BY JENNIFER FULWILER Wednesday, February 06, 2013 5:26 AM Comments (104)
When I was giving a talk early last year, two women in the front row caught my eye. They were about my age, nicely dressed, and seemed to be friends with one another. They attracted my attention because they radiated a certain anxiousness: They nodded politely through tense smiles, but I half suspected that there was another speaker after me whom they were waiting to see.
After the talk I chatted with some folks, then packed up my things to leave. When I reached the exit, the two women were standing there waiting for me. Let's call them "Amanda" and "Laura."
They introduced themselves and said a few kind words about my speech, which was about atheism. Then Amanda said bluntly, "We didn't really come to hear your talk. I don't even know any atheists."
Laura finished for her: "We came to talk to you about contraception."
We settled into some empty chairs at the back of the room, and they explained that they are both cradle Catholics who have gone to Mass pretty much every Sunday for their whole lives. They love their faith and are proud to be Catholic. They volunteer at the parish, fast during Lent, pray the Rosary when they can. And they both use artificial contraception.
They explained that they had not fully understood that the Church was serious about this teaching until the blowup surrounding the HHS Mandate; before then, they explained, it was easy to assure themselves that contracepting must be fine since so many other people in the pews were doing it. For example, after Amanda's second child was born, her Catholic mother warned her sternly that it would be irresponsible not to get on the Pill. Laura once had a confessor assure her that contraception was a matter of personal preference, not an objective moral issue. Neither Amanda nor Laura had heard anything about the topic in their many years of Catholic school and religious formation classes. And so for all of their married lives they'd used various forms of contraception, never questioning how it might jibe with the doctrines of their faith.