Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

not by bread alone

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 02, 2006

Via Amy, more exchanges on Catholics and condoms. First, from the BBC, a video in which we see an able defense of the spiritual ends of marital love mounted by Anthony McCarthy of the Linacre Centre, countered by Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, South Africa.

Dowling's argument often seems to be read pat off the population control brochures. He calls for young people to receive "full, accurate, non-judgmental information so that they can make informed choices about their lives." The lives in question are not eternal lives, and the information to be received is medical. He means condoms, not catechism. And Dowling insists our morality must reckon with "people who are going to have sex anyway," in particular:

those people who choose not to follow the values of abstinence before marriage or faithfulness to a single partner within marriage, people who choose simply their own set of ways of behaving that don't accord with those values which the Church wants to uphold.

Not moral truths -- values. Not spouses -- partners. Not sins -- ways of behaving that don't accord with ours. He didn't learn that language from St. Paul.

On the northern front, we have a stinging open letter to Cardinal Martini, in response to his widely-reported interview on bioethical topics, written by a Catholic history professor at the University of Rome named Lucetta Scaraffia. Excerpts:

You propose a judgment that means to be more tolerant than that expressed by Church teaching: through a reductionist tactic which would allow fundamental moral problems to the resolved based on a generic common sense, but which, with the declared intention of "not creating useless divisions," would seem rather to negate the relevance of the question. ...

I find your statement that "scientific progress cannot be stopped" absolutely surprising in its banality: from a scholar like you I truly never expected to hear such a cliché.

In both cases it is the lay persons who stress the spiritual destiny of the human person more than physical hardships, who mention God without embarrassment or apology, and who view Catholic doctrine as not only worthy of defense but as true. In both cases it is the bishops who are spiritually defeatist, who emphasize the conditions of material distress more than spiritual hunger, who seem unwilling to call their fellow human beings to sacrifice, whose vocabulary parrots the jargon of secular policy wonks, and who see a solution to human problems by recourse to technical appliances and statist programs of indoctrination.

Where in the remarks of Martini or Dowling do the uncatechized heathen hear the Good News --in their confidence that condom use can reduce HIV infection by 36% among the target population? Or what enthusiasm will a young man have to enter the priesthood, when his bishops seem so keen to concede doctrinal defeat on behalf of the Church he will serve? Or again, if our celibate clergy can't believe other persons capable of the sacrifices entailed by chastity, whence comes our confidence that they are capable themselves?

When Jesus said, "Leave the dead to bury their dead," he was, I think, rejecting a kind of spiritual cowardice that wants to have it both ways: attracted by God, it can't abandon the security offered by worldly success. Though this fondness for a safety-net appears prudent at first, eventually it reveals itself as a kind of despair. It's no accident that throughout the history of the Church the founders of reforming orders attract their followers by the opposite characteristic: a kind of inspired recklessness that says Yes to God and No to the many-layered compromises with which the dying generation consoles itself. Corruption is always obsessed with its comfort, godliness always indifferent to it.

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