Rick Santorum vs. Pope Pius XI — one candidate, two encyclicals

I read two recent items about former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum that both turned out to be, oddly, about former Pope Pius XI.

First up is an excellent question from Mary at The Left Coaster, who notes that Republican presidential candidate Santorum opposes contraception, arguing that sex without the possibility of conception is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Mary suggests a follow-up question for the candidate:

Perhaps someone should ask him whether he plans to be celibate after his wife passes through menopause.

That’s an interesting question. The answer I’ve usually heard to that question was that the story of Abraham and Sarah shows that even post-menopause, there remains the possibility of conception due to a miracle.

That’s pretty weak, and a transparent bit of retro-fitting — an excuse seized as a rationale for the teaching rather than a belief from which the teaching is derived. If the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming menopause is sufficient, then why isn’t the same true of the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming condom-use?*

For the official Catholic answer to Mary’s question, we need to turn to Pope Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii, or “Of Chaste Wedlock” (or “A Celibate Virgin Talks About Sex”). Pius XI, like Rick Santorum, sought to rule out the use of contraception. The only substantial difference between their views is Santorum’s desire to make this teaching civil law here in America. (And, unlike Santorum, Pius XI never said he wanted to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut — although that’s probably on account of his dying some 26 years before it was decided.)

Santorum’s phrase — “counter to how things are supposed to be” — echoes the central thrust of the argument in Casti Connubii. That encyclical says that sex deliberately separated from procreation is regarded as “a grave sin” because it is against nature. How can we be sure that it is against nature? Because it is regarded as a sin.

That’s either a powerful double proof or else a silly bit of circular reasoning, I’ll let you decide which. But either way — whether you see this as a potent argument or merely an undefended assertion — the answer to Mary’s question lies in that word “deliberately.” Pius XI argues that infertility due to menopause isn’t deliberate and, therefore, he said that it isn’t “acting against nature” for a married couple to get all connubii even if due to “natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth.”

So there is an answer to Mary’s question, it’s just not terribly compelling in that it depends utterly on the underlying assertion. And it’s not at all compelling for those of us who are not Catholic and, therefore, are not compelled by the coercive threat of eternal damnation to accept it.

And that, of course, brings us to the next follow-up questions for Rick Santorum. “Why should everyone in America be compelled to follow Catholic doctrine?” And “Why should anyone in America be compelled to follow any doctrine?”

You can probably tell that I’m not overly impressed with the arguments Pius XI puts forward in Casti Connubii. I am, however, quite impressed with the arguments he affirmed in the encyclical he released a few months later, Quadragesimo Anno, or “In the 40th Year” (following 40 years after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, which laid the foundation for later Catholic social teaching). It was there that Pius XI made official his church’s support for the principle of subsidiarity. That’s an idea I find enormously helpful for thinking about the world and our differentiated, complementary responsibilities within it. (It’s even more helpful once it’s shorn of the hierarchical medieval outlook that Pius XI preserves in his discussion of it, but let that pass for now.)

As it turns out, Rick Santorum has also been talking about subsidiarity, leading two conservative columnists — David Brooks and Michael Gerson — to hail the candidate as bringing about either “A New Social Agenda” or perhaps “The Return of Compassionate Conservatism.” But despite their attempts to ascribe to him some new and substantive intellectual approach, Santorum’s references to the principle lead me to agree with The Christian Century’s David Heim: “I doubt Santorum has thought much about subsidiarity.”

Vincent Miller, in the Catholic magazine America (via Bold Faith Type), goes further than Heim, discussing, “Rick Santorum and the Lobotomization of Subsidiarity“:

This debate is important not only for politics, but for Catholic social thought. Santorum and other so-called “conservative” uses of subsidiarity are deeply distorted and threaten to confuse believers and deprive the republic of the full force of this Catholic moral principle.

The full Catholic version of Subsidiarity is outlined in the Vatican Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. As a moral principle subsidiarity has both a positive and negative meaning. In its positive sense, “ all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help (“subsidium”) — therefore of support, promotion, development — with respect to lower-order societies.” (#186) In its negative sense subsidiarity limits such intervention from usurping the power and agency of lower level governments, communities and institutions, including the family.

The distortions are not Santorum’s fault. Catholic neo-liberals (who generally call themselves conservatives) have worked tirelessly to reduce subsidiarity to its negative sense and establish this as the keystone of Catholic social thought. They do so by selective reading — and outright editing — of Papal teaching from Pius XI through John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

This careful lobotomization of subsidiarity renders Catholic social teaching a docile partner in the neo-liberal program of limiting government and subjecting social institutions (schools, healthcare) to market logic. (Witness Ayn Rand devotee Congressman Paul Ryan’s invocation of subsidiarity in his attempted apologia for his radical budget to Archbishop Dolan this summer).

… Families and communities are being profoundly disempowered in precisely the way subsidiarity cautions against, but not by government. Our lives are ruled by insurance companies, banks, media conglomerates and transnational corporations.

While Santorum is willing to take aim at big media, the rest of the epochal growth in corporate power is outside of his subsidiarity lens.

Subsidarity has much to contribute to our political thought. In order for it to do so, we must retrieve its full meaning, and develop it further to address the new challenges we face. Those wishing to do so (including Brooks and Gerson) would be better served by starting with the discussion of governance in Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate and the Pontificial Council on Justice and Peace’s document on Financial Reform. Pay particular attention to the parts that George Wiegel says should be ignored.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I posed that question to an acquaintance who is a Catholic theologian. Unfortunately, he answered my question with a question of his own: “So you believe that sex can occur primarily for pleasure?” My response — “Believe it? I’ve seen it with my own two eyes!” — prematurely ended our discussion.

