Support This Website! Shop Here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Moral Pygmies

If you want to see why many people are confused about Church teaching on human sexuality, you need look no further than the "moral theologians" of the Regina Angelorum. Father Thomas D. Williams is a Michigan-born Catholic priest, professor at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome, gives an interview to National Review's "The Corner" which hopelessly mashes the Catholic understanding of sexuality and life transmission.

First, let us consider what "sexual" means. According to Merriam-Webster:
1: of, relating to, or associated with sex or the sexes
2: having or involving sex
Now, according to the strict meaning of the word "sex" and "sexual" refer to reproduction, the union of two different DNA contributions. That is why biology differentiates between asexual reproduction (where two different DNA contributions are not required) and sexual reproduction (where two different DNA contributions are required).

What Does The Church Teach?

In addition to these points of straight biology, three further points of Catholic doctrine should be kept in mind:

1) Since reality is truth, the findings of theology cannot contradict physical reality. As CS Lewis liked to point out, even miracles don't necessarily contradict reality - all that is necessary for a miracle is that God acts within a situation by directly manipulating the physical world according to natural laws.

Just as we can directly manipulate the physical world to eradicate a disease organism within the human body, and yet this healing is not considered miraculous, so God can directly manipulate the atoms and molecules within the body and bring about a healing, yet violate no physical laws. We call the second "miraculous" because we do not know when or necessarily precisely how God acts in these situations. According to this way of thinking, the only difference between a medical healing and a miraculous healing is that human actors bring about the first, the divine actor brings about the second, but both operate within the natural laws of the universe.

One result of this point of doctrine: if an act brings about the union of two different DNA strands, it is sexual reproduction - it is a sexual act. Thus, technically speaking, even the union of gametes in a Petri dish is a sexual union, although no sexual organs interpenetrate. It is certainly a human reproductive act, as would be any union of two different human DNA strands in such a way that a new human being results.

2) God is always the author of human life, He directly creates and infuses the human soul. It is not the case that the human actors either create or infuse the human soul. The human soul is the principle of life. Without a soul, the union of egg and sperm would accomplish nothing at all. No conception that results in a growing human person can take place without a life principle, a soul. No human being can come into existence unless God wills it.

3) Human life is always a very great good, an enormous gift. No matter how it is engendered, whether through the embrace of a loving sacramentally married couple in the privacy of their own homes, or via a brutal rape or a test-tube medical act, the human life that is engendered would not exist without God's intervention, without God's willing it. God only wills the good, so the existence of the human life is always a good. Always. We may have done evil to accomplish this good, but God never does evil, so the life that results is good, even if the means used by the human actors to bring about the union of sperm and egg were evil.

Doing Evil That Good May Come

Now, given these principles, watch the absolute nonsense that spews from the mouth of the professor of moral theology from the Angelorum:
Some people are saying that the Church considers contraception to be morally evil, but in cases where human life is at stake, it could be a lesser evil. In other words, protection from disease trumps the moral prohibition of contraception. This is incorrect. Catholic morality never accepts that evil may be done to attain a good end.
This moral pygmy seems to forget that, by definition, when contraception is being used, human life is already at stake regardless of the presence of an STD. An STD merely damages, often only temporarily, the already existing life of a person. But, as the Fathers pointed out, contraception is the attempt to keep a new human being from coming into existence. When we contracept, we don't just damage this possible new human being, we take from this possible new human being everything he could ever have, including his very existence.

So, we have two adults, one or both of whom know an STD may be present in this situation, but they act in such a way so as to protect themselves, or at most, perhaps the other person, while by that very same act, deliberately trying to destroy the very possibility of existence to another person, their own child. And this is a move towards the good? Preferring your own health to another's very existence is good?

According to this reasoning, the absence of a virus or bacterium is of greater moral weight than the presence of a human being. That's impressive.

But They Intend The Good!

Do they?

It is the case that the use of the condom in a heterosexual act is intrinsically evil precisely because it is contraceptive. That means the use is damnable regardless of the intention.

