Saturday, February 4, 2012

Catholics Need to Make a Choice - and Stop Whining!

Fr. Alvin Holloway, S.J. used to teach us Ethics at Loyola University (ca. 1966) and that using artificial contraception was akin to "mutual masturbation" (a 'mortal sin'). He never did inform us that both of these "grievous" acts were actually optional under the Church's Magisterium or teaching office!

Okay, pardon me, maybe it isn't Catholics whining at all, but rather the hysterical Reich wing chattering class doing it for them. At least one would seriously hope! This concerns the issue of contraception embedded in President Obama's 'Affordable Care Act' and whether those allowances "transgress" sacred Catholic doctrines.

I noted in an earlier blog that this claim was mostly sound and fury signifying nothing, e.g.

and explicitly pointed out the errors in "natural law" on which the Catholics base their morality, even citing one Catholic biologist, Elizabeth Dougherty (in Contraception and Holiness, The Lessons of Zoology, p. 110) who asked:

"Why do we call secondary the ends of the sexual act which have been accorded in fullness to us, and why do we call primary the end that we share with the lower animals?"

Because make no mistake here: no matter you're a church or person, if you deny the exercise of choice in terms of contraception, you're not only reducing your fellow humans to mere breeding animals, but you are also "planetary criminals" to use Arthur C. Clarke's stark term, because of massively contributing to a population this planet can't support! (And hence, fomenting mass destitution).

But as a former Catholic I will go even further and assert most Catholics who object to the contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act don't even know their own theology. I, however, have had to take three years of it - including Ethics and Catholic Moral Theology, while attending Loyola University, New Orleans, 1964-66.

Here's the key point that eludes some of the most vociferous Catholics, including the caterwauling Bishops (who ought to know better): As pointed out by Theologian Hans Kung ('Infallible?') the birth control proscription comes from the Church's TEACHING OFFICE or Magisterium, not ex cathedra or "from the chair of St. Peter".

If a ruling comes from the Magisterium or teaching office, then it isn't binding! It isn't binding on Catholics and it isn't binding on those they would serve, say in their hospitals (patients who need contraceptives) or instututions (workers there, who aren't even Catholics!)

There are even more suspect moral overtones on this than meet the eye. For example, the majority of Catholics are probably totally unaware that the Church DID ALLOW abortions to be performed up until the third trimester, and until 1869. John Connery, S.J. a leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, has been quoted as citing a long standing collection of Canon Law that “it was not until 1869 that abortion for any reason became grounds for excommunication” (See, e.g. Druyan and Sagan, PARADE, April 22, 1990). At the time the lack of dogmatic ruling created such furore that conservatives in the Church pushed for a higher dogma that would transcend the wishy-washy Magisterium ruling. They thereby succeeded in foisting the very late (1870) doctrine of "infallibility" which was more a rear guard action -addition to protect the Church from any possible subsequent alterations of moral teaching.

Thus, if a ruling came "ex cathedra" and applied to faith or morals, the Pope couldn't make a mistake. (Of course, as the “papal infallibility” doctrine was only first proclaimed in 1870, it conveniently didn't apply to rulings made earlier such as the ones on abortions allowed up to the 3rd trimester). But the larger point here is that clearly, the fact the Church already changed its doctrine on abortion shows its moral positions are malleable and not set in stone!

What this means is that the Church itself cannot be free of errors in faith or morals if it has already made one that was since covered up. Obviously, if you can alter a position, it is hardly "absolute". In his marvelous book, Infallible?, Hans Kung observes (p. 143):

" no one, neither Vatican I, nor Vatican II, nor the textbook theologians, has shown that the Church - its leadership or its theology - is able to put forward propositions which inherently
cannot be erroneous

Which brings up the question: How will the Catholic bishops - who so impetuously condemned pro-abortion candidate voters to Hell in 2004 and 2008- reconcile that with the Church’s stance pre-1869?

Now let's look at the piffle from some of the hysterical, hyperventilating pundits such as Peggy Noonan (WSJ today, 'A Battle The President Can't Win', p. A15). She claims:

"The Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore".

Which is total rubbish. Of course they can be Catholic and indeed, can expect THEIR members to adhere to THEIR teachings whether from the Magisterium or ex cathedra.

But the point missed by Noonan is that given the Church is funded by default via MY taxpayer dollars (since they don't have to pay taxes that I must) then I have to expect that if my wife or myself attends THEIR hospitals they will deliver the services WE need, not forbid us the ones they prohibit to their own flock! Thus, it serves no purpose to conflate the services the Affordable Care Act earmarks for secularists and non-Catholics (served by Catholic institutions like hospitals) with members of the Catholic Church - which is what Noonan and also Kathleen Parker ('The Cost of Conscience', Denver Post, today, p. 9B) have done.

In any case, as I already showed, the Obama Affordable Care Act merely enjoins these Catholic hospitals etc. to provide contraceptives if requested and contraception is not prohibited absolutely under the Magisterium. People can exercise choice! Indeed, forgotten amidst all the fervor and hubbub of these chattering conservos is that many Bishops since 1970 - when millions of Catholics became majorly disaffected by the anti-contraception stance - have advised parishioners to exercise their own moral choice in the matter.

Hence, the issue can't be as much of a biggie as Noonan proclaims, nor need Obama worry that "this is a battle he can't win." I happen to know many liberal Catholics and know most would not be so stupid as to revoke a vote for Obama over a morally optional issue that accordng to the Church's own doctrines insist isn't binding. They'd be stupid to do that!

Kathleen Parker is just as bad in her column, opining that:

"Essentially the new law forces them (Catholics) to forfeit their most fundamental beliefs or face prohibitive penalties- or close hospitals, schools and other charities"

Again, more bollocks! The law isn't demanding they "forfeit fundamental beliefs' because the issue doesn't concern those! NO one is being ordered to disbelieve in the doctrine of Transubstantiation (that claims the consecrated bread becomes the real body of Christ) which is a REAL fundamental belief, nor are Catholics being told to disown or reject Mary.

The issue concerns contraception provided to users of Catholic services who may not be Catholic at all.. And this contraception issue isn't fundamental as a core "belief" but rather an optional teaching from the Church's Magisterium which even Catholics are free to accept or reject (under their own exercise of conscience). As one priest told me before I finally left the Church ca. 1975: "You know you can stay if you want and just exercise your conscience. The prohibition against artificial contraception isn't binding, and you don't commit a mortal sin if you eschew it!"

Words for the wise, but you can bet that even more of the conservative chattering class will be humping and pumping this to try to fracture Obama's electoral coalition in the runup to November and get Catholics to break away. Stupidly--- I would add, because they've nothing to gain and everything to lose. Let's hope that more sane voices emerge to counter the nuttiness of the fruit cakes determined to try and make Obama a one -termer.

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