Zeke: Happy Easter. No sweat on the late reply. I’ve been pretty incommunicado myself. And this will have to be brief too. Sorry!
First off, I agree with you that it’s too early to determine the wisdom of the contraceptive culture. I think consequences is a better word that wisdom here; there are many bloggers on your site that act as if the magisterium were visionaries that magically foresaw the future back when birth control was developed, and thus took the position that they should oppose it.
Hm. I’m not convinced that is so. I think generally the response you are seeing come from the conservative Catholic instinct to say that when the Catholic tradition teaches something throughout it’s history, it is rash and foolish for modernity to say, “Well! I don’t see the point of *this*!” and suddenly smash it. As Chesterton says if you don’t see the point of something then go away and find out what the point is before you destroy it. As a friend of mind says, “All of human history is divisible into two basic phases: “What could it hurt?” followed sometime later by “How was I supposed to know?” Our immense cultural surge toward contraception is one of those rash decisions that constitute a triumph of will over sobriety. We frankly don’t have clue what the consequences will be, but the consequences have so far been highly negative in many ways. Like, for instance, this.
Besides, am I wrong to point out that the Church isn’t against birth control per se, but it’s only artificial methods they prohibit?
Actually, the mistake is to assume that the prohibition is merely arbitrary. It’s not that it’s artificial. It’s that it’s *contrary* to nature. Human artifice that enhances and cooperates with nature is fine by the Church. It’s just human artifice that it contrary to nature that is bad. That’s why the Church rejects artificial contraception, but not medicine or the other arts and sciences that enhance, rather than prevent or destroy human existence.
You fear Christianity getting out-bred somehow, despite that its biggest competitor Islam doesn’t prohibit artificial birth control, so your fear (Eurabia slurs aside) seems unfounded.
No. I don’t fear Christianity getting outbred. Remember? We’re the ones who get scolded for the large families. I *warn* (not fear) secular post-Christian culture of contracepting itself out of existence. As you rightly note, the Church isn’t going anywhere.
Contraception is not to blame for all the ills of the world Mark.
I never said it was. I’m merely pointing out that when you indulge in rhetoric about how backward the Church is and not in touch with the contraceptive wave of the future, it’s highly dubious that the culture of contraception has a future.
And even if you ignore the positive aspects of contraception, there’s no indication that it’s going to be banned, ever. The opposition to it lies mainly in a vocal group of Catholics who represent barely more than half of their own Church at best.
And who are reproducing, not only physically, but spiritually, while the culture of contraception’s children, both physical and spiritual, tend to be self-sterilzing.
They are in the vast minority on the planet, which doesn’t prove that they’re wrong, but preaching that others should feel the same about it isn’t going to change the acceptance of it by billions of women.
The Church isn’t big on telling people what to feel. It is big on rational arguments from moral first principle and, yes you are right, that is always a minority position. But as atheists themselves should recognize, nobody ever went broke counting on the majority of people to behave in accord with appetite rather than reason. The democratic wisdom of the voters in the popularity contest between Barabbas and Jesus is an indicator that, while it’s a reasonably workable system for running a western town, it’s not a guarantor of truth.
When I refered to “too much” religion I meant the difference between radicals and moderates. Too much refers to the far end of the spectrum, and the easiest way to get there is by absorbing the maximum amount of writings attributed to God rather than discarding the nasty bits that moderates do.
This means, well, nothing. However, it requires such a massive discussion of the profound differences between the Catholic approach to Scripture vs the approaches of other religious traditions that it’s impossible to even *begin* to describe what you are overlooking. To begin with, there is the slight difference between the Muslim view of the Q’uran vs. the Catholic view of the Bible. For Muslims, the sacred text occupies in their piety a place analogous to the place Jesus occupies in Christian theology. It’s not just a book: it’s *the* self-revelation of God. So the *kind* of “fundamentalism” Islam begets is going to qualitatively different from Christian heresies (which is what fundamentalism is from a Catholic perspective. If you want to get a sort of primer on the Catholic approach to its own sacred texts, I’d be happy to send you a copy of my Making Senses out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did Talking about the “maximum amount” of sacred writings is incoherent nonsense. You could just as easily say the danger is absorbing the minimum amount (meaning ‘the wrong bits read wrongly” and ignoring the rest).
