Summertime definitely in full swing.
In Rome, things usually quiet down considerably this time of year.
But 46 years ago today, a thunderbolt broke the late-July languor of St. Peter’s Square. Monsignor Ferdinando Lambruschini announced that, when it comes to artificial contraception, Pope Paul had put the Church squarely on the same side as Mahatma Gandhi–and against all the creepy people like Margaret Sanger and Bertrand Russell.
Now, I may not be the one to talk to, when it comes to artificial contraception. Ever since I was a mere youth, the idea of using artificial contraception has struck me as both preposterous and pitiful.
Back in the 80’s, supposedly well-meaning educational professionals continually shoved condoms into our teenage faces. I would think to myself, ‘Why in the world would I want to do anything with that? I would prefer to play basketball. At least then I could actually sink a layup or a jumper, without having to cover the top of the rim with a garbage bag, just because I’m not married.’
Now—over a quarter-century later—I can say that I have fewer regrets, and more happy memories, than the other boys who did not think like I did. Many of my high-school friends have grown up to be unhappy divorcees who spend too much time on facebook.
Anyway, I will have more to say on this and other related subjects at the talk I am going to give on the 1st, 6th, and 5th Commandments, called “Conservative Enough to be Liberal.”
Psst INTERWEB ONLY Here’s the outline:
Conservative Enough to be Liberal. The 1st, 6th, and 5th Commandments
I. The acknowledgement of God
God’s attributes: goodness, omnipotence, truth, justice, mercy
divine Providence vs. ‘technocracy’ as an ideology
–existence of God is uncertain; Revelation is impossible
–mankind must direct history
–mankind must have comprehensive knowledge
(the uncertainty of sociological findings, polls, etc.)
–mankind CANNOT have comprehensive knowledge
–reduces man to a physical mechanism
the antipathy of non-Western cultures towards contemporary Western culture: What, no acknowledgement of God? How can I respect this? A culture that does not acknowledge God is a threat.
–There is no reasonable doubt that God exists and
–that He has the freedom and sovereignty to reveal Himself.
–To believe in the Incarnation is a gift
–No one can believe in Christ without divine grace
–BUT, at the same time, there are no substantial intellectual objections to the Christian faith.
–i.e., no “leap” required
–The great miracle or “magical moment,” when reason ends and religion begins: the beginning of time, the existence of something rather than nothing
–historical evidence—Christ’s miracles, the endurance of the Church—supports the faith
–Revelation comes to homo religiosus, to a creature naturally receptive (contra Protestantism)
TO BE LIBERAL…
–the Blessed Trinity does exercise omnipotent Providence over history
–Christ does have every soul in His mind
–He does not ask any of us to be the Messiah
–He asks us to co-operate humbly with HIS work
–contemplation and silence come first
–listening comes first
–we give only what we receive from God
–we do NOT have the responsibility to “build a New World;” the idea that we do is a dangerous myth; God has the plan, we do not
–heresy of Americanism: activism to be preferred to contemplation: condemned, because it isn’t true
II. Sexual Morality
A. The underlying ‘moral imperative’ of human existence
Not all agree that Christ is God. No one can force anyone to believe that Christ is God. The Christian faith is first and foremost a divine gift.
We Christians have a particular motivation for living morally: the love of our Creator and Lord, our hope for eternal happiness, our certainty that we will be judged justly by Christ. But the Christian motivations for living well cannot bind everyone now, because not everyone holds the Christian faith.
BUT: The moral imperative, ‘do good, avoid evil,’ does bind everyone. Some crimes must be illegal: killing the innocent, harming or abandoning children, stealing, rape, lying under oath, breaking contracts.
Our actions and omissions must be reasonable, must be able to withstand some degree of questioning. We can act arbitrarily only after we have justified rationally that such arbitrary action makes sense, ie. to prefer fishing or playing soccer, to prefer french fries or ice cream.
Possible definition of paganism: Having no answer to the question, Why did you do that?
B. Sex is for making babies.
Sex cannot be arbitrary; after all, sex is potentially criminal. Rape and sex with a child are both criminal acts and can never be justified. Sex outside marriage can be criminal, or at least subject to compelled payment of damages, if it involves abandoning a child.
The law cannot make everyone perfectly chaste with a heavenly, God-loving chastity, but: No one has the freedom to have sex arbitrarily. Human beings must have sex according to reason. Which means marriage. No one possesses a ‘right’ to have sex with anyone other than a lawfully wedded spouse.
Marriage vows must be for life. They always ARE; lovers always want to commit themselves for life; romantic love demands such commitment. And, of course, justice to children requires life-time marriage vows. Such vows cannot be annulled without a compelling reason to doubt their binding nature, demonstrated by evidence.
Human beings have problematic sexual impulses, to be sure. But that doesn’t change the birds and the bees. The Creator has the prerogative of having made the whole business work in a way that may seem arbitrary to us, in that sometimes sex leads to pregnancy and sometimes it doesn’t. But we human beings do not have the power to arbitrate how it works. If we accept that the way God made sex must be for the best, then we can learn to understand just how much it actually does make sense and is not arbitrary at all.
The honest human position is: I may have sexual impulses which are unreasonable and which I cannot completely eradicate from my mind and heart. I feel a certain shame about them. I govern myself so as not to succumb to them. If I do succumb, I repent and seek to repair what has been harmed. I can claim no right to succumb. I must acknowledge the rule of reason over my sexual powers; I can only reasonably have sex with a lawfully wedded spouse, and for the sake of childbearing.
This is not the ‘Christian’ point-of-view. It is the honest human point-of-view. The revelation given by Christ adds meaning and depth to marriage, and makes the difficulty of marriage make sense. But the moral imperatives proceed from human nature itself.
C. The future always belongs to people who have sex according to reason, having acknowledged our human role in the provident plan of God. These are the people who have children and raise them. “Traditional” sexual morality is traditional precisely because the sexually moral people give us the next generation, and the sexually immoral people do not.
D. “Deeply held beliefs.”
–I have a deeply held belief that Jesus and Mary are in heaven, that both of their hearts beat in heaven. I wish I held this belief more deeply than I do; may God help my unbelief.
–Do I have a deeply held belief that contraception is immoral? That sodomy is immoral? No. I KNOW that contraception is immoral and that sodomy is immoral, based on what I have said so far.
CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH to laugh out loud at the idea of…
1. gay marriage
2. artificial contraception being ‘health care’
artificial contraception is a dangerous an unpredictable implement of irrational sexual license
TO BE LIBERAL
These are not matters of political policy; they are the fundamental moral imperatives of a sustainable civilization. They bind individual consciences in a universal way. The Church does not address this question as a partisan; the Church addresses this question as the mother and teacher of the entire human race, hoping for the repentance of all sinners and a healthy and blessed life for everyone.
Each conscience must answer at the bar of sober reason. We do not personally have the duty to force adherence to the moral law for anyone else. The moral law vindicates itself. We must look first to the integrity of our own consciences.
III. Thou shalt not kill.
A. When life begins. A reasonable answer. A reasonable legal regime based on this. The obligation we have in a democracy.
B. The plan of God for the human person. The mysterious threshold of it. The irrationality of ‘identity politics.’ The virtue of patriotism proceeds not from political ideas, but from love of the Creator and solidarity with neighbor. The immediate demand of loving the person in front of me.
C. Gossip and busy-bodying. “Judge not…” The person about whose repentance I must concern myself is: Me.
CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH to know that God will punish the wicked…
TO BE LIBERAL and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, consider everyone an ally and friend in the business of doing good and avoiding evil.