“A 2,000-year old institution, that is still here today, has this teaching – that it has always had,” Scheidler noted, reflecting on the Church's counter-cultural witness against contraception. “I hope this will be a teaching moment.”
“We're not the Amish, who have some kind of problem with the modern world,” he pointed out. “Catholics are fully participating in all aspects of the 21st century” – while maintaining their ancient and consistent teaching against the intentional sterilization of sexual acts.
Scheidler, an Eastern-rite Catholic who rejoined the Church as an adult, hopes that the outcry over the mandate will also prompt “deep reflection on the part of (Catholic) bishops,” about their obligation to teach clearly on the subject of contraception.
“They really have not stepped up, over the past 40 years, to defend the Church's ageless teaching on contraception the way that they could have – particularly in the wake of 'Humanae Vitae.'”
That 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI, reaffirming the teaching against contraception, provoked controversy and even prompted some departures from the Church.
But Scheidler recalled that its teaching actually brought him back to Christ.
“I was an atheist when I walked into my first Natural Family Planning class, about 15 years ago. I walked out of that first class really intrigued by what the science might be able to show me, and willing to go along with the class even though I thought the religious part of it was a bunch of 'hooey.'”
“By the end of that course I had gone back to confession, and was helping my wife to discern whether she was called to become Catholic – which she eventually did.”
“I came to believe the Church was right about contraception before I believed she was right about anything else, even the existence of God himself,” Scheidler recalled.
He came to this conclusion by comparing his own life experience with the predictions made by Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae.”
“I reflected on my own marriage, and I saw that the very problems Pope Paul VI pointed out about contraception – how it would twist and distort a man's attitude towards his wife … I had to admit that I was guilty of so much of what the Church predicted contraception would do. It just rang true to me.”
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Scheidler hopes to reach the culture with the truth of this teaching – but his first priority with the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom is to secure the Church's freedom to practice its beliefs on the institutional level.
“It's not just a few pundits and a few bishops,” he said. “There are people out there who reject the idea that pregnancy and childbirth are diseases that need to be controlled and prevented … There are people who believe this is an encroachment of their religious freedom.”