and this helps her mood swings and anxiety attacks. I am Catholic and believe this is a personal decision for each of us. The church has no idea what each of us deals with in our personal lives. We all have to make our own well-thought-out decisions.

Mequon, WI


Just a comment from a life-long Catholic, long-time church employee and mother of two:

I will start paying more attention to the bishops’ position on birth control on the day a Catholic bishop becomes pregnant. Until then I’ll stand with the 97 percent of Catholic women who use or have used birth control.

Winter Park, FL


I am a very liberal woman who supports choice and LGBT rights. I feel that this is right and what God wants. I have been on birth control for several years and feel it is a responsible decision.

I am a loving person and I would love to go back to church if I knew a parish that would accept me and not preach against beliefs that I hold dear.

Scottsville, NY


Modern birth control methods are a product of God-given human intellect. These methods are a tool that can be used to make a huge improvement in the quality of life for living, breathing human beings, no different than any other health care method. …

As it stands now, I will do anything I can to avoid the Catholic healthcare system. The bishops have made it plain that they are more concerned with pushing their agenda than with my welfare as a patient. As far as I am concerned, their so-called “prolife” viewpoint is little more than the primary method they use to maintain their authority and control the populace. Personally, I look to my own conscience and situation in life.

White, SD


My local parish priest delivered a homily railing against the new insurance rule. My fellow parishioners and I were not impressed. In fact, we were angry at our local and regional clerics for trying to ram their point of view down our throats.

We do not agree! We are happy that FINALLY the moral conscience opportunity has been taken away from Catholic organizations and instead redirected—and rightly so—to the level of individual employees. It is the individual who has the right to exercise their own moral conscience. We don’t need the Catholic church to do it FOR us. We are not in alignment with our church leadership. They do not speak for us.

Atlanta, Georgia


In these shaky economic times, no-copay contraception is more important than ever. It’s about social justice, a core Catholic value, and an issue of conscience. A groundswell of Catholic support for equal access to contraception would do a lot to correct the misconception that the bishops’ polemics against individual moral agency are reflective of the views of the faithful.

If you want to contact Catholics for Choice, please click here.

Tell Congress to support no-copay contraception no matter what the Bishops say.

Excerpted from the original post at RH Reality Check.

Photo by Flickr user krossbow under license from Creative Commons.


  1. Dianne Roche says:

    The Catholic bishops are dwelling in the Middle Ages, both in their attempts to control the consciences of adult women and in their denial of modern medicine’s ability to make life healthier for women. They also refuse to face the reality that the vast majority of Catholic women use birth control and have made life better for themselves and their families, by not giving birth to children they connot afford, by not over taxing their bodies with too many births, by not having large unmanageable families in which children are not given the care they need in a modern culture, and by not over populating the world.Their naive belief in natural methods of birth control and abstinence within a healthy marriage prove that they do not have a genuine fix on reality, and show how totally they are alienated from healthy, sexual human beings. The old joke holds: what do you call someone who follows the Catholic bishops ideas on birth control? A mother.

    • Matthew Porcelli says:

      This is about one thing and one thing only: The Government trying to FORCE Catholic Institutions to violate their conscience. In the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year history it has never taught according to the consensus of the laity, but rather in obedience to its own past teachings. Truth doesn’t change, morality doesn’t change, therefore the Catholic Church’s teachings dont change.

      • Hah! They do too change! What about the role of celibacy and priests at the Roman Synod of 1074? Prior to that, men could be married and have wives and children, just as they do in the East Orthodoxy. Or the concept of Deaconesses, which did exist in the early Church? The Church changes when it suits them.

        The Catholic Church consistently ignores the rights and well being of women primarily to Not Admit to Being Wrong. The first reason cited as to why the debate about women as Deaconesses exists is this; the Church’s determination to remain faithful to its constant tradition. Listed second is its fidelity to Christ’s will (?), and third, the sexist idea that males are somehow more “sacramental” than females to begin with. (unclean! unclean!). As a Catholic woman (once a Catholic, always a Catholic, even if non-practicing) I am being driven out of my Church by what I perceive to be an ever-expanding he-man-women-hater’s-club mindset that does not value the gifts I bring to the Church, does not see the love of Christ that lives in my heart, and does not validate the idea that I am a sacred child of God because I am a woman.

        Now, it isn’t enough that they have excluded me from my faith because I want to be healthy and happy, but now they want to cross into the Res Publica to mandate that no woman in society, even those who are not Catholic, should be allowed to seek her own best health if the men above her so choose. Why does the care of myself and my daughters violate their religious rights? Is it because we are denying male access to and authority over reproduction altogether? I personally will never allow a man in a dress who has officially forfeited his biological interest in women and reproduction for himself to tell me how to best care for my uterus. Not one man in the USCCB has reliable, consistent first hand knowledge of how female reproduction works or should be cared for, so why should these armchair generals of conscience and health be allowed to extend their influence beyond their congregations into the secular political sphere? This has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ and everything to do with power.

        The Catholic Bishops should be asking women what they need, and listening with the heart of Christ, rather than sending awful letters to be read telling women what they should need.

      • “This is about one thing and one thing only: The Government trying to FORCE Catholic Institutions to violate their conscience.” assuming I buy that argument, I say so what? just because something violates your belief does not mean you deserve an exemption. what if it is a violation of MY conscience” for hospitals to provide medical care to catholic bishops? then should I be allowed to not contribute to medicare because they may use it when they retire? the simple answer is NO. If you think that birth control in not right, then don’t use it.

  2. I gave up years ago. This is just the latest iteration of the Catholic hierarchy’s misogeny.

  3. A long time ago a Catholic priest told my mother the Catholic church was “the good ole boys club.”
    Why am I not surprised

  4. kmmcneil says:

    Like Kathy, I gave up years ago. As a woman with both a brain and a conscience, the Church has no understanding of me. And furthermore, they don’t care enough to really find out.
    The Church hierarchy is not interested in women, beyond telling them what to do and any free service that the good fathers can convince us to provide.
    If I want to help people, there are plenty of worthy causes that I can offer direct support to. Help someone who actually will appreciate it, and you.

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