The Way-Back Machine

Remember back in the day when men were the bosses of women and people used words like “fortnight” . . . Well, at least for the U.S. Bishops council, yesteryear was only like yesterday.

Fortnight for Freedom is a very clunky, alliterative attempt at catchy propaganda. But, at least in my super-informal not-at-all scientific poll, a lot of people have no clue that a fortnight equals fourteen days. Catchy propaganda usually needs a bit more than alliteration; it generally has to make sense to its audience.

Despite bad messaging, Fortnight for Freedom has a certain honesty to it. Archaic language often points to equally archaic ideas.

In an excellent opinion piece from the National Catholic Reporter, Father Edward J. Ruetz wisely explains that “Fortnight for Freedom based on outdated ideology.” He writes:

Before the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic church followed a “double standard,” wrote Fr. John Courtney Murray, the Jesuit architect of the Council’s 1965 Constitution on Religious Freedom (CRF). He continued: The Catholic church calls for “freedom” for the church “when Catholics are a minority, privilege for the church and intolerance when Catholics are a majority.” This Constitution, Murray wrote, “has opened a new straightforwardness in relationship between the church and the world.” (Abbot, W., Ed., The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, NY, NY, 1966, p. 673)

Yet this year, when the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops decided to reject the Health and Human Services mandate-compromise to have insurance companies pay for free contraceptives and sterilizations for all women under the health insurance policies of Catholic hospitals, universities and social agencies, they bypassed the “new straightforwardness” of the1965 Constitution to return to the old “double standard” of the 500 years of the Inquisition and the 300 years of the Holy Office theology (1123-1965).

Noting that the Church hierarchy may operate within a double-standard is quite an understatement. But, Father Ruetz’s analysis smartly underscores the patriarchal longing for those Pre-Vatican II days. In much the same way that the Republican party seeks to deliberately and systematically undo the social programs of FDR and LBJ, the Vatican hierarchy is working hard to unravel the Spirit of Vatican II and re-assert its power as an obstacle between the Faith and the faithful.

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