Three mornings a week, I eat breakfast on campus – a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice. The students and colleagues who eat with me over in the snack bar are usually looking sleepily through the newspaper as we eat. Sometimes we discuss one of the articles in the paper.
"Look at this," one of the students said last week, as he was looking through the Big City Newspaper, "The Catholic bishops – they came out saying married people shouldn't use birth control."
His tone of voice was shocked. Since I grew up Catholic and live in a Catholic community, none of this was news to me. I shrugged.
"Yeah, that's what the church has said for decades. It became a big deal in 1968 with the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae." I went back to reading my section of the newspaper.
"That is so irresponsible. They can't be serious."
"Sure, they are. It's a mortal sin. A Catholic who uses artificial contraception can go to hell for it. That's what the Church is saying."
"So Catholics don't use birth control?"
"No, actually, they do. The use of birth control amongst American Catholics is no different than use of birth control in the overall population."
"So the bishops get together and make these pronouncements, and no one listens to them?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"How weird is that?"
"Well, think about it. It would be even weirder if Catholic women let a bunch of celibate old men in power make decisions about their sex lives."