Wednesday, November 3, 2010

on Catholic morality, mainly

Reading round the blogosphere, flitting about silently, and I visited Panda's Thumb, Richard Hoppe's article on ID and the imminent demise of 'Darwinism', which took me to this intriguing site, apparently well known to proponents of the debate but new to me, and it was at turns hilarious, chilling and informative. I recall, apropos of this, one of my step-daughters [a converted Christian] relating to her brother, a geophysicist and presumably an atheist, that she'd heard that evolution was on the skids. This was about eight years ago, and my stepson had no ready reply, and neither had I. How different would be the situation now, but the opportunity has passed. The wonderful Yiddish word for this is trepverter, which I learned from a Saul Bellow novel, Herzog maybe.

On other vaguely religious matters [ID being vaguely religious], the Catholic Church in Victoria has come out against the Greens, because of their approach to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, issues I have strong views on myself, especially that last issue - and also here. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Dennis Hart, has come out so strongly against those nasty progressive Greens that pundits have to hark back to the fifties for an equally strident Catholic campaign. Hart reckons that candidates should reflect community values and community expectations [as he imagines the HRCC does]. Fortunately he represents urban Melbournians, with a Catholic population that is minuscule and falling, so I suspect his clarion call to the faithful will, when the election is done and dusted, provide a useful measure of the power of that ultra-conservative organisation in modern politics. Watch the Green vote in the Victorian election in a few weeks time. I wouldn't be surprised if the Catholic protest actually wins it a few votes.

Which of course brings us to the actual issues under scrutiny, namely euthanasia and abortion [since I've largely dealt with the gay marriage issue]. The Catholic Church 's attitude towards these issues are fairly basic and IMHO, dogmatic and dumb. It's the predictable line - human life [and no other life] is 'sacred', and that includes all fertilized cells, no matter how embryonic, and spermatozoa. For those remotely interested, here are the Catholic 'Ethical and Religious Directives' for their Health Care workers. Much of it is reasonable enough when it doesn't touch on theology. Unsurprisingly, it horribly mixes the reality of health care with the myths of Jesus's health 'ministry', and 'science' is naturally commandeered for this quasi-supernatural without being asked:
Through science the human race comes to understand God's wonderful work; and through technology it must conserve, protect, and perfect nature in harmony with God's purposes. Health care professionals pursue a special vocation to share in carrying forth God's life-giving and healing work.
No comment on the undeniable fact that an increasing number of scientists reject the existence of gods. And of course it gets worse, when apparently god-given Catholic dogma is at issue:
 ... within a pluralistic society, Catholic health care services will encounter requests for medical procedures contrary to the moral teachings of the Church. Catholic health care does not offend the rights of individual conscience by refusing to provide or permit medical procedures that are judged morally wrong by the teaching authority of the Church.
It doesn't offend individual conscience by refusing to, say, perform abortions? Says who? Says the Catholic Church, that's who. Apparently the Catholic Church decides who it has offended and who it hasn't. Not that I mind that Catholic health services refuse to perform procedures contrary to their dogma. I don't necessarily want them to change, I just want them to get out of the way. And I would dearly love for the general public to turn its collective back on the dogmatic approach of this institution. And, of course, it largely has.

As I say, most of these health care directives are unexceptionable, but there are of course some that are reflective of Catholic dogma. Take directive 36, which treats of female rape victims:
A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
This may be all very well for people who choose to be Catholic, or who can't conceive of any alternative to being Catholic. My concern would be where the Catholic church provides the only health-care facilities in a particular region, permitting them to impose their moral dogma on unsuspecting rape victims.

The introduction to part four of the directives goes on a great deal about the sanctity of marriage [hardly a health-care issue]. Considering that the title of part four is 'Issues in Care for the Beginning of Life', one might wonder why marriage is such a focus [and I wonder, just as an aside, whether the HRCC still considers children born out of wedlock as illegitimate?], but of course, according to this institution marriage is the only way to procreate. And nothing should be allowed to interfere with [legitimate] procreation. Here's what the HRCC has to say about contraception:
For legitimate reasons of responsible parenthood, married couples may limit the number of their children by natural means. The Church cannot approve contraceptive interventions that "either in anticipation of the marital act, or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, have the purpose, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible." Such interventions violate "the inseparable connection, willed by God . . . between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive and procreative meaning."
The usual supernaturally sanctioned claptrap, always emphasizing that human life is different from mere animal life, and subject to holy, or holier, laws. And with this they get into some deep waters, using scientific terminology usually inimical to theological manipulation, as in directives 40 and 41:
Heterologous fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception by the use of gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses) is prohibited because it is contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses, and the dignity proper to parents and the child.
Homologous artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance (e.g., any technique used to achieve extra-corporeal conception).
Presumably these directives carry their rationale within them, that is, that heterologous fertilization is contrary to the covenant of marriage as the HRCC conceives of it, though presumably the HRCC believes their conception to be 'objectively true' and supernaturally given, and that homologous artificial fertilization somehow interferes with the true nature of the marital act [again as the HRCC conceives of or defines it]. All of this makes me inclined to write to the Vatican [let's start at the top] to ask them to clarify, not so much when they arrived at this conception, but when their supernatural being informed them that this was the true definition of marriage, since I don't believe it is explicitly stated in the big book that is supposed to have been written by this being.   

Anyway, that is enough for now. I'll finish off on this issue in my next post

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