Why the Catholic Church is still against...
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Jan 23, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Why the Catholic Church is still against contraception

Pope after pope has reaffirmed the Catholic ban on contraception. Pope Francis is the latest in a long line to say it’s a sin

OurWindsor.Ca

In graveyards all across the Catholic world, from Cape Breton to County Clare and beyond, the remains of the faithfully departed and dutifully fertile must have been spinning.

It seems Pope Francis told a news conference on a recent flight back to Rome from the Philippines that Catholics need no longer feel obliged to breed “like rabbits.”

Should these words ease the burden of poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality endured by generations of Catholics as a result of having children by the year, they might be among the most important the Pope ever utters.

Even so, the pontiff was as true to his doctrinal conservatism as he is given to charming colloquialism and firmly upheld the ban on contraceptives in the Catholic bunny hutch.

“God gives you methods to be responsible,” he explained.

To give the Vatican its due, it has probably had more to say over the years on sex than Alfred Kinsey, Masters and Johnson and Shere Hite combined.

Its stance can be traced, as so much can, to the Book of Genesis, in which humanity was straightaway admonished to be fruitful and multiply. God, apparently, was not interested in ifs, ands or buts.

Further along in Genesis, when Onan opted not to impregnate his brother’s widow and instead spilled his seed on the ground, God promptly slew him. (And as unfortunate as this was for Onan, it would one day provide fertile material for the blasphemous likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus).

But let’s move along. About this time of year in 1880, Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical Arcanum (secret or mystery), in which he explained that after having created man from the slime of the earth, God gave him a companion.

This, of course, was Adam and Eve, from whom would follow, Leo said, “an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time.”

On no account was any of this sanction for unbridled lust. Rather, the so-called “marriage act” (which made it sound about as stirring as a private member’s bill) was meant for purposes of procreation.

Marriage “not only looks to the propagation of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church,” Leo said.

In the view of the iconoclastic Swiss priest Hans Kung, it was Pope Pius XI who later “fixed the Catholic church on its pernicious course against birth control” with his encyclical Casti Connubii (chaste union) in 1930.

This pronouncement left no shades of grey. Wicked are those guilty of “frustrating the marriage act,” Pius said. “Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden.”

But those who, engaging in the marriage act, deliberately frustrate its natural purpose “sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

To emphasize the point, Pius here reminded the faithful of poor Onan.

As time passed, and the age of Aquarius and free love dawned, the Second Vatican Council was held. But any who thought it was a harbinger of reform in matters Catholic and connubial were soon disabused of the notion.

In Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae (human life), he acknowledged fears about growing global population and the “new understanding of the dignity of woman.”

Nevertheless, after reflection, he instructed Catholics that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”

Catholics were counselled — even if it be beyond a Tolstoy or Flaubert to make it romantic — to seek “recourse to infertile periods.”

As the planet evolved and the means of controlling fertility advanced, Catholics began to wonder aloud if the Vatican mightn’t be a little fanatical on the matter.

Dr. Jack Dominian, a Catholic marriage counsellor, psychiatrist, author and founder of the Marriage Research Centre in London, put it nicely when he said “every sexual act gives life to the couple and on one or two occasions gives new life.”

It was suggested that the onerous business of subjugating their own desires to vows of celibacy might have skewed the attitudes of Vatican denizens — who, even if they didn’t do it, talked about it an awful lot.

In his biography of Pope John XXIII, the author Thomas Cahill mischievously noted that in 1960, long before he had become pope, the Polish bishop Karol Wojtyla published a book about sex, Love and Responsibility, that contained strikingly accurate information about female orgasm and how it might be achieved.

The book was apparently redeemed by the saint-to-be’s certainty that — however much pleasure sex might, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, produce — the use of any “artificial” birth control to thwart reproduction would represent a flight from responsibility by the partners involved.

Cahill may have spoken for multitudes when he said of John Paul II that “it is this habit of certitude that makes the man so impossible, for in nothing is he more certain than in the realms where his experience is least: sex and women.”

For those of like mind, the solution was probably best described by Hans Kung.

On matters to do with the practice and enjoyment of sex, pastors and the faithful in many places “quietly do what seems right to them in the spirit of the gospel . . . They are not bothered about pope and bishops.”

Though the business about rabbits is good to know.

Toronto Star

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