The controversy on contraception has entered a new, ever more absurd phase where it seems some major actors in the drama are trying to one-up each other with outrageous or inaccurate statements.
By now, many have heard about conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's distasteful comments regarding a female Georgetown law student who advocates contraceptive health insurance coverage. Leading advertisers on his program -- who, one must imagine, are no strangers to the Limbaugh brand -- began to yank commercials off his air at a pace so rapid Rush was actually compelled to apologize .
Some Republicans brushed off his irrational comments as the exaggerations of an "entertainer." OK, sure. But what, then, is one supposed to make of comments by the very-much-not-an-entertainer archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?
According to The New York Times , Dolan addressed a gathering of diocesan public policy specialists in New York and spoke about the contraception issue in a tone that sounded like an homage to a certain overwrought radio personality: "Now we hear there is a right to sterilization, abortion and chemical contraceptives. I suppose there might be a doctor who would say to a man who's suffering some type of sexual dysfunction, 'You ought to visit a prostitute to help you.'"
Dolan did go on to urge Catholic laity to "be more active" in the contraception issue, but before you organize a sit-in at the Archdiocese office -- that's not what he meant. At all. The Times reported:
The person-in-the-pew is best used as a fun frontman (or woman), to help put an attractive face on a controversial issue, Dolan asserts. But, all right, he's just being a smart media manager -- a real requirement for any New York archbishop. That doesn't preclude the laity from also expressing a deeper voice on such issues. Right?
Dolan in a recent blog  noted that the Obama administration had urged bishops to listen to "the enlightened voices of accommodation" within the church, including -- I'm guessing -- the 85 percent or more of sexually active Catholics who use contraception. Then, at a news conference following his weekend address, Dolan said: "We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops."
He added: "If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. They're the ones that speak for the truths of the faith."
Just to review quickly, then -- a guide for all of us in the pews: smile, wave, look attractive, sell the message, then sit down and quiet down.
Gives you a warm feeling all over, doesn't it?