IS CONTRACEPTION A SIN?

Now that 2008 is approaching, Rome will be getting ready to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical promulgated by Pope Paul VI banning artificial birth control.

Celebrate? Not in this corner. I remember in 1968 when Humanae Vitae came out, I was having drinks with one of the most renowned Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, the Jesuit, Bernard Lonergan. He turned to me with incredulity and said, “This decision will set the church back 400 years.”

So what happened? Pope John XXXIII had set up an international commission, including men and women, to consider the use of contraception in marriage. After careful and lengthy deliberations the overwhelming view of the Papal Commission and of the worldwide submissions from the laity favoured the responsible use of contraception in marriage.

But Pope Paul VI, persuaded by a small clique of ultra-conservative bishops, got cold feet and rejected the views coming from both the papal commission and the laity. It is no exaggeration to say that now, almost 40 years later, Humanae Vitae was the most disastrous pronouncement from the papacy in centuries.

The response from most of the laity and theologians during the last four decades has been negative. Inevitably this brings into play a solid theological dictum, the “sensus fidelium.” This means that the faithful, as a whole, have an instinct or “sense” about when a teaching is – or is not – in harmony with true faith.

The fact of the matter is the Catholic faithful, by and large, have not “accepted” this teaching. The Canadian Catholic Bishops espoused this view when, in their famous Winnipeg statement, they advised Canadian Catholics to study Humanae Vitae, then follow their own conscience.

Even local church authorities seem to subscribe to this view. When was the last time you heard a priest or even a Catholic bishop preach on contraception, much less teach that the practice is a mortal sin worthy of eternal damnation unless it is stopped and repented of immediately?

Is there anybody out there who still believes artificial contraception is a mortal sin?

Would you agree that papal authority has been seriously damaged by this ill-considered teaching?

y

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43 Comments »

  1. 1
    Joe Agnost Says:

    I know several catholics… and not ONE of them abides by this rule. Contraception is as common among catholics as anyone else in my experience.

    I’ve always been amazed that people of faith have such little problem picking and choosing the rules they abide by – isn’t breaking even ONE rule grounds for a one-way ticket to hell (unless they confess of course)??

    I don’t even understand the rule… how is contraception wrong, if practiced within a monogamous relationship?

  2. 2
    James Bow Says:

    I had a similar discussion on this topic here.

  3. 3
    Chimera Says:

    I think the whole idea of “sin” needs to be revisited, broken into pieces, and thrown bodily into a chipper.

    Where do a bunch of supposedly-chaste old men get off telling anyone else when and how to have sex? Where do a bunch of confirmed bachelors get the idea that they have any knowledge of what makes a marriage? And why do people who deliberately cut themselves off from the rest of the world think they have the authority to tell anyone else what constitutes a family?

  4. 4
    Don Says:

    Yes I am one, contraception is a mortal sin. God is outside of time, so what was wrong 2000 years ago is still wrong today, because God doesn’t change. (This of course is speaking about morality not Catholic disciplines such as eating meat of Fridays).

    Perhaps the Holy Spirit led the Pope to write this encyclical? How come the Catholic Church is the only major Christian church still against contraception when up until 1930 all Christians were against contraception? How can something be a sin in 1930 and then fine in the 1960’s?

    Yes, most Catholics are in favor of using contraception, that doesn’t mean that they are right. A large portion of Christians once supported Arianism, including the majority of the bishops, and they turned out to be wrong. Catholics today don’t believe that Arianism is correct. So just because the majority believes in something doesn’t make it true.
    The Church lost a lot of members back in fourth century and she is still around 1700 years later.

    Pope Paul VI also made a few predictions in Humanae Vitae (17).

    1. Widespread use of contraception would lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.
    2. Man would lose respect for woman and would tend to consider her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.
    3. Widespread acceptance of contraception would be a weapon in the hands of public authorities who take no heed of “moral exigencies.”
    4. The more contraception was accepted, the more man would believe he had unlimited sovereignty over his body.

    I think even people who are in favor of contraception can see that these predictions have come true in the last 40 years. “By their fruits you shall know them” as Jesus said, we can see that the contraceptive mentality has been disastrous for the world.
    There are a growing number of younger Catholics that are in agreement with the Church because they have seen what the sexual revolution has done to the world. I am 35 and I am one of them.

    Here are my suggestions, please read (with an open mind):
    Humanae Vitae again (especially if has been forty years)
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church
    Evangelium Vitae by Pope John Paul II
    The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II

    The first three can all be found on line.

