The Catholic Church’s teachings about reproduction and sexual morality have been deeply flawed by its earlier teaching that sexual activity almost invariably involved sin and could be justified ONLY if the act produced a human life.
Earlier morality regarded the sex act even within marriage to be sinful, and sexual intercourse was “permitted” only because it produced a life. The Church at the time insisted that the generation of a child was the price a married couple paid for permission to engage in the “sinful act” of sexual intercourse. In the position espoused by Thomas Aquinas, every act of intercourse was intended by God to produce a child, so any method of avoiding conception was wrong.
The Church’s current stance against birth control is simply a continuation of those errors and is the result of a twisted understanding of the natural role of sexuality in human life. One could consider the Church’s stance against birth control to be a crime against humanity. Human sexuality includes a strong element of morality, but not one either Church or Society fully understands even today.
The current scandal of priestly abuse of children must force us to look upon this festering wound within Catholics who were taught that their sexuality was sinful, that celibacy was the victory over their baser selves. Unable to understand their own sexual drive, may have allowed many priests to succumb to it in despicable ways, imposing their needs, ignorance and disfigured self-understanding on trusting or fearful children.
It is one thing for humans to be ignorant about many matters we learn only after centuries of study, including the makeup of the universe, human sexuality, and the complexity of the developing fetus. It is unfortunate that the Church has chosen to speak with the voice of God on matters about which it knows very little.
The Church would better take a stance as a humble seeker after Truth, rather than insisting that Truth is the servant of the Church.
In regard to birth control, Pope Francis, I present for your consideration two quotations from your speech to the United Nations.
“Without all those interventions — mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities.”
“It is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself.”
A human female has within her body one million eggs; a human male expels millions of sperm with every ejaculation. Does God intend each woman to produce every potential offspring, because the possibility exists? Must every male sperm produce an heir? Recall that patriarchal religion insisted it was sinful for (the divine) male sperm to be wasted. How are humans to avoid a “waste” that Nature itself has already guaranteed?
I suggest Thomas was entirely mistaken when he argued that interventions to prevent conception are “sins against nature, in which the very order of nature is violated, [with the result that] injury is done to God himself.” God has made Nature such that each living species — every animal, every insect, every plant — could, unless checked, reproduce itself enough to overwhelm the entire planet. That is as true for humans as for all other species. For all other species, what controls over-production is the fact that each species becomes food for other species. (Unfortunately, humans have made an unfortunate choice : to kill their own kind through endless war as a way to “consume” our surplus population.) Like other forms of planetary life, humans have within them the capacity for physical reproduction that greatly exceeds what the planet can bear, exceeds what is reasonable, rational, or humane.
What occurs in conception is that life begins — that is what conception means. But is the newly begotten life — a one-cell zygote — a “full human being” as many religious fundamentalists maintain?
That one-cell zygote, is produced when a ripe egg leaves the ovary and is met by a sperm within the woman’s fallopian tube. The fertilized egg travels through the tube and will not reach the mother’s uterus for five days. On its way, fully one half of the fertilized eggs (one-celled zygotes) never reach the uterus; they simply flow out of the mother’s body, unnoticed, unsung, unmourned. These so-called “fully human beings” — by the billions — are simply flushed down the toilet.
Where is concern about their welfare? Why no baptism for the blood clot? Why no burial site for those minute humans? Why no names for half the human race? If these are fully human persons, shall we expect to see, when we arrive in heaven, a host of billions upon billions of one-celled zygotes (with wings perhaps?) floating around heaven? Shall they descend upon their parents with welcoming cries of “mommy” “daddy”?
The matter of birth control is yet another of these instances in which religion and the Catholic Church in particular has yet to shake off its combination of rank authoritarianism and ignorance of facts, and to admit it has neither the authority nor the wisdom to speak definitively.
Respect for the life of a child should wrest from the mouths of all humans a demand to end poverty, child abuse, war, and all ignorant treatment of children by parents and communities. To see the horror of unwanted children, abused and suffering children, cruelly handicapped adults who were once unwanted abused children, and to tell them “God loves you and will make it all right” is offensive in the extreme.
God does not demand multiple children; God demands LOVED children. We lie every time we say we love children unless we shoulder the responsibility of ensuring a healthy environment for children on all levels : homes, neighborhoods, communities, schools, churches, adequate income and health care.
Planning for children, preventing conception until parents, families, and communities are READY to provide for each child is essential. Anything less is an injury and an insult against Nature and God.