Big brother

Quote of the nanosecond:

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power [regarding artificial methods of birth control] passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Humanae Vitae, paragraph 17

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  • Ronald King

    When the Church has a history of taking less than a sacrificial stance against evils such as with World Wars 1 and 2 and the child abuse horror, and the hierarchy rather seeks to protect itself from the potential of death in the wars or the potential of shame in the child abuse scandal, then I find it extremely difficult to see this stance against the HHS mandate as something significantly moral, courageous or wise.

  • muldoont

    Point taken. But “the Church” includes the Maximilian Kolbes of the world and those who convened the recent conference at the Gregorian on combatting sexual abuse. Many leaders drop the ball; but the Church’s greatest witness seldom comes from its leaders. It comes from its martyrs. Let’s look to them for courage and wisdom.

    • http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/kylecupp/ Kyle R. Cupp

      What Tim said, Ronald. Think of it this way: if the Church had given the appropriate response to those evils, its stance against the HHS mandate would still be either right or wrong. Its correctness isn’t tied to its past heroics or transgressions.

      • Ronald King

        I agree. The problem for me is getting my thoughts written rather than spoken since in my career it was 99% of the time verbally communicated and it is very laborious for me to write my thoughts as clearly as I can verbalize them. Sorry, neurogenesis is real slow process for me at this age. Since I have returned to the faith I have always looked to the saints for direction and what I see is a huge difference with the saints and the hierarchy of our faith. The problem is not how I perceive it but how those outside the faith perceive it. It is the hierarchy who have the most influence with the perception and practice of the faith. With the imporved understanding of how the social brain develops and operates through the mirror neuron system which connects the primitive limbic system to the neocortex with the influence to feel, think and act beginning within the limbic response, we now know that our cognitive and behavioral response is programmed from a very early age just through the observation of those authority figures that surround us through those critical developmental years. St. Max Kolbe had to override those powerful survival instincts to offer himself as a sacrifice to save others. However. when the hierarchy expresses different behavior from the sacrifice of the saints then the unconscious expectations of how the laity live our faith is conditioned to mirror the behavior of the authorities. The identity of each of the faithful is then built around this emotional and behavioral system which is then supported by core beliefs cemented in these extremely powerful emotional learning situations. The protein responsible for this emotional learning which leads to the formation of beliefs greatly decreases in the mid-20’s and it is a much slower process to learn new responses after that except for the miracle of God’s Grace.
        So what the hell am I saying?
        Please tell me:)

  • Chris Sullivan

    Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

    Taking these theoretical questions in turn…

    1. Naturally in a secular democracy, the majority view will prevail. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising when most Catholics contracept and even the overwhelming majority of Pope Paul VI’s commission on birth control, all faithful, intelligent Catholics clued up on the issues at stake, approved the pill. And that outcome is perfectly consistent with Catholic teaching on the primacy of conscience, about which the man now Pope once wrote that one was obliged to follow ones conscience even against the Pope.

    One notes again here how the encyclical is talking about contraception in marriage. There are of course many instances of its use outside marriage, against which the Church does not have an official teaching. The point being that the Church does not have a teaching against the use of contraceptives in general, only against their use in marriage. Excluded from this teaching are all uses of contraception outside marriage, those outside genuinely loving conjugal acts (eg spousal coercion), before or after rape, to treat various medical conditions such as heavy periods (Guttmacher say that only some 43% of pill users are using the pill exclusively for contraception), to limit disease transmission etc.

    2. Naturally, people will look to effective rather than ineffective methods of spacing children. The rhythm method was notoriously unreliable. Modern methods of NFP seem to be much more reliable, but there still seems to be an effective failure rate of 25% in practice. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was realistic to state that NFP does not work in every marriage but requires marriages of love and cooperation, which sadly many marriages lack.

    3. The suggestion that the U.S. Government is about to impose contraception on everyone is very far from reality.

    I think that the position of the Obama administration on this is actually very solidly grounded in Catholic teaching on contraception, on conscience, on religious freedom, and on remote material cooperation with evil, and I think that the administration has done well to accommodate the original objections of the Bishops.

