Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pope's advice for Lent

Lent is a time for renewal.  For 40 days Christians are called to turn away from distractions and bring God back into the center of their lives, rejuvenating their faith and their commitment to Christ.  As Catholics throughout the world begin this journey, Pope Benedict offered words of encouragement as a reminder of the true meaning of Lent: “The time leading up to Easter is a time of ‘metanoia,’ a time of change and penance, a time which identifies our human lives and our entire history as a process of conversion, which begins to move now in order to meet the Lord at the end of time”.   As college students make contemporary Lenten sacrifices of caffeine, chocolate, and Facebook, we must remember that it is not so important what we give up, so long as it leads us to give in to God's grace and draw closer to the passion of Christ.

Read more of Pope Benedict's words for the beginning of Lent here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Here We Are

Prof. Helen Alvare of George Mason University has written a letter in response to Nancy Pelosi's charge that women do not support the Church's teaching on contraception. Her letter was signed by hundreds of other women and published by National Review Online. View the text with signatures here. This is the text of her letter:


We are women who support the competing voice offered by Catholic institutions on matters of sex, marriage and family life. Most of us are Catholic, but some are not. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Many, at some point in our careers, have worked for a Catholic institution. We are proud to have been part of the religious mission of that school, or hospital, or social service organization. We are proud to have been associated not only with the work Catholic institutions perform in the community – particularly for the most vulnerable -- but also with the shared sense of purpose found among colleagues who chose their job because, in a religious institution, a job is always also a vocation.

Those currently invoking "women's health" in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of "costless" birth control with "equality," note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.

No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. Each of us, Catholic or not, is proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage and family life. We call on President Obama and our Representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to witness to their faiths in all their fullness.

Helen M. Alvaré JD
Associate Professor of Law
George Mason University (VA)*
Kim Daniels JD
Former Counsel
Thomas More Law Center (MD)
 (*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only. They do not indicate institutional support.)

Why the Pill is not good for women

Erika Bachiochi, a speaker at Notre Dame's recent Edith Stein Project, co-authored an article with Catherine Pakaluk on why "The Pill is Not Good for Women" for the National Review Online today. An excerpt:

"The Pill, together with abortion as backup, appeared to provide full insurance against pregnancy risks. But as economists well know, full insurance tends to induce greater risk-taking: As people perceive sex to be safer, they pursue more of it. This applies especially to people who would otherwise be most vulnerable to the risks of unwanted pregnancy: the young, the unmarried, and those unable to care for a child."

Read the full article here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

NRO covers Edith Stein Project

Katheryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online covered last weekend's student-run Edith Stein Project in her discussion of the current contraception debate. Her article quotes Margaret Kennedy, one of our undergraduate assistants, who served as a co-chair of the conference. An excerpt:

“Contraception,” she says, “is but a mask,” covering up our vulnerabilities. It’s like alcohol, she adds: “a way not to confront our fears or take responsibility for our actions.”

Read the full article here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Unacceptable Compromise


Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.


John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin
Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Thursday, February 9, 2012

EWTN Files Suite to Block Contraception Mandate

EWTN filed a law suite today in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, AL seeking to declare the federal government's contraception mandate as unconstitutional.   EWTN is the first lay Catholic organization to challenge the HHS mandate.  

"'We had no other option but to take this to the courts,' said [Michael]Warsaw, [EWTN's president]. 'Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice: Either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health-insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable.'"

Read more in the National Catholic Register

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Carter Snead in WSJ

Future Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture Carter Snead, of Notre Dame's Law School, and Princeton University Professor Robert P. George have written an article that was published in today's Wall Street Journal. They analyze last week's struggle over funding between the Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood. An excerpt:

"The reality is that Planned Parenthood—with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion—does little in the way of screening for breast cancer. But the organization is very much in the business of selling abortions—more than 300,000 in 2010, according to Planned Parenthood. At an average cost of $500, according to various sources including Planned Parenthood's website, that translates to about $164 million of revenue per year.

So how did Planned Parenthood and its loyal allies in politics and the media react to Komen's efforts to be neutral in the controversy over abortion?

Faced with even the tiniest depletion in the massive river of funds Planned Parenthood receives yearly, the behemoth mobilized its enormous cultural, media, financial and political apparatus to attack the Komen Foundation in the press, on TV and through social media.

The organization's allies demonized the charity, attempting to depict the nation's most prominent anti-breast cancer organization as a bedfellow of religious extremists. A Facebook page was set up to "Defund the Komen Foundation." In short, Planned Parenthood took breast-cancer victims as hostages."

Read the full article here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Contraception debate rages on campus

Notre Dame's official student newspaper, the Observer, has been printing a series of Viewpoint letters to the editor concerning the HHS mandate that will force Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions to provide coverage of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs through its health insurance. Today we are proud to feature a letter written by one of the students in our Integritas undergraduate formation program. It was published in the February 6 edition of the Observer:

I would like to reply to Notre Dame Right to Life officers' Jan. 31 letter, "Contraception and Dignity," touched off when it sternly condemned the use of artificial contraception. I am going to argue on behalf of the original letter's position by responding to some of the arguments made by "Contraception and Dignity," Feb. 3.

