Friday, January 6, 2023

Catholic Women Don't Require Theological Conference Dispensation To Use Artificial Contraception

  Fr. Alvin Holloway, S.J. -- taught that artificial contraception was same as 'mutual masturbation' in Loyola Ethics course.
                      "You really gonna try and dictate limits on my sex life?"

 Last month's 3-day conference of Catholic Theologians in Rome was emphatic in declaring the moral injunctions against artificial contraception were not passé. But newsflash! Catholic women have already moved on and need no theological imprimatur.

Francis X. Rocca, the Wall Street Journal's Vatican correspondent, warned in his recent column ('Is the Catholic Church Rethinking Contraception?', 12/30, p. C4)  that:  

  "Conservatives warn that lifting the categorical ban on artificial birth control would open a Pandora’s box by contradicting the reasoning behind other prohibitions."

Let's note that his term "conservatives" refers to that faction of the Church that had basically been under the hegemony of Joseph Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI. But since his death it might well be the case, as Rocca surmises, that the RC Church re-examines the morality of contraception (by which I will always mean the artificial type, not the cockeyed 'rhythm' method)  Rocca also admitted in a subsequent column (yesterday, WSJ, p. A16,  WSJ, p. A16, 'Predecessor’s Death Removes Constraint on Pope Francis') that Pope Francis will now be at relative liberty to push through further "progressive" reforms.

I also predicted (see my Jan. 2 post) one of these - allowance of artificial contraception - would be considered by Pope Francis for married couples.  This in contravention of the encyclical Humanae Vitae - which was more a declaration of unthinking dogma based on a specious pseudo principle ("natural law") than a reasoned moral argument.  Rocca in his original WSJ piece goes on:

"The church has traditionally taught that it is wrong to prevent procreation except through abstinence from sexual intercourse. The explanations for this teaching have varied over time in accordance with developments in theology, philosophy and science, as recounted in John T. Noonan, Jr.’s book, “Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists.”

For what it's worth this is nonsense. Biologist Elizabeth A. Daugherty  has asked ('The Lessons of Zoology'. in the monograph  Contraception and Holiness, p. 110):

"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 which we share with the lower animals?"

She's referring to the fact that the core of Pius XI's  original anti-contraception encyclical Casti Connubii was that the "sin" of artificial contraception inhered in making primary a sexual aspect that in reality is only "secondary". According to that pontiff:

"Since therefore the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature."

Which is irredeemable codswallop. As Daugherty notes in her chapter (op. cit.)  what the pontiff and his ilk really sought to do is reduce humans to the state of lower animals, at the behest of their "natural" reproductive cycles. In this sense, unlike the lower animals, humans have the intellectual capacity and sense of novelty to introduce a vast variety of pleasure-play into their sex relations. They aren't yoked to  primitive instincts to simply mount and hump at specific times. As Daugherty notes (pp. 96- 97):

"After ovulation, all mammalian females are under the influence of progesterone from the corpus luteum. This is a period of rapidly declining estrogenic activity which ends the sexual receptivity of the lower mammalian female, whether or not fertilization occurs.

But (in humans) marital relations continue during this progesterone -dominated period before the abrupt onset of menstruation. It is the period of lowest estrogenic activity and the progesterone-dominated period after ovulation which are known as the 'safe period' for marital relations."

This then, is what the Catholics'  “rhythm method” (of  Ogino-Kaus)  seeks to do: establish the "safe period" for a particular woman and then ordain that this is the time to safely have sexual relations if one wishes to not have any kids. The trouble is, it requires meticulous temperature taking at various times during a cycle to establish where that safe period begins and ends, and often this will be for no more than 10 days or so in a given month. Presumably, the couple is quite happy to do without sex the other two thirds of the time!

Thus, the moralizers of the Vatican are actually demanding that married couples act UNNATURALLY, since as Daugherty observes (ibid.):

"Humans are free from physiologically determined sexual desires so we possess a more or less permanent sexuality from adolescence to old age."

The next words of Rocca are also revelatory:

"Biblical warrant for the prohibition has been found in the story of Onan in the book of Genesis, struck dead by God for practicing coitus interruptus. "

The biblical writer here is referring to none other than masturbation, which is what coitus interruptus amounts to.  I harken back to my Loyola Ethics prof - equally bamboozled by ancient biblical tales - who tried to say artificial contraception is the same as "mutual masturbation."  But even if it is, so what?  Is he going to call it a "sin"?  Yes, under the fictitious natural law as Rocca then invokes (ibid.):

"But the primary reasons for the church’s condemnation of contraception have come not from scripture but from natural law—a tradition of moral philosophy with roots in classical antiquity that holds that there is moral order in the universe that is discernible by reason even without divine revelation. For medieval theologians such as the 13th-century St. Thomas Aquinas, Noonan wrote, “the first argumentation against the unnaturalness of contraception rested on its contradiction of the natural purpose of the genital organs and the genital act.