    God Bless

  • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

    . . . . they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

    As I read this, it is predicting that people will be forced to use contraceptives. Nothing of the kind is going on. Providing insurance coverage for contraceptives in no way requires anyone to take advantage of that coverage and use contraceptives. And in the case of the revised rules from HHS and the Obama administration, for those who work as employees of religious organizations (and get employer-provided insurance), it is their choice whether to opt for contraceptive coverage or not.

    It is not because people don’t use contraception and would be encouraged to that the Catholic Bishops don’t want insurance coverage for it. It is because people already do use it, and see nothing wrong with using it, that the Bishops oppose providing coverage.

    Does the federal government really not have the authority to issue rules as to what the minimum is that health insurance must cover? And did Big Brother have a Supreme Court that could overrule him, or a Congress that could override him? And did he face re-election after four years and a limit of two terms?

    We do not have anything resembling tyranny in the United States.

    • brettsalkeld

      It is not because people don’t use contraception and would be encouraged to that the Catholic Bishops don’t want insurance coverage for it. It is because people already do use it, and see nothing wrong with using it, that the Bishops oppose providing coverage.

      I think this misses the point. The Bishops oppose providing coverage because they believe it is immoral.

  • M.Z.

    Applying this passage to voluntary transactions is manifest silliness. A real applicability of this section would be to sterilizations order by states several decades ago against the mentally disabled. China’s one child policy comes to mind.

    BTW, have you been claiming this garbage over the past couple decades when the federal government was spending hundreds of millions in Medicaid and Title X dollars per year on contraceptives for poor women or did your ire just get stoked when you figured out some middle class woman somewhere might be getting money for her contraceptives?

  • Anne

    The Holy Father was talking about the possibility of governments directly *imposing* contraception on families. But implying any sort of moral equivalence between a government dictating if and how a family determines its size and a government requiring that insurance companies cover medical claims that include contraceptive services without a copay strikes me as wildly out of line.

    Under this mandate, no one will be required to practice any sort of birth control. There are, of course, governments around the world (China, e.g.) that do encourage and even require limiting births. We should remember what that looks like.

    What we have here in our democratic republic is a situation where the government in power is seeking to satisfy the demands of its female constituency by requiring insurance companies to bring down the out-of-pocket costs of what has become routine health care for women. Like it or not, the practical reality is doctors routinely prescribe contraceptive medications and devices — for various reasons, some that have nothing to do with contraception — to the majority of women who see them. Insurance companies, on their own, have categorized contraceptives with those medical services that save them money over time. The government’s opinion on that didn’t come out of thin air. Hence, the new mandate, and the government’s ability to make such a demand of insurance companies without major opposition from them.

    The bishops may have some difficulties with the revised mandate — the issue of what to do about dioceses that have self-insured being the major one — but facing a situation equivalent to Communist China’s isn’t one of them. One would hope nobody even hints that it is.

  • muldoont

    The contraception mandate, even in its revised form, is totalitarian. It is predicated on a belief that universal use of contraception will reduce unwanted pregnancy. It is further predicated on a belief that people are incapable of moral responsibility in matters of sex.

    It is wrong. It is the logical consequence of a culture of competition, in which sex is one prominent example of mimetic rivalry. It takes the view that in order to reduce the fallout of the war of the sexes, all you need to do is mandate that everyone hand out helmets.

    The Church says, rather, don’t fight.

  • M.Z.

    The education mandate is totalitarian. It is predicated on a belief that universal use of higher learning will reduce poverty. It is further predicated on a belief that people are incapable of moral responsibility in matters of education.

    It is wrong. It is the logical consequence of a culture of competition, in which innovation is one prominent example of mimetic rivalry. It takes the view that in order to reduce the fallout of the war of the differing intellects, all you need to do is mandate that everyone hand out diplomas.

    The Church says, rather, don’t fight.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    “It is predicated on a belief that universal use of contraception will reduce unwanted pregnancy. It is further predicated on a belief that people are incapable of moral responsibility in matters of sex.”

    Could you expand on these assertions? I really don’t see how they follow.

