Sacramento Catholics speak out against birth-control stance

Local believers disagree with church policy

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ decision to fight rules in President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law has alienated an unexpected constituent: Sacramento Catholics.

The Church’s opposition to the law, which requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance, took some by surprise, since it already included an exception for those who are employed directly by religious institutions or perform work related to the Church’s religious mission. But leaders objected to paying for coverage for employees’ birth control at affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, even when those employees were not Catholic.

Several recent polls show, however, that between 58 and 62 percent of American Catholics approve of employer-paid health care covering birth control. The Catholic Church’s official policy in the face of those poll numbers has a lot of people scratching their heads—and some of them are local Catholics.

Aracelly Navarro, a Sacramento woman who works for a local nonprofit, feels the Church’s approach to issues such as contraception “creates more hostility rather than a dialogue.”

“At church on Sunday, they were recommending that people not vote for Obama, and they were circulating a petition opposing the federal rules about contraceptive coverage,” she said. Navarro, who attends St. Rose Catholic Church on Franklin Boulevard, would prefer to see the Catholic Church engage in an internal conversation that looks at contraception “as a health issue.”

Sacramento political satirist John Marcotte agrees that there’s a disconnect between Catholics and doctrine. “When my parents were young, Catholic families had six or eight or 10 kids,” he said, “and now they have two or three. It’s crazy to think that Catholics aren’t using contraceptives. …

“Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the poor, and thou shalt not put a wrapper on it.’”

Marcotte is in favor of treating the Church much like a beloved grandmother. “She doesn’t like rock ’n’ roll, so we turn it off when she’s around,” he said.

The Sacramento Diocese’s communications office would not comment for this story. But other Catholics also see a disconnect. “I think the Church is largely out of step with the Catholics in the pews,” said P. Joshua Laskey, a Sacramento actor and playwright who is Catholic, “because the Church hierarchy is not representative of those faithful.”

Laskey agrees with Marcotte, though—given his Catholic education—he takes a more philosophical approach.

“Catholics have a long and storied tradition of ignoring religious authorities when those in power have it wrong,” he said. “We learned to do it from Jesus himself, and so, in keeping with the tradition of following in Jesus’ footsteps, we have a moral obligation to ignore church teachings that are clearly corrupted by the fear in human hearts.”