Now, given that there is an inherent intention to frustrate conception bound up in the heterosexual use of the condom, to what extent does the stated intention - the desire to reduce disease transmission - to what extent does THAT intention lessen the inherent evil?

It could very easily be argued that the very intention to do a proximate and temporary good (stop disease transmission) blinds us to the much greater permanent evil that we are inflicting (the frustration of the desire we are supposed to have for children).

Aquinas argued that sin is choosing a lesser, temporal good over a greater more permanent good, choosing the good instead of the best. Isn't that exactly what is happening here?

Isn't it the case that heterosexual condom use, even with the "good" intent, is NOT actually ameliorated by that good intent, because that "good" intent acts as a lie we tell ourselves in order to hide the great evil we are doing?

In other words, can it not be argued that in the condom use promoted by private theologians such as the Pope and Father Williams, we are "doing good" so that evil may come of it?

Thus, Father William's conclusion that "protection from disease trumps the moral prohibition of contraception" is ridiculous on several levels. It makes absolute hash of Catholic theology, the idea that the existence of human life is of more importance than possible damage. But he isn't done trashing Catholic doctrine:
What many fail to realize is that the Church’s opposition to contraception refers specifically to sex between husbands and wives. In his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI placed his condemnation of contraception in the context of married couples, and never intended it to be applied to every conceivable sexual act.
In direct violation of Augustine and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, indeed, in direct violation of the very meaning of Paul VI's Latin phrase "coniugal commercium", Williams then goes on to repeat the canard that the Church has only taught Magisterially about contraception in marriage, a position that's already been demonstrated to be ludicrous on its face.
Let’s take an extreme case: that of rape. Would the use of a condom by a rapist add a moral evil to his already heinous act? It is, after all, a sexual act. By no means. There is nothing about the act of rape that merits respect of a supposed “unitive” and “procreative” meaning of the act. These are entirely missing, though the act is undoubtedly sexual.
Again, let us turn to Merriam-Webster and see how well the man understands English.
Definition of PROCREATE

transitive verb
: to beget or bring forth (offspring) : propagate
intransitive verb
: to beget or bring forth offspring : reproduce

Latin procreatus, past participle of procreare, from pro- forth + creare to create — more at pro-, create. First Known Use: 1536
So, we have a sexual act that begets but is not procreation? Prithee, how does that work? By the very fact that a pregnancy is engendered, the act is procreative since it brings forth, or creates, another human being. You and I may not like the way it is done, but insofar as conception results, procreation has occurred. We have here a theologian who violates the first principle of theology - truth cannot contradict truth, theology cannot contradict physical realities.

Can Rape Result In Good?

Indeed, if conception is always a gift - and it is a point of Catholic doctrine that conception is always a gift - then a rape that does not result in conception is a greater evil than a rape that does result in conception. But good luck trying to find a 20th-century Catholic moral theologian who points this out.

After all, isn't a rapist who rapes with the intent to impregnate desiring the good?
If we are going to argue that intention can lessen the evil (a neat trick with an intrinsically evil, act, but let's pretend), couldn't we argue that this rapist is making a much greater move towards the good then the rapist who uses a condom to prevent mere disease transmission?

Instead of considering this, most moral theologians in the 20th century labor under the mistaken impression that since the rapist is an invader, the rapist's sperm are invaders that the woman has a right to fight off.

So, let us consider their idea.

Apart from a very few, very unusual cases of immune response, sperm by itself causes no harm to the woman. How it is introduced into the woman may be very harmful indeed, but the actual presence of the sperm is harmless. The worst that happens is it simply dies. The only other thing it may do is this: it may unite with the woman's egg. Sperm doesn't do anything apart from die or unite. That's it. It's a pretty innocuous invader.

Now, if sperm unites with egg, in order for conception to complete, a human soul, a human life principle, must be created and infused into this new entity or the union of egg and sperm cannot result in anything at all.

Only God can create and infuse the human soul necessary to create a new human being.

So, if we wish to argue that the woman has a right to "fight off" sperm, to what purpose would these sperm be fought? To kill them? But they are going to die uselessly anyway.

