Saturday, November 8, 2014

NaBloPoMo: Revising the Religious Rhetoric

The only newspaper I subscribe to is the Intermountain Catholic, "Utah's Official Catholic Newspaper" (I suspect the only Catholic newspaper for the Diocese, which encompasses all of Utah). One of the articles in this week's edition was written by a priest who examined the recent Synod of Bishops relating to family and evangelization. Said the author:
Bishop Johann Bonny of Antwerp wrote a widely circulated letter to the Synod (although he himself was not a participant). He argued that couples living together outside of marriage, using [artificial] contraception, or resorting to in vitro fertilization (all activities prohibited by the Church) 'deserve more respect and a more nuanced evaluation than the language of certain Church documents appear to prescribe. The mechanisms of accusation and exclusion ... can only block the way to evangelization.'
I'm of a much more liberal bent than the Church at large, and my disagreements tend to be with contraception, the redefinition of marriage, etc., so while I would like to see these issues resolved differently, I would first like to see the rhetoric overhauled to the extent that those with fertility issues, or gay and lesbian couples who might wish to marry within the Church, or those who might have legitimate reasons to live with non-spouses outside of marriage, etc., revised to include a broader understanding of some of the issues people face, issues that might not have been as prevalent or recognized in previous generations.

For example, the "issue" with couples living together outside of marriage, seen as morally unacceptable (what with the presumption of premarital sex) overlooks economic issues couples might face. It is unhelpful when one is told simply to move out, and ignores the possibility of there being no, or impractical, alternatives*.

Similarly, in terms of contraception, to argue that "contraception should not be used because pregnancy is not a disease" overlooks the necessary financial aspects of planning for a family and the need to be able to provide for the family. And statements such as the assertion that contraception "undermines a basic principle of real health care, which has a responsibility to affirm how a healthy body functions" ignores specific medical conditions in which oral contraception would allow the woman to become pregnant in the future. ** Natural Family Planning is not a good option for many couples, and based on reading stories and other arguments (here and here), I can see why.

As it is, Church language, especially in terms of sexuality, is often accusatory and exclusionary, as Bishop Bonny notes, and does not include an understanding the often difficult situations contemporary Catholic couples and families face, especially when presented as categorical repudiation.

* I lived with a former boyfriend "outside of marriage." This was not a situation that was ideal in many ways, but my literal alternatives were to either live in my car, or to commute 90-150 miles twice a day for school and/or student teaching. This would not have been practical for so many reasons I don't even care to list them all. While I would have preferred to live alone, I needed the financial support in terms of living expenses that he could (and was happy to) provide. I also lived with Ed before we married, although we were engaged before I officially made the move. (I visited for the summer and stayed with him before we were engaged; there was a guest bedroom.)

** Catholic beliefs and teachings on love and sexuality can be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

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