Sex, politics and religion

Jeff vonKaenel

In the basement of the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament, Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto and I had a pleasant, freewheeling discussion about the recent contraception controversy, premarital sex, politics and religion. In other words, we talked about the very things most people go out of their way not to talk about.

Given that I am an alternative-newspaper publisher celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary this year, and Bishop Soto is a Catholic bishop, we found some points of disagreement.

But even though we disagreed, I wanted to better understand his point of view. And to his credit, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy being questioned, and to appreciate the opportunity to present a different view to what he called “the contraceptive society.”

I hope you enjoy the interview in this week’s paper. I certainly appreciate Bishop Soto taking the time to speak to me and his openness during our discussion.

As you can see, my own life experiences—as a sexually active young man, then as a father of teenagers, and today as a husband married for 30 years—led me to very different conclusions about contraception than Bishop Soto’s.

But while the bishop and I disagreed on many points about premarital sex and birth control, we did agree about something very important: marriage. On the day I interviewed the bishop, I also attended his special Marriage Day Mass, where couples throughout the region celebrating milestone anniversaries came to renew their vows.

It was cool attending mass in a Cathedral filled with people who were proud of their marriages. It was moving to see couples in the pews wipe away tears as they repeated their vows. I know that my wife Deborah and I would have done the same.

When setting up the interview, I mentioned that I had been married for a long time. The bishop asked me how long, and he then asked me for the actual date. I had the impression that if we’d achieved our 30th anniversary, he would have offered me the certificate he gave the other couples. It would have been nice. I would have even paid the $20 for a photo with the bishop. And I’m not even Catholic.

Hanging around, I realized I enjoyed being part of a special day for so many people. I appreciated his support of these couples’ marriages, despite our disagreement on contraception.

It’s helpful in discussions to start with your points of agreement, and that is what the bishop and I did on that Saturday morning. We were two people who both enjoy celebrating successful marriages, who happen to disagree on the way to get there. And I believe that our ability to find a point of agreement made the rest of the more contentious conversation possible.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.