Directive Against Nun's Shelter

February 03, 1985

There is some basic hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. This hypocrisy was made clear in Msgr. John P. Languille's directive to Catholic social service agencies not to refer homeless women to the House of Ruth in East Los Angeles (Times, Jan. 25).

The church has single-mindedly stood in the way of the research, development and dissemination of information about safe, effective birth control methods. It refuses to accept the practice of birth control in any form except the highly unreliable rhythm method and at the same time broaches no dissent with its position on abortion.

From the passage of the Comstock Law in 1873, which banned the dissemination of pornography, abortion and "any drug, medicine, article or thing adapted or intended for preventing conception," to the harassment and arrests of Margaret Sanger and other associates of birth control in the early 1900s, through the present, the church has been in the front line of resistance to any form of birth control it considers artificial.

Historically, its actions have helped set the stage for today's agonizing dilemma.

The decision-makers in the Catholic Church are celibate men who cannot possibly know what it means to carry a child in one's body. How do you explain to them the experience of birth? How do you explain that unbreakable bond formed with the child the moment you know it exists within you? How do you explain that that bond is forever whether you carry the child to full term or not? How do you face a child that you know you cannot provide for? These same celibate men tell us, the ones who are facing these questions, how we must behave and who will make our choices for us. Namely, them.

Where are these same men when precious lives are being abused or battered by parents emotionally unable to care for them? What are they doing about the crowded institutions full of children who are handicapped, disturbed, racially mixed or otherwise considered "unadoptable"? Where are they?

We know where one is. His is forbidding any Catholic social service in Los Angeles from referring homeless women to the House of Ruth because the house's director, Sister Judith Vaughan has had the moral courage to question the church's lack of respect for dissenting positions on the question of abortion.

Pro-choice DOES NOT mean pro-abortion. It means that a woman must have the right to make her own decisions. She must not lose her constitutional rights of privacy and freedom of religion while also losing her own personhood and becoming subservient to her biological condition. The only certainty a woman can have that she will not ever find herself in a position to make that agonizing decision is to be born a man.

The leaders of the Catholic Church should stop pointing the finger of shame and guilt at those who profess honest disagreement with the church's position on a woman's freedom of choice, and take a good long look at the hypocrites they see reflected in the mirror.

Until the leaders of the Catholic Church accept responsibility for their church's role in the prevalence of abortion because it has denied the choice of simple, safe and effective methods of birth control for both sexes, they should hang their heads and shut their mouths.


La Mirada

As someone who believes himself to be a devout and practicing Catholic, I was saddened and dismayed by the reaction of Msgr. Languille toward Sister Judith Vaughan and the House of Ruth. It seems to me that Msgr. Languille has acted as prosecutor, judge, jury and executor, and has failed to prayerfully reflect upon a compassionate and understanding response toward the situation.

While I can understand the necessity of the church hierarchy and the members of the church trusting in the faith-directed teachings of the church, Msgr. Languille has ignored and discounted the positive aspects of the situation. He has chosen to punish and admonish Sister Judith, at the expense of the many poor people of Los Angeles who rely on her and others like her for help. It appears that Msgr. Languille has decided to perpetuate the image of the church bureaucrat sitting behind a desk, making by-the-book decisions, and staying politically and ecclesiastically safe with the hierarchy of the church.

If the hierarchy of the church wishes to promote dialogue and growth, and stay in touch with the needs of the people, it must desist from punishing or lashing out at dissenting or questioning Catholics, and learn to embrace them with the unconditional love and compassion that is the central message of Christ in the gospel.


Los Angeles

As a Catholic and a recipient of a Catholic education, I was not surprised with Msgr. Languille's arbitrary and capricious treatment of Sister Judith Vaughan in denying referrals of homeless women and children to the House of Ruth Shelter.

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