French Bishop Urges Vatican to Reopen Debate on Whether 1+1=2

Oh, wait, he just wants the Vatican to reconsider birth control. God save us from such an episcopate!

"Pope Paul VI banned contraception in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, arguing that sexual intercourse was meant for procreation and any artificial method to block a pregnancy went against the nature of the act."

"That encyclical prompted Catholics to leave the Church in droves and undercut papal authority. Many practicing Catholics now simply ignore the ban and some say it weakens the Church’s message on other moral issues such as abortion and bioethics." 

Say what?!? First of all, Pope Paul VI didn’t pull that ban out of thin air. The Church has always forbid contraception. The point of almost every papal encyclical, just like councils, is to clarify an eternal truth in modern terms. Paul VI only reiterated what the Church was already teaching to a generation itching for sexual license (among other stupid things). Secondly, the people who left the Church over this issue were never faithful Catholics in the first place. I mean, that’s a pretty flimsy excuse for leaving the guardian of the Deposit of Faith. Either you trust that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it or you don’t. Thirdly, if Humanae Vitae undercut papal authority, it’s only because the episcopate and the presbyterate failed miserably in their efforts (or lack thereof) to explain Catholic sexual ethics to their flocks, and continue to do so. Lastly, I’d very much like to know how the Catholic Church’s hestance on contraception weakens her message on abortion and bioethics. It’s all of a piece.

The primary ends of sexual congress are procreation and unification. To block conception is to interfere with both of those ends. Contraceptives, particularly barrier methods, interfere with complete self-giving (an element of unity). They also interfere with the natural product of intercourse, a child. Furthermore, all human life is precious and deserving of respect. Abortion, like contraception, treats conception as an undesireable side effect of a primarily pleasure-oriented act. It also murders children, the true primary product of what should be a love-oriented act. Likewise, embryonic stem cell research murders unborn children and justifies that act by redefining the beginning of human life to some unspecified time beyond conception. It also seperates the creation of humans from the natural procreative act, treating them not as children to be protected and loved, but as raw material to be consumed. Incidentally, these reasons are similar to those for why the Church opposes artificial means of conception, such as IVF. Abortion and ESCR both result from a contraceptive mentality. Denying that sex should be a life-giving activity allows one to justify both the destruction of life if it interferes with pleasure and the production and consumption of life for one’s own purposes.

This Reuters article is very much wrong in its protrayal of Catholic sexual ethics, and reproducing it without commentary or caveat was an irresponsible choice on the part of the editors at CathNews.

(For similar thoughts, head to  Pro Ecclesia * Pro Familia * Pro Civitate)

Comments 25

  1. Adrian wrote:

    Wow–great articulation of the issues at play here. Good read!

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 12:11 am
  2. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    My only regret is that there was not at the time a willing secular ruler to tie dissenters (“within”, so to speak, the Church mind you) to the stake and burn them alive.

    Instead we have lived (these nearly 40 years) with what George Weigel called the Truce of 1968. Paul VI was at the time rightly concerned about schism. But some things are more dangerous than schism, and mixed messages on timeless and unalterable truth (a.k.a., the Protestantization of the RCC) are among them.

    [/end_vein_popping]

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 12:33 am
  3. Advogado de Diabos wrote:

    the people who left the Church over this issue were never faithful Catholics in the first place. I mean, that?s a pretty flimsy excuse for leaving

    disagree. I?ve not seen anything in scripture against birth control. Reasonable people (who believe themselves faithful Catholics) can decide for themselves birth control is really ok. Once you open that door, it is easy to keep deciding on other individual issues that you are right and the church is wrong. Finally you leave the church altogether.

    I?d very much like to know how the Catholic Church?s stance on contraception weakens her message on abortion and bioethics.

    First I don?t agree with all your given statements. Sex is not just for procreation. Most people find the churches stance again birth control out of touch. The result is that most people decide the church doesn?t know anything about sex, and therefore do not even consider the church may have something worth hearing on abortion or bioethics.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 2:26 am
  4. Jerry Nora wrote:

    “I?ve not seen anything in scripture against birth control.”

    Umm…basically any sort of unfruitful sexual relationship, including one fellow who got struck down for essential practicing coitus interruptus, was condemned in the Old Testament. Anyone have access to more specific citations…?

