Monday, November 29, 2010

The Catholic Church's Condom Quandary

Most everyone by now has heard the news of Pope Benedict XVI's allowance for condom use by male gay prostitutes. The decision has received much play in the media, given that the Church forbids the use of condoms in general, in terms of using them for artificial contraception. However, since gays don't procreate and male gay prostitutes especially are prone to HIV-AIDS, the Pope decided the "lesser of two evils" is appropriate and it was better to loosen the doctrine to leave a loophole for these prostitute gays, if for no other reason to save their lives. (After all, how would it look if they were allowed to die from AIDS, while at the same time the Church demands protection of the lives of the unborn. Either you are going to protect the lives of all your claimed "flock" or you're hypocritical.)

So, boxed in, the Pope issued his pronouncement. According to Financial Times columnist Christopher Caldwell ('Rome Protects Its Views On Love', Nove. 27), the Pope grew sensitive to accusations he was uncaring about the suffering of those with AIDS. In one recent issue of 'Light of the World' he's reported to have stated:

"I really felt that I was being provoked because the Church does more than anyone else"

Well, uh....yeah, after the fact- since an estimated quarter of the world's AIDS sufferers are treated by Church institutions, hospices, hospitals etc. But how about preventing that suffering in the first place? This is why the Pope and his Church were thrust between a rock and a hard place. They either had to put up or shut up about their alleged moral high ground, especially in the wake of the continued reverberations of the priest sex abuse scandals and Benedict's efforts to hide it.

Now, what about the use of condoms more generally, not just for male gays? How about for married Catholics who want to engage in sex but can't afford another mouth to feed? Or, say, the woman has serious health issues (e.g. mitral valve prolapse, kidney disease etc) which would be complicated by giving birth?

According to author Caldwell (ibid.)

"The Church's ideas about condoms are embedded in its ideas about love, which the Pope is forceful in enunciating. He deplores the modern attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves'. Sexuality, in his view must be open to procreation"

Which, of course, is poppycock - since in humans sexuality and love can be disjunctive. In addition, sexuality can be employed for relief (say of accumulated tensions) and this is certainly much much better than resorting to meth, or oxycontin! Again, the Church's officious moralistic stands get in the way of its reasoning.

As if to sustain the Vatican's codswallop, one Vatican priest this past week actually had the temerity to assert (ibid.):

"Contraception is intrinsically an evil"

In other words, the contraceptive-using married couple is bound and destined for "Hell" if they die in a mortal sin state not having confessed their use of artificial contraception - since all they've engaged in is "mutual masturbation". (Oooooohhh.....terrible!) . For this reason, it is useful to get a historical perspective on this stupidity.

Catholic impediments to a sane birth control policy began with the misguided encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. The Pope at the time, Paul VI, issued this document in direct opposition to his own specially appointed Papal Commission on the matter. Author David Yallop, in his book In God's Name, has portrayed Humanae Vitae in stark terms indeed, as well as its paradoxical consequences[1]:

"On a disaster scale for the Roman Catholic Church, it measures higher than the treatment of Galileo in the seventeenth century "

The implicit assumption in Humanae Vitae and later, Pope John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor, is that procreation takes precedence over any other function of sexual intercourse. This is observably true in most other animals (with estrus cycles) but it certainly doesn’t apply to humans who exhibit a diverse array of sexual play. To devalue sexplay for its own end, while extolling procreation-based sex as the be-all and end-all, is to rob humans of their uniqueness as sexual primates[2]. Or, to refer to the words of one Catholic biologist:[3]

"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?"

It's also to invite ecological catastrophe for this planet. Since 1968, for example, the world population has doubled, which surplus the Vatican merely welcomes as 'more souls for the Church' - potential or otherwise - while ignoring their collective impact on strained planetary ecosystems, exacerbating carbon infusion into the already beseiged atmosphere, and degrading the world's labor force via cheapening its value relative to capital. (I.e. the more people the greater the surplus labor pool, and the lower the value of each worker. Slavery anyone?)

Beyond all this, the Pope and his regressive Church insult all those couples who (for some biological reason) can't have children! In other words, they're essentially saying, 'Since your love isn't open to procreation it is either a defective and deficient love or doesn't exist!' Which is total nonsense.

Beyond the particulars of such couples, it was the late Arthur C. Clarke who rightly called all the anti-contraception Popes "enemies of humanity" and with good reason! Their persistent commitment to this deformed doctrine and perverse moral value has consigned increasing millions of people in Asia and Africa to destitution and starvation. This is because the underlying ‘natural law’ remains uninformed by current data concerning food production in relation to rising birth rates. Or, other things being equal, poverty is the natural accompaniment of larger families. Rather than adaptation based on updated information, unthinking adherence to an outmoded precept prevails.[4]

Worse, the entire moral underpinning is torpedoed by the presumed gravity assigned to artificial contraception and the claim any practitioners will end up hellbound. (Jeezus, these guys are as hell-obsessed as the freaking evangelicals!).

Consider: if it’s equally grievous to kill twenty people with an AK-47 as it is for a married Catholic couple to induce a single orgasm using artificial contraception - say with a condom- then where is the proportion? The equalization of gravity, in terms of postulated penalties ('eternal damnation') leads to an inherent logical inconsistency that permeates and weakens the entire moral foundation. It’s as if the nature of an action (e.g. sexual) automatically elevates it into the realm of severe moral unlawfulness (or intrinsic evil), despite the fact no evidence exists that anyone is harmed. Yet the credulous Catholic is asked to balance this on the Vatican’s scales of eternal justice, with twenty lives lost to an AK-47!

It's little wonder that this insanity, combined with the Church's loss of moral stature from the sexual abuse crises, has seen more than 75 million Catholics depart their Church in the past 15 years. And there's no sign of it abating! The only thing keeping the Church's numbers relatively stable is the contingent of poor, illiterate, and deprived (including of education) masses it's cultivated in Africa - mainly by prohibiting them the use of artificial contraception so more Catholic babies can be generated than others.

At least one Pope, John Paul I (Albino Luciano), had intended to change the Vatican doctrine, but he didn't live to achieve it, dying suddenly under mysterious circumstances barely a month after the papal vote. All the signs point to his murder, and those interested can read much more about it in Yallop's fine book [1]).

In the end, given this deplorable moral gamesmanship, one must concur with renegade Catholic theologian Hans Kung, that this latest move is merely a "tactical shift" undertaken to avoid making the Church looking ridiculous. The trouble is, their moral platitudes concerning the use of artificial contraception still make them look ridiiculous - and will until they follow John Paul I's original instincts and overturn this foolishness.

[1] See Yallop, D.: In God's Name, 1984, Corgi Books, Great Britain, p. 58.

[2] By this I mean, primates unconstrained by limitations of pregnancy or fear of such, in their sexual proclivities. And indeed, most human orgasms are obtained apart from an impregnation or even marriage context.

[3] Daugherty, Elizabeth:1964, The Lessons of Zoology in: Contraception and Holiness: The Catholic Predicament, Fontana Books, Great Britain, p. 110.

[4] Obviously, one reason for this dogged adherence in the face of all controverting evidence is the fear of changing an ethic. Authoritarian religions are justifiably wary that by recanting on one or more of their (formerly) absolutist (or "infallible") teachings they will be compromised. This is probably a valid fear, but the alternative of ignoring current world conditions is certainly not better! It only postpones the day of reckoning.

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