By Connie Berry
EAST SYRACUSE — The Commission on Women in Church and in Society held its fall breakfast at Justin’s Grill on Nov. 21. The focus was on an issue that’s front and center with pundits, pediatricians and pedestrians everywhere — health care reform. Father Thomas Ward, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Greene and St. Joseph’s Church in Oxford, is the chaplain for AVOW (Advocating the Vocation of Women) which falls under the umbrella of the commission. Father Ward was the guest presenter at the breakfast.
Before delving into the current health care debate, Father Ward spoke much about the principles contained within the Theology of the Body. The teachings remind women of their dignity and their close relationship with the Virgin Mary.
“Jesus came as a man but he was born of a woman,” Father Ward said. “God raises up Our Lady as proclamation of the dignity of women. He says to her, ‘The Lord is with you.’ God does not take on the feminine form but he refers to himself as the bridegroom. He created us so He could marry us. Mary is the image of that bride.”
Father Ward said that the Book of Genesis begins with a marriage — Adam and Eve — and the Book of Revelation ends with the wedding feast of the lamb. The covenant of love that God wants all to enter into with him is described throughout Scripture. The dignity of that covenant is undermined by the politics and the culture today, Father Ward intimated. “Because God wants to give us this love, it is what Satan wants to take from us,” he said.
The health care reform bills that are being considered in the U.S. will ultimately promote sin, disunity to the family and to the culture, Father Ward said.
“American culture thinks freedom is found in tolerance so society gives way to politics and sin,” Father Ward said. “They say, ‘It’s my freedom to have my own truth.’”
St. Paul has a different spin on freedom, Father Ward said. “Paul says, ‘Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.’ And we are all about the flesh.”
Father Ward first mused that the government permeating its way into relationships and human sexuality is telling in itself. The language of the health care bill that passed through Congress includes the topic of contraception, delaying the initiation of sex and decreasing the number of partners a person has. “I guess that’s good,” Father Ward said. “But then it talks about reducing the numbers of teen pregnancy and improving the rate of contraception and they will use $50 million from 2011 to 2015 to do this.”
He said that the government will give grants to organizations to promote this aspect of the bill and many of those grants will go to Planned Parenthood. “By promoting contraception you are promoting abortion. If contraception fails then abortion is your back up,” Father Ward said.
Father Ward touched on the topic of sex education for children and that the church believes in subsidiarity, or that the state or larger society should not substitute itself in place of the role of the parents.
“The church affirms that parents have the duty and the right to be the first and principle educators of their children,” Father Ward said. He encouraged the women at the breakfast to be informed. “What are they teaching in health class? What are they passing out at the nurse’s office? You should act upon this together with other parents in our community,” Father Ward said.
“Even dioceses are putting forth sex education that muddles the parents’ role,” he said.
There is so much information in the culture and there is such a poor understanding of human sexuality that society can take on a defeated attitude, he explained. Society then fails to see the great beauty in human sexuality and sex becomes merely recreational.
The contraceptive mentality of the culture in the U.S. permeates every thought, Father Ward suggested. “We make our own decisions and have our own moral conscience and that opens our hearts and minds to what the culture tells us will make us happy,” he said.
He spoke about Humanae Vitae and noted that with contraception comes marital infidelity and promiscuity. “Contraception gave way to quick and easy divorce and intimacy driven outside of marriage,” he said. This also leads to men disrespecting women, Father Ward added.
Father Ward said married couples use contraceptives to limit the number of children they have so that they can have more money to buy “the things they want.”
Something is lacking in a relationship between a husband and wife when contraception is brought in and the sin of using the contraception weakens the couple so that when it is time to talk to their own children about such matters, they are incapable of bringing the church teaching to their children because they haven’t followed it themselves.
“Sin always weakens the will,” Father Ward said. “The parents can’t talk about the beauty of human sexuality if they’re using contraception because their affections are disordered. They think, ‘I can’t teach them the truth about love because I have sinned.’”
He said that the government is already trying to see how much the American people will tolerate by recently announcing that women’s pap smears and mammograms to screen for cancer are not as necessary as they were once claimed to be.
“What does that mean?” he asked. “That it’s okay if we put up with a certain number of deaths among women?”