The only possible reason to kill the sperm is... to prevent unity, that is, to prevent conception!
But conception, the gift of life, is a positive good that comes to us directly from the hand of the Creator God via the direct and immediate creation and infusion of the immortal human soul.

So, what reason would a Catholic woman have to prevent conception, to prevent the gift of life, which is always a gift from God, according to Catholic doctrine? For certainly the good Father Williams does not wish to argue that children who result from rape are evil consequences?

If we wish to say that such a conception is an assault, or a further assault, upon the woman, are we not saying that God is a rapist? For it is most certainly He, and He alone, who can complete the conception of a child within the womb of any woman. Yet 20th century moral theologians blithely insist that contraception in the case of rape is acceptable, even though we have no hint of such a concept (pardon the pun) anywhere in the Tradition of the Church.

And this deformed "moral theology", in which the possibility of conception is seen as a negative event, if not a positive evil, an event that must be actively opposed, this same "theology" is now being used to support the idea that the possibility a disease might be prevented is more important than the possibility a child's existence might be prevented. Disease bacteria trump human beings.

Father Williams natterings are pure biologism, an explanation that focuses entirely on the natural consequences and completely ignores the supernatural interventions.

To put it another way, our benighted professor is not doing theology, he's engaging in blind absurdity, a form of tertiary theological syphilis, as it were, which deprives the theologian of his faculties and renders him not only sightless, but a gibbering idiot to boot.

A Sign of Contradiction

As an example of the self-contradiction he is now forced to engage in, Father Williams says condomized sex with a prostitute is a positive lessening of evil since this is just sexual commerce and has no other meaning, while condomized sex between an engaged fornicating couple may be harmful because "it still accustoms them to disassociating sexual intercourse from its procreative meaning."

So, the use of a condom doesn't dissassociate procreation from sex in the case of a prostitute, but it does in the case of an engaged couple? Because... why?

Is the prostitute less of a woman than the fiancee?
Does the prostitute's womb count for less than that of a "real woman's" womb?
Is the john less objectively worthwhile than the affianced?

Let's put it another way.

CAN anyone actually devalue the objective good of the sexual act or the objective good of the participants?
Can I define what sex means?
If I cannot, then what difference does it make if I give money to my fiancee after sex (so she can buy that new negligee or oil change) versus my giving money to the prostitute after sex (so she can buy that new negligee or oil change)?

Have any of these "moral theologians" ever read the Fathers? Do they realize that the Fathers uniformly agree that the use of contraception makes the wife into a prostitute? Even Gandhi - a pagan - recognized this and used exactly those words to describe contraceptive use.

So, 20th century moral theologians aren't certain if turning your fiancee into a prostitute is a bad thing, but they are sure that having condomized sex with a prostitute is better than not using a condom in the act? Hmmmm...

It is a great and terrible thing to behold an unbaptized pagan man with a greater understanding of divine law than an ordained Legionary of Christ priest, a moral theology professor of the Angelorum. Would it be remiss of me to point out that the founder of the Legionaries had his own difficulties in deciding what was correct sexual behaviour? Would it be wrong of me to point out that National Catholic Register is a Legionary publication?

Given all this, the irony of Father William's closing words, coming from the mouth of a man who followed the "charism" of the (in)famous Marcel Maciel, is shattering:
Honestly, in my mind the greatest damage done is by Catholics, and even moral theologians, who misrepresent the Church’s position on contraception and thereby stoke the confusion that already exists.
Truer words were never spoken, Father.


Kevin said...

Here's a question, and I'm not sure about the answer....

Onan in the Old Testament. When his brother died, he had to provide his brothers wife (his sister in law) with offspring.

Now did this mean they were married? If not, might make the idea that contraception is only spoken of in regards to married couples a bit shakier.

Yes, the issue was still to frustrate conception, but it would seem to show that contraception is something contrary to nature period, not just contrary to the married state.

As I've said before, the explanation for the Pope's statements isn't neccessarily rocket science. Akin and now this father should know better than looking to throw it under the bus.

Gabriel Austin said...

Are you using the word "pygmy" in a pejorative sense? Is there something bad about being small?