Wednesday, February 29, 2012

- Catholics And Sex

For a group that’s supposed to be anti sex, Catholics seem to be awfully good at it. Even if you'd rather completely discount my experience as a young wolf rattling around Manhattan back in the day, the statistics confirm it as well. There are an awful lot of Catholics out there and more every year, so someone somewhere must want to have sex with them.

The truth is, the Catholic Church isn’t against sex at all – they’re strongly in favor of it. Ask anyone with authority in the church what the official position is and they’ll confirm that. The church has always gone to some lengths to promote sex in those circumstances that it thinks are morally appropriate for it. What the Catholic Church is really against is meaningless sex.

Look, you’re reading this in the 21st century. You know as well as I do that not all sex these days involves a deep meaningfully intimate connection between the parties involved. In some cases it doesn’t even involve knowing the other person’s name. These circumstances happen for both men and women. It’s happened to me… although not in a very long time. And it’s that empty, meaningless exercise – the kind of thing that leaves you feeling more lonely and depressed afterward – that the church is really against.

To the church, sex should be about intimacy and enriching the connection between a man and a woman. It can be about passion too – even that can help strengthen a relationship under the right circumstances. But what sex should not be about is your ego. It shouldn’t be about making notches in your bedpost or some equally shallow motivation. The church thinks that doing something like that cheapens both you and the person you’re with, and it leaves you worse off, not better. And the fact of the matter is, they’re right.

The church’s critics say that they’re against birth control, but that’s also not true. What they are against – and it’s a moral objection mind you, not a legal one – is “artificial birth control”. The church is an organization which holds moral authority only. It has no legal authority to tell people what to do. Their only means of persuasion is to tell people what they think right and wrong is, and let people decide as their individual conscience sees fit. They can ask, not command.

And if it comes down to deciding right from wrong, the line the church has drawn is not an unreasonable one. Artificial birth control lowers the risks of sex, but in the process takes away a portion of the meaning of it. It makes meaningless sex easier and much more common. There can be a debate about the intentions of making artificial birth control more widely available, but no reasonable person would debate the results of doing so. Whatever you think about the church’s motivation for this policy, the fact of the matter is, they’re absolutely right about what's come of it.

The same is true for the Church’s view on abortion. In fact, while the moral view on abortion is actually very clear, the science is still somewhat vague on the matter. Virtually everyone in America thinks it’s morally wrong to kill a baby after it’s been delivered. On this issue there really isn’t any reasonable debate. So if you’re strictly worried about right and wrong, would it be ‘wrong’ to kill that very same baby the day before it’s been delivered? Again, almost everyone think so. The moral question is pretty clear.

OK. What about the very same baby, healthy in all respects, but not due to be born for a month. I myself was born more than 8 weeks early and not only managed to survive it but have thrived. Even as middle age creeps up on me I continue to be one of the healthiest people I know. So surely it’s ‘wrong’ to kill a baby just because it isn’t due to be born for another month.

“When the baby can survive on its own!” says the abortion lobby, “Then it qualifies as a person.” OK, when is that exactly? The earliest a baby has ever survived delivery was after just 21 weeks of gestation – a hair over 5 months. Just about the time the mother is trading her old jeans in for actual maternity clothes. But thanks to modern medicine that number falls all the time. And what about the baby who has had only 20 weeks in the womb? Is there such a great difference in development between that baby and one with 21 weeks or is it just a matter of luck that one survived while the other didn’t?

The truth is, human lives don’t begin life the way that they end. There is no clear point at which you can say “prior to this moment it’s non viable, and after this moment it is.” All the scientific things we tend to think of as defining a life – a heartbeat, a brainwave etc, may all stop in a moment, but they all start in irregular fits and jerks. And for the record – both of those start WAY before 21 weeks.

So when trying to come up with a clear line between right and wrong, the church has decided to go with the clearest line that science can currently provide. And right now the clearest line is inception. It’s very clear to everyone that prior to inception, an egg and a sperm cell are not ‘a child’. No one (that I’ve ever heard of) claims otherwise. And afterward I think there is at least a reasonable debate with a strong philosophical position on the 'life' side. The more you think about it, assuming you aren't some kind of a monster, the more reasonable and thoughtful the church's position actually looks.

I wish the church was better at getting this message out, but it’s not entirely their fault. The mainstream media knows who they want to go to when it comes to talking about catholic morality and it’s certainly no one of authority in the Catholic Church. Instead they speak to Maureen Dowd or some other liberal mouthpiece who was once a practicing catholic. They talk about how most Catholics don’t actually hold to the moral standard the church sets (as if they expect the church to be a democratic institution when it comes to deciding right and wrong).

But when it comes down to this mandate - that they be required to pay for medical procedures which are directly contrary to Catholic morality - the church is absolutely right. It’s an issue of religious liberty. Even if they get their way on it, they won’t stop anyone from getting and using all the birth control they like. They can even get abortions if they so choose and the church will not stop them. But it won’t tell them it’s “OK” to do so. And it won’t be compelled to pay for something which it views as wrong.

Its times like this I wish the church spent more on public relations because I don’t think they are taking an unreasonable stance at all. In fact I think many people would probably see the wisdom of it from a moral perspective if they bothered to think about it at all. But the liberal media doesn’t want to report it that way because they think meaningless sex is a good thing. The more meaningless – the better. And you can’t convince anyone of how reasonable your view is if the other guy refuses to give you the microphone.

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