Thursday, March 19, 2009

The big baby daddy in the sky.

It's true that, generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of condoms.

That doesn't mean that I don't use them, or that I deliberately wouldn't use one unless asked, or don't experiment with them to try to find one I might dislike the least, or any such irresponsible and juvenile nonsense. I'll even admit that, once in a while, the scent of lubricated condoms actually turns me on because they remind me of really hot fucks I've had with them, or just because my brain assocates scent and sex in interesting ways. Many men (and women) would probably agree to disliking them too. But, my friends, I have to tell you, my general dislike for them is nothing compared to the pope's.

It should be of no surprise to anyone that, during a recent trip to Africa (of all places), the pope recently made world headlines when he blithely stated that the spread of HIV/AIDS "can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, (that) increases the problem."

Presumably for the pope, and like so many rightwing reactionary minds, the availability of condoms poses a "risk" for increased sexual activity. This has been the basic argument against providing educational and health resources worldwide, once again with the underlying context that sex is an evil that must be controlled, monitored, judged, and when 'unsuitable' in 'approved contexts,' prohibited.

In Catholic doctrine, sex belongs solely within the confines of a monogamous, matrimonial (i.e., church-approved) relationship between a male and a female partner for life. Sex and matrimony are linked, and almost synonymously, within the dogma. The "purpose" of sex, argues Catholic catechism, is to provide "fruitfulness of conjugal love" in that "by its very nature the institution of... married love is ordered to the procreation... of the offspring."

Yet Catholic women are perfectly free to apply the rhythm method ("periodic continence") to avoid pregnancy. Why? A critical reading of catechism suggests that the key reason is because it might fail.

"(These methods are) in conformity with the objective criteria of morality (and) respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favour the education of an authentic freedom," states Catholic catechism. "In contrast, every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil."

Got that? Condoms are intrinsically evil. Because they prevent babies.

But HIV/AIDS? Not intrinsically evil.

"Let all be convinced," the doctrine continues, "that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny... The state may not legitmately usurp the initiative of spouses who have the primary responsibility for the procreation... of their children."

You see, God needs more babies.

Human overpopulation and the depletion of global natural resources? The resulting human encroachment into remaining wilderness and affecting the displacement, endangerment, and eventual extinction of countless other species? Nah. Not intrinsically evil.

Before becoming Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was a harsh critic to American priests who tried to argue in favour of condom use. He was (among other things) the prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the arm of the Vatican's Roman Curia that oversees the global institutionalization of Catholic doctrine. Prior to a name change in 1965, the CDF was the Holy Inquisition.

Experts on the intrinsically evil.

In 1616, the Holy Inquisition declared Galileo Galilei to be a heretic because he argued that the Earth revolved around the sun. This contradicted biblical references in the Book of Psalms that state that "the earth is established and cannot be moved." For the next one hundred years, the Inquisition prevented the publication of Galileo's works, and only would later relent after extensive editing occured. It wasn't until 1939 before the Vatican eased off a little further, with pope Pius XII cautiously praising Galileo as an "audacious hero."

Would he have been nearly as "audacious" had not some ultraconservative, obscurantist institution attempted to sway him away from simple and proven fact because it affronted their mythology?

In 1990, when the Vatican was finally getting around to deciding that maybe Galileo wasn't so wrong after all, Ratzinger expressed support for the Church's 17th century condemnation of Galileo, stating that its "verdict against Galileo was rational and just" and that "the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune."

For Ratzinger, the Vatican's significantly-delayed "acceptance" of fundamental, grade-school level astronomy was not a matter of proven science, but of social expediency. How then can we reasonably expect that, now as pontiff to over one billion Catholics worldwide, his office would "accept" the word of the World Health Organization and the 22 million AIDS victims throughout sub-Saharan Africa that AIDS is among the greatest blights of our time?

Like the earth revolving around the sun, that is a simple fact. But because it affronts Catholic mythology, billions of people will continue to be prevented from acquiring the means to safeguard themselves against one genuine "intrinsic evil," as millions were prevented from learning the nature of the universe for more than a century, because the tools for that end are an imagined one.

Or perhaps because to do so would merely be "politically opportune."


Rogue said...

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994.
ISBN 0-8198-1519-5

Anonymous said...

The restrictive traditons you blog about here in fact go back thousands of years. Condoms, I believe in the context here are discouraged because they represent a direct barrier to God's will. Mistakes were made around history (the Inquisition as well as Galileo and Columbus for many years and will continue to be made.) Who knows if we will ever grow and learn from them as we should. And billions are not prevented per say...they buy in to the philosophy and thus choose to follow it...right?

Rogue said...

"A barrier to God's will." That's funny.

Sure, sexual repression has a long history, and the Roman Catholic Church has been one of the most pervasive forces to that end throughout its existence, though by no means the only one. But Ratzinger's recent comments had less to do with sexual repression than it, arguably, was yet another example of how the Vatican's positions continue to reject and/or inhibit man's knowledge about health, let alone awareness. If people like Ratzinger and ultraconservative Catholic groups like the Curia or the CDF or Opus Dei had their way, Margaret Atwood's depiction of women and sexuality in her book The Handmaid's Tale wouldn't be far from the truth.

Billions not prevented? Couldn't the process of "buying in" to a philosophy to the point of restricting one's own access to proven, healthy resources be viewed as a psychological restriction? And don't forget the extreme efforts of conservative lobbies to restrict access to condoms, let alone education, in Third World countries and not-so-Third World schools.

My point is this: any attempt (be it psychological, legal, state-sponsored, or whatever) to restrict people's access to sexual health resources is criminal.

Alice Kytler said...

Here, here. There is simply no way round it, there can't ever be a modernised Catholicism that moves past this kind of unevolved thinking. It's too intrinsic to their philosophy and history of flesh-hating, thought-persecuting truth-banditry. Their god apparently told them to go forth and multiply, subdue the earth and have dominion over it and be buggered if they'll let a bit of over-population, resource competition, mass destruction of other life forms and rampant viral infection stop them. The fact that so many millions of homosapiens continue to be fooled by this tom-fuckery just goes to prove exactly how much we don't deserve dominion over our own back-sides let alone the earth.

Aneris said...

UrbR, what else would he say? I never expect a religious organization of any type to deviate from their party line.

Would it be nice? Yeah. Does it happen? Every so many hundreds of years.

However, it is all about choice. Having contraception does open door to more sex (and good it does) but it is up to the married ppl (who are the target of these talks) to not screw others. We can't make them.

And furthermore, it is hard to persuade people to not have sex and to adapt to an official set of rules.

That is were the religious figures are wrong--for people are free to choose.

I am very aware of CDF as the Inquistion revamped.

I also think we need to mention that most of us in democracies do not care what the religious leaders have to say. They can prattle on and it does not affect me in my daily life.

Not so for others.

Maybe one day, a pronouncement will come forth that marries common sense with free will.

I not holding breath.

Rogue said...

Alice ~
We definitely agree. Nice to see you again. :)

Aneris ~
John Paul II conceded that evolution exists.

While I largely agree with you in that an institution like the Vatican is resistant to change, I also think that in the face of certain, long-proven facts about the nature of the world, biology, and the like, for a conservative institution to remain steadfastly in opposition to basic fundamentals only shows how impotent such an institution is. Your points further illustrate how this is often true.

I'm not holding my breath either, but I do think that so long as the Vatican works to inhibit the WHO, educational programs, and the like the world over, more and more people who have limited access to better services and resources will continue to suffer because of the ignorance they are being constrained in.

Aneris said...

Awww previous comment is not here...*sniffle*

Rogue said...

Did I miss something? Re-post, daahlingk!