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  • Anonymous

    The Stephanopoulos Standard

    As for state bans on contraception, Mr. Romney noted that no state was in fact proposing to do so, “and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing.”

  • WingedBeast

    That quote only makes sence if you follow it up with one of two assumptions.

    1.  “Because there’s no chance of any state attempting to do so in the future if they aren’t right this moment.”

    2.  “Because it’s silly to discuss that when discussing it reduces the chances of it happening in the future and I really want it to happen.”

    So, your little bit there either outs Romney as an idiot or as someone trying to sneak contraception bans past opposition.

  • Anonymous

    Or Romney is trying his damnedest to not have to answer that question, because he knows that there is no answer that he can give that is a good one for his chances at the Presidency.  The best answer he can give is “you’re an idiot if you think that’s a problem” because the only people it’s going to offend are the people who aren’t planning on voting for him ever anyway.

  • Alicia

    I think that Romney spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to corral certain members of his base. He strikes me as a fiscal conservative who is personally agnostic on a lot of these right-wing social issues, and has to work really hard to avoid revealing that (or reminding voters of the time when he was actually open about those things).

    He’s memorized the answers and is charismatic enough to deliver them with a straight face but I can’t imagine that he finds the “Z0MG MAINSTREAM PROTESTANT CHRISTIANS ARE SO OPPRESSED” meme all that attractive, especially since that he himself has faced actual prejudice because of his religion from the exact same people.

  • guest

    …I assume you link to this article to show the WSJ’s bias or out-of-touchness, right? (As threats to legal contraception actually are a growing threat from the Christian right, and there actually is legitimate reason to worry they may be on the next decade’s list of talking points) 

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    “No state was planning to do so” – how many states still have pre-Griswold laws still on the books that would take effect as soon as Griswold was reversed? (Similarly with Roe v Wade and Lawrence v Texas, both of which the “states rights” crowd also want reversed).

    They don’t have to be proposing new legislation when it’s already on the books.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    Wow. Thank you for cutting through the fog on a hugely confusing issue…

  • Guest-again

    ‘That’s pretty weak, and a transparent bit of retro-fitting — an excuse
    seized as a rationale for the teaching rather than a belief from which
    the teaching is derived.’
    Except that Catholic doctrine treats marriage as a sacrament – then waffles about the pleasure which sex provides, even in the absence of conception as a final goal. In other words, and excepting the fact that other, more practicing Catholics than I will undoubtedly dispute this, this doesn’t sound like Catholic doctrine at all (though not a parody, either).

    This is one of the not exactly glaring flaws found at slacktivist – excellent on the U.S. and its evangelicals, much less excellent when dealing with the Catholic church – if only because the Catholic Church has a much longer history in a much greater number of countries. Which isn’t any attempt to spare the Catholic church its deserved criticism, of which there are many directions available.

  • Becca Stareyes

    Guest, so, if I follow you, you are saying that if general-you are Catholic and accept that one of the purposes of sex is for strengthening the bond between spouses, then there is no doctrinal support for a contraceptive ban, since non-reproductive sex is considered permissible under some circumstances.

    Except I’ve had at least two people who attended pre-nupital counseling recently in the US (albeit in different states) tell me that contraception was discouraged, save for fertility awareness.  (In other words, abstain from PIV sex while one’s female partner was fertile.)  I admit I don’t know what Catholicism is like in Europe or South America or anywhere else. 

    Now, I have observed (US and Irish) Catholic family members who tend to take anything the Church itself says with a lot of salt, even the ones that aren’t completely lapsed; in other words that there is some difference between what Bishop So-and-so or Pope What’s-his-name writes and what John and Jane Catholic does.  But, if folks are going to cite Catholic writings*, then we should be able to discuss ‘wait, what does this say’ and ‘is it relevant when setting social policy for a secular, pluralistic country’. 

    * Or any theological writings. 

  • Anonymous

    I knew this girl in college who claimed (apparently with absolute seriousness) that she always took her birth control pills on time because she was “a good Catholic.”

  • Anonymous

    And my boyfriend relayed a story to me of a friend who had gotten his Catholic girlfriend pregnant, she apparently believed that while pre marital sex was bad she would not compound the sin could keep her conscience clear by not using contraceptives. Yeah. 

  • Hawker40

    A Irish joke has the punchline…
    “I won’t fornicate with a man who whistles on the Sabbath!”

  • muteKi

    This is not to even begin to mention the implications of what I’ve seen promoted as “natural family planning”.

    And of course there’s also fact that among nonhuman primates, sex for pleaure/bonding/etc. rather than reproduction is quite common. 

  • Anonymous

    See, this is what doesn’t make sense to me. To those non-human primates, sex is all about the pleasure. They don’t go at it thinking “let’s us get on with the procreating.” At least, not as far as I know…

  • Anonymous

    And of course there’s also fact that among nonhuman primates, sex for
    pleaure/bonding/etc. rather than reproduction is quite common.

    Sex for pleasure is the norm among animals–those that can experience pleasure, anyway.  I mean, it’s not like they know sex leads to babies.  Even lots of humans don’t know that.

  • Wednesday

    Not to mention, in some species (eg, rats), the females are _only_ interested in sex when they’re fertile. Humans (and at least some of our close primate cousins, like bonobos) are not one of those species.

    That means sex for purposes other than reproduction is natural for us, and so “natural law” morality arguments against non-procreative sex fail bigtime. (Of course, “natural law” morality arguments against homosexuality fail bigtime as well, but that doesn’t stop the Church from making them.)