    The consistent teaching of the Church Fathers, including the 1st century catechism, the Didache, continue this outlook into the Christian Era as well.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 2:52 am
  5. Funky Dung wrote:

    “My only regret is that there was not at the time a willing secular ruler to tie dissenters (“within”, so to speak, the Church mind you) to the stake and burn them alive.”

    I realize you’re being facetious, but it’s possible that outsiders might not. Some Protestants bring up the Spanish Inquisition like it 1) happened yesterday and 2) happened throughout the Church. IOW, it’s a stumbling block and a hinderance to ecumenism.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 3:46 am
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I?ve not seen anything in scripture against birth control.”

    Why do we need it? It’s been unbroken Tradition for at least 2000 years. It’s probably older than that, but I’d have to check. There’s plenty of scriptural evidence for oral traditions being handed down. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Gamarah and/or the Talmud had a prohibition against contraception.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 3:50 am
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Scripture alone”, by the way, is a Protestant invention. The Catholic Church doesn’t always need scriptural support for Her teachings.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 3:52 am
  8. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Reasonable people (who believe themselves faithful Catholics) can decide for themselves birth control is really ok. Once you open that door, it is easy to keep deciding on other individual issues that you are right and the church is wrong. Finally you leave the church altogether.”

    Reasonable Catholics ought to contemplate whether they really know more than 2000 years of learned men and women. One cannot obey both a private Magisterium and the real thing. A man cannot have two masters; he will love one and hate the other. To have a conscience formed by orthodox teachings is a different thing. More often than not (and I’m guilt of this, too), deciding the Church is wrong about something is more about succumbing to pride than having come to a profound realization.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 3:57 am
  9. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    I was being facetious… but only very, very slightly. Maybe not burning at the stake, but maybe being dragged by a horse for a few miles… Maybe just some permanent scarring… That’d be okay. Sometimes, you’re forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

    And this…

    First I don?t agree with all your given statements. Sex is not just for procreation. Most people find the churches stance again birth control out of touch. The result is that most people decide the church doesn?t know anything about sex, and therefore do not even consider the church may have something worth hearing on abortion or bioethics.

    This is so stupid that it hardly merits debunking, but what the heck, I’m in the mood for a little abuse…

    First off, you’re right about one thing: sex is not just for procreation…. which is why Funky didn’t say that. Literacy, Mr. “Diabos”, doesn’t appear to be your strong suit.

    And “some people” think the Church’s stance on contraception (which is different than “birth control” BTW) is “out of touch”? Really? Well, the Church just better have a world-wide plebiscite to just get more “in touch”… But I have to ask, out of touch with what? May I point out that Humana Vitae predicted with what one might almost call divine prescience the catastrophic rise in divorce, sexual abuse, illegitimacy (oops I mean “single parent” households), abortion, and euthenasia if the Church’s teaching on contraception were not respected. The eugenicists (e.g., PP) and dissenters and all the various and sundry “liberated” folk scoffed, of course. It was counter-intuitive. Artificially limiting fecundity would of course make every child all the more welcome and able to be better provided for. (Oh and shhh, we also won’t have so many brown and black babies running around as a drag on our economy.) The scoffers of course did not have (and to this day do not have) an understanding the effect of illusory “consequence-free” sex on human nature. Who’s out of touch? Two-thousand years of unbroken Christian tradition, or freewheeling teens in the back seat?

    And the Church doesn’t understand sex? What a riot! I’d say they understand it at least as well as lions, tigers, and bears, which is to say that they understand is it at least about procreation. It is, of course, about much more than that, but it is at least about that. The Church is into sex… and not “safe” sex either, but real, hardcore, exchange of bodily fluids-style sex. No latex barriers. No artificially messing around with female fertility. No “medical” alteration of our bodies to make them NOT do what they were designed to do. Just raw, naked, pounding, juicy, throbbing sex. The Church is into that… big time.