    Also you can listen to Janet Smith’s CD Contraception Why Not

    Finally, I think that people thing of morality too much in a legalistic way “do this, don’t do that” instead of realizing morality has been give to us by God to help us live a better life. He created us therefore he knows the best way for us to live and to be happy.

    Don

  5. 5
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “1. Widespread use of contraception would lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”

    This one might be true – but since ‘morality’ is subjective isn’t really relevant. Conjugal infedelity might be more common, but I’m not sure contraception is to blame… IF it’s more common at all!

    “2. Man would lose respect for woman and would tend to consider her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

    This is a ridiculous statement… totally false.

    “3. Widespread acceptance of contraception would be a weapon in the hands of public authorities who take no heed of ‘moral exigencies.’”

    I don’t know what this means…

    “4. The more contraception was accepted, the more man would believe he had unlimited sovereignty over his body.”

    This one is peculiar to me…. shouldn’t we have “unlimited sovereignty” over our bodies?? How is this a bad thing?!

    What are your reason(s), Don, for thinking contraception is a “mortal sin”?? Is it the 4 points the pope predicted or something else?

  6. 6
    Chimera Says:

    “1. Widespread use of contraception would lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.
    2. Man would lose respect for woman and would tend to consider her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.
    3. Widespread acceptance of contraception would be a weapon in the hands of public authorities who take no heed of “moral exigencies.”
    4. The more contraception was accepted, the more man would believe he had unlimited sovereignty over his body.”

    As to these points of “prediction”:

    1. That wasn’t difficult to predict. All he was doing was extrapolating from history when it comes to “conjugal infidelity.” We are not a naturally monogamous animal. We have never adhered to conjugal fidelity. The invention of “morality” is an artificial attempt to control the behavior of others.

    2. Women don’t want “respect” in bed. They want a rollicking good time, just as men do. Selfish enjoyment should be for everyone.

    3. I ain’t gonna touch this one until someone translates it for me. What is it supposed to mean? Plain speaking, please.

    4. You mean, I don’t have unlimited sovereigny over my own body? Who’s gonna be the one brave enough to step into my line of sight and tell me I don’t have ownership of the container in which I live? Wear armor. You’ll need it.

  7. 7
    SUZANNE Says:

    I am a Catholic who considers contraception a sin.

    The Church doesn’t make up Divine Revelation. From the beginning, sexual acts that are not open to procreation have been condemned by the Church.

    The Church believes this is Divine Revelation. The “sensus fidelium” is not infallible.

    ““2. Man would lose respect for woman and would tend to consider her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

    This is a ridiculous statement… totally false.”

    It’s absolutely true. Contraception has made the spread of pornography easier. In pornography, women are not multi-dimensional beings. They’re objects of men’s fantasies. Pornography has debased humanity to the point now that pedophilia is becoming more prevalent.

    Contraception has been a disaster for humankind. Contraception is the reason why we have abortion: because babies are not considered blessings to begin with, abortion is the backup necessary to get rid of that “curse”.

  8. 8
    Chimera Says:

    “Contraception is the reason why we have abortion…”

    *whew* Babycakes, if you could leap in reality the way you leap in what you call “logic,” I’d want you on the Olympic team. If I were at all interested in the Olympics, that is. Because, hands down, you’d bring back the gold medal.

    You are noted for saying that feminists do not speak for women. Well, guess what? You don’t speak for women, either.

    There are lots of women who enjoy what you call pornography. And they do not feel the least bit diminished or objectified. They and their partners often use it to enhance their sexuality.

    Not all babies are blessings. After all, you’re not the least bit interested in someone’s fetus after it’s born, so how great can they be? Not every woman wants one or a dozen of her own. Some women view the thought of motherhood and pregnancy with abject horror. I know lots of women like that. Men, too. Contraception lets women like these enjoy an active sex life without having to worry about any unwanted consequences. How can you sit there and justify the outlandish statement that contraception causes abortion?

    Sexuality is to be enjoyed, otherwise an orgasm wouldn’t feel as wonderful as it does. It’s the Church’s (those chaste, celibate, isolated old men I was talking about) teaching — that sex is dirty unless the Church says it’s okay and then only if you read and follow the instructions, lie back and grit your teeth and think of England or some such stupidity — that denigrates and harms women and men.