  • Stevarious

    “If the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming menopause is sufficient, then why isn’t the same true of the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming condom-use?”
    The other seemingly-obvious response to this is to point out that condoms have a much higher failure rate than menopause in preventing pregnancy.  It doesn’t even take a miracle to cause a pregnancy while using condoms – just a little bit of user error.  Surely god, if he REALLY wants a baby to be made, can get around this?

  • Ursula L

    Surely god, if he REALLY wants a baby to be made, can get around this?

    Since Catholics have god on record as getting around virginity when god wants a baby made, I don’t see why anything should be considered an obstacle.  

  • http://gingerandlime.wordpress.com/ gingerandlime

    Infertility is really through the looking glass as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.  My husband and I are infertile; when we have sex, we do it with the absolute knowledge that we will not be producing children, no matter how hard we try.  There are some rhetorical gymnastics, as Fred notes, that the Church engages in to try to retcon couples like us out of eternal damnation, but it’s pretty weak tea, if you ask me. 

    But the really weird part is this — the things we would have to do (IVF) in order to procreate?  ALSO A SIN!  We just can’t win! 

  • Guest-again

    I really need to be slower –
    ‘And it’s not at all compelling for those of us who are not Catholic
    and, therefore, are not compelled by the coercive threat of eternal
    damnation to accept it.’
    Though the Catholic church claims universality, it has been a couple of centuries since anyone except deluded members of the hierarchy have actually believed that. It isn’t a strawman, exactly, but most Catholics long ago grew used to the idea they aren’t infallible – even if the pope is supposed to be, though only for the last 125 years or so (yep, for roughly 1900 years, God hadn’t bothered to tell Catholics believers about the direct one way pope phone – some cynics don’t actually believe God installed it, but they aren’t considered Catholic by the people that claim God did).

  • dr ngo

    Are we to assume that the theologian closed one eye when watching sex for pleasure?

  • Erl

    That is a footnote worthy of history.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t need a divine miracle to overcome condom use, and I’ve got a third kid to prove it.

  • ako

    So there is an answer to Mary’s question, it’s just not
    terribly compelling in that it depends utterly on the underlying
    assertion. And it’s not at all compelling for those of us who are not
    Catholic and, therefore, are not compelled by the coercive threat of
    eternal damnation to accept it.

    Yeah, unless you’re part of certain specific religious traditions, the “This isn’t how things are supposed to be” argument is based on nothing.  So really, this is another example of Santorum’s dribblings establishing that he does, in fact, want to abolish freedom of religion in this country. 

  • John Magnum

    I always get a bit baffled by the anti-contraception stance (with permissions for sex after menopause and fertility awareness birth control or whatever) because it seems like the actual behavior on behalf of the participants is the same: Having sex for pleasure, without any intention of having a baby. I thought the idea was that sex for any purpose other than having a baby is the sin, and contraception just enables that. But apparently it’s allowed to have sex with absolutely no intention of having a baby if your partner is post-menopausal, or if you haven’t used any contraceptives but are deliberately having sex at a point when you know there’s a low likelihood of having a baby. It doesn’t even seem like “Having sex and taking deliberate overt action to avoid pregnancy” is forbidden, as the fertility awareness stuff shows. It just seems very inconsistent.

  • Anonymous

    It seems very inconsistent because it IS very inconsistent. 

    It makes much more sense when you view it is “we don’t like it, damn it. This stuff is new and different and we don’t like it at all, nosir.  We’re against it. And we’ll come up with whatever post-hoc rationale we have to to be against it.”  Which is how it all came about in fact – the philosophical underpinnings of the Catholic Church’s stance against contraception are part of their stance against modernity and against Protestantism and started out as political stances.  They were rationalized as moral stances after the fact, but since they started as political stances the arguments to rationalize them as moral stances is fairly shaky.  They’ve put a lot of theologians and philosophers to work to do it and their rationales are still tenuous at best.

  • ako

    For extra fun, pay attention to how many of the same people simultaneously 1) say that fertility awareness and suchlike are highly effective, 2)  claim contraceptives such as condoms don’t work, and 3) insist that fertility awareness is okay because God can get around it if he really wants to but that is somehow not true of artificial contraception.

    Either contraceptives have some magic God-repelling powers that makes them only effective in stopping sperm that’s part of the divine plan, or it’s all a big rationalization.

  • John Magnum

    I always get a bit baffled by the anti-contraception stance (with permissions for sex after menopause and fertility awareness birth control or whatever) because it seems like the actual behavior on behalf of the participants is the same: Having sex for pleasure, without any intention of having a baby. I thought the idea was that sex for any purpose other than having a baby is the sin, and contraception just enables that. But apparently it’s allowed to have sex with absolutely no intention of having a baby if your partner is post-menopausal, or if you haven’t used any contraceptives but are deliberately having sex at a point when you know there’s a low likelihood of having a baby. It doesn’t even seem like “Having sex and taking deliberate overt action to avoid pregnancy” is forbidden, as the fertility awareness stuff shows. It just seems very inconsistent.

  • Mrsgrimble

    So according to Santorum, my 45-year old friend who had a hysterectomy at 17 should have stayed celibate, even with the man she married and loves dearly?

  • Mrsgrimble

    So according to Santorum, my 45-year old friend who had a hysterectomy at 17 should have stayed celibate, even with the man she married and loves dearly?

  • Anonymous

    The whole thing about “sex is only for procreation” is just whacked, imho.  Humans are sexual creatures.  I will contend that sex, in an ideal situation, should be reserved for marriage, including SSM.  But to limit it to procreative acts only, no.

    I’m of course biased, but the Episcopal Church gets it right.  In the BCP marriage service, the second paragraph states, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture . . . .”

    Sex was intended to be joyful with your spouse.  The primary reason for marriage is that it’s not good for humans to be alone.  Children are secondary. 

