Preparing for a Fortnight for Freedom: A Short History Lesson | Benjamin Wiker | Catholic World Report
The HHS mandate is one more momentous step in the repaganization of the West.
The American bishops have declared a “Fortnight for Freedom,” running the 14 days from June 21 (the Vigil of the Feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More) to July 4, Independence Day. “Culminating on Independence Day,” the bishops explain, “this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”
Well said. In that same spirit, here is a little history lesson to help prepare us for a Fortnight for Freedom.
First, current history. The Fortnight for Freedom was declared because President Obama is trying to force Catholic institutions, through a Health and Human Services mandate, to provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization through their insurance coverage.
And now for a little ancient history to put current events into the widest possible context. To truly see what’s at stake with Obama’s HHS mandate, you must go all the way back to ancient Rome, to the pagan empire into which Christianity was born.
We might think of contraception as something new, a modern thing, just as we think abortion was rare before Roe v. Wade. But that is historically as inaccurate as one could possibly get. The truth is this: contraception, abortion, and infanticide were widely practiced and entirely acceptable in all ancient cultures, including Rome. The acceptability was the result of attitudes toward sexuality. “In antiquity,” historian John Riddle notes, “the evidence suggests, sexual restraint was largely ignored; pagan religion normally did not attempt to regulate sexual activity. Free males could do almost anything sexually, even if they had to resort to slaves, with no moral or societal consequences to themselves.”
Elevating the goal of sexual satisfaction meant that babies were often considered unwanted side effects. Most ancient pagans saw nothing wrong with stopping babies from happening, and used a variety of contraceptive and abortifacient concoctions, ingested or applied, to accomplish this—everything from pomegranate peels, giant fennel, acacia gum, crushed juniper berries, cabbage flowers, date palm, rue, and myrrh, to crocodile dung. If all that failed, they had back-up plans to induce something like a modern-day abortion (hot baths, vigorous exercise, horseback riding, carrying heavy loads, bleeding, punching the stomach, more poisons). The final back-up was infanticide, usually by exposure.
The earliest Christians rejected the whole spectrum, from contraception to infanticide—and this is obviously an essential point for understanding the historical importance of the current standoff between Obama’s HHS and the Catholic bishops.