An institution as large and as complex as the Catholic Church presents an enormous target for its critics, especially since its stands often go against many modern values. E.R. Bills lobbed plenty of ammo at the church in his recent guest column (“KPAX Romana,” June 18, 2008) – a nice example of what’s wrong with much of the current reporting on Catholicism.

One error Bills makes that is common to much newspaper writing is that he allows his political leanings to taint his judgments. Those lefty leanings show most clearly in the examples he gives of “what’s wrong with Catholicism.” He chose to comment on the Church’s views on homosexuality, women in the priesthood, and birth control – the issues left-wingers usually concentrate on (plus the Church’s opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research).
On the other hand, a right-wing reporter with an ax to grind writes about the Church’s opposition to the death penalty and to the war in Iraq and points out how the Church tries to help undocumented workers adapt to living in this country.
Don’t get me wrong – Bills is entitled to his opinion. I am a firm believer in the right to the freedom of expression. But that doesn’t mean he’s right. Let’s begin with the most problematic use of logic in his column, regarding his views of the Church’s opposition to birth control.
According to Bills, the Church’s opposition to birth control leads to overpopulation, which leads to deforestation, air pollution, global warming and degraded water supplies. That, along with the Church’s opposition to abortion, adds to pollution. In addition to this, however, the Church’s opposition to birth control fosters social injustice, which leads to scarcer resources, which leads to the marginalization and disenfranchisement of politically underrepresented folks (by which he refers to the populations in other countries). Utilizing all of the above tactics, the Vatican has succeeded in conquering Central and South America. As you can see, the Church is getting a lot of bang for its buck, all for opposing birth control.
However, there are two important counters to Bills’ arguments. First, birth control and legalized abortion have been available in this country for decades. As a result of this, have we cured ourselves of deforestation, air pollution, global warming, social injustice or the disenfranchisement of politically underrepresented folks here? Why not?
Perhaps it’s because social injustice, marginalization, and disenfranchisement are due to more than the Church’s opposition to abortion and birth control. Offering simplistic explanations for complex problems does nothing to serve the people that are the victims in these situations.
Second, the truth is that the Church is not opposed to birth control per se, only to artificial birth control – all along, Bills has been laboring under a false assumption. So with that, if artificial birth control has not led to our country eradicating social injustice, etc., perhaps it’s time to give the Church’s idea of birth control more of a try than what it’s given now. Fat chance of that happening anytime soon, since “abstinence” and “natural family planning” are regarded as four-letter words by the advocates of artificial birth control.
And last, Bills’ apocalyptic rhetoric shows he is trying to persuade through emotion rather than logic or reason, and this is yet another sign that his political ideologies are coloring his arguments. For Bills to truly address the problems that he sees in the Catholic Church, he needs to move beyond these conspiracy theory arguments.
I still haven’t exhausted the problems with his column. Here’s one more: The sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride are called Cardinal Sins. The others listed – pollution, genetic engineering, obscene riches, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and social justice – are indeed deadly sins, but they are actually subcategories of the Cardinal Sins, and not new “Cardinal Sins.” I blame that misunderstanding on bad reporting by others (not Bills).
If he were alone in his views, it’d be easy to just dismiss Bills. But he’s not – far from it. Multiply Bills by the likely hundreds of thousands to possibly millions of others who share his views, and you get an idea of what Catholics are up against in these discussions. Now you see why they pray so much.
Local freelance writer John Araujo blogs at


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