  • hapax

    I’d point out that even that the Blessed African Doctor, the famously “anti-sex” Augustine, held exactly the same position about (married) sex as the Episcopal marriage service.

  • Anonymous

    The whole thing about “sex is only for procreation” is just whacked, imho.  Humans are sexual creatures.  I will contend that sex, in an ideal situation, should be reserved for marriage, including SSM.  But to limit it to procreative acts only, no.

    I’m of course biased, but the Episcopal Church gets it right.  In the BCP marriage service, the second paragraph states, “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture . . . .”

    Sex was intended to be joyful with your spouse.  The primary reason for marriage is that it’s not good for humans to be alone.  Children are secondary. 

  • LL

    That Santorum could get elected to any public office higher than HOA president is a sad commentary. On many things. 

  • Lori

     
    But despite their attempts to ascribe to him some new and substantive intellectual approach, Santorum’s references to the principle lead me to agree with The Christian Century’s David Heim: “I doubt Santorum has thought much about subsidiarity.” 

    The thing is, Heim could have put pretty much any word at the end of that sentence and it would have been about equally true. Santorum is a total lightweight and there is little evidence that he’s engaged in any serious thought about much of anything. 

    As I mentioned in another thread, 3 generations of Santorum family history go against his political stances. That includes the fact that his (supposed) stance on abortion would have resulted in his wife’s death if they had actually walked their talk. The fact that he’s the current not-Romeny front-runner should be a profound source of embarrassment to the remaining Republicans who aren’t totally whackaloon.  

  • rustywheeler

    “If the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming menopause is sufficient, then why isn’t the same true of the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming condom-use?”

    And really: why stop there? If the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming menopause is sufficient, then why isn’t the same true of the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming gay sex and resulting in the first male pregnancy?

  • Anonymous

    Pius’ position on contraception strikes me as a very Luddite worldview, saying “This part of life was fine the way it was and you shouldn’t change anything, but anything we knew about before we formulated this doctrine is OK.” This is just not sustainable long term, as shown by the casual disregard of most American Catholics (and virtually all other Americans) for this contraceptive doctrine.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    “but most Catholics long ago grew used to the idea they aren’t infallible
    – even if the pope is supposed to be, though only for the last 125
    years or so”

    This is a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching. Catholicism teaches that the pope has always been infallible; indeed, he was widely recognized as infallible even before 1870, but it wasn’t until 1870 that papal infallibility was declared an official teaching of the Church. This is an example of what John Henry Newman called “evolving doctrine,” where the Church matures into an understanding of apostolic revelation over time.

    And again, lest there should be any misconception, papal infallibility doesn’t mean everything the pope speaks and teaches is inherently true. It means when he says, “Hey guys, this is absolutely true,” that it’s absolutely true. I work for an evangelical charismatic organization, and you wouldn’t believe the number of people who have been offended when they learned how much respect I have for Catholicism, because “Don’t they believe the pope is infallible??! Everything he says is true!”

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    And, incidentally, he only speaks “ex cathedra” once every twenty or thirty years.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    “Though the Catholic church claims universality, it has been a couple of centuries since anyone except deluded members of the hierarchy have actually believed that.” 
    The problem isn’t Catholics in general.  The problem is that Rick Santorum believes that Catholic doctrine is universal and should be imposed as the law of the land.

  • http://blog.carlsensei.com Carl

    I’m too low in the thread to ever be read by anyone, but…

    That encyclical says that sex deliberately separated from procreation is regarded as “a grave sin” because it is against nature. How can we be sure that it is against nature? Because it is regarded as a sin.

    C’mon Fred, you can do better than that! Be charitable in your interpretations.

    I’m not a Catholic, but their teaching isn’t that hard to grok. It’s “natural law theory.” Their point is that excluding things we learned from divine revelation, most of morality is knowable by non-believers since it’s based on what’s natural and what’s unnatural. (That’s right, Catholics are hippies at heart!)

    Sex, they say, has two natural functions: it makes babies and it lets couples express their love. These are called the procreative and unitive functions of sex. Condoms are unnatural because they deliberately frustrate the procreative function of sex. (Some might argue that because stopping and putting on a condom disrupts the flow of sexy times, it also frustrates the unitive function of sex, but I’ve never seen that made in Catholic circles.) Sex as an old person is still natural because you’re not deliberately frustrating the procreative function. It’s not possible to reproduce, but it’s not your fault that it’s not. It is still possible to express the unitive function of sex, so if you want to do that it can still be natural.

    This teaching shares with their teaching on war an understanding of “double effect.” As you well know, in war it’s inevitable that civilians will be harmed, but you’re still not allowed to harm civilians even though some wars are just wars. The way out of the contradiction is that while you don’t intend to harm the civilians it happens as an accident pursuant to some other goal that out weighs the possibility of harm. Similarly, having sex as an oldie it shouldn’t be your intention to thwart the procreative function that should just be a side-effect.

    Anyway, don’t attack straw men! Give Catholic theologians their due. Their theories are robust as hell, even if you and I disagree with them.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > most of morality is knowable by non-believers since it’s based on what’s natural and what’s unnatural

    Of course, we wouldn’t want to conclude from that principle that what we observe in the natural world is moral, because, um, we really don’t want to. Rather, we conclude that things that we consider moral AND observe in the natural world we know are moral BECAUSE we so observe them, whereas things we don’t consider moral and observe in the natural world we — oh, look! A bird!

  • Lori

     
    I’m too low in the thread to ever be read by anyone, but…  

    Are you new here? The comments are still on the first page. It’s not unusual for us to have thread comment pages go into the double digits. 

    Others have already pointed out what’s wrong with the rest of your post so I won’t pile on. 

