(For context of this letter, cf. article on Birth Control.)
This is a response to Art's second letter (art.html).
You wrote: " All of his added concerns are addressed in this fine document published in 1975. It talks about historical cultural changes and the effect on morals. It talks about masturbation, and the purity of marriage. If he's not satisfied after reading this, then I think the discussion is at an end. "
That last line of yours is the most closed-minded and totalitarian statement I've read in a long time.
Note the following from "New Advent Catholic Supersite":
" Church documents aren't inspired the way Scripture is. God doesn't positively move the authors of Church documents so they write everything and only those things which he wants written, as he did with the biblical authors (Dei Verbum, no. 11).
The pope and the bishops come by their knowledge of the Bible (and Catholic theology in general) the same way everyone else does--through study. "
So, here is some criticism of the Declaration you pointed me to, you're free to ignore them if you like.
The Declaration writes: >In this regard the Council declares that the moral goodness of the acts >proper to conjugal life, acts which are ordered according to true human >dignity, "does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation >of motives. It must be determined by objective standards. These, based on >the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of >mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love."
This is an amazing statement to me. After years of study of philosophy and religion, it is clear to me that there are no "objective standards", at least not on earth and in society.
The concept of "objective standards", other than the judgement of God, is one of the main tenets of secular humanism, which have crept into the outlook of society as a whole. The writers of this document seem to have unwittingly accepted them.
The amazing part of the statement is "These [objective standards] .... preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving ... in the context of true love." How could something "objective" preserve mutual self-giving in true love? If there was ever anything more truly subjective than mutual self-giving, I haven't found it.
>These requirements call for a conjugal contract sanctioned and guaranteed by society
Then what if society decides that marriage should only occur between two people of the same sex? This seems more and more probable with each passing day. I don't think the Council would write this statement were it meeting today.
Furthermore, this statement is contradicted by the previous statement that morality is beyond the vagaries of society:
"These principles and norms in no way owe their origin to a certain type of culture, but rather to knowledge of the Divine Law and of human nature. "
> Most often, in fact, premarital relations >exclude the possibility of children. What is represented to be conjugal >love is not able, as it absolutely should be, to develop into paternal and >maternal love. Or, if it does happen to do so, this will be to the >detriment of the children, who will be deprived of the stable environment >in which they ought to develop in order to find in it the way and the >means of their insertion into society as a whole.
The writer clearly wants to have his cake and eat it too. In one sentence, he says that it is "not able to develop into paternal and maternal love". This is always one of the criticisms of artificial birth control, that it makes procreation "impossible". But then, in the next sentence, the writer clearly shows that he understands the weakness of his own argument, namely that birth control does not make procreation impossible - because many people are here in this world today because of torn condoms, forgotten pills, misread thermometers or misinterpreted mucus. That following sentence is the accurate argument regarding morality, that sex outside of marriage can lead to babies born outside of a stable environment. The events of the past thirty years show this to be more true than ever, and therefore not something which has changed in modern society.
Thus, the core of the matter is providing a stable environment for raising children. Birth control has indeed given people more power to fail in this respect, but it is merely a tool.
>Now according to Christian tradition and >the Church's teaching, and as right reason also recognizes, the moral >order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every >direct violation of this order is objectively serious.
This statement is true, but only from a very strict reading.
For example, what constitutes a "direct violation of the moral order of sexuality"?
On the one hand, many in the Church have said "anything that cannot lead to procreation". And, immediately after having said this, they add "except the rhythm method and natural family planning", thus entirely compromising their otherwise strong position. The counter argument to this always involves "natural" versus "artificial", but this argument of "artificial" a) has nothing to do with the original argument related to procreation, b) is not used in ANY other area, otherwise we should not have churches, bibles, or computer communications.
But there is a more powerful argument. One of the strongest and most valid arguments against woman priestesses is that Christ was not bound by the social conventions of the day in regards to any other aspect of his teachings, therefore if he wanted to allow women to be priestesses, he would have said so, and perhaps even made one an apostle.
The same argument holds even more strongly in the case of procreation.
God's commandment was "Thou shalt not commit adultery". Christ's teaching in this area was that one commits adultery by even lusting after a woman other than one's wife. Thus, we can say that by the absence of any other explicit teaching in the Bible, it is clear that according to all three persons of the Trinity, "direct violation of the moral order of sexuality" consists of adultery. Just as in the case of women priestesses, had they wanted to prohibit anything else, they would have done so.
Nowhere in the Bible does one find any prohibition of either birth control or masturbation. (I find it hard to even imagine masturbation being "on the radar screen" in a society under the yoke of Roman occupation.) Oddly enough, some people refer to masturbation as "Onanism", even though the exceedingly brief story of Onan does not involve masturbation at all !
So, why would the Church have a problem with being rational about sexuality? Well, to answer that question, I'll ask you to not think about a pink elephant....... Now, I can be 100% sure that for at least a short period of time, all you thought about was a pink elephant.
How is this relevant? Well, we know that in order to succeed at something, it is necessary to focus on that one thing to the exclusion of all else. This is even more true of spiritual practice. Thus, it makes a lot of sense for priest, monks and nuns to be celibate. I've found in my explorations of various denominations that celibate single priests are more able to successfully focus on the needs of their parishes than married priests with families to worry about.
However, celibacy is not easy. If it is approached in the manner of "not thinking about a pink elephant", it could be quite difficult indeed. Thus, in the Church, we have a Magisterium consisting entirely of men whose experience of sexuality, at the minimum, is difficult. So, it is no wonder that they might consider all sexuality wrong that does not lead to bringing the next generation into the world.
PS I sometimes hear the argument that not everything that is wrong is clearly prohibited in the Bible. The usual example is abortion. But abortion is clearly prohibited by "Thou shalt not murder". No argument against abortion stands on anything else. However, prohibitions against birth control and masturbation do not stand on the explicit prohibition against adultery, since both can be performed by a married couple who never lust after anyone else.
Response from Art Lytle.