More on Contraception

I wasn’t anticipating doing another post on contraception, especially since over here in blighty it really isn’t the hot political topic that it is over the pond in the USA.

However, following one of my earlier posts I had the following comment (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/god-takes-the-good-people-early/#comment-530) which, given the effort put into it, deserves a considered response. Other comments are more than welcome as I will never call myself an expert on the subject. I recommend that all readers read the comment linked to above because I shall not be repeating it in its entirety below and I shall not be responding to every point raised, if I did, this post would become a whole lot larger than is ideal or sensible.

With that said, on with my response….

With regard to the claims made in the opening paragraph, I don’t know enough about the American political system and how much influence religious doctrine has over it to adequately comment. I am dubious about the claims made and suspect they are more conspiracy than fact.

Contraception doesn’t just block biological functions and the potential of life, it actually distorts human relationship. It is not that the Church is against something, but rather it is FOR something. The Church is for Love and healthy relationship.

Right off the block we’re onto something which I fundamentally disagree with. Claims that the use of contraception distorts human relationship need to be backed up with evidence. I’d like to see a study done on this. I suspect none currently exists, which means that those making the claim really should get one done.

Furthermore, I would actively argue the opposite; contraceptive enables greater human relationship. Granted I don’t have access to studies proving my argument, and like my statement above, a study to prove it would be helpful. What I do have is the personal experience of a loving and stable relationship and freedom that contraceptive brings to that. As someone who is also ‘for love and healthy relationship’ I can honestly say that the use of contraceptive has not only been ‘not negative’ it had a positive impact by removing more than one unnecessary stress.

But human sex was also designed for a relationship where it is safe and open to fully and freely give of oneself, unconditionally and irretrievably; to fully and freely receive love from another, unconditionally and irretrievably; and whatever becomes of that love it is to be cherished and protected, even if children are not the result. At all times, however, life is still welcome. That’s what we call marriage.

I’ve intentionally skipped the bit about sex being the invention and creation of God and a gift to mankind. I understand the idea and the concept since I subscribed to that view for many years myself. The evolution of sex is interesting and complex, while it is relevant to the discussion it is also a huge subject in itself and to delve too much into it here would distract from the subject in hand. One does need to acknowledge that viewing sex as a gift from God or as an evolved pleasure does change the way in which it is perceived and that starting position is relevant and important.

The sentence that I object to above is the one that states that life is still welcome. This is an unhelpful generalisation which may not be appropriate for all couples, even Christian ones. When a child is welcome, then wonderful, but to proclaim it is just as welcome should it happen when undesired or inappropriate is quite frankly uncaring. Having been the subject of Christian mirth because I dared to be a married Christian and yet choose to remain childless for many years, I can testify that to compel and criticise Christians for choosing to actively avoid parenthood is to put them in a place where they feel unloved and unappreciated. The hypocrisy in that is especially hurtful; make them feel unloved for daring to engage in a loving act.

Remove the sentence about life being welcome and I wholeheartedly agree with the paragraph. Contraceptive use does not change the facts of that. The couple in question make love because they want to share in that experience. If anything removing the risk of pregnancy gives a greater freedom to enjoy each other’s love more intimately.

Surely even the most hardened contraceptive nay-sayer will agree that a family which successfully plans its children will be a happier and more loving unit than one which had effectively played Russian Roulette and had the children arrive randomly and with no control over when they would stop. Contraception is a very useful and practical method of managing that.

The idea of contraception is to escape the biological consequences of sex.

Yes, there could be any number of good reasons for needing to do that. It is a myth that that degrades the love that the two parties involved feel for and demonstrate towards each other.

Basically contraception is at least a lie to biology. It is also a “no” to God’s design, God’s purpose and flourishing love. “I want to make love to you, but let’s trick our bodies to not do what they were designed to do” Obviously contraception is meant to correct God’s flaw of fertility, so it is a spiritual attack as well.

This is a strawman argument. There is absolutely no suggestion of fertility being a flaw to be corrected, it’s about controlling the circumstances in which a child is born for the benefit of that child and the family unit it’ll be born into, something that God would no doubt approve of. If you want to get onto the subject of correcting God’s flaws and the evil therein why is contraception singled out when there is a whole medical profession launching these ‘spiritual attacks’ on all sorts of other body parts. Yes, I am being flippant in that last sentence, but the point is valid, there is no good reason why contraception is wheeled out as an evil when all sorts of other medical and scientific marvels are making a very real impact on the biological workings of, and therefore the lives of, others and their ability to engage in and share loving relations.

In another sense it is a lie about the nature of love. “We don’t need to fully give or fully accept ourselves to make love. Put this shield on, ok?” Despite the claims of making one feel more free, the exact opposite is really true.

