Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and 98 Percent of Catholic Women

Guttmacher did say in its summary that “Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.”

But that’s not in any way an accurate statement of what its own survey found.

On the very same page, it explains that its survey was restricted to women aged 15-44, so that cuts out all women who were older than 44 at the time of the survey. And a footnote explains that a rather significant chunk of women were excluded from this figure of “all women” — namely, women who are pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant.” A later footnote says that the only women who had sex in the last three months were included in this group. Finally, included in this 98 percent figure of current contraceptive users are the 11 percent who report no method.

So I guess we could say that among women aged 15-44 who had sex in the last three months but aren’t pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 87 percent of women who identify as Catholic used contraception. It’s worth pondering just who is left out of this 87 percent, other than, you know, everyone who doesn’t use contraception. Great stat, team journalist! I mean, the study was designed to find only women who would be most likely to use contraception. And it did.
Tom and I were talking about the "numbers game" as the government's justification for HHS mandate just last night over dinner (yes, riveting conversation goes on at our house).

You can see why this story from GetReligion, Lies, Damned Lies and 98 Percent of Catholic Women, resonated with me. Go read the whole thing to see them examine how the media and the White House have been using these flawed numbers. Go read it to get an eyeful about just how painstaking a lot of these journalists are about what they report.

As Tom pointed out, even if that number were actually true it doesn't make the Church's teachings any less true. It certainly doesn't change our responsibility to try to live by those teachings. And it doesn't mean that our religious freedom can be overrun by the government because they have decided our teachings aren't really being followed. That's not their job.

It just means the Church is full of sinners. So, nothing new there, right? Because we're all human and, therefore, flawed.

Which is something I take comfort in, actually, since it means that I'm among friends who all know just how much we need our Mother the Church. Friends and the Church who help me get back up after I've fallen short, and then try again to follow in Christ's steps.

New Petition
By the way, the White House closed the previous petition against the HHS mandate when Obama came up with his noncompromise. Now there's a new one. Go here to sign it.


  1. How would you go about trying to determine what percent of Catholic women use birth control--and we'll assume, for the sake of argument, that you will get a truthful answer to any question you ask. First, you have to define "Catholic" but even after you have done that, what question would you ask, and of whom? I think one reason the birth control issue gets so much play on blogs and is such a big us vs them thing for conservative vs liberal Catholics is that in accepting and living by the Church's teaching on birth control you are choosing to do something very countercultural, and often inconvenient and expensive. A nun may be hypothetically against birth control, but she doesn't have to pay tuition bills, orthodontist bills or deal with morning sickness or a cranky partners. Sexually active women do. At age 50 I may agree with the Church's teaching, but my pregnancy rate on and off the birth control pill are likely to be the same. That's not true of a woman of childbearing age. I may even be of childbearing age, and believe, in general that the Church is right, but my actions say differently. Maybe 98% of Catholic women who are fertile, sexually active and not seeking to become pregnant aren't using artificial birth control but I'll but the number is still high.

  2. The Church teaches lying is wrong. I expect a higher number of Catholics lied in the last 3 months than actually used contraceptives. So what? It's still wrong. Church membership has never been restricted to the sinless.


  3. Hey Julie -

    As a practicing Catholic family, my husband and I have made family planning/birth control/etc decisions that are in conflict with Catholic teaching. We did so with full knowledge that it compromised our state of grace.

    But NEVER, NEVER did we feel that the fact of our personal choice (1) indicated that church teaching overall was wrong or (2) that our decision somehow should be used to beat the Catholic church into some compromise.

    If I was asked the questions on that survey, I would be in the significant percentage that have used birth control other than natural family planning .... but I am the one out of grace with the church's teaching. The church is NOT the one out of grace with it's conscience.

    It is driving me crazy that my personal, honest, and hard-felt decision is being used to bludgeon my church.