  • Alicia

    Is it possible that some people have their settings rigged up so that there are only, say, 10 comments per page instead of a higher number?

  • Lori

     
    Is it possible that some people have their settings rigged up so that there are only, say, 10 comments per page instead of a higher number?  

    I guess it’s possible. I never changed my default settings so I think I see 50 comments per page. At any rate, the comment in question was less than 40 and we routinely have threads with 3-4 times that many comments. There’s no need to assume that nobody is going to see your comment until at least 150 or so. Especially when you’re commenting on the most recent and/or most active thread. 

  • FangsFirst

    I guess it’s possible. I never changed my default settings so I think I see 50 comments per page.

    Okay, not to totally derail back to this but: do you actually have 50 per page or was that a random estimate?
    I would friggin’ love to have 50 per page. I do not see any place (here or Disqus in particular) to change it though, and I’ve been digging (and noticed I get notifications! oops…) but come up stuck with 20 as far as I can tell…

  • Lori

     
    Okay, not to totally derail back to this but: do you actually have 50 per page or was that a random estimate?  

     

    My display seems to be a certain amount of space, not a fix number of comments. Depending on the length of various comments I generally seem to get between 40 & 55 per page. I don’t think I ever changed any of the defaults on my Disqus account, but it’s possible that I did it and have forgotten about it.  If I did it was probably something on the same page where you can change your screen name. Did you look there? 

  • FangsFirst

    Hm. Yeah. Checked all the “Edit Profile” stuff. Oh well. Thanks anyway!

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Give Catholic theologians their due. Their theories are robust as hell, even if you and I disagree with them.

    Well… I’m not sure “robust” is the right description.
     

    Their point is that excluding things we learned from divine revelation, most of morality is knowable by non-believers since it’s based on what’s natural and what’s unnatural.

    In other words, morality can be derived from observations in nature, except when we say it can’t.

    Swans? Evidence in favor of monogamy. Bonobos? Doesn’t apply, because marriage and fidelity are learned from divine revelation. Masturbation? Divine revelation of Onan’s sin. Killing adulterers? Evidence in nature.

    I don’t know what the standards are for theology, but for logic, that’s pretty poor.

  • fraser

    Right-winger Kathleen Parker asserted once that gays adopting kids is “obviously” unnatural. I pointed out to someone that some people would have found her writing columns and opining on politics just as unnatural.

  • Anonymous

    Some might argue that because stopping and putting on a condom disrupts the flow of sexy times, it also frustrates the unitive function of sex, but I’ve never seen that made in Catholic circles.

    I have, sadly.  Here’s an example. An exert from that link:

    HH”s claim is that condomistic intercourse is not “unitive” in the sense specified and required by the teaching of the Church. More sloganistically: “safe sex” is not “real sex.” Gormally’s claim is that any sexual encounter is which the male semen is ejaculated into a vessel other than the vagina—even if that vessel is a latex bag, stretched over the penis, that happens to be in the vagina at the time of ejaculation—is morally of the same sort as masturbation, sodomy, or any other sexual act that Church teaching traditionally condemns as per se inapt for procreation. More sloganistically: “safe sex” is morally no better than “solitary vice.”

    (I am so going to try to work the phrase “condomistic intercourse” into a conversation at the next possible opportunity…)

    ——-

    C’mon Fred, you can do better than that! Be charitable in your interpretations.

    You really haven’t been around here long, have you.  :-)

  • Lori

    Someone needs to point out to Hugh Henry that when you find yourself using the term “condomistic intercourse” in a serious way it’s time to examine your life, because you took a wrong turn somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    Heh. I tried giving that article a more careful read (which so far I’m finding rather actually rather interesting and empathetic). Well, I keep alternating between that article and one Fred linked a few days back. I’m spending way too much time on this, and I have a few other things to do today. So just for fun:

    Nobody should have to choose between the violence of extreme poverty and the violence of an abusive relationship. – from The Percentages: A Biography of Class

    The lack of physical contact between semen and vagina makes the experience of sex sub-optimal, at least typically; but much in life is sub-optimal as a result of legitimate choices we make. I find nothing so far in HH’s case to tell us why the choice of “safe sex” is intrinsically evil as distinct from merely sub-optimal. – from The Catholic condom debateI almost wish I could take that first quote, track down Hugh Henry and smack him about the head with it. I don’t know why, it just seems like it might make the world a better place or something. —————–

    He wrote that?

    – BaeraadYeah, he did. And I remember my seventeen-ish-year-old self actually flinging the book against the wall when I got to that. 

  • g.shellabear.10

     Hmm. I, personally, would argue that if sex between you and your significant other has reached the point wherein you gain no joy, or feeling of close personal bonding – which I understand to be the goal of “unitive” sex between partners – unless there is absolutely no chance that the semen will go anywhere but the vagina, then one of two things has happened.

     Either your sex has become a matter of instantaneous, simultaneous orgasm, or your very mindset has completely removed the possibility of growing closer to your partner through sex ANYWAY, in which case you should immediately pledge celibacy.

     I apologise to those reading if this made very little sense. In my defence, the quoted arguement makes very little sense either.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll have to give it a closer read – tomorrow. It’s late.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Oaden/100002153148983 Arthur Oaden

    “the Catholic Church’s stance against contraception are part of their
    stance against modernity and against Protestantism and started out as
    political stances”

    The problem with that is Martin Luther and John Calvin also bitterly
    hated contraception. I find no evidence that opposition to contraception
    is not simply a long standing belief of Christianity, no different than
    other rather unique doctrines like opposition to divorce and mandatory monogamy. I have a Presbyterian friend and his church also opposes contraception. He just found it commonsense.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “So you believe that sex can occur primarily for pleasure?”