    • muldoont

      Sure, David. I see totalitarianism at work here: HHS wants no gaps to universal use of contraception. They want everyone to pay for it equally. They want to fully form citizens in the regular use of contraception, and see Catholic institutions as hopelessly intransigent because they will not dance to the tune HHS is piping.

      The Catholic position, as I see it, is that contraceptive sex makes possible a pattern of sexual behavior rooted in consumption rather than any common good. The institutionalizing of contraception invites “risk compensation” (google it). People respond to the perceived removal of consequences by engaging in more and more sex which is less and less tied to love, fidelity, or procreation, such that the aggregate number of sexual encounters increases. There is a corresponding decrease in the percentage of fecund individual sexual encounters due to contraception, but the overall number of fecund encounters (babies) increases anyway. So you have to throw in abortion to subsequently reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

      Old days: let’s say 30% of sexual encounters were fecund. In a sample of 100 encounters, that’s 30 pregnancies.
      Today: let’s say 5% of sexual encounters were fecund. But the sample is massively larger (like 1000 encounters), so that’s 50 pregnancies.

      In the big picture, the Church says that people must learn to say no to contraceptive sex and learn instead moral responsibility, i.e. sex in marriage.

      (Clunky twenty second version; apologies for sweeping general description of the logic. BTW, the Church’s vision is totalitarian too, but more deeply rooted in human freedom.)

      • grega

        Muldoont – I am married with children – in my view it is a very responsible path to discuss number and frequency of children with ones wife – and as you know even in a marriage blessed with lets say 4/5 children there are years upon years of sexually rather active marriage life to account for- and yes you guessed it most rationale adults do indeed decide against the supposedly morally superior path. What is the moral difference between NFP and family planning that allows for a wider range of options?
        You tell me – it simply does not make sense to most of us.
        In my view the church fails to make this case because the case is very weak and rather utterly unconvincing.
        Now I fully understand that all religions have utterly irrational and unconvincing rules – take the dietary restrictions of both our islamic and jewish brothers – sure one can argue that good religious believers follow these rules no questions asked – that is not me.
        There are very good reasons why we are less into blind obedience these days – it will be very difficult to turn this trend around.
        It will not be turned around by vigorous proclamations of an unmarried celibate priestcast or by the clearly political motivated little theoretical storm in Republican lala land.

      • muldoont

        grega, if our discussion of contraceptive sex were limited to what happens in marriage that would be one thing. But the point I’m advancing is that contraceptive sex always means changing social behavior, social assumptions around sex: changing mimetic patterns. If suddenly Ferraris were free, everyone would want one, and eventually they would lose value and people would turn to the next road candy.

        Contraceptive sex in marriage is a participation in social sin because it is participation in consumptive patterns of sex. It makes sex cheap in marriage too.

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

        muldoont writes, “Old days: let’s say 30% of sexual encounters were fecund. In a sample of 100 encounters, that’s 30 pregnancies. Today: let’s say 5% of sexual encounters were fecund. But the sample is massively larger (like 1000 encounters), so that’s 50 pregnancies. In the big picture, the Church says that people must learn to say no to contraceptive sex and learn instead moral responsibility, i.e. sex in marriage.”

        Nicely explained. Good job.

  • brettsalkeld

    I think we can all safely assume that Tim sees the difference between the HHS Mandate and China’s one-child policy. Simply highlighting the most egregious offense of its kind in history and saying we’re not there doesn’t discount his basic point.

    The document said “Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

    That would be end-game, but it also implies that there are steps before end-game. Forcing groups that oppose contraceptives to provide policies which cover them against their consciences is a step on the way there. I’m not saying it guarantees we get there, but it is bad enough in itself and it does not bode well for the future of religious freedom in the United States.

    If we insist on taking no action until we have something that even remotely resembles a one-child policy it will be way too damn late.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Tim Muldoon states that “BTW, the Church’s vision is totalitarian too”.

    No doubt most Catholics, not to mention the public at large, would agree !

    I’d like to see some more detail of what Tim means by “totalitarian” here.

    I would have thought that the Catholic position on conscience respected the individual’s moral obligation to contracept if their conscience so informs them.

    Actually, the Church’s position against contraception is highly nuanced, covering only acts of genuine love in marriage.

    So, on those counts, the Church does not seem to be totalitarian at all.

