Monday, 26 November 2012

An old error...

Time and again, we hear how 'most Catholics reject the Church's teaching on artificial birth control, because the large majority of Catholic married couples use contraception.' (It turned up in an exceptionally stupid* piece in the National Catholic Reporter just now...)

This is stated as though it is a self-evident truth.  However, it is not.

There are two reasons for that.

The first is that in order to say that 'most Catholics reject the Church's teaching on artificial birth control' one would need to establish that they knew and understood the Church's teaching.  Whilst most know the headlines, (though even that knowledge has been muddied by the many false teachers who distort the idea of the primacy of conscience), it is highly doubtful that most know the reasons for the teaching and the depth of theology that underpins them.

There has been both a catastrophic failure of positive teaching, and a diabolical promulgation of deceit on this topic.

The second reason is a simple logical fallacy.  As the statement is presented, I could as well say:  'most Catholics reject the Church's teaching on loving your neighbour, because the large majority of Catholics are sometimes selfish.'

Clearly that is a nonsense.  Sometimes we fail to live up to a standard not because it is something with which we disagree, but because it is difficult!

In the case of the teaching on artificial birth control, these two factors interact in complex ways.  So while it may be true that many Catholics disobey the Church, and many have been persuaded that such disobedience is allowable, and further, many have been persuaded that the Church's teaching is wrong, I suspect that there are very few indeed who could articulate the Church's teaching and then explain why they reject it.

Of those few, one is probably a well-known woman theologian; but her rejection I suspect would lack intellectual coherence, as she recently suggested the Church should pay heed to the views of 'sexually active' Catholics. Does she imagine that those who live by Humanae Vitae, and have the large families to prove it, have had their children without being sexually active?  Think again, Tina.


* Exceptionally stupid: for example it claims that 97% of Catholic Laity use artificial birth control.  Given the number of the laity who are too young or too old for this to be an issue, plus those who are celibate or who observe Humanae Vitae, that is clearly an exceptionally stupid claim. The rest of the article meets the same standard of competence.

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