Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why I will stand with my Bishop

Yesterday, Mr. Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute (owner of the Tampa Bay Times) wrote an article published in the Times titled "Why the Bishop is Wrong," regarding the HHS mandate on contraception. Click Here to read Mr. Clark's article Mr. Clark was responding to a letter published the same day in the Times by Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, titled "Why the president is wrong." Click Here to read Bishop Lynch's article.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch
I am certainly not the most articulate person to explain and defend the teachings of the Catholic Church, but I cannot let an article like Mr. Clark's be published without a response.

Below is my response to Mr. Clark.

Dear Mr. Clark,

As a fellow Catholic I feel compelled to respond to your recent article "Why the Bishop is Wrong."

First off, the entirety of your article is completely off base. The issue at hand is, "Can the Federal Government force a church to go against the morals it teaches?"  Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are what is at stake here, not whether or not you agree with the church's teaching on contraception.  But given that you do not address that question, I hope to respond to what you do say, in the hopes that you who profess to be a Catholic might see in a new light what the Catholic Church does teach and why.

You begin by saying the Bishop is your shepherd, then you go forward to say how you disagree with him and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church he leads. You cannot call yourself a sheep if you don't follow the shepherd. And worse, your article leads others astray by your misinformation and by the fact that you purport to be a Catholic in your criticism.

I would very much like to speak to you in person,  However, if that is not possible, please consider my comments to your assertions.
In 1968 when Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, he courageously stood up to the world to reassert the church's never changing teaching. It turns out all that Pope Paul said would happen if contraception was allowed, has in fact happened (increased out of wedlock births, high promiscuity, decline of the family and society). I would highly encourage you to actually read the encyclical. It is short, readable and clear., see

The priest with whom you personally spoke in confession did you a great disservice to say "you have done enough." Of course I am certain he was trying to be pastoral and help you through a difficult situation, but if he actually said those words, he was dissenting against the church.

I agree with you that most "Catholics" have ignored the "ban on birth control", and they do say that it is their "conscience" that they have consulted in making these decisions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, I was one of them. I had been fed that lie too "do whatever your conscience tells you." My "conscience" told me that having children would be a sacrifice, costly of money and time and inconvenient and so I too contracepted.

The error in this consulting of "conscience" is that only a well formed conscience can really guide us. If one has never taken the time to learn WHY the church teaches as she does, then one cannot say they have a well formed conscience. "Conscience" becomes the word used for what is in fact just a "feeling." As I began to learn What the Church really teaches and Why, it made all the difference. The Catholic Church is the ONLY church that has the concern of Women (and Men) in the forefront. The Church never tells women that they are confined to roles in life to "making babies."  That is a ridiculous statement. Have you never read what Blessed Pope John Paul II has written about the Dignity of Women? See Mulieris Dignitatem at  The Pope and Church hold up women higher than any other religion or state.

Your $10,000 bet is interesting.  I wonder too where many priests stand. You certainly never hear a homily on contraception. But even if all priests dissent from the church teaching, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and she cannot change Truth.  The Church continues to hold fast to the teaching against artificial birth control because the teaching on Marriage and Human Sexuality is based on TRUTH and Truth cannot change. Did you know that ALL protestant denominations stood with the Catholic Church until 1930, when the Anglicans began allowing birth control only within marriage?

The marital act must always be open to life. The two-fold purpose of sexual intercourse is unitive and procreative.  That is to say, unitive, in that the purpose is to bond the married couple to each other for life and procreative, so that life may go on and parents may have the joys of raising children. To strip away either the unitive or the procreative purposes is to not use the sexual act as it is intended. It is like eating and throwing up. The purpose of eating is to give the body fuel, energy and sustain life, but there is pleasure in eating too. God adds pleasure to the things he wants us to do. Enjoying the pleasure of sexual intercourse and then using a condom or any artificial birth control is like throwing up.

All that being said, the Church has never said that couples must have baby after baby without regard to the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs of the couple. Again see Humanee Vitae. The Church clearly respects the rights of the couple to discern when to bring a new life into the world. When a couple sees that the time is not right to invite another child into the world, they can abstain from sex and/or use the non fertile days of a woman's cycle to continue strengthen their marriage.

But back to your article. You next quote Bishop Lynch "attacking the president." This is comical. President Obama clearly told the world in his speech at the University of Notre Dame that he would respect religious liberty with a "conscience clause." Obama has not fulfilled his own words. Your article doesn't address that. You just use the words "tragedy and shame" to launch onto another totally unrelated topic (unrelated to our religious freedom) of the sex abuse scandal.

Regarding the sex abuse scandal, I agree the church could have done much to prevent it from beginning and respond to the scandal in a better way, as it became known. But the actions of some bad priests DO NOT INDICATE that the morals taught by the Catholic Church are wrong, only that some cannot live up to them.

In referring to the corporal works of mercy (St. Matthew chapter 25) you mix your metaphors by throwing in a ridiculous attempt to ridicule the beatitudes (St. Matthew chapter 5). Your comment here is just trite. The beatitudes go through the blessings people receive, but your quote  "blessed are the babymakers for they shall avoid contraception" is absolutely backwards. Better to have said, "blessed are those who do not contracept, they will do the Will of God."

Now let me respond to what is in fact an "attack on the sacred." Human life and human sexuality are sacred. The moral teaching of the church is sacred. It is directly from Jesus Christ through his successors, the Pope and those Bishops in communion with Rome. You remarks condemning the church for not being "active" against Wall Street and war is just not sticking with the argument at hand. It is launching into an attack venting your personal frustrations in a church you claim to follow, but only as you see fit.

If you truly believe all these lies about what the Catholic Church teaches, why would you even want to belong (or say you belong) to it? If you really think all these untruths are true about the Catholic Church, than have some integrity and leave. Don't call yourself a Catholic if you don't even understand or believe in what the church teaches.

Regardless, stick to the main issue. President Obama is trying to force our Church to pay for and make available that which is against its moral teaching. And that is NOT one of the principles on which our country is based.


Julie K. Musselman

Listen to Fr. Robert Barron in this YouTube video for a voice more articulate than my own.


  1. Julie, my friend Kathy Brasseur posted a link to your blog. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for writing it.

  2. Thanks so much, Julie. I will share that I've heard a few of our excellent diocesan priests address contraception in their homilies. One prefaced it with an apology for not doing so earlier, sharing his own desire to be "liked" and his fear of people leaving the church as his human excuses. Then he gave a phenomenal homily regarding the Church's teaching on contraception that I wish everyone could have heard. Another gave a homily and used analogies to "keep it G for the kids." When people would complain to the Bishop about the priest's homilies, the Bishop would tell Father he was doing it right. Again, thanks for your message.

  3. Good job! Very eloquent! I also stand behind our Bishop!

  4. I am so happy to know that there is such a thing as truth and it will never change like we all have to face end of our lives. That is the truth no one can twist to fit his or her conscience.