Thursday, February 16, 2006

Um, I think they missed the point...

of B XVI's encyclical. From our "friends" at Reuters: (my comments in bold)

Encouraged by Pope Benedict's encyclical on love, a Roman Catholic bishop and a group of Christian intellectuals in France are urging the Vatican to reopen the debate on its ban on artificial birth control.

Bishop Francis Deniau told the Catholic magazine Le Pelerin this week that Benedict's first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), which was widely praised for the positive way it spoke about sexual love, was a hopeful sign for possible change.

Sociologist Catherine Gremion noted the encyclical -- the highest form of papal writing -- did not condemn Catholic couples "who do not manage to live out their love in strict respect for Church teachings."

"That's an important sign," said Gremion, one of the co-authors of a book by Christian intellectuals entitled "The Church and Contraception -- the Urgent Need to Change."

Um, OK. So it didn't condemn couples who "do not manage to live out their love in strict respect for Church teaching." It just basically said that if you don't live it in regards to Church teaching, then you're cheapening it and taking away the sacred character. But that's not a condemnation, or anything.

Benedict made clear last November he was not considering any change in the contraception ban and that family planning was only allowed by the "rhythm method" of abstinence from sex during a woman's fertile period.

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.

In his encyclical last month, Benedict wrote that the Church was long seen as being "opposed to the body" but it actually believed that erotic love and selfless love were both important aspects of the same phenomenon.

The document was widely praised for its positive tone, which was somewhat surprising because of the stern conservative stand the pope took in his previous post as top Vatican doctrinal expert.

A "positive tone" on love is one thing, a radical change in policy is another. Both JP II and B XVI see human love as a awonderful thing--so wonderful and so important that it deserves the highest respect and careful treatment. Birth control does not allow for the full expression of selfless love between members of the couple and does not allow the couple to be open to God's will for them; in fact, birth control shuts off that outlet for God's grace. And why is "conservative" always aligned with "prudish" or bad sexual tones? Conservatives treat sex with more respect than liberals do, that's for sure. And why not? It's only slightly important.

Deniau, bishop of Nevers in eastern France, noted that a papal commission had advised in 1966 to allow it, but Pope Paul ignored their recommendation after consulting several cardinals, including the future Pope John Paul.

"The analyses made by the first commission in 1966, which did not condemn contraception, are worth being reviewed and debated," Deniau said. He said many Catholics found they could not follow the "rhythm method" of family planning.

"It's important that these things are not seen in a rigid fashion," he said.

ah, the great liberal word--'ridgid'. You know, if Moses came down the mountain today in Nevers, France (incidentially the place where Bernadette is buried), this bishop would probably say he's being too 'ridgid'. Sheesh.


antonia said...

Those sorts of article really bug me too. I hate how they try to twist everything and don't even understand what they are writing about.

Thanks for your comments!


andrea said...

Alright - I'm really really not playing Devil's advocate here or trying to be dumb. I just have a question. And I apologize for being specific....

I can understand why the Catholic church is against abortion, and even "the pill" birth control (even though it's main action is to prevent the release of an egg, it also has "back-ups" that will prevent implantation of already-fertilized eggs, therefore being, by some people's definition, a form of abortion).

My question: why are they against the use of condoms or other types of physical barrier birth control?

Emily said...

The Church is against condoms and other forms of birth control (other than, say, if you have really heavy periods or something and you need to be on birth control for reasons other than preventing pregnancy) is because the Church teaches that marital relations have multiple purposes. One of those, naturally, is to bind the couple together. Pleasure is also part of it. But the Church seess sex as a life-giving act that allows us to participate in God's works of creation. It also is totally selfless--each person is totally open to the other and to God, saying that they will receive whatever God chooses to bless them with in way of a child.

Using birth control stunts this process because it's not totally selfless--it says, well I may love you, but I don't want the consequences of what we're doing (and the Church is big on the idea that actions have results), and says to God, I don't trust Your judgement about what's best for me. I can decide the way of my life, thank you. It's a bit like saying you trust God in some ways, but not others.

The Church does advocate NFP, which must work on some level or else I'd have 11 or 12 brothers and sisters hopping around. :) Yes, it takes more effort, but it requires the husband and wife to work together to control their marital relations, which is what the church is going for. The Church also feels that the use of birth control can make sex into just a "thing" and strip it of its sacramental character. In Catholic theology, the material (i.e., our bodies, whatever) is very important in talking about the mysteries of the Church and of God. We see God in everything--bread and wine at Mass, in our own bodies, in the consumation of marriage vows.

This might all seem a bit high-falutin', but it's the way the Church sees it. And until 1930, all Christian churches were against the use of artificial birth control, so over 1900 years went by before it was a challenged idea. It must have held water...and the Church maintains that it still does.

BTW, if any of my readers are more informed on this than me, or I made a mistake, let me know. :)

andrea said...

Wow, that was definitely an in-depth answer! But exactly what I was looking for. It is something which I have always wondered why the Catholic church is so against it, so now this makes more sense.

I agree with the idea of it making it more into a "thing" (as you put it) :-) and takes away some of the sacred-ness of it. I am also a huge fan of actions-and-consequences, and think in general, whatever you do, you have to be willing to accept the consequences of whatever you're doing (in all aspects of life, not just with sex). So, from what I understand of these two reasons for the ban, that makes a lot of sense to me.

2 arguments (or I guess comments, because I'm not trying to convince you or anyone else about my own views):

1) Birth control doesn't have to be selfish (or, non-selfless, which I guess isn't really a word). Whereas the pill could be, a condom could be seen as being selfless, because it's the guy's form of birth control, and if it's the woman who doesn't want kids, he's doing that for her, not because he doesn't want the consequences. But I guess someone is still trying to avoid it here.

2) I think it's interesting how different religions stop at a different point along the "letting God's will happen" line. For example, birth control says you don't trust God's natural way of things and that you are taking control of the situation yourself (Catholic stand). However, some religions (in my opinion, crazy ones) take this a step (or many steps) further, not providing themselves or their kids with medical treatment for simple diseases because they believe it is interfering with God's way of things. I admit, I do see that the second situation is a exaggeration of the first, but they both use the same reasoning.

Closing ideas:
- I wonder why other churches started accepting birth control in 1930. From what I can tell with a little research into contraception history, it seems like (a) the whole country was against it before then and (b) this is when actual "reliable" methods became available. Maybe it just wasn't as big of a deal before because it wasn't widely used or available?
- You mention that medical reasons are ok. However, if the person was also at the time having sex, it would be effectively working as birth control - what's the opinion on that? (Ok, now I am just playing Devil's advocate here :-))

feel free to respond back.... and thanks again for the great response!