A Practicing Catholic Sends a Letter to Her Bishop

Image via iStockPhoto/Ekaterina Minaeva

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog for Daily Kos outlining my discomfort around the Catholic Bishops’ attacks against the Affordable Care Act because of a mandate to cover birth control. Since then, I snail-mailed a letter to Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of Oakland, California, in the same contribution envelope I was sent three times — twice by his office and once by my parish.

Here is what I had to say to Bishop Cordileone:

Dear Most Reverend Cordileone,

After careful consideration and prayer, I am writing to let you know that I will not be donating to the Bishop’s Appeal this year. I work in social justice and after a series of moves by national Bishops that I consider to be unholy and unchristian towards women, I will instead make a donation to my local parish.

I originally outlined all my discomfort around some of the political activity that the Bishops have engaged on the national level, for which I strongly disagree. But to not take anymore of your time, I will say this: while I consider myself a Catholic Christian who attended Catholic school for nine years, participated in numerous lovely Mother Mary processions and am deeply devoted to Her, I cannot in good faith support the outdated ideas the Bishops have of women.

In my professional life, I am a writer who has been blessed to have the trust of my readers who often share their personal stories with me. When news broke about healthcare reform including a mandate to cover birth control, Teresa, a mother of seven in Ohio, wrote to me knowing that I am a practicing Catholic. She vented to me about the Bishops wanting to deny even non-Catholics birth control, even though Catholic institutions receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies. It seemed to her like the Catholic Church wanted the financial support, but not to have to “play by the rules” like everyone else.

It’s a good point. But this is the part of her story that got me: after having seven children, Teresa’s heart became too weak to give birth anymore. She was told by her doctors that if she had anymore children she would probably leave the seven that she already had without a mother. Yet, only until she changed health insurance companies was she able to attain life-saving birth control coverage. This is not reasonable — and it is cruel. I can assure you that Teresa, while she practices no religion, is more Christian than a lot of Christians I know. She is an excellent and loving wife, mother and grandmother. Where is the Bishops’ compassion for mothers like Teresa?

I really believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding me in my decision today. I just pray that some of our church’s leadership receive His guiding light towards genuine understanding and compassion for everyone. Thank you, Rev. Cordileone, for your time.

May God and our Holy Mother bless you,

Elisa Batista, Berkeley, California

  • kim

    Birth control is not healthcare. You can dress it up all you want, but it isn’t. While there are illnesses that birth control help, they are then normally approved by insurance and their are other medications that will do exactly the same type of thing. This women wasn’t denied access to birth control. She just wanted someone else to pay for it. Birth control is relatively inexpensive and access to it is very widespread. I never had insurance that covered birth control and I survived. I paid for the choices I made in my youth. I didn’t expect anyone else to finance them.

    • ouch

      As someone with painful endometriosis who also wants to get married and be able to have children when that time comes (as the disease progresses and is more likely to cause infertility after each period), I highly disagree with the “not healthcare” comment.

  • Neither is Viagra (even tho many claim it is), and it’s covered. Have to agree to disagree, Kim. It IS health care.

  • And $600 a month isn’t inexpensive for most people.

    • kim

      Where do you come up with these numbers? I just looked up online Yaz costs $36 per month. Target sells generic for $9 per month. Planned Parenthood probably charges about the same.

      I agree Viagra is not healthcare either and I shouldn’t be paying extra for it in my insurance rates. If a man wants/needs that, he should be paying for it himself.

      Most women are not taking birth control for any other reason other than pregnancy protection. That is a choice, not a necessity. If the woman in the above story really wanted to ensure that she wouldn’t get pregnant she should have had that taken care of by a surgeon. While it is unlikely if you are taking them correctly, birth control is not fail proof. Her insurance would have covered a medically necessary tubal ligation.

      Again, this isn’t about birth control. This is about forcing a religious organization to finance something against their belief system. If you want birth control, there are plenty of places you can get it. I just found out you can order it online. Don’t expect religious organizations to finance your choice to go against its doctrine. This is about religious freedom. Even Vice President Biden sees that.

      • For many working families — never mind the unemployed — $36 a month is a lot of money. Also, the Catholic Church is against tubal litigation, too. Again, this is not reasonable.

  • My problem here is this: you can’t force your religion on people, but in that same sense you can’t force religions to change just because you think their principles are wrong. Religious organizations, such as The Catholic Church, represent their members and not using birth control is a long-standing pillar of the Catholic faith. To force them to pay for something that is against the religion is to directly infringe on their liberty to operate according to the tenets of their faith. I don’t think being steadfast in one’s beliefs is to necessarily lack compassion. You can feel compassion for someone’s circumstance, even if it goes against what you believe to be right and doesn’t change the way you choose to operate in your own life. Organizations are no different, I don’t see that not wanting to pay for birth control is a lack of compassion for women who need or desire it. They’re just saying hey, feel free to seek it elsewhere, but we can’t endorse this at this time. I feel compassion for many people, in many circumstances, but I don’t necessarily endorse their actions or want to subsidize them.

    This coming from a woman who is on birth control for medical reasons and could not afford it without her insurance coverage, but if I had signed on with a catholic organization I certainly would not decry them their choice to not cover something that is fundamentally wrong according to their tenets.

  • Except that if an institution, whether it is religious or not, is subject to the same laws as everyone else, they shouldn’t get a pass. Most of this all applied to hospitals and universities that have “religious affiliations.” They’re not churches and most of their employees aren’t members of that particular faith. Why should they be penalized. The funny thing in this argument is that these laws have been on the books since George W. Bush was president and NO ONE challenged them. Why now?

    This is all a red herring to attack the current administration. If all these churches and institutions were so worried about their freedom of religion, where were they when Bush signed this into law? This isn’t about freedom of religion, this is about taking another step down the slippery slope of controlling women and sending us all back to the 19th century.

  • Two things: one, the Catholic Church accepts billions of dollars in federal subsidies whether financial aid for college students, Medicaid for its hospitals or assistance for its charities. It SHOULD comply with federal law. Imagine if we could simply stop paying taxes for all we disagree with? We’d all go to jail for non-compliance and nothing in our government would work including being able to defend ourselves if we were attacked. The military — by the way, the church opposes wars too — is funded by taxpayers’ compliance.

    As for birth control not being expensive — that is simply not true. Most of us don’t realize the true costs because it is subsidized by either the government or charity in the case of community health clinics or private health insurance. And as long as no one is proposing women to be spinsters or have babies until they die, birth control IS an important part of women’s health and a necessity in this modern world.

  • One final point is that there are many non-Catholics working for Catholic institutions. In this economy it is hard to be choosy. In this case, non-catholic women should not be denied services by their health insurance companies just because of where they work.

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