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Apr 07

The Church in the Modern World

contraception

Sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are bad things, right? So, the Church should let people prevent them through the use of contraceptives, right? Wrong. Let’s break down the reasons why.

Sex should not be separated from marriage. Pre- and extramarital sex – vaginal, oral, manual, anal, wherever – is at all times and in all situations improper. Furthermore, marital intercourse must have two aspects, unitive and procreative. Casual sex denies the former (and often the latter). Contraception obviously denies the latter. Less obviously, barrier methods prevent full unity. A husband’s body is not his own, but belongs to his wife. Likewise, a wife’s body belongs to her husband. To use a condom is to withhold the man’s seed to his wife and to use a diaphragm is to deny a woman’s seed to her husband.

What about the people dying from [insert disease here] because the Church forbids them to use condoms? Millions are dying (in Africa for instance) not for want of condoms but for want of self-control. Giving condoms to them is like putting a bandaid on a massive hemorrhage. How are we to help people who so obviously can’t or won’t control themselves? We need to teach them the value of chastity and monogamy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush in some prejudicial sense. I am merely looking at the statistics. I’ve said similarly disparaging things about people who choose to smoke in spite of the clear medical evidence that it’s unhealthy. Filters are like condoms. They don’t solve the problem – obstinate people who won’t do what’s good for them and cease risky behavior. Obviously, this analogy can only go so far since smoking is nowhere near as bad as promiscuous sex in the midst of a deadly pandemic, but I think the gist is clear. Besides, how can anyone be so certain allowing Catholics to use condoms would help? If the people who are spreading the disease are Catholic, they’re obviously not following the Church’s moral proclamations pertaining to pre- and extramarital sex. If they’re ok with breaking that rule, why don’t they break the rule about artificial birth control? The more I think about this, the less I think this is a Church problem. It’s not like the Church is barring secular or other religious institutions from providing condoms to people.

Unity and procreation must be intimately connected. The love between a man and a woman should be so superabundant that it must be expressed in the formation of another person to be loved. I think Sacred Tradition and Scripture clearly indicate that if one is not ready to have children, one should not yet marry. Children are not an optional side-effect of marital union. They are the obvious, natural end. There should be no such thing as an unwanted child. Those unwilling to raise children should a) refrain from marriage and intercourse b) give up the children they have for adoption. Those willing but unable to have children should adopt. Planned Parenthood’s catch phrase of “every child a wanted child” shouldn’t mean “If a child is unwanted, kill it”, but rather, “There is no such thing as an unwanted child”.

It is as a consequence of these truths that I take issue with the Church. I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by natural family planning (NFP). Too often, it is used explicitly as a contraceptive method – a very effective one at that. The Church teaches that one should always use NFP apologetically and only for grave reasons. What constitutes a grave reason? I think many couples practitioners use it because they don’t want children for various selfish reasons and because it’s not forbidden by the Church. Some want the Church to make artificial contraception licit. Far from that, I’d like the Church to be clearer about the ways in which NFP is often illicit.

abortion and stem cell research

Abortion is part of a contraceptive mentality. As already stated, children are not an optional side-effect of marital union. They are the obvious, natural end. Besides, preventing unwanted pregnancies by abortion is like preventing unwanted weight gain by inducing vomiting. It’s unnatural, unhealthy, and illogical.

The Church currently teaches that human life begins at conception and must be protected. Thus, abortion and embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) are both unacceptable. If the Church were to ever change its belief that life begins at conception, ESCR might become acceptable, but abortion would not because it subverts the natural end of copulation.

“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13-16

homosexuality

I find the United Church of Christ’s recent TV ads very insulting because they imply that to reject active homosexuality is the same as rejecting the aged, the inform, those of color, etc. It’s a sort of “guilt by association” trick. I’m suddenly as bad and nasty and unChristian as though who discriminate based on age, race, etc. We’re told Christianity is a religion of love and acceptance, so we should accept embrace homosexuals without question. Acceptance of homosexuality is a thoroughly unChristian thing to do. Sexual activity outside unitive and procreative intercourse in the context of the marriage between a man and a woman is always and everywhere sinful. Homosexual activity is contrary to the created order and an abomination in the eyes of God.

Even if it is sinful, some say, it should be accepted because the Church is full of sinners that don’t get excluded for their sins. The problem with this analogy is that the Church, while not sending people away, doesn’t condone their sins. To accept the gay lifestyle without criticism would be like accepting adultery, abuse, theft, blasphemy, or any number of common-place sins. Gays want to be able to be part of the Church without having to renounce homosexual behaviors. If you want to say homosexuality is just one of a myriad of sins committed by Christians, at least recognize that like any sin it must be confessed with contrition and the sinner must earnestly desire to stop committing it. We can’t have a double standard for sin such that we look the other way when certain groups are offended because their favorite sin isn’t accepted as normal or righteous behavior.

An important thing to remember is that Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin. That phrase doesn’t appear explicitly in Scripture, but the idea does.

“‘but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.'” – John 8:1-11

After the adulteress’ accusers depart, Jesus tells her to sin no more. How about Zacheus? He gave up his sinful ways to become a disciple of Christ. If Jesus spoke about homosexuality, it’s not recorded. That doesn’t mean Scripture has nothing to say about it. Should we be judgmental of homosexuals? No. Does that mean homosexuality is OK in God’s eyes? No.

I don’t have time right now to find Paul’s condemnation of it. Jesus’ views on marriage aren’t hard to find, though.

“Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.’ “- Matthew 19:1-12

  1. Jesus refers to Genesis and reaffirms the importance of maleness and femaleness as they were created.
  2. Man and woman are to become one flesh, not two men or two women.
  3. Jesus teaches against divorce, which was permitted under Mosaic law. When He later fulfilled and superceded the old covenant, the ceremonial laws were essentailly repealed, but the moral laws were left in tact (see Paul for evidence of this, particularly Galatians), which state that homosexuality is an abonimation in the sight of God.
  4. I believe that those who suffer from same-sex attraction but refrain from acting on it are counted among those who are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:12).

There are some things the Church can change and other it can’t change. Of the former, there are some the Church might be willing to change and others it probably won’t. Dissident Catholics and the news media need to learn the differences. It is unclear whether the next pope will allow married priests. It is doubtful that he will lift the ban on artificial contraception. It is highly unlikely that he will allow female priests. He will not declare abortion or homosexual acts acceptible.

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