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Tag Archive | "dogma"

The Greyness of Morality

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In the 17th Asia-Pacific Congress on Faith, Life and Family, Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales had the following to say in his homily for Mass Monday:

Faced with the possibility of the reproductive health RH) bill being passed into law, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales reminded parents to mold their children’s conscience, saying laws “won’t make things moral.”

“If you fail, you will reap the kind of people that we have now in most of our institutions, including Congress,”

Any person who has been brought up properly would know what is right and wrong and would know how to make upright decisions even in the face of any law, Rosales said.


I generally agree with what the Archbishop is saying in the first paragraph, that parents should try to impart moral lessons onto their children and laws really do not make things moral. But when an Archbishop is talking… boy do you have to watch out for the bullshit that inevitably comes along. The moral system that Archbishop Rosales speaks of is based on dogma, on the easy answers that perpetuate the power of the church without regard for the cost in human suffering.

While I do think there are some things where a moral decision is very easy to make the good archbishop happily chooses to exclude the middle, sweeping under the carpet those murky moral decisions that are difficult to make. Things like the RH bill or abortion, moral decisions that require a certain amount of courage and thinking when a society first encounters it. Society is not served by a knee jerk retreat into dogma that feels safe. Far better to face these hard moral challenges head on rather than seeking reassurance from old fables.

Dogmatically clinging onto morals handed down to us from the dark ages means a society that does not progress ethically. It would mean a world stuck in the horrid pages of the old testament where slavery is allowed and the punishment for rape is unjust. It would mean a moral standard stranded in the new testament where women are not treated as equals of men.

So parents. Teach your children about their conscience, give them the tools they would need to navigate the fog of moral uncertainty. Instill within them critical thinking so that they may weed out the bad ideas that come their way. Show them the value of compassion, how it has allowed humanity to flourish and how vital it is for our collective future. Armed with these your children may rise above these men of cloth, they might find the courage to take on the awesome responsibility of morality.

If you fail, well… then you will reap the kind of people that we have now as leaders of the Catholic church.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (4)

‘Contraceptive Mentality’ and the ‘Culture of Death’

In the battle against contraceptives and the RH Bill, the CBCP keeps saying big words like “contraceptive mentality” and the “culture of death”, but do we know what they really mean? For example, let’s take a look at what Jaro archbishop and then CBCP president Angel Lagdameo said in 2007:

Since the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, the church likewise objects to their dissemination, creating thereby a contraceptive mentality towards a culture of death.

Or what San Fernando, Pampanga archbishop Panciano Aniceto wrote in late 2009:

Textbooks consistently using the term “reproduction” instead of “procreation,” even if intended for Catholic schools, should be thoroughly checked for the contraceptive mentality.

It seems those phrases were popularized if not coined by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 enclyclical Evangelium Vitae, where he wrote:

It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”—which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act—are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected.

That last sentence reminds me of the Christian Courier writer Wayne Jackson’s comment on Human Life International founder Dr. Paul Marx’s argument that “widespread contraception always leads to abortion”:

In reality, his argument is a non-argument. He might as well contend that people who engage in sexual activity are more likely to procure abortions than those who do not! This is a truism. But sexual activity per se does not always lead to abortion.

So even assuming that “the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected”, do we now condemn contraception, a lawful act, based on its tendency to increase the probability of acceptance or even desensitization towards abortion, a procedure deemed illegal in our country?

And how do we differentiate between “contraceptive mentality” and “responsible parenthood”? Pope John Paul mentioned “respect for the full truth of the conjugal act” with regards to responsible parenthood, and if by “full truth” he meant the inviolable inclusion of procreation in every sexual act, why does the Church allow natural family planning methods where the act is deliberately timed during the wife’s sterile period, or sex between couples who, because of sickness or age, can no longer bear a child?

Let’s see what else Pope John Paul had to say:

…despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree…in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment…

Does the use of contraceptives exemplify a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility”, which probably means engaging in sex solely for pleasure without regard for the consequences? Hardly. The mere act of wearing a condom, for instance, shows concern for the woman’s health – at the cost of decreased pleasure. Does that reflect a “self-centered concept of freedom”?

…The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.

Now that sentence is made of two parts existing in different tenses, but taken as a whole it seems to make sense. So let’s try to break it down. The first part talks about a potential (future) pregnancy which should be avoided at all costs, but in the second part that pregnancy has already occurred (present) due to failed contraception, and yet it assumes that the great effort spent to prevent the former automatically dictates a similar degree of proclivity to end the latter. No, being pro-contraception does not necessarily mean pro-abortion.

While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit.

Did Pope John Paul (or Archbishop Lagdameo) just associate contraception with euthanasia on top of abortion? I hope not, because in contraception there is no life “not yet born” or “in its final stages” – there is simply no life at all! So it isn’t really a freedom of the strong against the weak, because in contraception the weak hasn’t existed yet. It’s just personal freedom.

But contraception is not all about freedom. It’s about health, and of using our human intellect to maintain a healthy, happy life without killing the “weak”. As Wayne Jackson said:

Frequently a woman’s health is an issue relative to the number of children she should bear. Shall a woman be forced to jeopardize her physical welfare simply to satisfy the demands of a conclave of bachelors in Rome?

The Catholic clergy makes much ado about the use of “artificial” devices to facilitate birth control. But by what spiritual criterion does one determine that the use of some artificial devices to accommodate physical needs are permissible (e.g., eye glasses, hearing aids, etc.), and yet, the use of other material devices (to assist with physical needs) are prohibited? It is a manifestation of arrogance to set oneself up as a pontificator of such matters.

And that is where the Church is good at, as a self-appointed pontificator, expressing not opinions but judgments – authoritative, arrogant assertions of what is right and wrong – on matters which lifelong bachelors should have no business to begin with.

Posted in ReligionComments (7)