The belief that their God created the universe and everything within it is benign by itself, but when they examine closely what these books actually say about what God condones is where the problems start. A radical Islamist who stones an apostate or adulterer to death has not overlooked, as moderates do, that this is what his God has decreed as the proper response.
And a St. Maximilian Kolbe who throws his life away by not apostatizing, therefore being sent to Auschwitz and offering his life for a fellow prisoner is likewise not being a moderate but an extremist. Every saint is extreme. The problem is not being extreme, but how one is extreme.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church choose not to overlook the passages of the Bible that suggest that God actually does hate fags, or that He indeed is fond of sending natural disasters to level cities and kill thousands for their sins.
All of which simply demonstrates that fundamentalism, both atheist and Christian is not Catholic.
BTW – I’m being totally sincere when I say that the line you wrote with “Star Trek utopia of leotard clad conflict resolution counselors in UN meditation rooms thinking Great Secular Thoughts” is pure poetry. I realize we disagree, but man, that’s a great line, gotta give you props for that :)
I aims to please!
Reading through the rest of your post about the failings of the Church hierarchy, the source of the major difference in our viewpoints suddenly struck me. The root of it, of course, is the disagreement on the existence of God, but it’s something specific to the doctrine of Christianity, and that is the doctrine of original sin. Mankind, including even the magisterium tasked with interpreting moral law, is cursed by original sin. So those that form the magisterium may be, as you note are “dumb, cowardly, vicious, sinful, stupid, corrupt and prone to all the sins flesh is heir to” and you find this understandable and consistent with the doctrine of infallibility?
I not only find it consistent, I see absolutely no sense to the doctrine of infallibility if the Church is not full of sinners. The entire reason such a protection must be given by the Spirit is precisely because if it were up to us, the gospel would have gotten lost 20 minutes after Pentecost.
You have no problem believing that God heals amputees or answers prayers, but it makes sense to you that the Holy Spirit chose this method to communicate ultimate truths?
If you mean that I think it makes sense that God communicates to human beings in a human way, then yes, I certainly do. The point of the gospel is that what saves us is not mere information, but the communication of the divinized human life of Jesus himself. This means he reveals himself in a human way through human beings and human things, for all our fallenness and imperfection.
Is it impertinent to observe that you and I could probably devise 10 better systems to do this over a few beers?
No. Just fantastically naive. :)
Or better yet, why not divinely inspire the authors of the Bible to write everything down clearly and accurately thousands of years ago?
It depends on what you mean by “clearly and accurately”. The Church has always held that “the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures”. The key there is “for the sake of our salvation”. The authors of Scripture are clear and accurate about what they mean to be clear and accurate about. They are not clear and accurate about things they have no concern being clear and accurate about. Learning to think like them and not trying to make them thinking like moderns is the first rule of trying to read Scripture (or, in fact, any pre-modern text). The problem is, we moderns are intensely chauvinistic and impatient of people who do not think like us.
Finally, regarding the sexual abuse, I never postulated a link between celibacy and homosexual rape, you did.,
Pardon me, but when you pass from the abuse scandal to how the Church needs to let priests marry….
But is it a stretch to believe that a men’s only institution that denies heterosexuals the right to marry would attract more homosexuals that other institutions? On that basis though, yes, there would be a link between groups of men who have little interest in women and homosexuality, of that we could be quite certain. Sure none of this disproves the essence of the Church message that Jesus is the son of God, but it sure does support the argument that the message was created by mere men, upheld and administered by more men over the centuries, and fairly ordinary ones at that.
The Church doesn’t deny heterosexuals the right to marry. Marriage is a sacrament, after all. And several rites in the Church have married clergy. I’m highly skeptical that the celibacy of the clergy is a slam dunk argument that the message of the gospel was created by mere men. Indeed, I frankly have no idea how you can get from the proposition “Latin rite priests are celibate” to the conclusion “Therefore it is a merely human invention that Jesus of Nazareth is the Second person of the Blessed Trinity who was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead on third day to be seen by many witnesses”.