  9. 9

    Suzanne:

    “The ‘sensus fidelium’ is not infallible.”
    Quite true. But is it your view that the church’s teaching on contraception is infallible? If that were true, why would Pope Paul V1 have consulted an international commission with the possibility of changing the teaching?

  10. 10
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    The wife and I had three children, including twins. One the first time, 2 the second time. We did not take any chances afterward. My mother in law, a devout catholic, was against Humanae Vitae. She was happy to see that women now could look at their husbands and sex without fear. If that is a mortal sin, well the wife and I will burn. But I believe God is not as vengeful as past teachings have made him to be.
    By the way, contaception is as old as sex.

  11. Most sex acts are not moral. Firstly, sex is only moral as an act of two people, neither more nor less. Secondly, sex is only moral as an act of one woman and one man. Thirdly, sex is only moral as an act of a husband and his wife, married in the eyes of God. Fourthly, sex is only moral when its purpose is the conception of a child.

    That fourth item is particularly scandalous to modern Christians, many of whom have wholeheartedly embraced a worldly, impassioned view of sex, engaging often in deliberately infertile sex acts to satisfy their pleasure. I understand that certain circumstances make conception imprudent, but where is it written that married couples must frequently have sex? Why do we consider it unthinkable or impossible to deny ourselves sex? St. Paul wrote, “let those having wives act as not having them” (1 Cor. 7: 29). If we were Godly, such a denial of pleasure would be no burden. Many married Christians rightly acknowledge that sex ought to be denied to the celibate, to the widowed, to the unmarried, and to the homosexual, but are unwilling to deny themselves even for a few years.

    continued:

    http://holydormition.blogspot.com/2007/05/sex.html

  12. In 1968, a Catholic commission examining married life and birth regulation awaited the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae. Speculations ran wild. Catholics of a traditional mind knew that the Pope could not contradict the teaching of the Church. Catholics of a “progressive” mind hoped for a sweeping reform of Catholic sexual ethics. This is what they received. So outraged were they that artificial contraception was not permitted by even this most permissive of popes that they failed to observe that he had altered an ancient teaching of the Church about sex. What he approved, which we now call “natural family planning,” was specifically and universally condemned by Church teaching until the early to mid twentieth century. Pope Pius XII, in an Address to Midwives, was the first to suggest there may be permissible occasions for such methods.

    It strikes me that the Early Church Fathers would have been dismayed to hear the successors of Peter preaching such things. Sex, in their view, is for making babies. This is its end and purpose. The distinction between artificial contraception and NFP would therefore be moot.

    continued:

    http://holydormition.blogspot.com/2007/05/more-sex.html

  13. 13
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Contraception has made the spread of pornography easier.”

    Really? It’s contraception and not the capitalist mentality and (clearly) huge sums of money that is made off it?
    I think you’re wrong – porn has always been around.

    “In pornography, women are not multi-dimensional beings. They’re objects of men’s fantasies.”

    Are you aware that men appear in porn too? Aren’t they being objectified too?

    Women enjoy porn too by the way…

    “Pornography has debased humanity to the point now that pedophilia is becoming more prevalent.”

    What an utterly ridiculous statement…

  14. 14
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Most sex acts are not moral.”

    Unbelievable… Morality is subjective AND something to be enjoyed – not subjected to rules made by crusty old men sworn to chastity.

  15. 15
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “where is it written that married couples must frequently have sex?”

    You must not be married. Sex is a VERY pleasurable thing, and is free and accessable – why deny it?

    I should have read your whole post before replying about the moral part of it…. You’ve blown me away with your views on sex, I really didn’t know anybody actually thought this way.

    “If we were Godly, such a denial of pleasure would be no burden.”

    But why on earth would a loving god want to deny us something you describe as pleasurable?? How does that make ANY sense at all?!

    It always boggles my mind when religious people talk about sacrifice for their faith – why would god derive any pleasure denying his subjects pleasure? The mere idea is ridiculous to me!

    All this sacrificing for a potential afterlife I guess… I’ve decided to enjoy the life I’ve been given to the fullest – you only get one life!!

  16. 16

    Exactly. Presumably God created sex and the pleasure associated with sex. Both are good. Why should we wear a hair shirt while enjoying them?

  17. 17
    SUZANNE Says:

    Quite true. But is it your view that the church’s teaching on contraception is infallible? If that were true, why would Pope Paul V1 have consulted an international commission with the possibility of changing the teaching?