    BTW, Tim’s 11:16 pm objections to contraception could equally be applied to NFP. So the case against contraception will have to be made on other grounds, as the papal encyclicals do. A good place to start would be to consider the nature of marriage.

    God Bless

    • muldoont

      By “totalitarian” I mean seeing to promote a total understanding of sexual relationships, an understanding that applies to everyone all the time. The administration’s totalitarianism is rooted in an insufficient model of human freedom: freedom as the autonomy to choose whatever sexual acts seem appropriate at any moment. Catholic totalitarianism (dare I say divine totalitarianism?) sees that model of autonomy rooted more in the echoes of evolutionary neural mechanisms (libido) ramped up by consumer culture–sex at all times without consequences. It further suggests that a more authentic model of freedom involves a “pruning” of sexual desire in a loving marriage–that is, a partnership for life oriented toward love.

      • Ronald King

        Tim, They are not “echoes of evolutionary neural mechanisms ramped up by consumer culture…”. We are wired to have sex and to love. We are also wired to reject totalitarian declarations no matter how divine they may be if we do not experience a sense of a love within the totalitarian decree. We are wired to receive and accept truths that resonate with our experience and we are wired to reject that which projects a lack of understanding and validation of our experience. We rejected authority back in the ’60’s exactly because that authority did not give us the sense of being validated, instead the authorities were attempting to form us into something they wanted us to be. That has happened throughout history. When we have more freedom we are freer to experience the natural consequences of our behavior. If we are indoctrinated without experiencing a sense of validation we will be left with the choice to conform and supress our hidden truths and become rigidly fixed in a personality that is governed by fear of the ugliness in oneself and fear of others seeing that ugliness.
        My generation came from a generation traumatized by two world wars and that harmed marriages and the children born into those marriages through the symptoms associated with such trauma such as emotional detachment from loved ones, hypervigilance, increased startle response, emotional numbing, outbursts of rage, hypersensitivity to any stimulus which may remind the person of the initial trauma and more. What I am saying is that the children of my generation experienced the “echoes” of those wars in that we saw sadness, anger, anxiety and we were helpless in making our parents well. We were all objects because we could not be as close as we wanted to be.
        It is my belief that we are becoming closer as human beings because of our innate desire for love and freedom. The consumer culture and its use of sex to manipulate us has always been there. The desire for contraception is the attempt to remain safe while we are “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”

      • Bill Logan

        I don’t think that using the word “totalitarian” to describe the HHS regulation is especially helpful. At best, it’s a rhetorical overreach that will lead to overheated debate due to popular connotations of “totalitarianism”. It’s definitely not helpful if you’re also going to say (admit?) that the Catholic Church has a similarly totalitarian view of sexual relationships. Now you’ve reduced the issue to one of dueling totalitarianisms. This makes it seem as if your objection to the Obama’s administration’s actions is that they haven’t adopted the Catholic Church’s view of sexual relationships. (Or perhaps that is what your objection really is?) In a pluralistic democracy, that’s not an objection most people will be sympathetic to.

  • grega

    muldoont , yes you are correct most certainly it is changing social behavior – in my view overall for the better – the good old days were not always all that innocent and ‘good’. Sure the refined language of the clerics in theory sounds oh so respectful and so open to the miracle that life indeed is – but such musing along with an traditional understanding of husband and wife relations also serve as cover for plenty of rather nasty and not all that innocent interaction between husbands and wifes – yes indeed contraceptives empower women and enable them to break an ancient dependency that was not always all that wholesome in the first place. In my view the type of man that in the ‘good’ old days forced his will on the wife and requested ‘open to conception’ marital interaction is the type of character that today either does the same with or without contraceptives.
    I am not sure if you are married – if yes and you indeed live what you preach I would very much like to discuss this issue in an honest face to face – unfortunately this comment box is not a great medium for that kind of frank and honest talk.
    For me contraceptive sex can be, but is not necessary social sin – for me social sin is disrespectful sexual interaction – I do not see social sin at all if a married couple raises the number of children they found to be appropriate for their given circumstances and who than go on to have perhaps decades of respectful joyous contraceptive sex.