Aquinas views in his reference to the 'natural purpose of the genital organs and the genital act' then betrays an allegiance to Aristotelian modes of thought. These tend to fix behaviors to mistaken 'norms' of the time and fixed definitions of the 'normal' construed as 'natural' but which are not. Indeed, as contributor Julian Pleasants observed in the same monograph (p. 88) the RC Church has always been hostage to:

"Aristotelian modes of thought which tend to fix behaviors within very limited and fixed definitions and categories."

Thus, the Church once believed it "natural" that some men be enslaved because they were “unable to manage their own affairs”  (ibid.) So why be surprised when the same Church seeks to ordain all her members abide by a sexuality more fitting of lower primates?   The abiding question for me is: Why should 21st century rational adults- Catholics or not -    be yoked  to Aristotelian modes of thought regarding the so-called "pelvic sins". 

Viewed from a scientific Materialist’s perspective, Aquinas’ (and similar clerics’) statements reflect an exaggerated, over solicitous concern for the biology of one higher ape relative of the chimpanzee, on one ordinary planet.  Worse, it signifies a brazen attempt to intrude in personal affairs that don’t concern Catholic moralists or theologians.  Especially after the RC sexual abuse scandal (which Ratizinger helped to conceal) that essentially deep-sixed the Church’s “pelvic” sins moral offense category one time.

Natural law then was invented purely as a theological sophistry; a device to control and manipulate people's lives.  And while we’re at it, let me remind the Ratzinger followers and Rocca that the birth control proscription has never been stated ex Cathedra so it’s not an infallible dogma. It is proposed under the Magisterium or Teaching Office, which is why the RCs now are allowing "conscience" to factor into decisions.  Indeed, even Rocca himself writes:

"What has changed since 1968? Pope Francis has laid increased emphasis on the role of an individual’s conscience in discerning factors that mitigate culpability in particular circumstances."

But that choice was actually there all along. As one honest padre once confided to me ca. 1977: "You are free to use your own conscience in this regard, since the teaching isn't binding." 

The key takeaway in all of this is that the vast bulk of Catholics has already moved on in terms of the morality of artificial contraception. Indeed, a 2016 Pew Research poll found only 13 percent of practicing Catholics believed it to be morally wrong. For all intents the "Catholic debate on contraception" is now over, has been over for some time.   

Rocca insists the Theological Conference is still considering the precept:

"Every human life should be the result of an act of love, and no instance of sexual intercourse can be fully loving unless it is open to the potential of new life."

But what might have been weakly defensible 100 years ago, or even 60 - no longer is with 8 billion humans crowding out every wild space and responsible for the most massive mass extinction since the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago from a large asteroid. See e.g.

The Right tries to dismiss Ehrlich, always has, but he has been correct on a number of counts since his book, The Population Bomb.

Thus, as Isaac Asimov put it in a lecture he delivered in Barbados back in 1976, 

The Woman who refuses to breed, who practices birth control, is now the heroine of the planet.  In this light,  last month's 3 -day conference of Catholic theologians and philosophers in Rome reduces to a mere exercise in rarefied, academic uselessness. 

Their intended desire to "defend and explain" the Church's prohibition of contraception" is therefore irrelevant, antiquated. Moreover, it is the actual immoral act given it adds to the destruction of the planetary home humans need to survive by adding more people than the planet can sustain. Thereby leading to mass destitution and desperate mass migration to escape poverty, famine, war and civil violence. 

 In this sense science writer Arthur C. Clarke was totally correct to also have dubbed John Paul II a dangerous man, e.g.

 See Also:



by Thom Hartmann | January 5, 2023 - 6:35am | permalink

— from The Hartmann Report


To paraphrase Pastor Niemöller, first they came for our abortion rights. Now they’re coming for our birth control.

Psychologist Dr. Marty Klein notes at Psychology Today that there are typically only a few reasons why people oppose birth control. They are:

— Fundamentalist religions fear sexual pleasure, which birth control facilitates

— Contraception effectively limits family size, empowering women

— Contraception promotes personal autonomy [making women more likely to challenge male authority]

— Birth control may make abortion more acceptable to society

As of last week, Republican efforts to ban birth control in America have officially started, and teenagers in Texas are its first victims.

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