    There was no intention of “changing a teaching”. It was understood that condoms were not allowed. The issue was the Pill– which is a non-barrier method. It was already taught in Casti Conubii that all acts must be open to procreation, but it was wondered how that teaching would apply in the context of the discovery of the Pill. The Pill made the question a different issue in the minds of those who wanted to challenged the teaching, but the Pope said no– it’s all the same. You can’t suppress fertility on purpose.

    You do not need to want to conceive for every sex act. You simply need to not stop the biological processes of the sexual act (see– people wanted to know whether this included suppressing the woman’s fertility). And there needs to be acceptance of every child as a gift of God. The contraceptive mentality considers fertility and childbearing a curse, not a blessing.

  18. 18
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “The contraceptive mentality considers fertility and childbearing a curse”

    Nice rhetoric!

    You seem unable to realize that not everything is black_and_white. Using birth control doesn’t necessarily mean child bearing is thought of as a “curse”… there might be several other reasons for using it.

    I have no choice myself… what does your church think of my vasectomy?

  19. 19
    Chimera Says:

    “And there needs to be acceptance of every child as a gift of God.”

    Y’know, the Southeast Asians have the very same attitude, and they use it as a weapon against their social enemies. It’s called the White Elephant, which is a sacred animal in the Buddhist religion, as well as a cultural icon for the entire region. Much the same way children are considered to be sacred in the Catholic religion.

    If you are given a white elephant as a “gift” you may not refuse it. Nor can you return it or give it to someone else. You are stuck with it.

    You have to feed and water it, give it exercise (taking time out of your other obligations to do that), house it, clean it, and place its welfare above all else. You also have to pay for all this. You may not sell it, rent it out, charge admission to view it, or otherwise recoup any financial losses. It must not be made to do any work. It is a sacred animal, and you are stuck with it. And if you go bankrupt in the process of caring for it, well, that’s the will of the gods. Count your blessings.

  20. Joe Agnost,

    You have repeatedly written that morality (distinction between right and wrong) is subjective – a position tantamount to saying that truth is relative, in which case, why argue your position (or any position)? I suppose you might retort, why not?

    If, in fact, morality is subjective (modified by individual bias) all positions have equal weight – your position is just as right and just as wrong as any other position. It would be more economical, were this the case, for everyone to just shut up – you included.

    Morality is not subjective. There are absolute truths, absolute wrongs, and absolute rights.

    Morality does, on the other hand, have a lot to do with intention and situation.

    You further write that morality is “something to be enjoyed.” This is actually quite profound, though I don’t think in quite the sense you intended. A moral life is, in fact, a far more pleasurable life. In many situations, there is one pleasure and there is a greater pleasure. The pleasures of the flesh, while good, are less than the pleasures of love.

    Sex is one of the great pleasures of my life. Not just physically, but spiritually as well. The primary reason for this great pleasure is that God loves humanity – which is to say He wants lots more of us. It gives God Himself pleasure to create new life; participating in that act of creation is consequently endowed with some taste of that pleasure.

    Now let me tell you about a greater pleasure: my love for my son. Have you ever been spontaneously overwhelmed with such pure joy – such ecstacy that tears poured from your eyes and you could do nothing but stand in awe – your very heart seething with the all the awesomeness of life? Such was my experience of my son’s birth. He is the reason for sex. Something so good as sex has an even better end. I would, in a heart beat, trade in every other sexual experience of my life to spare the ones that gave my children life.

    Your vasectomy is a tragedy. You do, despite what you say, have a choice – microsurgical vasectomy reversal is often effective – it’s just that you’ve made that choice.

  21. Neil McKenty wrote: “Presumably God created sex and the pleasure associated with sex. Both are good. Why should we wear a hair shirt while enjoying them?”

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how this metaphor relates to contraception. If anything, a condom is more of a “hair shirt” than its absence.

    God created the pleasure associated with sex so that we would want to have it – and often. God created sex as a means of creating new life – abundantly.

  22. 22

    I doubt I’ll do justice to the Church’s teaching on this matter, but here goes…

    The Catholic Church sees marriage, and therefore sex, as something sacramental, a means of receiving sanctifying grace, the life of God within us that unites us to that divine dance of love called the Trinity. Marriage is one of the sacraments, like baptism and the Eucharist. The reason why the Church is so concerned with matters of sex, such as contraception, is because it sees sex as having a profoundly holy and sacred meaning. In the sexual act, the lover intimately encounters not only the human beloved (and vice versa), but the two also encounter the living God. The Church is not in the business of controlling everyone’s sex life, which it really has no power to do. The Church does what we all do: proclaim what we understand to be the truth about human sexuality.

