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.
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.”
"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.
Thus, the moralizers of the
"Humans are free from physiologically determined sexual desires so we possess a more or less permanent sexuality from adolescence to old age."
To paraphrase Pastor Niemöller, first they came for our abortion rights. Now they’re coming for our birth control.
— 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.