  4. Even if it was really 98%, the Constitution does not set a threshold on the 1st Amendment.

  5. Also, if the study is flawed, the study is flawed. Find a decent study and use that, if one really needs to know how many Catholic women regularly use contraceptives. I would contend that number is of no use to anyone except the Church's leadership who then would see how important it is to give full and proper teaching of WHY they teach that contraceptive use is wrong.

  6. Yes,the church teaches that lying is wrong, and yes, many people do lie; however I think most who do will admit they are doing something wrong (though there are also many who will rationalize that in their position at that time, it was the right thing to do). The problem with birth control is that many if not most of the people who use it don't believe they are doing anything wrong--if they even know they are breaking a Church rule when they use it. Those who used birth control in the '60's and '70's may have felt guilty about it, but by the '90's it had become mainstream even for Catholics--which doesn't make it right,but I just have to believe that if the large majority of Catholic couples were actually trying to live the Church's teaching in this area, we wouldn't be having this dicussion. As it is, the Church's rules against bc are widely known to be ignored by its own faithful, so why should mere employees be subject to them?

  7. One of the most frustrating things to me about this debate is how non-Catholics mischaracterize the reasoning behind the Church's teachings. I came back to the Church about 10 years ago with a passion--I read everything I could and studied the Catechism and the teachings. I don't recall reading anywhere that I wasn't supposed to use birth control because the Church wants me to have 13 or more kids. Yet, that is what those on the pro-BC side of the debate claim, that the Church wants to oppress women by making them have dozens of children, that's why it is opposed to birth control.

    I really wish that those who are ignorant of the reasoning behind Church teachings make an honest effort to learn the truth or else keep their ignorance to themselves. Isn't it funny how the most ignorant seem to have the biggest mouths?


  8. RAnn, I am curious as to why you think that an employer should not be allowed to choose the terms of the insurance they will provide? No matter what the stricture, why should the government dictate anything about a company's decisions on this point? It is then up to the potential employee to decide if the employer's decisions are a deal-breaker or if they will accept that as part of their working contract (so to speak) and then agree to work for them.

    The fact that you so easily accept the government as all-knowing arbitrator in these decisions is interesting.

    If you would like to expand horizons beyond worrying about how many Catholic women use contraceptives, you may be interested in this piece by Archbishop Wuerl, Charles Colson, and Rabbi Soloveichik about how the mandate is a breach of the First Amendment. For anyone of faith. Period.

    For a view from those who are strictly interested in government, this piece discusses how the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

  9. I think both employers and the government need to get out of the healthcare business. My employer doesn't "give" me health insurance, I earn it. My employer pays me money with which I pay for my housing. While the size of the check limits the amount I can spend on housing, within that limit, I can choose to buy or rent, big house in lesser neighborhood or small house in better neighborhood, or as much house as I can afford, or somewhat less house, pink house or blue house; my money, my choice. Why should health insurance/healthcare be any different. I think it is wrong to make the Church pay for something it finds morally offensive; I also think it is stupid, no matter what the morality, to run minor, regular expenses like birth control through an insurance system. That being said, I know that in my situation, the single biggest bill I have each month is for my family's health insurance. Still, my employer makes a substantial contribution towards that health plan, because tax-wise it makes more sense for them to do that than to pay me the $$ it costs. Given that contribution, I can't get similar or better coverage for less elsewhere--I'm "stuck" using the program management selected, whether or not I want it, whether or not I think the plan they selected makes sense, whether or not the plan they selected has my doctor on the list, whether or not it offers the benefits I would choose. If the government/employer nanny would just let us grown-ups spend our own money, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

  10. The 98% figure is meaningless, whether it's true or not. The issue is whether the Catholic Church is forced to violate their conscience. And whether the administration is violating the first admendment. Anyway, 100% of us sin. So there's no significance to that 98% anyway.

    I do agree that the best solution is for all people to buy their own health care plan. There is no reason why it must be linked to an employer.