Catholic Views on Contraception

I follow a variety of blogs, not all of them are on subject matter that I agree with the blogger, I typically follow them because I want to learn; either to expand my knowledge or to gain understanding on specific worldviews.

The risk with following blogs that are on a worldview is that there will be the occasional WTF! moment. Over the weekend there was one such post and it’s a major WTF! (http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2012/02/contraception-extreme-analogy.html)

Full Disclosure

I’m not a catholic fan. Even in my Christian days I struggled with elements of the Catholic Church and its teaching. My difficulty went so far that at times I struggled even to accept that Catholics were Christians because if they were Christians they’d follow everything in the bible and not distort stuff horribly. In my years as an active Christian I crossed paths with other Christians from other churches and denominations and never were there divisive issues as there were with the Catholics. In fact, I can only think of one catholic I encountered in all those where theological differences never got in the way of friendship. I think any chance the Catholic Church had of gaining respect from me died when a friend married a catholic and the overtly catholic wedding felt even more unchristian and emotionless as a secular wedding held in a registry office. The communion was rushed and us non-Catholics were not permitted to take part, Christian or not. I left the wedding service trying hard to be happy for my friend but ultimately feeling unloved and rejected. So much for the family of God!

So why the WTF! ?

I am familiar with the claims that the Catholic Church is anti-contraception and I am aware that there is much criticism of it, especially with regards the effect that has on the spread of Aids in countries where Catholicism has great influence.

Aids isn’t the only disease that sexually active people should worry about. Chlamydia is a disease that is of concern in the UK, especially among teens and 20-somethings. One especially nasty side effect is the potential for girls to be made sterile.

What made the post I referenced stand out was the insane justification given to the no contraception rule. Calling the post an “extreme analogy” is not a defence against spouting idiocy, especially when its abundantly clear that the interpretation is held to.

The Potential for Life

From what I can gather elsewhere, and is repeated in the post I reference, the basic objection to contraception is that it interrupts the potential for life from the act of intercourse. There is so much wrong with this stance it’s hard to know where to start.

The most obvious objection is that it’s a blanket edict that takes no account whatsoever for the circumstances of the couple. There are genuine and valid reasons why a couple would not want to have child children and yet still enjoy a loving sex life. Mandating that they should not control that through contraception is not a blessing to the couple but a hindrance. It reminds me of this related and equally unhelpful attitude encountered by Christians; https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/a-christian%E2%80%99s-duty-is-to-procreate/

Much damage is done by the well-meaning zealot who holds so tightly to a perceived aspect of Godliness that they fail to see the wider context. For this type of person, the desire to dictate behaviour overrides the command to love and the result is that the religion of choice is seen by the outsider as a controlling and manipulative entity rather than a loving pathway to heaven.

Even if we ignore those objections for a moment, the potential for life argument is still flawed because it is arbitrary. Surely for a man ejaculate more than a single sperm is a sin because typically only one of the sperm gets a chance of life. Or maybe the menstrual cycle is a sin because of all those eggs that get flushed away. The obvious retort is that these are both naturally evolved and contraception is not. However, the catholic church approves of some methods of fertility assistance. If it’s okay to artificially assist in getting pregnant why is it not okay to artificially avoid it as well. Surely to reluctantly bring a life into the world because of what the church says is more of a sin than to responsibly avoid it.

Sex is primarily for procreation

Really?!

The teaching that sex as a pleasure is only a side benefit from God leaves me genuinely open mouthed in astonishment. The only possible reason the Catholic Church can uphold that is because to not teach it seriously undermines its contraception stance. It’s a message of necessity and not one of spirituality.

Evolutionarily speaking, if sex wasn’t something we did for the sheer pleasure of it, we’d have gone extinct by now. Way to go God!

Extreme Analogies

In her blog posting, Red Cardigan likens using contraception to partners withholding from each other and, worse, calls it the “language of hate and rejection”. I say it’s exactly the opposite; the use of contraception frees them both to fully enjoy intimacy and love without the need to be concerned about unplanned offspring. She also manages, bizarrely, to somehow draw a comparison between contraceptive use and bulimia as a method of weight loss. Let’s skim over the not so insignificant issue that bulimia is a state of mental imbalance and not a trendy method of radical weight loss.

This dieting comparison goes way beyond extreme and into the realm of obscene. I can see why this particular analogy was used; it’s to imply that forcing yourself to vomit after a meal is the same as stopping the man’s sperm get to the place where God intended it. The two are not the same. A more reasonable dieting analogy would be to compare contraception to having a stomach band fitted or just eating less of the stuff that makes you fat.

I’d like to propose my own extreme analogy, next time you have a headache, don’t take anything for it, let it enjoy its full potential, after all its God given and natural. What do you mean that’s a stupid thing to say?

Would you like to Operate the Projector?

Oh dear. I’ve been wondering when this question would come, and unfortunately it has come much sooner than I would have liked.

First Some Background

Like many churches in the UK, our current church and our last church have joined the revolution and now project the words to songs on a screen using a computer and digital projector. This has a distinct advantage over using acetate in that presentations, images and videos can also be projected using the same equipment.

In our last church I was one of the regular projector operators and being computer literate I had an advantage over the other people on the OHP rota in that the technology didn’t intimidate me and I knew exactly what I was doing and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) mess things up by guessing or doing random stuff for the sake of it. It also helped that my wife leads worship occasionally and so I have an understanding of the needs of the worship leader and what the projector operator should or shouldn’t do to make the worship leader’s life easier.

So with these two advantages, it is safe to say that I was pretty much the favoured projector operator in our last church. It wasn’t unusual for the pastor to beam widely when he saw that it was me on duty.

Back to the Present

I dropped off the rota several months before we moved because I didn’t want to do it anymore. With our move I am very happy not having the responsibility and still don’t want it. With our new church duly informed (by our last church as part of membership transfer) that my wife and I make a good worship leading and projector operating combo; I knew that the inevitable question would be asked. I just hoped it would not be this soon.

The reasons for me being asked are legitimate, two people have dropped off the rota in the last week. One because he turned 80 and had always said he would stop at that age, another due to a much more conservative stance and simply not liking some of the worship changes. Apparently a hymn should be sung as it is written and thou shalt not change it about. Who said that a hymn had the same importance as the biblical word? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post, so best not get distracted.

How can I say No?

I don’t think I can really. The church has a need and I am very much one of the best qualified people to do it. Its my gift if you like. The pastor knows my faith position (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-coming-out-begins/) and so he obviously has no issue with me doing the job, so he asked me if I would consider it.

I did tell him that in all honesty I was hoping not to have to get involved, but that I would think about it.

In discussing it with my wife later she suggested that I might like doing it because it would mean I could legitimately hide away from the rest of the congregation (the operator sits alone up in the balcony at the back of the church) and not have to worry about pretending anything or being uncomfortable. That was a genuinely thoughtful suggestion and I hadn’t considered it, however I didn’t really like that as a motive for doing it. It feels false an insincere to use that as a motive for operating the projector.

However, given my state of faith, how could any motive be pure and Christian? That’s probably a question best left alone I think.

So I think I’m going to have to do it.

I don’t see any way round it, the church has a need, and I am a very good fit. My doing it will have a positive impact on the worship in the church and since my wife is now getting involved in worship leading I will be directly helping her. Atheist objections aside, I just don’t see how I can refuse and saying “I really don’t want to” seems to be somehow weak and petty, even though I know I won’t be viewed negatively for not doing it.