    The hell?  Was that meant as some sort of Catholic koan or what? 

  • Anonymous

    My response — “Believe it? I’ve seen it with my own two eyes!” — prematurely ended our discussion. 

    *snerk*

  • Lori

    A nice little comment on wrongness of the “natural law” argument:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-dawn/201201/what-rick-santorum-doesn-t-know-about-sex

     Another way in which we differ from most mammals is in our complex,
    multi-male social networks. The gorillas mentioned earlier are
    polygynous, with one dominant silverback mating with several females
    (perhaps more akin to Romney’s religious
    beliefs than to Santorum’s). The only monogamous ape, the gibbon, lives
    in isolated nuclear family units in the treetops of Southeast Asia,
    while humans, chimps, and bonobos all live in complex social groups with
    multiple males in attendance. Of the hundreds of species of primates,
    there are precisely no monogamous species living in multi-male
    groups—except humans, if you buy scientific or religious arguments for
    the naturalness of human monogamy.  

  • FangsFirst

    A nice little comment on wrongness of the “natural law” argument:

    Without needing research, that was still my first thought–“Natural WHERE?”

    PS:

    That includes the fact that his (supposed) stance on abortion would
    have resulted in his wife’s death if they had actually walked their
    talk.

    My first exposure to that story was someone showing an article called “Santorum’s Wife’s Abortion was Different” in a sarcastic way. And I loathe the fact that sometimes people miscast the reality to lose all argument to semantic sniping, meaning now all discussion turned into “It totally was NOT an abortion because [Obscure detail]…” “Oh, but [other obscure detail]…”

    Your statement covers it correctly, and maintains the important part: it may not have been an “abortion,” but what he wants to have laws on would still have criminalized it. It doesn’t matter if it was or wasn’t, just that it fits the bill for what he wants to criminalize.

    Just saying I appreciate the clear-headed approach there. Not to suggest it’s some kind of exception for you, of course.

  • fraser

    Echidne of the Snakes linked to an article in which Santorum, who is of the “Women could quit their jobs and stay home if they’d just tighten the family budget” school wasn’t able to make ends meet on his Congressional salary and had to get occasional checks from his parents.

  • cyllan

    I’m too low in the thread to ever be read by anyone, but…

    Bah. We’re not even on page two.

    The whole argument against contraception baffles me as a woman. Contraception is awesome. It means that I don’t turn into a edgy, cranky bundle of nerves after having sex because I can be reasonably certain that I am not going to become pregnant.  It means that I can happily and joyfully engage in sex with my spouse (or with whoever I choose) and not bring OMG, PREGNANT DOOM fears to that particular union.  Sex is fun; it’s got the ability to make emotional connections deeper and more meaningful; it’s just generally pretty cool in my books.

    Sex would be a lot less cool if I had to fret about pregnancy.  Really. It would be miserable and awful, and I would do it a whole lot less. My marriage would be weaker. Do folks opposed to contraception really want to go back to the “I have a headache” excuse? 

  • JK

    I really don’t think it’s about contraception or even sex — I think it’s about control. If you can dominate someone else to the point where you can tell them that they can’t use condoms, or they can’t eat pork, or they can’t wear the color red on the last Tuesday of each month, you pretty much own them. They don’t have any rights any more in any real sense of the word, since if you can stop (for example) an atheist from eating pork because it’s against Jewish or Islamic law or require everyone to submit to e-meter testing conducted under the auspices of Scientology, you can make them do anything as long as you say your religion says so.

    I’m not criticizing people who choose to adhere to those restrictions based on a sincere religious belief — I’m talking about being able to force everyone to live by your arbitrary moral code, and that’s a significant level of authority that they’re asserting for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not criticizing people who choose to adhere to those restrictions based on a sincere religious belief — I’m talking about being able to force everyone to live by your arbitrary moral code, and that’s a significant level of authority that they’re asserting for themselves.

    Or for that matter, trying to make it illegal for people to live by their own moral codes. (That link refers to the Oklahoma referendum pre-emptively banning use of Sharia law, passed with 70% support in 2010, which was smacked down in court today.)

  • Matri

    Or for that matter, trying to make it illegal for people to live by their own moral codes.
    (That link refers to the Oklahoma referendum pre-emptively banning use
    of Sharia law, passed with 70% support in 2010, which was smacked down
    in court today.)

    Seriously?!? Are these republicans so self-centered they’ve never heard of a previous amendment? It goes like this:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof
    ; or abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Are these also the same republicans who believe that the amendment was only to keep government out of religion but not religion out of government? So now they want to bring government into religion in order to keep religion out of government.

    My head hurts.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, it was pretty much a no-brainer. Though reading into it more, the sticking point was not so much “trying to make it illegal for people to live by their own moral codes” as it was in singling out Islam for special (mis)treatment. 

  • P J Evans

     I’m not sure they’re aware of the legitimate medical uses of contraception. (Of course, if they were, they’d have to admit that women are really people with rights and all that stuff that they’d prefer to limit to men.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Traditionally, a Catholic health care provider would give you script for birth control pills if you told them you wanted them for one of the other health effects they have (Stabilizing an irregular cycle or reduced cramping and discomfort). I believe you are allowed to wink while doing it.

    On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’ve also heard of cases where a catholic provider refused to grant needed medical treatment to a woman because the procedure had the side effect of being a contraceptive.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A Celibate Virgin Talks About Sex

    As opposed to the non-celibate variety of virgin…?

  • Stevarious

    As opposed to the non-celibate variety of virgin…?