    No. It is rather those of a contraceptive mentality who are the adolescents who don’t wanna grow up, who don’t understand sex as 130 million years or so of mammalian evolution “intended” it. Those who want “consequence-free”, masturbatory, recreational, “safe” sex are the ones who don’t understand it, or what it truly means for a couple, or for a community, or for the society at large. And they’re the ones who when they’re old-n-gray and still adolescent and still sophomorically stupid who will find little comfort from their liberated lifestyle 30-40 years earlier, their accumulation of things (and likely debt) and trips to Tahiti. Luxury SUVs and luxury cruises can’t wipe your arse or turn off your stove.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 5:50 am
  10. Rob wrote:

    Jerry,

    The sin of Onan was not coitus interruptus, but rather the refusal to give to his brother his brother’s due. If you read a little further on, you’ll see what happened with the father and the “prostitute.”

    The Bible teaches that, should a man die without an heir, his brother is to take the wife and give her a son. That teaching is clear in both the Old and New Testament. Any attempt to argue reproductive ethics from that would beg the question why the Catholic church doesn’t teach that any more. Come to think of it, why don’t the Protestants teach it?

    We all like to ignore that one, even though Jesus had a perfect opportunity to nullify it and didn’t take it.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 12:28 pm
  11. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Sure Rob, but that’s because he practiced coitus interruptus. But seriously, I think the Talmudic tradition well down past the time of Christ held the Sin of Onan to be wasteful seed spilling (as it were). Any Talmudic scholars out there to help us out?

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 2:12 pm
  12. Funky Dung wrote:

    Rob, I would posit that Judaism’s primary means of transmission and expansion was through procreative growth of the nation of Isreal. Whereas, Christianity primarily spreads through evangelization. The command to give one’s widowed sister-in-law a son was a natural part of conquering by breeding, to put it bluntly.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 3:27 pm
  13. Jon wrote:

    According to jewish law, the use of any prophylactic is forbiden unless there is a life-threatening illness that would be passed without its use (HIV). This comes directly from:
    See Nida 13b and Responsa Chavot Yair, no. 31. Responsa Sheilot Yaavetz, no. 43 argues that once the sperm has been deposited in the woman, the primary prohibition of hashchatas zera no longer applies.
    – Talmud if I remember correctly

    Hashchatas zera, the wasting of seed, is a sin in judaism which has been translated into the ban on prophylactics. They do however acknowledge that if young adults are going to have sex outside of marriage, that they should be careful and use prophylactics. This is due to the inherent violation of Hashchatas zera in the sexual congress outside of marriage.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 8:44 pm
  14. Advogado de Diabos wrote:

    Steve,

    Calm down, reread my post, and try again.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 9:54 pm
  15. Funky Dung wrote:

    Gets a little hyper at times, doesn’t he? 😉

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 9:59 pm
  16. Advogado de Diabos wrote:

    Funky,

    “Reasonable Catholics ought to contemplate whether they really know more than 2000 years of learned men and women.”

    This cuts right to the heart of the issue. And the answer I believe is a resounding yes. I know many Catholics and former Catholics who feel exactly this way.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 10:06 pm
  17. Funky Dung wrote:

    Given the level of catechesis that most ordinary folks receive, particularly in this country, rejecting 2000 years of accumulated theological wisdom is like a child rejecting the accumulated wisdom about physics.

    Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that there’s a BIG difference between questioning authority and putting your fingers in your ears and shouting LALALALALALA. If you’re going to question authority, have the decency and humility to 1) wait for an answer, 2) listen patiently to that answer, 3) try to understand that answer, and 4) engage in a debate with authority about the answer. Perhaps there are folks who have done those things, but in my experience just about every Catholic dissident made up his/her mind without questioning authority. They’re not interested in questioning. They’re interesting in casting off. Too many people want be their own pope, or worse yet their own Christ.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 10:20 pm
  18. Tom Smith wrote:

    Someone once said that every Protestant has a pope in his belly; obviously, many Catholics do too.

    “That encyclical prompted Catholics to leave the Church in droves…”

    Obviously, His Excellency believes that every new pope has his own iteration of Catholicism, and has new and different “policies.” It just so happened that Paul VI had an anti-contraception policy.

    “…and undercut papal authority.”

    This is a flawed notion of authority. Authority exists independently of anyone’s perception of it. Authority is not lost by its exercise.

