Monday, July 17, 2006

A lingering question

I just reread Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine article from May 7, "Contra-Contraception." (It reviews the current anti-contraception movement afoot in anti-abortion circles.)

Shorto quotes Kimberly Zenarolla, the director of strategic development for the National Pro-Life Action Center, who converted to Catholicism a couple years ago:

"I tell people I became Catholic because of the church's teaching on contraception. We are opposed to sex before marriage and contraception within marriage. We believe that the sexual act is meant to be a complete giving of self. Of course its purpose is procreation, but the church also affirms the unitive aspect: it brings a couple together. By using contraception, they are not allowing the fullness of their expression of love. To frustrate the procreative potential ends up harming the relationship."

Catholic doctrine is opposed to birth control and opposed to sterilization. In my particular case, I'm married and of childbearing age, but a pregnancy would wreak havoc on my health (and any fetus would face high odds against being born healthy). My question is this: If I were Catholic, what would the Church want me to do? Here's a multiple choice quiz the Pope can use to advise me:

A. Go ahead and use that birth control, sister—your life and well-being are worth preserving.
B. I can't get on board with birth control, but you/your husband should undergo tubal ligation/vasectomy. I'm not crazy about sterilization, but this is a tough spot to be in.
C. Don't use birth control, but don't risk pregnancy either—enjoy a celibate marriage! If celibacy is good enough for My Eminence, it should be good enough for you.
D. Don't use birth control, but carry on with the conjugal relations. If God wants you to get pregnant, then it'll also be God's will that you should suffer the ill health effects. But hey, you never know—miracles can happen. You could always find yourself suddenly cured of your ailment. Or you could die—and get to heaven ahead of schedule! It's win-win, baby.
E. Other (please describe).

Seriously, I don't know if the official Church doctrine would be option D. Would it?


Feral Mom said...

I'll ask my mom and get back to you.

Charlie said...

In my experience, the "official" doctrine you get quoted back to you depends a lot on what diocese or archdiocese you live in. The bishop has a lot to say about how doctrine is interpreted in his area. Also, I have had experiences where different priests in the same diocese disagree on matters of doctrine.

The priest who ran the RCIA classes I took in Kansas leaned toward a version of A. Even the bishops aren't allowed to officially sanction birth control, but in that particular diocese, they all but said birth control would be okay. They told us that most people shouldn't do it, but if we took time to pray and really examine our conscience and found that any particular teaching of the church was leading us away from God, we shouldn't follow that teaching. That line was repeated many times throughout the classes, and only when asked directly about birth control.

But here in Omaha, the answers tend toward C and D.

bitchphd said...

Yeah, it's called "pick your priest." If he's an asshole he'll say C. But ime, most priests will say A. From the pov of the church, there is no substantive difference between A and B, by the way.

FWIW, my mother in law had her fifth kid in her 40s, and her ob/gyn insisted she start using bc at that point. She wasn't happy about it, butu she did, which I imagine she couldn't have done if she hadn't gotten the go-ahead from the Church.

Krupskaya said...

A if you're the one asking a priest to his face, D if it's everyone else. Funny how that works.

(Waves to Charlie -- I grew up in Omaha, and my parents still live there.)

~Macarena~ said...

Catholicism can go for the lesser of two evils. I believe the Vatican was recently discussing whether to sanction condoms for married couples wherein one spouse has HIV/AIDS.