    It really depends on your definition of ‘virgin’.  If you define virgin as ‘person who has not participated in PiV sexual intercourse’, as many of the teens in my church did when I was a teen, then I could have pointed out a number of non-celibate virgins who were quite vigorously non-celibate very regularly. (In an entirely non-monogamous manner, I might add.)

  • Anonymous

    And the OTHER question that remains unanswered by the Pope and Romney both is, to quote the song, “Just what’s so bad about feeling good?”

  • Emcee, cubed

    As opposed to the non-celibate variety of virgin…?

    Well, one can be celibate now, but not a virgin, such as a monk who came late to the cloister (yes, I just finished watching The Brother Cadfael Mysteries, why do you ask?)

    Also, I think of celibacy as a choice, or a calling. A virgin who simply hasn’t had the chance to have sex yet, but doesn’t actually plan to abstain from sex, is a “non-celibate” virgin.

    And this is fairly beside the point, and probably more a result of me being bored and wanting to comment, but everyone else said most of the things of substance I thought of…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    That’s pretty much the definition of  “Incel,” or Involuntary Celibacy.  There are, or were, years ago, a bunch of Incel support group sites on the Web…er, so I’ve heard…
    (Personally, I like the term “nonogamy,” which I a friend saw on one such support site.)

  • Mary Kaye

    It is kind of odd that Santorum is pushing the bit of Catholic teaching that is perhaps most often disregarded by US Catholics; I believe studies show that the majority of US Catholics do in fact favor the use of contraceptives. 

    He’s certainly not going to make any friends among Catholics like the ones in my immediate family.  My stepfather had a vasectomy at the point where they could see that further childbearing would severely endanger my mother’s life.  I  mean, yes, this frustrates the procreative purpose of sex, but lifelong undesired celibacy would equally frustrate the unitive purpose, wouldn’t it?  No matter how much the theologicans argue and reason, the emotional fact is that a loving married couple would like to have sex, there’s no moral reason apparent why they shouldn’t, and risking someone’s life would be obviously wrong when an alternative is available.

    I founder on the idea that I could licitly have non-procreative sex  because of my medical condition causing infertility, but my mother couldn’t have even though she had a medical condition that would kill her if she got pregnant.

    I once asked my mother why she was still a Catholic.  She said, it’s like belonging to a family.  You may not always like them, you may not always agree with them, but you’re connected and it’s hard to deny that.  She was, perhaps as a result, very accepting of my becoming a Pagan; the arguments were far from unfamiliar to her even if she didn’t accept them herself.

    (Then again the chance that my fairly liberal parents would ever have voted for Santorum is nil anyway, so he wouldn’t care what they think…but there are surely a lot of more conservative Catholics who have reached the same conclusion on contraception within marriage.)

  • FangsFirst

    And just to pipe in, albeit with secondhand experience:

    My SGF is Catholic (she laughs when I call her a “hardcore Catholic,” but acknowledges it as a mostly fair descriptor). She still wears a mantilla to Mass. She wears a mantilla if she goes to church with my (Methodist) parents (or anyone else). She takes Mass attendance as an issue of mortal sin, she is very firm on making sure younger family members are taught the ins and outs of Catholicism (though what they do with it she considers to be up to them–but feels it is her familial duty to give them those tools). So on and so forth–I can’t name all the details as I’ve never had *close* Catholic friends (and she doesn’t like “forcing” me to go to Mass with her–by way of sheepishly accepting if I offer to go. Such force…).

    She takes the idea of sex pretty seriously, emotionally speaking, though it remains a theoretical for her: “not until marriage” would be fair to her, but more out of the emotional investment component than the “post-dating a ceremony” component. So if you find the person you plan to spend your life with, okay. And, of course, this is only her personal feeling: she doesn’t hold my experience of two prior pseudo-long-term girlfriends against me, nor against anyone else. Just her personal choice.

    That said, she told me she has no interest in avoiding contraceptive measures…even now that it is an entirely painful theoretical, considering contraception is moot for her and she’s still grappling with that. But, still, she felt the need to warn me, I guess, for the point at which it becomes relevant to us.

  • Dan Audy

    Out of curiosity since I’m not terribly familiar with Catholic theology (despite attending a Catholic school – they mostly went with the ’cause I said so’ form of religious theory) is using contraceptives to prevent a pregnancy that would almost certainly kill the woman and fetus considered sinful?  Or is it a case of ‘God wouldn’t have made her pregnant unless he wanted to murder her’ sort of thing.

    Personally, I felt that after my ‘infertile’ wife gave birth to her second child that it wasn’t a case of a divine miracle overcoming her medical condition but a case of a doctor who wasn’t terribly competent.  Even if one credits the idea that sex must have a procreative component it seems immoral to me to condemn your family to poverty by continuing to have children beyond the point of your ability to support them and equally immoral to deny the God-given pleasure and closeness sex grants by avoiding it altogether.

  • Lori

    Relevant to this discussion, a short article on the economics of Republican attempts to limit access to contraception: http://www.newdeal20.org/2012/01/10/access-to-contraception-is-an-economic-issue-68787/

  • TomV

    Reminds me of an old (19th century) anecdote.  A man, on being asked if he believed in infant baptism answered, “believe it?  Hell, I’ve SEEN it.”

  • Anonymous

    If the possibility of a divine miracle overcoming menopause is
    sufficient, then why isn’t the same true of the possibility of a divine
    miracle overcoming condom-use?

    Shades of C.S. Lewis.  In That Hideous Strength, Merlin condemns the misguidedly liberal female protagonist as “the falsest woman alive”, worthy of immediate execution, because she and her husband use contraception.  Apparently it was the “purpose of God” that they conceive a baby that grow up to be the awesomest guy in the world.  But the purpose of God can’t get around diaphragms, nor can it wait a year or two until they actually decide to have a kid.

