Friday, February 18, 2011

Dissenters: "My Conscience Tells Me To Sin!", My Head: *Explodes*

Some members of the faculty of Ateneo de Manila University, a school run by Jesuits, have posted a statement regarding the Reproductive Health Bill:

Here are my thoughts on the matter:

1) Those faculty members of Ateneo who wrote this statement (and who from here shall be referred to as "the Ateneans") mentioned some parts of the RH bill that are not about contraceptives and that are in fact quite laudable ("comprehensive emergency obstetric care", etc.). That is well and good, but one cannot excuse an immoral law just because it has some good parts. We all want the good things included in the RH bill, but the solution is not to pass the bill as it is (warts and all), but rather to revise it into a bill that retains the moral parts and not the immoral ones. Note that some will say that the word "immoral" does not apply here, because they think contraception is moral. Well, they are free to believe that (just as we are all free to sin), but they are not free to call that a Catholic belief. This brings us to my next thought:

2) The Ateneans uses irrelevant statistics ("one in three married Catholic women support contraception") to try and bolster their claim that contraception is not contrary to being a faithful Catholic. Nobody is arguing that contraception is not popular*, but Catholic doctrine isn't a popularity game. A religion without the authority to dictate religious truths that might be contrary to popular sentiment is a worthless religion, because a religion that only follows its own followers will obviously be wrong once its followers go wrong. As Chesterton put it, "We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong." Catholicism, as it happens, is a religion that claims such an authority. When the Church's teaching office formally states something as against Catholic belief, people who call themselves faithful Catholics are not free to willfully claim otherwise without lying about their faithfulness. The Ateneans' repeated appeal to the popularity of contraception, a thing already defined as evil by the Church almost from the very start, is therefore by its anti-magisterial nature basically anti-Catholic, and no faithful Catholic should listen to it.

3) If people wanted a religion that would allow them to pick and choose whichever doctrines they like at the moment, well, there are plenty of such religions out there; they may even invent their own, if they want. But the religion they are "calling on to", the Catholic Church, was founded by a man who, when a majority of his followers abandoned him for saying something unpopular, asked the rest "Are you also going to leave?" As we know, one of them (someone named Peter) answered "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:53-68). The Ateneans claim to follow that man, but it doesn't really show.

4) It's disturbing how contraceptives are presented as pro-women when in fact they are enablers of the enemies of women. Based on the twelfth paragraph of their statement, the Ateneans seem to think that the solution to the problem of abusive husbands who rape their wives (i.e. force their wives to have sex even when they don't want to) is to enable the husbands to continue raping their wives without the "bad" consequence of pregnancy. Apparently they think the problem isn't that women are being treated with indignity (since contraception will not stop that kind of treatment but will in fact likely worsen it), but that another set of economically-undesirable parasites have joined the gosh-darned surplus population. Personally, I think that the solution is to discourage such sexual abuse, and that objects that actually empower male perverts shouldn't be celebrated, but that is just my obviously misinformed opinion.

5) Speaking of forcing one's sex-related choices on others, the Ateneans are forgetting that government-sponsored contraceptive distribution and promotion will require money, which will be coming from tax-payers' pockets. They talk of "choice". Well, if the RH Bill passes, can I choose to opt out from financially supporting what to me is an immoral law that is against my religion? Without having to leave the country or evade my taxes? No? Didn't think so. Also, will this bill have a conscience clause to allow health care providers to refuse to provide contraceptives on religious or moral grounds? If the makers of this bill are anything like the radical pro-contraceptive legislators of Western countries, don't bet on it.

6) The funny thing about this debate is the confused reasoning that people go through in order to justify the claim that the government needs to distribute contraceptives to the poor. The poor need contraceptives, they say, because the poor reproduce far too much. But why do they reproduce too much? Because the poor are not properly educated about the biological, medical, economic, and social issues about reproduction. Fine, we can all agree about that. But in order to convince the poor to use contraceptives, they must first educate the poor (mindlessly throwing condoms at uneducated people will only lead to disappointment, as we have seen in Africa). And so they include clauses in their RH bill providing for better reproductive education. That's the funny part, because once they educate the poor about the pertinent issues, once the poor becomes aware of the risks, the supposed reason why the poor reproduce too much would suddenly disappear, along with the supposed reason why the poor need contraceptives in the first place! The first point these pro-contraceptives are missing is this: if the root of the problem is a lack of good education, then the solution is to reform the state of education in the Philippines. There is a second point they are missing: once the average Filipino is educated enough not to engage in risky sexual behavior, the government would not need to provide him with cheap contraceptives. At least, I am assuming that they simply missed those points, and that they are not deliberately turning the people away from the fact that their precious contraceptive mentality isn't really necessary to solve our population problem.

7) I find the tactic of claiming to be faithful Catholics (or at least, talking about "faith" a lot) while completely ignoring basic tenets of the Faith to be, frankly, quite disingenuous and insulting. I mean, who do they think are they kidding? It's like a bandit saying "I really am a pacifist at heart, but give me all your money or I'll blow your brains out!" It's as if they think words don't have any real meaning, that "being Catholic" is somehow the same as "ignoring the authority of the Catholic teaching office". Sometimes I wonder why people like the Ateneans still claim to be Catholics in the first place. Why not admit their break with the Church and formally join whichever religion or irreligion they want to join instead? I heard the Episcopalians are recruiting.** I'm sure they'll feel quite at home there!

8) Contrary to the Ateneans' statement, the NFP method (a form of natural birth-control) is not contraception ("against conception") for the obvious reason that couples may use NFP to actually conceive, and so by definition is not against conception. It is a way for couples to plan when they want to have offspring without having to use anti-reproductive objects that truly are contraceptive. Of course, NFP is just a tool. The Church does not excuse fornicators and adulterers just because they used the rhythm method to avoid pregnancy. In the end, the Church teaching about chastity (which is not just for celibates) trumps all sorts of excuses and rationalizations: treat sex as sacred, fight impure thoughts, and you'll be in the right.

9) Finally, a properly formed conscience is one that conforms to the moral teachings of one's religion, otherwise it is far too easy to equate one's conscience with whatever one desires, whether immoral or not. Asking "Is it not possible that I was obeying my conscience when I opted to use a contraceptive?" is like a murderer saying "I felt in my guts that killing this person is the right thing to do. I killed him in good conscience!" The answer to both is no. When there is a voice in your head telling you to do immoral things, you can bet your ass it ain't your conscience talking, but someone else entirely.

Of course, I'm just one of those simple-minded, ignorant sheeple who blindly follow evil pedophile priests in fear of being assassinated by albino monks from Opus Dei. What the hell do I know, right?

* Well, ~35% isn't exactly a majority, but it's a big chunk nonetheless.
** Just kidding. I stopped caring about what Episcopalians are up to after they basically defined marriage as "Anything you damned well want it to be."