Q. Concerning this recent business attempting to "sell" the public on the prospect of "free" contraceptives and access to abortions, it seems to me that a new "Church" is being structured on political lines. Since when did the federal government acquire the authority to speak on ethical issues in behalf of Christianity? And since when did morality depend upon public opinion surveys; i.e., the morality of abortion or contraception?

A. What we are experiencing here in America is unquestionably a pseudosophisticated attempt to usurp the teaching authority of the Church in moral matters. The whole effort is obviously sophomoric. Anyone who gives it any credence is placing himself or herself in spiritual jeopardy. After life comes death, and following death, judgment. To stake one’s future on a moral code based on political pragmatism or sociological surveys is the worst kind of wager one can make; it begins and ends with the real possibility of losing everything. Remember Pascal’s famed "Wager"?

This whole issue is most grave; it pertains to eternal life, and the prospect of surrendering it forever. Meanwhile, as Sacred Scripture teaches us, our world today, fascinating as it may be, is passing away. (1 Cor. 7:31)

Any practising Catholic, deep within his or her heart, accepts all this; moreover, he or she understands it. In other words, the Church speaks for Christ. And Christ’s words leave no room for ambiguity. Abortion entails the direct taking of an innocent human being’s life. Sterilization for a directly contraceptive purpose is beyond the scope of a person’s stewardship over his or her own body, hence is morally wrong. And contraception, which refers to the deliberate, freely chosen separation of the procreative aspect of conjugal union from the unitive aspect, cannot be squared with the Church’s assessment of moral actions; hence must be repudiated.

All of the above – abortion, direct sterilization and contraception – have been assessed as immoral by the teaching Church. For a Catholic, there is no other magisterium – no sociological surveys, no alleged majority rule, no groups of nuns or orders of priests, or laypersons can alter these moral assessments. Least of all, no political power or self-proclaimed expert has any competence to determine morality in this area. Would anyone take seriously a senator’s or president’s opinion about the Higgs Boson (e.g., whether it is the "God-particle"), or whether Shakespeare wrote all the dramas attributed to him?

Not at all. It is the Church to which practising Catholics defer in matters of morality, unless, of course, morality doesn’t really mean anything to them.

How sophomoric can one become?

Besides assessing the ethics of issues like abortion, sterilization and contraception, there is always the problem of cooperating with their use or dissemination. This opens up another complex subject; namely, the principles pertaining to active cooperation. Surely a practising Catholic does not want to assist others in doing what he or she knows is immoral – for example, in insuring himself or herself for the drugs that could cause abortion or a contraceptive act.

Incidentally, use of the phrase "birth control" in Administration documents or press accounts is meaningless. Responsible parenthood is a Christian virtue. The phrase "birth control" is not, per se, a synonym for contraception.