|Melinda Gates speaking in Germany last week on her birth control initiative. This link will take you to the presentation she gave for TEDxChange.|
The following article from CNN describes the campaign the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is starting in order to provide birth control to regions of the globe which are under served. In a rational world this initiative would not be very controversial, but Melinda Gates is a practicing Catholic educated by Ursulines. These facts bring in the irrational world of Catholic sexual morality. For some reason the USCCB has chosen to remain silent on Melinda and her initiative. At least to this point. Wonder what that's about?
Melinda Gates responds to contraception program controversy(CNN) -- Responding to simmering controversy among Catholic bloggers about her new birth control program, Melinda Gates -- a practicing Catholic -- said she will not shrink from her role as an advocate for poor women.
"Part of what I do with the (Gates) Foundation comes from that incredible social justice I had growing up and belief that all lives, all lives are of equal value," said Gates during a recent interview with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
About the flak over her Catholicism she said: "We're not going to agree about everything, but that's OK."
Gates is promoting an ambitious family planning program -- which includes raising billions of dollars to provide contraceptives to 120 million women worldwide -- at the London Summit on Family Planning July 11.
While most Catholics, in the United States, at least, according to polls, seem to agree with Gates that contraception for women is not controversial, some Catholic bloggers are taking issue with the plan.
One blog in particular, LifeSiteNews.com, has frequently published diatribes against Gates, calling into question her faith, and calling her plan a "blatant attack on Catholic sexual morality." (And yet LifeSiteNews is being strangely quiet about Mr Romney's past financial connection to Stericycle, a company directly making profits off the abortion industry.)
As far as the broader Catholic church stance on the Gates program, CNN requested a comment from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but did not get a response.
For her part, Gates is trying to deflect the controversy, and concentrate on what she describes as a real need for contraception to empower women.
"I think we made birth control and contraceptives way too political in the United States," said Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "I think if people understood that 200 million women want this around the world they would start to say, 'OK that makes sense.' ... We shouldn't make it such a political issue." (Maybe it's become a political issue because it failed big time as a religious moral issue.)
According to the Gates Foundation website, the focus of the family planning initiative will be on urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, areas where maternal and infant mortality rates are high and contraception use is low.
"Africa's the one place really in the world, for the most part, that contraceptives haven't been available and it's really been a crime," said Gates. "If you see what's happened in other countries that have had contraceptives, they use them first of all and the birth rates go down. ... The question is could it have come down even more quickly?"
Gates frequently cites research from a decades-long study in Bangladesh as a rationale for family planning. Given the ability to space out their children using birth control, women can begin what Gates calls a "virtuous economic cycle."
The study, started in the 1970s in Matlab, compared a group with access to contraception and birth-control education to a similar group that did not have access to those things.
"(In) the community that had access to contraceptives, the women chose to use them, the families grew up wealthier, fewer women died in childbirth," said Gates. "And what we're seeing happening with that is that it's playing out again all over the world. These small scale things you have in terms of giving a family the access leads to huge economic changes. "
To effect that cascade of economic change worldwide will take $4 billion, according to Gates. The London summit kicks off the Foundation's official campaign for support and funding for that effort.
No doubt, the family planning initiative will roll out despite Catholic protestations, and Gates says this is the issue for which she hopes to be remembered.
"I work on a broad set of foundation issues," said Gates. "But this one for me has really grasped my heart and my mind.
She added: "This will be my lifetime's work at the foundation."
One of the things I've been doing the last week or so is some research on Vatican II, concentrating on people who were actually in Rome during the deliberations. I found that Humanae Vitae was an almost larger memory for these folks because it represented the first and largest step in under cutting the ecclesiology envisioned by the Council Fathers. Their vision was about the Church as the People of God, not the Church as hierarchy. Their vision was about collegiality and the participation of all segments of the Church in making the kinds of decisions like the one on artificial birth control. Pope Paul's birth control commission was seen to be this idea in actual reality. There were even five lay women on the commission. Five out of seventy five members wasn't much, but it was an astounding first.
Pope Paul VI dithered over the birth control issue for three years desperately seeking an answer to one question. The question had nothing to do with the morality of the pill. It had everything to do with finding a way to pretend that changing the teaching on birth control didn't undermine the perceived infallibility of his predecessors--that it didn't undermine the ecclesiastical foundation on which the hierarchy's teaching authority was based. I can only imagine the pressure from the conservative curia for Paul not to sanction the recommendations of this upstart commission on birth control. This was not how things were 'traditionally' done. It was however, exactly the way Vatican II envisioned things like this would be done going forward. And Paul wasn't really dithering over the Traditional teaching on the infallibility of the pope so much as he was the tradition as it had developed in the previous 90 years since Pius IX, X, XI, and XII. He was most concerned with not appearing to invalidate Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii, in which all forms of birth control had been condemned, including the Rhythm method. Popes could not be seen to err.
When it was pointed out to him that Pius XII had already modified and completely undercut the major rationale of Casti Connubii by allowing for the Rhythm method, Paul couldn't seem to grasp that fact. Of course Paul himself had already undercut this encyclical by allowing for the use of birth control pills by missionary nuns in Africa. Somehow he expected his theologians to ignore this act because in reality he was conceding procreation was not the desired end result of heterosexual rape and that could effect the absolute ban on abortion. The simple laity might see this as the start of a slippery slope or God forbid, moral relativism. In any event, he published Humanae Vitae and the rest is history. He lost the blind loyalty of most laity in the West and made the Church remotely complicit in the deaths of many women and children from childbirth or from famine and disease in the Southern hemisphere. This is why Melinda Gates, fifty years later, is shrugging her shoulders when LifeSiteNews and it's retro followers target her initiative. Birth control has done more to free women to be a significant and leading part of positive economic change in the poorest parts of the globe. It has freed women and their children to pursuit education and education is the key to economic prosperity. That's a good thing.