    Contraceptives are the iron chariots of the reproductive system, apparently.

  • Baeraad

    He wrote that? Holy crap.

    See, it’s things like this that forces me to bite my tongue very hard indeed when CS Lewis is admiringly mentioned around here as an example of the *good* sort of Christian novelist. I mean, *yes,* the Chronicles of Narnia are miles above the Left Behind books, both from a literary and a moral point of view, but the man was nevertheless an ass.

  • Anonymous

    Eh, like most people Lewis had some good ideas and some bad ideas.  I think he was fairly reactionary even for his time and place, but I can’t blame people for pulling valuable lessons out of his work.  I mean, I’m a Lovecraft fan.

    That Hideous Strength is probably the assiest of his works of fiction.  It’s in the genre of “sci-fi fables attacking everything that’s wrong with Society Today,” and those are generally pretty wincing no matter how gifted and awesome the author is.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    So… *That* must be where we get the classical theological debate about angels dancing on the head of a pin. It’s all about god’s masterplan to poke holes in our condoms

  • muteKi

    Damn, forgot how old this new post was. Must read more comments before posting the same thing everyone else has.

    Regardless, I favor contraception because I don’t particularly like abortion. Given that several reliable contraception methods are considered acceptable due to their ability to inhibit the spread of HIV and other STDs by the church itself, it seems strange to not see more arguments in favor of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring.

  • phoenix_feather

    It doesn’t even seem like “Having sex and taking deliberate overt action
    to avoid pregnancy” is forbidden, as the fertility awareness stuff
    shows. It just seems very inconsistent.

    This was the reason I stopped being Catholic.

    Well, the first one anyway.  One day, I was sitting in my Catholic school’s senior religion class, and the teacher was explaining Catholic laws on contraception.  I raised my hand and said pretty much the same thing you just did.  The teacher paused, kind of laughed, and said, “That’s a good question,” then changed the subject. 

    During high school I was really religious–I went to church at
    least once a week, read the Bible, prayed a lot, joined the campus
    ministry, etc.  But I was really frustrated by his lack of an answer.  I thought, Why would you enforce these rules on people if you don’t even have an explanation?  I refused to believe that God could be so arbitrary.  As I thought about it further, I realized that it was hard to believe that God could be ok with a lot of the things the Catholic church was teaching.  And that was sort of that.  A month later I quit.

    I guess the moral of the story is… don’t spout inconsistent nonsense and then be offended when no one takes you seriously.  (That would be directed to the Catholic church, but I guess you can apply it to almost any religious or political ideology.)

  • phoenix_feather

     That makes me sound a little more bitter than I actually am, so I
    should clarify that I know there are many intelligent Catholics who have
    valid reasons for choosing that particular belief system (and I know
    that most disagree with some parts of it), but for me, when I personally
    considered it, the flaws outweighed the merits.  I still have a lot of respect for Catholicism, though. I just think it has some adapting to do.

  • Anonymous

    @carlj7:disqus:Sex, they say, has two natural functions: it makes babies and it lets couples express their love. These are called the procreative and unitive functions of sex. Condoms are unnatural because they deliberately frustrate the procreative function of sex.  
    This would also form the basis of a Catholic argument against sunscreen, which deliberately frustrates the carcinogenic function of sunlight while preserving the pleasurable and tanning functions of sunlight.
    Have a sin-free summer: abstain from sunlight.

  • fraser

    I read the David Brooks column. He cites, approvingly, a Santorum proposal to pay men welfare (okay that’s not what he calls it) so that they’ll become more marriageable (and presumably women can afford to stay home).  I had not heard that idea before (though I have heard suggestions we should pay American women to stay home and breed).

  • Anonymous

    a Santorum proposal to pay men welfare (okay that’s not what he calls
    it) so that they’ll become more marriageable (and presumably women can
    afford to stay home).  I had not heard that idea before (though I have
    heard suggestions we should pay American women to stay home and breed).

    And what’s wrong with the idea that parents should be paid to be parents? Raising children is one of the most important jobs there is, and it’s an expensive job to do. It’s just that it’s associated with women, so it’s devalued. Ditto teaching.

  • Lori

     
    And what’s wrong with the idea that parents should be paid to be parents?   

     

    In and of itself, nothing. Coming from someone who generally wants to dismantle the social safety net, quite a lot. Especially since it seems that he’s talking about giving the money to men, presumably in their role as “head of the household”. That’s not support for parents, that’s a tool of control. 

  • Nathaniel

    Of course, when it comes to black/undeserving poor people(same thing in their minds), suddenly such proposals are abandoned in favor of finger wagging and “personal responsibility.”

    As for the whole guff about “Natural Law,” I have always found it to be Catholic theology with the bits mentioning God directly removed.

    Unfortunately for them, removing God removes any coherency from their arguments. Which means they never had an argument in the first place.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    As for the whole guff about “Natural Law,” I have always found it to be
    Catholic theology with the bits mentioning God directly removed.

    Pretty much, yeah.

    One of my favorite writers, Robert Anton Wilson, wrote an entire (short) book called Natural Law: or, Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy in which he basically dismantles the entire notion of “Natural Law”.   ISTR he calls Natural Law arguments ‘an appeal to authority based on sheer bluff’.

  • rizzo

    Rick Santorum is an idiot who will say anything he thinks will help him get elected.  He’s got a dirty little secret:  As bad as he was as a Senator, he did 10x better at that than any other job he’s ever had…because he’s a febrile idiot.

  • Quercus

    > Perhaps someone should ask him whether he plans to be celibate after his wife passes through menopause.

    Well, if he’s like a certain other candidate, the answer is “Of course not!  That’s what hospital bed divorces are for!”


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