Thursday, July 24, 2008

What I think

Of course, this whole blog is what I think, so that isn’t a very good title. But in the comments to the post just below about the problem of radiation poisoning in the 25th century I have ended up in the position of more or less defending the Catholic party line on contraception, which is not precisely what I think. This runs the risk that I will go on exchanging comments at cross purposes in an unproductive way. And as what I think on this issue is one of those things that I have never been game to set down on virtual paper, it is probably overdue for me to write what I think.

The Orthodox position of the Churches of the East is self-consistent and logical within its postulates in rejecting all forms of birth control. It is also unworkable, and universally ignored, as the only traditionally Orthodox nation not in demographic free-fall that I can think of is Ethiopia.

Humanae vitae departs from this logical and traditional position of all historical Christian churches by allowing- hedged about with various caveats- the use of temporal barriers to conception. It rightly condemns strongly the ‘direct interruption of the generative process already begun’, as well as deliberate sterilization. However, this message is blurred because it condemns without making any distinction (‘Similarly excluded…’) the use of spatial barriers to conception.

I do not see any fundamental meaningful difference between a barrier method in time and a barrier method in space. I do not think the distinction drawn between them in Humanae vitae is very clear or particularly valid. If both forms of barrier method were lawful, hedged about with various caveats, then the line in the sand could be clearly drawn at conception and defended with vigour on the basis of the very clear commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’.

Is that clear? I am saying that it would be more logical, within the shared postulates of Judaeo-Christian-Islamic thought, to have made the compromise with modernity at such a point that a very clear distinction was made between grudgingly allowed methods such as natural family planning and condoms on the one hand and absolutely forbidden methods such as ‘the pill’ – which may interrupt the generative process already begun, even if such is not their main intent- on the other.

I am not entirely convinced that what I think is right, but all my doubts are in the direction of tradition, not away from it.


Dave said...

No real argument here. If there was a distinction drawn between barrier contraceptive methods (which are after all the only ones that actually have non-procreative health effects) and suppressive/abortive ones, and the Faith (for want of an appropriate catch-all term) could support one while condemning the other, I'd be a great deal happier. Oh, I'd still draw the line in a different place personally, but it would utterly undermine my position that the Faith is enabling preventable disease rather than helping to resolve or minimise it.

Marco said...

I guess this is the point that I was getting to with the Cardinals(or at least at that political level) of the catholic church. I am convinced their personal beliefs mimick these, but what they actually say differs to actually paint a different policy. More for the glory of the church at the expense of competing secular entities, rather than basic theological principle.