    Posted 17 Feb 2006 at 11:54 pm
  19. Stuff wrote:

    OK, I can’t keep track of who said what, but I’m going to say something anyway. The point that Humanae Vitae was considered “out of touch” is actually a pretty good one. The Pope used a language and style that was difficult for the common person to relate to; he was speaking from a very Thomist perspective (meaning St. Thomas Aquinas) that the church had been using for centuries while the philosophy of the day was something completely different. So while he very eloquently defended authentic church truths, he did so in the context of external, absolute truths such as duty, which was (and is) a four-letter word to the “I think therefore I am”, me-centered public.
    As a wife, mother, and health-care professional, I have come to embrace fully the Church’s teaching on this matter more and more because I have had the opportunity to live it. And it’s just like Steve says :).
    For a much better analysis of the Catholic Church’s stance on sex, love, and humanity, I strongly urge anyone with honest questions to look into Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. He really knows how to speak to modern man on his own terms, and brings the glorious truth about true manhood and womanhood to light in a way that can’t help but knock your socks off. It’s kind of a deep read, but there are plenty of summary/help type books out there to get you started.
    I truly hope his teaching begins a sexual counter-revolution, both within and without the Church.

    Posted 18 Feb 2006 at 1:42 am
  20. Jon wrote:

    re: Jewish Law

    I realized thanks to funky that some of the things in my cut and pasted comment might not have been known.

    See Nida 13b and Responsa Chavot Yair, no. 31. Responsa Sheilot Yaavetz, no. 43 argues that once the sperm has been deposited in the woman, the primary prohibition of hashchatas zera no longer applies.
    – Talmud if I remember correctly

    Nida, Chavot Yair, and Sheilot Yaavetz are all commentators which appear in the Talmud (jewish commentary, on the Gemarah, which is commentary on the 24 books of the bible (Tanach)) Nida 13b refers to the thirteenth argument (chapter) by Nida, and Responsa, are responses given.

    The Talmud is a dialogue between great jewish thinkers trying to descern what the commentators on the Torah meant, along with what they think the torah means.

    Hope that helps understand what I said :)

    Posted 18 Feb 2006 at 3:14 am
  21. Rob wrote:

    I think the Catholic Church lost it’s way on sexual theology quite some time ago. The interpretation of the story of Onan focused on the semen and not on the duty; the church has since become obsessed by semen. Perhaps this was because of the scientific misunderstanding: even after the invention of the microscope, people were drawing little humans inside the head of the sperm.

    The ranking of rape as a lesser sin than masturbation had to be the epitome of this wacked-out train of thought: the argument went that at least in rape, no semen was spilled.

    We protestants do indeed reject Papal infallibility, as the ping-ponging on the subject of the beginning of life by Popes so aptly demonstrates (wasn’t it Pope Pius IX who came up with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility?).

    Catholics who reject the church’s teaching on contraception ought to leave the church. We’d be glad to have them.

    This would have the added advantage of solving the problem of the shortage of priests in the USA for you folks. The financial status of the church might not respond as well to my suggestion.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 6:28 am
  22. Funky Dung wrote:

    Rob, whether or not the Church actually taught sexual ethics as you’ve portrayed, or if she was wrong in doing so if she did, if very much a red herring to this discussion. You have failed to address Catholic sexual ethics as they are currently understood and taught. We can argue about development of doctrine some other time. 😉

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 11:41 am
  23. Lightwave wrote:

    I’m no expert on the subject, but I have one observation.

    As the post mentions, Hmanae Vitae states “any artificial method to block a pregnancy went against the nature of the act.” Yet the Church advocates Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a form of contraception (though they don’t call it that). I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that sex by a stopwatch is just as unnatural as a condom.

    Folks can throw about as many caveats as they like about how there’s still a possibility of pregnancy with NFP, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t designed to frustrate the possibility of pregnancy. Additionally, NFP advocates state that NFP is *more* effective than condoms or The Pill.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 3:12 pm
  24. Lightwave wrote:

    After making my last comment, Funky suggested it might be post-worthy. A post is forthcomming (within the hour) on my last subject. Look for it on the blog.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 3:33 pm
  25. Lightwave wrote:

    My post is up here: http://alesrarus.funkydung.com/archives/2198

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 4:05 pm

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