    From the Catholic standpoint, sex is meant to be an expression of love, and love is understood as a total gift of self. Given this understanding of love as a total gift of self, any holding back of oneself during the sexual act would diminish the loving character of the act. The Church believes that deliberately holding back one’s fertility is a way of denying part of oneself to the beloved. Using contraception makes it impossible to give one’s self totally.

    For this reason, the Church teaches that in every act of sex, the couple must be open to children. This does not mean that couples have to have sex only when they are fertile. It means that the openness must be there so that the gift of self may be complete.

    As I see the matter, the Church’s teaching on contraception is simply consistent with its teaching on the nature of sexuality. Of course, many readers of Neil’s blog no doubt disagree with the Church’s understanding of sexuality, and so likely disagree with its teaching on birth control.

  23. 23

    John R.P. Russell:

    I think the metaphor about the hair shirt may have been misleading. I meant that the pleasure of sex – given by God – should not be shrouded in same and guilt about contraception but should be enjoyed freely.

  24. Neil McKenty,

    Thank you for explaining.

    One way to avoid shame and guilt about contraception is to not use it.

    If something is sinful, shame and guilt are appropriate emotions to feel upon committing it.

  25. 25
    Chimera Says:

    “One way to avoid shame and guilt about contraception is to not use it.”

    That would most likely end in unwanted pregnancy, John. It’s okay to have sex without wanting children, you know.

    The world is already overpopulated, and people in some countries are starving. You want to create more poverty? More starvation? More disease? More homelessness? Just because someone told you that god says he loves people?

    If he loves them so much, why doesn’t he look after them better? Honestly, a dog owner who treated his pet the way your god treats his pets would end up in prison!

  26. Chimera,

    It is not okay to have sex without wanting children.

    That, I believe, is the crux our disagreement.

    To elaborate, the desire for children need not be an active desire – there need only be willingness and openness to begetting children.

    If, in fact, the world were overpopulated, it would be necessary to zip up our flys, not to put on our rubbers. It may some day come to that, but it hasn’t yet.

    In point of fact, the world is not overpopulated, it is badly distributed – this is due to a capitalist, greedy, uncaring humanity. Poverty, starvation, disease, homelessness are not sufferings created by God, but by people.You are perpetuating the “myth of scarcity.”

    Inequitable distribution and consumption – entirely the fault of human beings, not God – are the cause of the problems you mention.

    “Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn’t even count many other commonly eaten foods — vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs — enough to make most people fat!”

    from:

    http://www.journeytoforever.org/community2.html

  27. If you do not want to be nourished, you should not eat food. Nourishment is the natural end and primary purpose of food.

    Well, what if you’re already full? Then you should stop eating. There is such a thing as an excess of food. To continue eating would be gluttonous and hedonist – even if you find a way (such as bulimia) to avoid some of the deleterious effects of overeating.

    If you do not want to have a baby, you should not have sex. Babies are the natural end and primary purpose of sex.

    Well, what if you’ve already got all the children you can handle (even if that number is zero)? Then you should stop having sex. There is such a thing as too many children. To continue having sex would be lustful and hedonist – even if you find a way (such as the pill) to avoid conception while having too much sex.

    Moderation and dispassion are essential attributes of the Christian life.

  28. 28

    John:

    “If you do not want to have a baby you should stop having sex.”

    So what about those faithful Catholics who use the Billings natural birth control method so they can limit the number of babies they have?

  29. 29
    John Says:

    I agree Neil. I find absolutely no difference between the two couples (artificial contraception vs. Billings method). The intent is absolutely the same: to enter into the act of lovemaking without the concern of an additional pregnancy. The fact that one method leaves open a greater possibility of a pregnancy over the other means nothing to me except that one is less effective than the other.

    Once upon a time, I recall being taught in school that the intent is as important as the act itself. In each of these cases the intent is exactly the same and by approving one the Church is giving recognition to the legitimacy of the intent. Why the Church continues to quibble over the methodolgy is beyond me!

  30. 30
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “You have repeatedly written that morality (distinction between right and wrong) is subjective – a position tantamount to saying that truth is relative”

    Not at all… truth and morals aren’t related in the slightest.

