Two Attempts to Clarify Some Things

If you have grown tired of reading about the “hot-button” controversies, skip this one. Ignatius Reilly probably could have written what follows, but I take full credit for it.

The Commonweal magazine website has an article to the following effect: What began (with Humanae Vitae) as a universal moral norm has changed into a Catholic cultural marker. We no longer say that no one should use artificial contraception; we say that the Catholic sub-culture defines itself by the prohibition of artificial contraception. (Faithful readers will recall that: You read it here first.)

One can see where someone might get this impression. After all: On the one hand, a bishop representing the U.S. Conference of Bishops testified to Congress to the effect that the government can no more force Catholic institutions to pay for artificial contraceptives than the government can force orthodox Jews to serve bacon at their bar-mitzvahs. (No one has ever proposed that eating bacon is intrinsically wrong for everyone.)

On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like anyone representing the teaching Church has any interest in explaining precisely how paying into a health plan (even a “self-insured” health plan) involves formally co-operating with the evil act of a couple who renders their embrace infertile by their own destructive artificial intervention.

Nonetheless, while one might reasonably wonder about this, to conclude that the Catholic world can–or should–cordon itself off as a subculture in which artificial contraception is “banned:” this conclusion is startlingly obtuse.

The fact is, in the western world, there is nowhere where artificial contraception is “banned” or “prohibited.” Anyone with a willing partner can easily obtain whatever is needed to bring the business off—if one chooses to do so.

So, to my mind, the real operative question at this point is: Why would anyone choose to do that? The authority of the Church need not enter into this question at all. The only authoritative statement we need is: A person should only do things that make sense.

How does it make sense to have sex, while simultaneously impeding its purpose? I mean, if I have a spouse, and we try to make a baby, we will probably enjoy it and grow closer.

But if I am simply looking to grow closer to someone, and not make a baby, then having a conversation will work better than sex. And if all I want out of life is physical pleasure, then I can be sure I won’t wind up happy. A human being needs to cultivate intellectual and aesthetic pleasures if he wants stable happiness in this tumultuous life.

So: When will the moment ever come when it makes sense for someone to use an artificial contraceptive? It won’t. Much better to get off the couch and go for a walk.

My generation and those younger than us have had artificial contraception shoved down our throats so relentlessly that we might honestly think that the burden of proof rests with us to show why using it is wrong. If I had a nickel for every time someone stuck a condom in my face in high school and college…

But the burden of proof does not lie with us. The real question under such circumstances (condom shoved in my face) is: Why on earth would I want that? Do you really think that I am so silly and boring that I can’t come up with something more interesting to do with my time?

The question is not: Why is artificial contraception wrong? The question is: What, really, is the point of it?

…Which brings us to Controversial Subject #2.

“Right now my life lurches from one emotional disturbance to the next. At the same time, it also manages to bore me. I know a million people, but don’t really like them. Loneliness darkens my soul, but my chaotic social life gives me no peace.

“A day will come when this unhappiness will end. I cannot really see beyond that day, because it is so full of light. On that day I will be united by a sacred bond to the companion of my soul. All eyes will focus on us, because we will offer everyone the perfect image of communion and bliss.”

The trophy: a perfect wedding day. The day for which a longing heart lives. No need to think beyond it. The day itself is the goal.

Any poor soul with this theory of life comes by it honestly enough. After all, the classic genre of drama, the comedy, has this structure. I don’t mean comedy like haha; I mean comedy like: lots of strife and confusion, lots of tension and uncertainty, and then everything gets straightened out, everyone gets married, and it’s over—with the idea that happy-ever-after awaits. Plenty of movies based on this.

Now, a young person does reasonably look forward to the turning point of life, the moment of commitment, when he or she forecloses 99% of life’s options. Any young person reasonably awaits with eagerness the day for casting aside the unendurable agony of too many choices, in favor of the relative peace and happiness of boring daily routine.

Hopefully we marry a friend, or at least a reasonable person who is cut-out to be married. Then a more sedate and solid life can indeed begin, with the help of God. Plenty of pleasant moments may come our way, and we have heaven to look forward to, please God, after a few decades of making sacrifices for the benefit of (frequently unappreciative) other people. Plus, when you’re married, you get to have sex. But: Heavenly bliss on earth? No. The image of marital nirvana shimmers like a mirage, a glistening trophy—doesn’t really exist.

A number of considerations move me to laugh out loud whenever the phrase “gay marriage” crosses my mind. Not the least of those considerations is this: When I was of a marrying age (a score years ago), I enjoyed the friendship of not a few homosexuals. I make no bones about that.

One of the things I had in common with these friends–one of the main reasons I so much enjoyed talking with them–was: We, at least, had managed to elude the spell of the false trophy. We did not let our thoughts about the future get clouded by dreams of storybook weddings. I’m not saying I didn’t have my problems. But I did not let myself get carried away with fantasies involving a marriage that could never come to pass on planet earth. Neither did any of the homosexuals I knew. (As I said, that was precisely one of their distinctive, endearing characteristics, qua homosexuali.)

Unfortunately, plenty of people do live for one thing, namely to get their hands on the trophy. Dare I say it? Plenty of…females live to get their hands on that trophy.

I have been trying to figure out why something so strange as the idea of “gay marriage” has garnered so many shrilly self-righteous champions. What I came up with is: A lot of people (dare we say it? a lot of women) cling in their minds to the fantastic trophy with an iron grip.

Since, in these minds, the trophy constitutes the true prize of life, then how could I—if I am a good person—how could I, how could society–if we are good–how could we exclude anyone from being able to get his or her hands on the trophy? That would be like arbitrarily barring a whole class of people from receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament. Doing so would be so cruelly unjust, so hateful, because…to stand in the glorious light of a mountaintop flower grove, or a grape arbor in an Italian vineyard, or under a fragrant chuppah on a Spice Island—to stand there with your beloved soulmate in the burning light of the great trophy of My Wedding Day…With a zeal that knows no bounds, I want everyone to have that!

See my point? Again, please forgive me for putting it this way: Nothing could be more dangerous than a self-righteous effeminate fantasy regarding somebody’s wedding day.

I stand opposed to the contraception mandate as much as the next guy. But the growing juggernaut of gay-marriage zeal scares me a million times more. (Truth is, since 2008, I myself have fantasized about the trophy of going to jail over this.)

Only God knows the plan of His Providence. But what I propose here is: We can make sense of this mysteriously odd “gay marriage” movement as a case of “Bridezilla Unleashed”–self-righteously seeking solidarity with the poor, downtrodden homos.

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