Monday, November 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

Benedict's [recent] concession [on the use of condoms] applies only to disease prevention. But it shakes the foundations of the church's injunction against contraception. Humanae Vitae didn't object to birth control per se. On the contrary, it invited couples to "take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile." As Ross Douthat notes, it's hard for many Catholics to understand why the church forbids condom use but "permits me to rigorously chart my temperature and/or measure my cervical mucus every day in an effort to avoid conception." So the pope falls back on Humanae Vitae's broader distinction: "Natural" birth control is a practice, whereas "artificial" birth control is just a technical expedient. The rhythm method, he reasons, is "not just a method but a way of life." In this respect, it's "fundamentally different from when I take the pill without binding myself interiorly to another person, so that I can jump into bed with a random acquaintance."

The pope really needs to get out more. Millions of people take the pill, wear IUDs, or use condoms as a way of life. They do so to bind themselves to another person, not to jump into bed with random acquaintances. They hope to spare their partners not only disease, but the creation of a new life they aren't prepared to bring into the world. This is the opposite of exploitation. It's an act of care, responsibility, and reverence.

Humanae Vitae was right about love. It was wrong about contraception, but that error can be corrected. It might take decades or centuries, but Benedict's reflections are a good start. They're a first step in the direction of a moralization, a more human way of living sexuality.

– William Saletan
"Moral Sex: The Pope, Condoms, and the Ethics of Contraception"

November 29, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pope Embraces an Acceptable Form of Relativism
Quote of the Day - November 24, 2010
The Pope's Latest Condom Remarks
Robert McClory on Humanae Vitae
The Standard for Sexual Ethics: Human Flourishing, Not Openness to Procreation
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
"A Wise and Thoughtful Study of Sexual Ethics"
Donald Hanway's "Fresh Look at a Sensitive Topic"
Joan Timmerman on the "Wisdom of the Body"
Making Love, Giving Life

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Catholic Church, Condoms and "Lesser Evils" – David Gibson (The New York Times, November 27, 2010).
It's Not Just About Male Prostitutes – Phyllis Zagano (National Catholic Reporter, November 24, 2010).


Dan said...

I would like to offer an alternative perspective. I came into full communion with the Catholic Church as an adult in large part due to her clear and constant teaching on marriage and human sexuality. When my then fiancee (who was also not Catholic at the time) suggested we take Natural Family Planning classes prior to getting married, I was at first taken aback. I had some vague notion that we should wait until we were married to have sex, but as a young man I was looking forward to being married and being totally "free" to be with my wife. I thought the required times of abstinence that are a part of modern NFP would stifle our sponaneity and freedom.

I was completely wrong. Humanae Vitae was completely right. I came to love the Church's teaching that human sexuality must always be open to life and to love. It is very different to exercise self control during a more fertile time if a couple has discerned they should be waiting to conceive then to pop a pill and forget it. Or to place a barrier between the man and women during what should be the most open and intimate moments of their marriage. Contraception actively works against the natural purpose of sex - to give life. It is much more liberating to live without this contradiction festering at the heart of our marriage.

I disagree that the "pope really needs to get out more." How many of those people have EVER tried living what Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church teach? Has Mr. Saletan? He should at least do a bit of research online to learn that the "rhythm method" is completely different from modern NFP. Perhaps he ought to get out more!

Mark said...

I'll try stating what Dan did, not as well, but a little more briefly:

Sex has a job. That job includes fun, but is not only fun.

Sex, in the fullest sense, is most civilized & human when it makes new human beings. Children, in turn, have the effect of civilizing & making true human beings out of their mother & father.

As a man and a father, I'd say especially the father.

Sex is a part of human life which places us closest to our animal forbearers. Flourishing, for humans and our animal forbearers, ancestors & relatives, is, in the strict sense, the creation of new life. I suggest this is the primordial form of culture. Sexual pleasure is an inducement to & for this behavior.

The fact that sex does not always result in offspring does not negate the fundamental job of sex. The fact that sex is intimate, pleasurable, enjoyable & desirable does not, thereby, raise intimacy, pleasure, enjoyment & desire to a superior or preferable position relative to sexual reproduction. Each completes and elevates the other.

A truly just sexuality doesn't limit itself to my pleasure, my partner's pleasure, or my partner's "flourishing." A truly just sexuality privileges the biggest strangers in my life: the existence, nurture and raising up of my children, of all children.

It puts adults where they should be, protecting the weak and putting their shoulders to the wheel in a myriad of tasks and often a thankless martyrdom. To paraphrase the Christian Scriptures, the best we can hope for is to be "good and faithful servants. We are only doing what we've been called to do and have committed to do."

Mareczku said...

You made a point, Dan. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.