Conservative Catholic Domer blog Being! Or Nothingness has a very interesting post (quoting Sando Magister of the Italian magazine L’Esspresso) about the possible elements of Benedict XVI’s agenda. In light of all the discussion around here about birth control, this excerpt is particularly noteworthy:
The encyclical of Paul VI forbidding artificial contraception produced one of the most serious ruptures between the papal magisterium and the practice of the faithful in recent decades. But today the focal point of the Churchâ€™s preaching has shifted: more than the pill and the condom, the Church’s attention is concentrated on the defense of every life from the moment of conception. The result is that even at the summit of the Church’s leadership calm discussions have begun again about the prohibition of “Humanae Vitae” as not definitive or rigid, but open to future corrections. Cardinal Georges Cottier, official theologian of the papal household, gave an authoritative first sign of a shift one month before John Paul II died: he admitted the use of the condom as a defense against AIDS, under accurately described special conditions. It is possible that the new pope will take further steps in the same direction.
I don’t know how reliable this blogger’s account is, but it’s at least food for thought.
While we’re on the topic, I’m still waiting for an answer to my question: Suppose there are two married couples, neither of whom wants to have children at this particular point in their marriage, but both of whom want to continue having sex. Couple #1 uses artificial birth control; couple #2 uses natural family planning. Let us stipulate that the following elements are true of BOTH couples:
1. Both couples hope to avoid getting pregnant; they have a “non-procreative intent.”
2. Both couples are specifically, purposefully gearing their actions toward accomplishing their shared goal of having sex without getting pregnant. In other words, their actions match their intent.
3. Both couples are aware, however, that pregnancy is possible; they are “open to the possibility of life,” even though they hope to avoid it.
4. If they inadvertantly conceive, both couples would welcome their child into the world with open arms.
According to Catholic doctrine, the couple using artifical birth control is sinning, while couple using “natural” birth control is not. But WHY? Since we’ve eliminated both intent and action (mens rea and actus reus, as it were) as the possible difference between them (see #1 and #2, above), and we’ve also eliminated “openness to life” as the difference (see #3 and #4, above), we are left with a limited number of remaining possible explanations (that I can think of) for why couple #1’s actions would be sinful but the couple #2’s wouldn’t:
Possibility #1. Artificial birth control is bad because it’s artificial. Natural birth control is okay because it’s natural.
Possibility #2. Taking artificial birth control is a positive act, whereas refraining from sex during fertile periods is a mere omission to act. The intent is the same, and both choices of behavior are geared to achieve that intent (and have a good chance of doing so)… but perhaps the Church believes that the latter is okay simply because of the technical fact that it’s an omission rather than a positive act?
Possibility #3. Artificial birth control is “an objective evil” or “instrinsically evil” because… well, because Church doctrine says it is.
Regarding #1, I believe Mike would call this the “naturalist fallacy.” I don’t think it has any moral relevance; at any rate, its moral relevance is certainly not self-evident.
Regarding #2, didn’t CrimLaw teach us that omissions can be acts? So WHY should this be a morally important distinction? Again, the answer to this question is not self-evident; if this is the reason, the “why” requires further explanation.
Regarding #3, if all of the other arguments fall apart upon close scrutiny (as it seems to me that they do), this one alone simply isn’t good enough. “Because I said so” is not a sufficient justification for anything, in my book.
So, tell me, what am I missing? Is some portion of my premise faulty? Am I leaving something out?
I really want to know. And so does Bea, I hear. :)