    “If, in fact, morality is subjective (modified by individual bias) all positions have equal weight”

    Correct – they have equal weight MORALLY speaking.

    Your views on sex and contraception are so different from mine, and I consider myself and my views moral – as do you about your views. I accept that your morals are DIFFERENT than mine – not WRONG, just different.

    “You further write that morality is ‘something to be enjoyed.’”

    That was a typo actually – sorry. It meant to say that SEX is somthing to be enjoyed, not subjected to rules made by crusty old men sworn to chastity.

    “Your vasectomy is a tragedy.”

    Actually – when my second was born I couldn’t get it fast enough! I consider it a blessing. 🙂

  31. 31
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “It is not okay to have sex without wanting children.”

    This might be true in your church – but is still only an opinion!

    Many, many people don’t believe in god, or the same god that has you believing this rule… there is no way I’m going to start believing a rule that is derived from a (in my opinion) wrong belief in god.

  32. 32
    John Says:

    In all of this rhetoric, I still fail to realize why the Catholic Church feels it necessary to enter into a discussion of my wife and I’s sex life.

    It’s not because every act of lovemaking has to be tied to the creation of new life. That’s been indicated by the Church’s approval of natural family planning.

    Kyle indicated that “Using contraception makes it impossible to give one’s self totally.” Now while we appreciate the Church’s concern, we would like to assure authorities that after close to 40 years my wife and I have this down pretty good! We know when we’re fully/totally engaged or not!

    The time in our relationship when we were bringing new life into the world and raising our children was a beautiful experience, a true blessing for which we thank God (and still do).

    There came a time, however, when continuing to do that would have placed a strain on our relationship that would have taken us further away from God rather closer. The fact that we had options is something we thanked God for (and still do).

  33. 33
    Chimera Says:

    “If you do not want to have a baby, you should not have sex. Babies are the natural end and primary purpose of sex.”

    So…infertile/sterile people should not have sex? Post-menopausal women should not have sex? Senior citizens should not have sex? Why don’t you say they should all lie down and die? After all, what use are they if they can’t propagate more progeny?

    Your argument about the unequal distribution of wealth is actually in my favor. People in poor countries who cannot grow enough of their own food to support their own population are also the people who need contraception. They are also the countries on which your church has a stranglehold, and your church is bent on forcing them to have more and more children that will die because they cannot get enough to eat. Those countries were doing just fine until your missionary priests started to interfere:

    “Poverty, starvation, disease, homelessness are not sufferings created by God, but by people.”

    Yup. Your people. Chosen-by-god people. Doing-god’s-bidding people. Following-god’s-laws people. Pimping-god’s-rules people.

    Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg were not allowed to get away with, “I was only following orders.” Neither should anyone else.

  34. 34

    From the standpoint of the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality, which it sees as sacred and sacramental, contraception is by definition a sacrilege: it is a misuse of something sacred.

    Many Catholics today disagree with the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception; many Catholics without guilt or regret use condoms and the like. Such Catholics just believe the Church is wrong on this matter, while they are perfectly content to go on considering themselves Catholic.

    There are, however, logical consequences for Catholics holding that the Church is wrong about birth control. The Church’s stance on birth control is neither arbitrary nor divorced from its other teachings: for one, it is the logical conclusion to its teachings on human sexuality. If the Church is wrong about birth control, then it is wrong about sex. Consequences continue. If the Church is wrong about sex, which is sees as sacred and sacramental, then it is wrong about the sacred and about sacraments. If it is wrong about those, then it is wrong about God’s relation to creation, which means that it is wrong about creation, and more grievous still, it is wrong about God.

    So far as I can tell, there is no way around this. The Catholic who holds that the Church is wrong about contraception must, if he or she is to be logically consistent, hold the Church is wrong about God. And that has consequences!

    Picking and choosing just isn’t a compatible approach to Catholicism. It’s teachings are too intimately united to be taken apart. To deny one is to deny the whole. Take out one teaching and the whole thing falls apart.

    Welcome to Catholicism!

  35. 35

    Kyle:
    I think your extrapolation from the Catholic church being wrong about artificial contraception to being wrong about God is absurd.
    There are a hierarchy of values here. There isn’t a word in the Apostle’s
    Creed about birth control. The Catholic church was wrong about usury and slavery but that has no relevance to its teaching about God.

  36. 36
    Chimera Says:

    “If the Church is wrong about sex, which is sees as sacred and sacramental, then it is wrong about the sacred and about sacraments.”

