Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and a global advocate for women, is the author of the new book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. She also identifies as a Catholic, although one who knows better than the Church.
Hitting the book promotion circuit, Melinda is repeatedly asked about her differences with the Church. She cites what she sees as her superior interpretation of Catholic teaching, particularly on contraception and a female priesthood, but mostly on contraception.
Melinda’s book does indeed have a Catholic aura. After all, the desire to lift others up and change the world is decidedly Catholic. She points to her faith as instilling a sense of responsibility to love and care for her neighbors. Unfortunately, an important lesson was lost along the way: “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account...” (Hebrews 13:17). And also, it is the Church, not Melinda, who is the “pillar and foundation” of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
Contraception vs Church Teaching
In 2017, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $375 million for population control to organizations providing contraceptives and abortions, and they also gave over $117 million previously. I wonder, why don’t they give money for adoption services and to care for mothers and babies to live better lives as opposed to ending or preventing life?
In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, an encyclical that explains Church teaching on family planning and contraception. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that contraception is “not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality… The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle...involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality” (CCC 2370).
For the record, the Church does not teach that Catholics must have endless children. For serious reasons, people can use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to avoid pregnancy. There are even fertility monitors now that can tell a woman if she is fertile at a click of a button, and it’s 98% effective.
In a TIME article, Melinda said that because she grew up Catholic, she had to “wrestle” with the issue of contraception and “reflect about it deeply before I came out publicly.” She opted against supporting Church teaching because “no country has made it from middle income to high income in the last 50 years without going through the transition of having contraceptives widely available to people.” So, there you have it — a decision made 100% on money and 0% on theology.
During an interview on Public TV, Melinda said that she wants the millions of women asking for contraception to get it because it is “a life and death situation for many of them.” She said that based on studies, “contraceptives are the greatest life-saving, poverty-ending, women-empowered innovation ever created.”
Yet, there is a very different perspective on this: What women in developing countries truly need is better healthcare, more economic opportunities, better support for pregnancies and instruction in natural methods to space children in union with God. Some would say that contraception is more practical since it makes women available 24/7 for sex. But that does not work toward empowerment for real human dignity. And when the contraception fails, which always happens to some degree, then every one of those pregnancies will be unanticipated and at extremely high risk for abortion.
Regarding women priests, Melinda is bothered that women are not part of the hierarchy of the Church, claiming that this has held back the Church and its people. According to her: “We’re not role-modeling the right values. I see other churches and other religions where there are females who are pastors and at the top levels. And it’s time the Catholic Church allows that, as well.”
Time? Wealth may have its privileges, but it has not bought Melinda understanding. When 265 previous Popes have not reversed the teaching on contraception or women clergy, the odds of Melinda getting those teachings changed are not good.
If Jesus founded the Catholic Church, anyone advocating against it has chosen the wrong side — the losing side. Rest assured, neither the gates of Hell nor Melinda Gates shall prevail against the Church.
Of course, Melinda’s voice is not alone. There is a chorus of supposed “ardent Catholics” speaking out against Church teaching. Money buys influence, so she is getting her message out in a big way. But prayer is even more valuable. Let us spend some on the struggles in developing countries and for the light of Christ to shine upon those who seek to help them.