The Catholic Stance on Birth Control
This week the pope has come under fire for his comments on the use of condoms. He said that condoms, when used to help prevent HIV, are permissible. There are two major outcries from the Catholic clergy about this: the questioning of papal authority and the church’s militant stance to demonize sexual pleasure.
First, the pope is supposed to be infallible in the Catholic Church. He is supposed to be the leader of the faith and the direct contact to God for humanity. Pope Benedict XVI’s comments give Catholics an uncomfortable dilemma: either the new pope’s comments are wrong or the Catholic Church has had the wrong stance on birth control for the last 1500 years. Currently, mane Catholic clergy members are trying to figure out a way to explain the pope’s comments as having a different meaning than what he said. This is a pretty obvious clue on the illogical nature of the Catholic Church, but that’s not what I want to talk about for now.
The major part of the outcry comes from the belief that sexual pleasure is wrong and can never be condoned. The Catholic Church has pushed this doctrine to the point that sex has become a dirty, immoral form of love. The official stance of the church is that sex can only be done between a married heterosexual couple solely for the aim of creation. This means that even for a married couple condoms, birth control pills, pulling out, and the rhythm method are all immoral and considered to be a “grave sin”. Lost in all of this is the fact that the pope’s comments could end up saving lives by the prevention of HIV spread.
So why is sex immoral? Many fundamentalists cite Genesis for this belief. The chapter talks about a man who asks his brother to impregnate his wife for him. The brother, knowing the child won’t be his, decides to pull out after sex in order not to impregnate his sister-in-law. For this God punished him and condemned his actions. Now, the obvious immorality of the man’s actions involve taking advantage of his brother’s wife without fulfilling his word. The Catholic Church on the other hand interpret this to say that wasting sex/sperm is immoral.
This belief is flat out ridiculous. Imagine a wife and husband desiring to have sex with each other without having an additional child. There is no immoral lust, as the only sin of lust happens when there is lust for another woman. Now, would sex really be immoral? If they use the rhythm method, how is it wrong for them to enjoy sex without interfering with the natural process of sex? Keep in mind that, if God did indeed create us, God would have designed the female cycle to make the rhythm method possible. It seems hard to condemn using the system that God made as immoral.
The common response is that sex for pleasure is immoral, therefore using the rhythm method is immoral. But why is sex for pleasure immoral? It can’t be that wasting sperm interferes with the potential for human life. If this were true, God would be responsible for losing out on countless billions of sperm every day due to the fact that men naturally release their sperm if they do not ejaculate for a period of time. If sperm was meant to be treasured and used only for creation, the design of the male reproductive system could not have been designed by God.
Consider this next example. Imagine a married couple believes in the Catholic Church’s teachings that sex for pleasure is immoral. They begin to have sex with the plan to potentially create a baby. However, midway through the wife cannot handle the pain that she is experiencing from the sex, so they stop before they finish. Now, is this immoral? The sex happened without the potential for creating a baby, and they temporarily enjoyed the act. But it would be foolish to claim that because the penetration occurred there must be insemination to be morally right.
If the immorality is clearly not in the waste of sperm or the act of penetration, what is immoral? The last response is the desire for sexual pleasure. This is a very dangerous idea that the Catholic Church promotes. Consider why they claim this pleasure is wrong. What other pleasure is wrong in this way, where no negative consequences occur? No one claims that taking pleasure in athletic activity is wrong, or that pleasure from creative expression is wrong. In fact, when is pleasure ever intrinsically wrong? There isn’t a single pleasure that harms no one that is as demonized as sexual pleasure.
So why is sexual pleasure wrong? The fact is: there aren’t any reasonable arguments for this idea. Sexual pleasure, if it weren’t for church traditions, would be widely accepted as a positive and valuable aspect of human life. Repression of pleasure should never be seen as a virtue, it should be seen as a weakness. I say this because, when pressed, those who believe that bodily pleasure is innately wrong do not have an argument for it other than that they were told to believe it. Now I am not saying that pleasure is everything or that we should have no control on ourselves. But what bothers me is that so many church leaders try to repress their followers to the point where they have control over the most instinctive desires they have. In my opinion, there have been far too many people who feel condemned for who they are simply because they were told to believe that there natural instincts are sinful and morally wrong.