    Not necessarily. The church can easily remove sex from the list and continue on as before. The problem here is that the church set up its own rules, boxed itself into a corner with them, and can’t figure a way out.

    It’s a little like the problem with the monkey and the nut in the jar. It can’t get its fist out of the jar unless it lets go of the nut, and it wants the nut. It cannot yet understand that it can let go the nut, withdraw its hand, then tilt the jar and the nut will fall out.

    If the church lets go of the nut — that is, if it recognizes that sex can be sacred and sacramental, but not necessarily all the time, then the jar will tilt of its own accord and the nut will roll into the waiting open hand.

    “Take out one teaching and the whole thing falls apart.”

    All its eggs in one basket, eh? Unfortunate, that. In a world that is driving into the future at supersonic speed, it is stuck in first gear and refusing to shift. If it’s not careful, its passengers will all get out and either walk or hitchhike with the first vehicle that stops to offer them a ride.

    Okay, I think that’s enough metaphors for one comment…

  37. 37

    Of course there is a hierarchy of values, and a hierarchy of beings for that matter, but the reality of such hierarchies does not mean the values and beings are unrelated. The many teachings of the Church are not a collectivity of unrelated positions; each flows from a Catholic vision of the whole of reality. If the Church is wrong about human sexuality, then there is an error in its vision of the whole. This doesn’t mean that all of its formulas and creeds about God (or other things) are erroneous. For the record, I think the Church is right about human sexuality.

    Chimera, you are right that sex is not sacramental all the time; it can be sacramental only in sacramental marriages. That said, I continue to think that sex is always sacred, though it may be engaged in without a sacred intention.

    If sex is not sacred all of the time, I suppose the question is, what makes sex sacred or not?

  38. 38
    Chimera Says:

    Mmmm…that’s not quite what I meant. You’re opening up, though.

    Sex does not need to be sacred and sacramental even within a sacramental marriage. And it can be sacred and sacramental even without the marriage. What makes it one or the other? I think that would largely depend upon the people involved, and how they define for themselves what is sacred and what is not.

    But in thinking that sex is always sacred, do you mean for Catholics alone? Or for everyone? You could end up bogging down in a cultural quagmire if you try tagging other religions’ sacred acts.

  39. 39

    “Mmmm…that’s not quite what I meant.”

    Yes, of course. Your question exposed some imprecise wording on my part, for which I thank you, and to which I was attempting to offer correction.

    If the way we use language is any indication, when we say that something is sacred, we mean that the thing has the quality of sacredness in itself. If I understand you correctly, you say that the sacredness of sex is not a quality of sex itself but is only there or not there depending upon the beliefs and intentions of those involved. Is this an accurate understanding on my part?

  40. 40
    Chimera Says:

    That’s very close, yes. And it’s very difficult to get the language precise when we’re coming at the subject from two totally different cultures, each with its own interpretation of key words and phrases. I think we’re doing very well, considering all that.

    Sex is a biological function that can be performed in too many different ways to enumerate, and not all of them are pleasing to everyone. But to put the answer in a very basic form, there is a huge difference between a quickie on your coffee break and an hours-long mutual seduction complete with dinner, wine, music, and all the pampering and courtship rituals that can be incorporated. The former is like scratching an itch. The latter is a dedication of one’s entire being, on several levels, to the adoration and pleasure of one’s partner and one’s commitment to the relationship.

    In neither of these instances is conception a necessary element (although I’m given to understand that when couples are trying to conceive, they tend to go for the long game), but the attitude is markedly different for each.

    So…beliefs, intentions, attitudes…I’d say they were all important considerations in trying to decide whether or not an act should be considered sacred, yes. There are probably other things to consider, as well. But I think it’s very important to realize that no outside agency can be allowed to seize the mandate to declare it a sacrament without the consideration and consent of the people involved.

  41. 41
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    The Church is not against Birth Control, ie., Billings method or some other similar method. It is against Artificial Contraception between married couples. It has the power to “Bind and Loose” It has been binding for 2000 years, its about time they did a little loosing.

    Peter LeBlanc

  42. 42
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “The Church is not against Birth Control, ie., Billings method or some other similar method. It is against Artificial Contraception between married couples.”

    What’s the difference?? Why would god care ~HOW~ you avoided pregnancy? Isn’t the ‘avoiding pregnancy’ the point here?

  43. 43
    Chimera Says:

    Peter: Exactly!


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