Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pope's No Pills

One of the benefits of reading the classics is that one can find quite easily history repeating itself; or perhaps better phrased: the insight of an author that has lived and died resonates as if written but literally today.  Take for example this gem from Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:

[Y]ou should see the Roman Catholic Church for what it really is:
not at all democratic, not at all in favor of speculative thought; far 
more alarmed by the vaguest threat of social revolution than by 
actual oppression, provided it is of monarchical or totalitarian
origin, and wholly unsympathetic with any need for free expression but its own.

The context of this quote, admittedly is not about contraception.  The dialogue is between West's husband --quoted above-- and their Croatian friend Valetta; the two were discussing a short-lived concordat in 1937 between the Yugoslavian government and Pope Pius XII that gave greater advantages to Roman Catholics as regards both religious education and practice than the Eastern Orthodox Christians of Serbia and greater Yugoslavia.  West's husband (the reader is never told his name) surely can not have known how prescient his words would become more than seventy years later.  Today, rather than 'Holy Mother Chruch' meddling in the affairs of federated European states oppressed for centuries by the parties of god, its focus is now on the subjugation of half of its 'flock' living in a secular and democratic republic.

The claimants of the current conservative harry against the Obama Administration assert that by requiring Catholic hospitals and charities to provide contraception to its employees, the federal government has violated the spirit and letter of the First Amendment.   As I write this, the only words that come to my mind are: 'I wish I knew how this is a violation of'..., but that is not really the case, because I really don't wish to know.  In fact, the better phrase would be: 'I wish I knew what the hell they were talking about.'  The recent political maneuver of President Obama allows the Catholic Church to continue its assertion that the 'Holy See' has command over the reproductive organs of its parishioners, yet mandates that insurance companies provide contraceptives to employees of the 'One True Church'.  Any Catholic who wants access (as it seems nearly 99% of them do) to birth control, will have it so; those who wish to maintain the lugubrious and precambrian practice of the 'rhythm method' as their birth control of conscience are left unmolested by adherents and apostates --although the latter may snigger.  But no: this simply isn't going to appease the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; they are quite concerned about lingering 'serious moral concerns' with the Administration's riposte to their redress.

Among his contributions to the English lexicon, the late Christopher Hitchens added: 'what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence'.   No problem wondering what the hell that means! The proclamation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops or any other authorized body of the 'Holy Roman Church' who maintain their organization as the final moral authority, while harboring pedophile priests behind the walls of the Stato della Città del Vaticano can not --either in principle or practice-- asseverate anything remotely decent or just.

As West's husband concludes his colloquy with Veletta, I am left with the thought that perhaps his words could equally resonate in the early twenty-first century as they did on the cusp of the Second World War:

You should proceed with the difficult task of deciding whether you can 
reconcile yourself to this bias of the Church for the 
sake of thespiritual benefits it confers upon you.

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