Action Alert!

Quick Hits: Absurd public-health directives, a rude papal adviser, unresponsive diocesan bureaucracies

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 05, 2016

  • This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that young women should use contraception if they plan to drink alcohol-- any amount of alcohol. The logic of the CDC’s argument is this: Scientists don’t know what level of alcohol will be harmful to an unborn child, so it’s best to abstain altogether if you are, or may be, pregnant. However plausible at first glance, that case for abstinence collapses under the weight of the common-sense argument that since time immemorial, pregnant women have taken a glass of wine with their dinners, with no ill effects. But wait. Did I say that the CDC was making a case for abstinence? That’s not true. The CDC was making a case for birth control—and no doubt the pharmaceutical companies that produce the pills and devices were pleased. But an agency seriously concerned about public health could make a case for abstinence, or at least for moderation. Why not tell young women that they should stay sober? Too moralistic, you say? Where in the Constitution does it say that a federal agency cannot give sound medical advice, if that advice happens to be morally sound as well?

    And while we’re thinking about public-health officials who give upside-down moral advice, consider the panjandrums of Latin America, who have responded to the Zika epidemic with a call for legal abortion. Here’s the logic of that argument: Mosquitoes spread a disease. The disease causes (or at least is believed to cause) serious birth defects in unborn children. Therefore, we should kill the unborn children. A sane society would launch an all-out war on the culprits—the mosquitoes—not the victims.

  • Peter Saunders, a member of the Pope’s sex-abuse commission, hoped that the Holy Father will attend that group’s meetings this week. No, I’m afraid I’ve misstated the case again. Saunders has announced: “It will be outrageous if he doesn’t attend and I will say so.” Does that strike you as just a wee bit arrogant? It’s one thing to express—as forcefully as you like—a hope that the Pontiff will take an active interest in your work. It’s quite another thing to demand his attendance. Pope Francis has shown a willingness to dispense with the rule of Vatican etiquette, and the members of this particular commission are expected to be feisty and independent. But the rules of common courtesy still apply.

  • Would you like to meet the next President of the United States? That’s easy to arrange; just spend a day in New Hampshire this weekend. It’s a fairly small state, with the population mostly clustered in the south, and as the nation’s first presidential primary looms next Tuesday, all the candidates are there, feverishly seeking out potential supporters. It’s a strange spectacle, but in many ways an edifying one. This is democracy at work: politics at the retail level. The candidates aren’t just images on a TV screen; they’re in the coffee shops and pizza parlors, at the train stations and shopping malls, shaking hands and chatting. If you want to meet them, no problem. (If you’re a New Hampshire resident who wants to avoid the politicians, that’s a greater challenge.)

    If only it were that easy to meet your bishop! Have you noticed how tough it is to arrange a meeting, to express some concern or suggest some pastoral action? How many Catholics have tried in vain to contact chancery officials—even to get a straightforward answer to a simple question? Sad to say, in many cases it’s easier to “fight city hall” than to prompt action-- any action—by a diocesan bureaucracy. That’s no way to draw people into the life of the Church Barb Lishko offers a simple, blunt suggestion for diocesan officials who want to take the first steps toward the New Evangelization: “Answer your phones, return calls, and return emails.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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