Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Is est vestri infantia iam*

There’s nothing more refreshing than a big blast of hypocrisy from one of the world’s great religions to get your day off to a great start, so how about this?

In 1994, then-Archbishop of Portland William Levada offered a simple answer for why the archdiocese shouldn’t have been ordered to pay the costs of raising a child fathered by a church worker at a Portland, Ore., parish.

In her relationship with Arturo Uribe, then a seminarian and now a Whittier priest, the child’s mother had engaged “in unprotected intercourse … when [she] should have known that could result in pregnancy,” the church maintained in its answer to the lawsuit.

The legal proceeding got little attention at the time. And the fact that the church — which considers birth control a sin — seemed to be arguing that the woman should have protected herself from pregnancy provoked no comment. Until last month.

That’s when Stephanie Collopy went back into court asking for additional child support. A Times article reported the church’s earlier response. Now liberal and conservative Catholics around the country are decrying the archdiocese’s legal strategy, saying it was counter to church teaching.

“On the face of it, [the argument] is simply appalling,” said Michael Novak, a conservative Catholic theologian and author based in Washington, D.C.

That the “unprotected intercourse” argument was offered in Levada’s name made it especially shocking to some Catholics. The former archbishop is now chief guardian of Catholic doctrine worldwide. The archbishop’s new post as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was last held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights based in New York, said the legal language was “simply code for, ‘What’s wrong with you, honey, aren’t you smart enough to make sure condoms were used?’ “

And that, he notes, is completely counter to the church’s teachings, which hold that using contraceptives is “intrinsically evil.”

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, a group that supports abortion rights, said Levada’s defense was an example of how, “if something will cost the bishops money, they will use any argument whatsoever — like any other corporate entity — that will get them off the hook. It’s a disgrace.”

It takes balls for the Catholic Church to come up with an argument like that.

*Via InterTran: “It is your baby now.” (The only Latin I know is Xavier Cugat.)