Bishop Confronts Notre Dame’s Contraceptive Decision

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend did not mince words in a recent statement calling upon the University of Notre Dame to reconsider its plans to provide “a limited range of contraceptives” in student and faculty insurance plans.

CNA/EWTN News is reporting on the statement issued on February 8 which deals with a recent decision by the school to offer a new insurance plan that would include contraceptives.

Previously, the university worked with a third-party administrator to provide contraceptives without involving the school. However, Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, announced earlier this month that the school would no longer be involved in this relationship.

This change of heart came after Jenkins became concerned about the range of drugs being covered under the third-party provider which included abortion-inducing drugs. These drugs are “far more gravely objectionable in Catholic teaching” Jenkins said at the time and opted for another plan that allows “simple contraceptives” or those that only prevent conception. The new plan also provides for natural family planning methods.

Bishop Rhoades was strongly supportive of the University’s decision to stop the government-funded program and to provide natural family planning in its new plan, but he made it quite clear that he did not approve of the “simple contraceptives” now being offered.

“I strongly disagree with Notre Dame’s decision to provide funding for contraception in its health insurance plans, which involves it even more directly in contributing to immoral activity. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is an immoral action that contradicts the truth of marital love,” Rhoades said.

He restated the Church’s teaching that “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (Catechism #2370). Anyone who struggles with this teaching is encouraged “to study prayerfully this teaching of the Church” by reading the encyclical of Blessed Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, as well as the rich teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in his catecheses on the “theology of the body.”

Even though he understands the University’s desire to respect other religious traditions and the conscientious decisions of members of the Notre Dame community, “members of the community who decide to use contraceptives, however, should not expect the university to act contrary to its Catholic beliefs by funding these contraceptives,” the bishop said.

“Notre Dame bears prophetic witness to the truths of the Catholic faith in its words and actions on many issues of importance for the good of our society. Not providing funding for contraception would not be popular with some, but it would truly be a prophetic witness to the truth about human sexuality and its meaning and purpose. I hope and pray that the University will reconsider its decision.”

We can only pray that Notre Dame will do so, and ask God to continue to bless Bishop Rhoades with the courage to be a faithful shepherd in an increasingly complicated environment.

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