Emily Bienek, Joel Moore and John Galeziewski argued contraception can mitigate the harmful consequences of domestic violence, rape and drunken hook-ups. This argument fails because these problems cannot be solved by contraception. If women are really so afraid of being assaulted by friends, boyfriends, husbands and strangers they feel they must be taking contraception at all times to prevent unplanned pregnancies, our society suffers from a far greater problem than a lack of reproductive choice.

I would rather make the world safe from violence against women than hand out birth control pills to potential rape victims. Similarly, the fact that many Notre Dame students regularly get so drunk that they cannot control their behavior contributes to a host of problems of which unplanned pregnancies are only one. We can better resolve that issue by helping students drink responsibly than by constantly struggling to reduce the harm they do to themselves and others when they are drunk.

Bienek, Moore, Galeziewski and Anne Reser all made the point artificial contraception helps women by allowing them to regulate how many children they have and when they have them. This allows women to pursue other goals before starting a family and to responsibly regulate the size of their families once they have them. Abstinence before marriage and NFP during marriage can do the same things. Researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany found NFP is as effective as "the pill" at preventing conception, and (forgive the cliché) abstinence remains the only 100 percent effective means of preventing pregnancy and STDs.

John Galeziewski suggests NFP, even when properly used, is no different than other forms of contraception. On the contrary, NFP does not upset the delicate chemical balance within a woman's body in ways that could damage her health, as hormonal contraceptives do.

It also does not fundamentally change the nature of the sexual act by chemically or mechanically eliminating one of its key functions, something all forms of artificial birth control do as well. Finally, NFP makes sex more intimate for couples that use it by giving them a greater understanding of the natural reproductive process and how to work within it to plan their families.

Anne Reser deplores the fact "there are still people who believe that a woman's dignity is somehow tied to her ability and desire to have children." I believe she has misunderstood "Contraception and Dignity" on this issue. At the risk of putting words in the authors' mouths, I believe the people behind "Contraception and Dignity" would not call a woman's reproductive ability the sole source of her worth. Rather, they would assert that a woman derives her dignity from all of the various and wonderful gifts God has bestowed on her by making her in His image, and that her ability to create and nurture life within her own body is merely one of these gifts, though it is an awe-inspiring and very important one.

Women do not need artificial birth control to protect themselves, plan their families or affirm their dignity. They can avoid unplanned pregnancies and STDs by abstaining from sex before marriage and regulate the births of their children within marriage by using NFP. They can better respect themselves by embracing their ability to bear children as an important part of their nature than they can by denying the beauty and significance of one of the greatest abilities of any human person, which they alone happen to possess. The only thing women (and men) "need" artificial contraception for is to have sex whenever they want and with whomever they want. Modern society thinks sex should be like television: entertainment on demand. Those of us who believe that sex is a total, loving and fruitful gift from one person of incommensurable dignity to another believe sex was meant for something more.

Elliott Pearce
Knott Hall
Feb. 3

Friday, February 3, 2012

Komen Foundation caves; restores PP funding

We are disappointed to report that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has caved into pressure from Planned Parenthood supporters and restored their funding to Planned Parenthood. They have amended their grant policy to allow funding of organizations that are under congressional investigation as long as that investigation is not criminal in nature. Read their press release here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Best Thing in Life Was Unplanned

This Friday Ryan Bomberger will be giving a talk at Notre Dame on life issues in the black community at 4 p.m. in the Geddes Hall auditorium.  Ryan Bomberger is a pro-life activist who founded the Radiance Foundation to spread the light and beauty of life.  This Christmas season, Bomberger used the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ to honor the joy of all life.  As he so aptly puts its, the circumstances in which Jesus was born reflected the difficulties many experience in facing unplanned pregnancies:  "An unplanned pregnancy. A courageous teenage mother. A father who chose adoption over abandonment. This is Christmas. Without this scenario, we wouldn’t be honoring the most history-altering moment for humanity."

Even though Christmas is long past, the Holy Family and their decisions in light of less than ideal circumstances stands as a true testament to the wonderful gift of life.

To read more of Bomberger's article on Life News, click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Komen Foundation Defunds Planned Parenthood

The breast cancer research foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure has announced that it will no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings services. The Komen foundation had been providing Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider, with significant grants since 2005. The grants have been rescinded due to a new rule the Komen foundation adopted preventing them from funding organizations under congressional investigation. Planned Parenthood is currently under investigation for how it spends and reports money. Read the full story here in the New York Times. You can thank the Komen foundation for the work they do to promote women's health in a way that no longer supports the destructive work of Planned Parenthood by emailing