From an article by Phil Lawyer on How the Boston archdiocese helped bring contraception to Massachusetts
… In 1965, as the state legislature discussed the repeal of the contraceptive ban, Cardinal Cushing said that he personally opposed the use of contraceptives. But he added, significantly: “I am also convinced that I should not impose my position—moral beliefs or religious beliefs—on those of other faiths.” To legislators weighing the merits of the bill, he said: “If your constituents want this legislation, vote for it.”
Thus did the leader of Boston’s Church signal an end to any active Catholic opposition to legalized sale of contraceptives. But the Boston College Magazine article reveals that the archdiocese had begun quietly planning for a change in the law even before Dukakis introduced his formal bid for repeal.
In 1963, the article reports, Cardinal Cushing was a guest on a radio call-in show. One caller asked the cardinal about his stance on the contraceptive ban, and he replied: “I have no right to impose my thinking, which is rooted in religious thought, on those who do not think as I do.”
At the time of that broadcast, listeners in the Boston area did not know the identity of the woman who called in with the question that drew that response. But now, thanks to Boston College Magazine, we know that it was Hazel Sagoff, the executive director of Planned Parenthood. There is reason to believe that both Sagoff’s call and the cardinal’s response had been arranged in advance. Prior to the show, Sagoff had been conferring with Msgr. Francis Lally, the editor of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and a trusted adviser to Cardinal Cushing. Sagoff had said that a bid to repeal the contraceptive ban was doomed to fail, unless legislators were confident that the cardinal would not fight the measure. Msgr. Lally had indicated that he favored an end to the ban—although he hoped that the courts would settle the issue, making legislative action unnecessary.
Thus in the early 1960s, Planned Parenthood was coordinating plans with the Boston archdiocese to ease the way toward legal acceptance of contraception. When Dukakis introduced the repeal bid in 1965, the Catholic journalists at the Pilot received a memo instructing them not to comment on the legislation, “lest we stir up trouble with the Planned Parenthood people who have also pledged their ‘cooperation by silence.’”
“I have no right to impose my thinking, which is rooted in religious thought, on those who do not think as I do.”
Now I am just a armchair pundit and also just another Catholic convert who most of my life ignored theology and philosophy totally. But a statement like that sends me screaming in its vapidness. Now I can easily imagine this on the lips of many people, but on a Cardinal’s? What the heck happened to the Natural Law, did it get thrown under the bus here? Contraception is not rooted in religious thought, but the Natural Law. While certainly we do have revelation that supports contraception as in intrinsic evil and many statements from the Church the wrongness of contraception can be found by people of good will. Besides the Church does not impose her thinking, but proposes the truth.
Whether the Cardinal actually orchestrated a campaign to show that he would not fight the legalization of contraception in any way is beyond my ken. But his statement surely aided that happening and I just hope he was just a real lousy theologian.
Though there wasn’t much fight by American bishops in regards to the legalization of contraception, or for that matter abortion and the liberalization of divorce laws. This is one reason I am very proud of the way the Filipino bishops have been acting and fighting against attempts to legalize contraception in the Philippines along with the fight against allowing divorce. The American bishops might not have been able to stop or slow down the cultural destruction that occurred from the acceptance of contraception, abortion, and divorce, but as Blessed Mother Teresa said “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”