I am struggling with the logic expressed here. The leap from preventing an undesired pregnancy to a betrayal of the nature of love bothers me. It’s obvious that there are those that have made the connection, however I would strongly argue that it is a connection that is based on a false premise. The act of love between a couple and their mutual appreciation of it is not at all dependent on whether or not there is contraception being used. It is absolutely dependent on the state of mind of each individual and how honest and emotionally open they are towards each other. To turn it around, an obvious conclusion to draw from the quote above is that those who are incapable of becoming a parent are therefore also incapable of appreciating a loving relationship in the way that a fertile couple abstaining from contraception would be.

Contraception says “I don’t want all of you. It is a “no” to fully giving to or accepting the complete other person. “I love you for the pleasure of sex, but not everything about you, at least not right now.”

No it doesn’t. It says that producing a child now is not appropriate. It is absolutely acceptable for a loving couple to say that at this moment in time a child is not appropriate but that they want to have a fully loving relationship. The act of using contraception is an extension of that love.

Contraception makes sex dead on arrival.  …[snip]…  contraception is the death of some part of another’s personal being. It cannot say, “I love you just for who you are,” because it clearly denies the total person’s by denying their fertility. But it goes deeper. No longer do partners have to be as sensitive or even as caring with each other. …[snip]…  treating each other as objects of pleasure and not as human persons.

What bothers me the most about the above is that it credits contraception with inciting actions or thoughts which it is clearly not capable of. Contraception is a benign object, incapable of thought. If there is any objectification in a relationship it’s due to factors and attitudes directly to do with the offending party. Putting the blame for that on contraception removes the need for the guilty party to face up to that wrong attitude; instead they are given a wonderful scapegoat. It is people that misuse other people, not objects. What’s more, I actually find it slightly offensive that my attitude towards my wife and the value of the love we share is judged by whether or not we use contraception by people who have never spent any time observing our relationship or even know anything about us.

Since the dawn of contraception, which of the following are true:

[list of stuff]

Repeat after me; “correlation is not the same as causation”.

Now repeat it again ten times!

There are many reasons why any of the items listed could be on the increase. I am sure there are very good scientific studies for many, if not all, of them. If anyone wishes to make a claim linking contraceptive use to any of them they had better have a jolly good study backing them up otherwise their claim is worthless.

To look up each of the items listed and the associated claim would take considerable time and at least a single blog post for each one. This I don’t have the time to do right now, but it is certainly an idea for future ponderance.

But you see, Christ promised us that regardless of her many faulted people, the Church He founded would not falsify Truth. And so, whether you believe or not, you might better understand and admire why the Church holds to this teaching.

Thank you for taking the time to put up your post, we come to the subject from pretty much opposite sides and I think common ground will be small. I must confess that I still do not understand why the Catholic Church chooses to continue with this teaching. I accept I may never understand because my basic starting point is contraception is a good thing. There is also the not so small issue that I no longer accept the existence of God. These two combined probably hinder me greatly in that comprehension. Worse than that, I consider the Catholic Church to be wrong on this issue and I struggle to see how that could ever change.

The Evils of Contraception?

With some of the recent discussion on the Catholic attitude towards contraception I have found myself reading more than I care to on the subject. I’ve never been against contraception and I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that it was wrong either, something I am pleased about.

In my reading of articles defending the Catholic position on contraception there is one word that has cropped up again and again. Evil. Contraception, it seems, has been called evil by everyone from ordained priests to enthusiastic bloggers. Evil is a very strong and emotive word and not at all appropriate to the use of contraception.

Evil is the wilful act of doing harm to someone or something with no empathy for the victim. Evil is flying planes into buildings and killing many hundreds of people. Evil is repeatedly subjecting young children to physical violence and worse. Evil is kidnapping and torturing people. Evil is many things and many people has done evil to others over the course of human history and if one was so inclined the list of evils done by man could be very long indeed.

However, one action that most certainly does not belong on that list is the use of contraception by consenting adults for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Disagree with what they do if you wish, call some of the acts sin if that seems appropriate, but evil it is not.

I can forgive misguided but well intentioned individuals calling it evil, but when a man of the cloth speaks out against contraception and calls it evil, then my heart sinks. This attitude displays a staggering inability to see context.

I am thankful that this peculiarity is not widespread throughout Christendom, however, the Catholic church is large enough and influential enough that it still has a major impact in less educated parts of the world.

Stepping further into the bizarre, I have seen contraception take the blame for the increase in STDs, single parent families and a general increase in casual bonking. Certainly easy access to contraception makes the latter very easy, and an increase in the latter will lead to an increase in the former two. The main reasons for these increases are the changes in social expectation. Single parents are not frowned upon in the way they once were, divorce is much easier to attain and is not stigmatised anymore. Single women who find themselves pregnant are not rushed into a quick marriage. Lets not forget that casual sex and openly sexual relationships between non married couples is now the norm.

There is so much social change over the past 50 years that anyone who tries to nail the sexually related ills of the world on contraception can only be blinkered by their own prejudices. Contraception is a product that has become popular due to increased demand for such a product. High contraception use is a symptom and result of greater demand for a reduction in the bonk / baby ratio. It is absolutely not the case that people suddenly found themselves with a glut of contraceptives and had to come up with ways to use them.

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?