Oh Dear: How Cardinal Cushing helped bring contraception to Massachusetts

Philip Lawler links to an article in Boston College Magazine about how Cardinal Cushing and the Archdiocese of Boston tacitly promoted – or allowed themselves to be used to promote – the legalization of contraception in Massachusetts:

…the archdiocese had begun quietly planning for a change in the law even before Dukakis [yes, that Dukakis, in 1965] 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. (emphasis added)

To put things in perspective:
The first birth control pill was brought to market in the US in 1959-60.
The Second Vatican Council began October 11, 1962.
Cardinal Cushing went on the radio show on February 15, 1963.
In April, 1963, Pope John XXIII established the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birthrate, “to prepare for the Holy See’s participation in a conference organized by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.” This Commission becomes known as “the birth control commission.”
In June, 1964, Pope Paul VI expanded the membership of the Pontifical Commission.
In summer, 1964, the Kennedy family invited a team of theologians, including John Courtney Murray and Charles Curran, to Hyannisport to come up with justifications for a Catholic politician to support legalizing abortion. Fr. Murray was a major influence on Cardinal Cushing.
In 1964, the Council Fathers of Vatican II “deferred decisions on marital morality to the Pope.”
In 1965, Michael Dukakis introduced the repeal ban in the Massachusetts legislature. Journalists at the Boston archdiocese’s paper The Pilot were instructed not to comment on the legislation. Lay Catholic representatives in the lower house banded together, and the bill was defeated.
On June 7, 1965, SCOTUS issued the Griswold v. Connecticut decision.
In 1966, the Governor of Massachusetts set up a commission to study the birth control issue. Cardinal Cushing wrote to the commission that Catholics “do not seek to impose by law their moral view on other members of society.” The repeal ban came up again in the MA legislature and passes.
In the fall of 1966, rumors started swirling that the Church would soon change her teaching on artificial birth control. In 1967, some of the Pontifical Commission’s documents were leaked in English and French translation and were spun as support for these rumors.
Humanae Vitae was promulgated in 1968.
UPDATED: Link to Humanae Vitae. If you haven’t read it, what are you wasting your time here for? I, lege!
Also fixed some grammar errors in the timeline….


  1. You’re timeline is impressive. The whole thing is deplorable. But, as we know God always brings good out of evil — thus, Humanae Vitae. I wish you would put the link up for it.

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