The contraception issue has been front page news again around the world because of developments in the United States caused by government policy and some of the jockeying for position in the Republican primaries. Today and tomorrow we will publish two contrasting essays on the issue. This first essay from Edgar Davie was in fact partly sparked by a commentary we published a few weeks ago by Dr Don Fausel and we will be publishing a follow-up commentary by Don tomorrow. Edgar Davie meanwhile, argues that to unravel the mess over contraception we need to go back to where this started in about the fourth century and even before that to the practices and beliefs of the first Christians regarding sex and the sexual act.
Contraception and the Infallible Papacy:
For the second time in a decade faithful Catholics are faced with the prospect of violating their conscience or rejecting an unjust Church law. Only ten years ago many Catholics were shocked to learn celibate priests were guilty of sexually abusing vulnerable parish youths of both genders; many refused to believe their unmarried parish priest could possibly be guilty of such an act, preferring to believe the entire scandal resulted from media outlets with anti-Catholic tendencies.
Today, Catholics are again asked to support a Church law defining contraception as a mortal sin; while 74 percent of Catholics wish their priests could marry, more than 90 percent of Catholics, men and women, reject the prohibition of contraception. The widespread rejection of the official thinking at the grass roots of the Church threatens to bring down the Church as it is presently organized.
Unrecognized by average Catholics, a Catholic Reformation has begun; and surprisingly, the impetus for this reformation was spurred by the priest abuse scandal, resulting in a re-examination by independent Catholic historians and theologians of the celibacy law, and of the law prohibiting contraception. Importantly, many Catholic historians now agree these two laws entered the Church after the death of the apostles during a little understood period of chaos, persecution, and flight into the pagan dominated Roman Empire of the second century. We are forced to ask, why has the origin of this law been concealed?
The damage and cover-up of sexually abusive priests who are forbidden to marry and incapable of living celibate lives are now well documented. But only in recent weeks has the papal doctrine denying contraception exploded into American presidential politics with Republican candidate Rick Santorum's defense of Catholic teaching and law. As a devout Catholic and political conservative, Santorum is forced to condemn, as unconstitutional, government demands that Catholic organizations provide contraception insurance for employees. With over 90 percent of Catholics rejecting the contraception law it is impossible for the public to know whether he is among those Catholic dissenters, or is he bound for political and theological reasons to support the pope? Unfortunately for Mr. Santorum his private position seems meaningless, political commentators now predict his support of the law will lead to his defeat as the Republican primary candidate.
The origins of Catholic thinking and teaching...
For one to understand the origin of this law denying contraception, one must first understand the origin of Catholic celibacy.
Having fled into the pagan world during the second century, the Church consisted almost entirely of Gentile converts, who throughout their lives were indoctrinated with the belief that only ascetic celibate priests are immune from fleshly sin. How, they asked, could a married man who engages in carnal sex become a priest of God? Upon learning Jesus was celibate the answer seemed clear, they concluded the apostles had abandoned marital sex in order to imitate Christ. Initially, this myth was rejected.
Late in the fourth century, 355 years after Jesus, things changed; concerned with a pagan resurgence and desiring to elevate Christian priests to the august level of venerated celibate pagan priests, the new Pope, Siricius, abandoned his wife and issued an infallible papal doctrine, ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter), nullifying all priestly marriage. This event became a defining change in Catholic history. Only in modern times is it now recognized to have changed a Doctrine of Christ. Today St. Peter could not be ordained into the Catholic priesthood because he was a married man.
The first Christians practiced contraception...
On the denial of contraception, Catholics today might be surprised to discover the first Christians practiced contraception. In many instances Christian-Jews used vinegar soaked sponges as an IUD, as recommended by rabbis under Jewish law. Neither Jesus nor His apostles changed this tradition and the practice existed well into the second century. Catholics might be surprised to discover the law against contraception originated with the same ascetic philosophy that denied priestly marriage, but with a misogynist twist.
Gentile-pagan converts had long believed the sexual temptation of women was a threat to celibate priests, and that virginity for Christians was superior to marriage; therefore the role of women deteriorated in Christianity. Believing Eve's temptation of Adam led to their fall from God's grace, converted pagans such as Christian theologian, Tertullian, wrote of women [c225]:
"Do you not know that you are Eve? The judgment of God pronounced upon your sex lives on in this age. You are the gateway of the Devil, you desecrated that fatal tree, you first betrayed the law of God ... you deserve death and it was the Son of God who had to die."
This misogynistic belief increased over the next century when in 397 Bishop St. Ambrose of Rome wrote:
"Remember, God took the rib out of Adam's body, not a part of his soul, to make her. She was not made in the image of God, like man..."
From such beliefs it was understood that the female temptation of sex was the "first sin" and must be controlled for all Christians. While the belief that virginity for all Christians and faith in Christ were the surest way to salvation, bishops were forced to acknowledge marital sex could not be prohibited; but, it was agreed the sexual act must be controlled.
Most ordinary lay Catholics today have no idea of the rigid theological measures imposed by popes until the Middle Ages in an effort to control sex. Marital sex was permitted only for the specific act of procreating a child, and once the wife was impregnated, further sex was a sin. Conjugal love between husband and wife was forbidden. St. Clement of Alexandria [c200] taught:
"If a man marries in order to have children he ought not to have a sexual desire for his wife...he ought to produce children by a reverent, disciplined act".
St. Jerome [c400], translator of the Vulgate Bible said:
"Do you imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children...he who is too ardent a lover of his wife is an adulterer."
The very thought of contraception was a sin.
Casti Connubii: arose as a reaction to Protestant moves...
Prior to effective contraception techniques this non-Christian ascetic philosophy was largely ignored, until 1930 when Protestants first permitted contraception "as a matter of conscience". Only then, and sensing a challenge to infallible papal teaching authority Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubbi infallibly defined contraception as a mortal sin, bringing about a firestorm of Catholic objection. Faced with world wide scandal when Catholics rejected this onerous papal doctrine it became important for the Vatican to find a means of trying to maintain their authority.
In the 1960s a committee was formed, composed of 79 bishops and lay Catholic scholars with a request from Pope Paul VI to, "Find a way to change the Church's position on birth control without destroying papal authority." The committees voted 69-10 to change the Church's position on birth control, but unfortunately this vote was not the final word. Important Vatican officials quickly issued a minority report composed by Bishop Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, stating:
"If it be declared that contraception is not sin in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant Churches in 1930. It should likewise have to be admitted that for half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Hierarchy from serious error. This would mean that leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned."
With this Vatican insistence that to make this change regarding contraception would destroy the fundamental principle of infallibility, we can understand why this law is defended to the end. Should the law of contraception be revealed as an infallible papal error the very concept of papal infallibility, on which all Church claims of infallibility rest, is destroyed. Therefore, based solely on the minority report, Pope Paul VI issued an infallible papal declaration, Human Vitae, condemning as mortal sin all contraception as it was practiced by the first Christians; a practice permitted by Christ and the apostles.
The fear of having this papal doctrine exposed as illicit, and consequently undermine Vatican assertions of papal infallibility, is so important that President Obama's administration clearly misjudged the extremes to which the Church will go in order to protect the papacy, even the potential loss of billions of tax dollars funneled into other Church programs is at risk.
Concerned with potential Church rejection of progressive social issues such as the mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives in the Health Care plan, the Administration apparently believed that dramatically increasing federal funding for other Catholic affiliated organizations, both domestically and internationally, would mitigate Church opposition to the contraception mandate. The Administration miscalculated. Even with a five fold increase for other Catholic affiliated charities since taking office and a total of $1.5 billion over the last two years, the Church cannot afford to abandon the contraception law, and with it papal infallibility.
Understanding that to abandon the prohibition of contraception, under any circumstance, is to deny papal infallibility, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who himself aspires to the papacy, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, will never yield. Cardinal Dolan's effort to defend the pope at any cost now includes a financial attack on faithful Catholic parishioners.
In an effort to decimate a lay Catholic group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which reports on priestly sex abuse and cover up by bishops, Cardinal Dolan is prepared to invest millions of Church dollars into legal attacks designed to bankrupt the privately financed group's ability to defend itself. Money is not an obstacle when defending the papacy.
Today this contraception law has entered American politics. Unfortunately, the Vatican is not content with applying the law against contraceptive birth control only to the Catholic faithful. Pope John Paul II in his Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation declared that Catholic teaching must become law. The pope's Instruction states: "Politicians must commit themselves, through intervention upon public opinion, to securing the widest possible consensus on such essential points..." They are expected to enact into law "appropriate legal sanctions" for violations of the contraception law. Today this Church law denying contraception is on the brink of becoming a Constitutional Law.
While this papal doctrine's condemnation of "thousands of innocent human acts" remains in force, newly uncovered information revealing names and actions of Vatican officials, and the covert means employed to protect the concept of papal infallibility, were recently revealed in an article published by National Catholic Reporter. A must read for all Catholics who seek the truth.
Edgar Davie. Submitted to Catholica on 28Mar2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?