Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Contraception: Who's conning who?

Last February, Austin Ruse wrote a wrote a cautionary piece in Crisis, "Is Contraception the Hill We Want to Die On?", which was concerned with an attack on a Catholic politician's request that the federal government permit the sale of oral contraceptives without a prescription. Ruse is a thoughtful, lucid commentator; so, of course, he made some very good points. 

Nevertheless, I responded in Catholic Stand with "Contraception: A Hill Worth Dying On!" (you have to do ugly things to titles to boost your search-engine visibility, I've learned), arguing that there were several reasons the fight against abortion requires taking on contraceptives. Eleven months later, that conviction is still strong.

As usual, I posted the first few paragraphs on this site, with a link to the full CS article. Forty-seven weeks later, I finally get a comment in that combox, from Juliana@birthcontrol: "I am a catholic but I'm not sure I will be joining you on this one any time soon." 

I suppose I understand. Who wants to stop taking a Class I carcinogen that increases risks of weight gain, breast cancer, depression, blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes? Who wouldn't want to take a pill that interferes with your ability to select compatible mates, decreases your desirability, facilitates poor sexual choices, and encourages sexploitation? After all, it frees you from your biology ... assuming you don't still end up at Planned Parenthood wondering how those two gametes managed to get together despite all the roadblocks you put up.

So when Joanna Moorhead, writing in The Guardian, asks the Catholic Church to "drop the contraception con", my first reaction is to ask, "Who's conning who?"

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eve Ensler’s 20-year reign coming to a silly end?

Back in August, I wrote a piece for Catholic Stand titled “The Identity of a Woman”, the springboard of which was an article in New Yorker concerning the growing struggle between feminists and the transgendered. Allow me the egotistical courtesy of quoting myself at length:

The problem for radical feminists is that men who claim to be women, even those who undergo “gender-reassignment surgery”, aren’t really women.

Not because the transgendered don’t have the right parts, or because the parts have been artificially implanted; oh no, that would simply be common sense, and who wants that?(“Common sense,” Stuart Chase once sniffed, “is that which tells us the earth is flat.”) No, the radical feminist objection is that the transgendered haven’t been raised with the suffering and victimization inherent in a paternalist society, and that transgenderism represents a kind of male-imperialist encroachment on uniquely female territory.

To make matters worse (?), radical feminists seem to be losing the fight. The universities and PACs, which once hosted — or at least suffered — their message of male oppression, are now starting to push back wherever that message conflicts with transgender rights. Says Rachel Ivey, “If I were to say in a typical women’s-studies class today, ‘Female people are oppressed on the basis of reproduction,’ I would get called out.” Other students, she adds, would ask, “What about women who are male?”

Well, now the inner logic of “inclusiveness” — if we can call it that with a straight face — has created a new casualty of this internecine shindy: Mount Holyoke, a women’s college in Massachusetts, has cancelled its annual production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues because it lacks transgender roles.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The thundering Islamic silence

Photo source:
People call the cartoons Charlie Hebdo printed "satire". Occasionally the label fit. Other times, a better label would have been "sophomoric nastiness". Because they held nothing sacred for themselves, they had no qualms about stepping on the sensitivities of others.

I say this, of course, because some of the cartoons "Charbo" (editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, one of Wednesday's victims) drew for the magazine went beyond disrespect for Catholic leaders into childish blasphemy, such as the one that had Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a gay ménage à trois. Doubtless he thought there was a point to be made by such a representation, and that it would feed into the magazine's article about same-sex marriage. From my experience, though, when you deliberately set out to offend someone, you've reduced to almost 0% your chances of bringing that person to agreement. 

So yeah, I'm not about to paint the people of Charlie Hebdo as Catholic heroes. But the people who tore their offices apart with AK-47s didn't walk out saying, "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritu Sancti," either. 

Whatever else was true about the staff of Charlie Hebdo, they were close to unique among Western anti-religious in their criticism of Islam and willingness to satirize Mohammed. They were equal-opportunity offenders. Other groups pick only on Christians, because Christians don't form terrorist cells to strike back.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ask Tony: What's the Catholic Church's position on "enhanced interrogation techniques"?—UPDATED

Source: Washington Post.
A: "Enhanced interrogation technique" is simply a euphemism for torture. The Church teaches that torture is intrinsically evil.

It's really not rocket science. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, cruel practices, even when used to maintain law and order by legitimate governments, are not "in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person". (CCC 2297-8) In a speech in Sept. 2007, Benedict XVI stated unequivocally, "In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture 'cannot be contravened under any circumstances' (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 404)." Nobody should expect Pope Francis to support it, either.

In Romans 3:8, St. Paul specifically denies that the apostles teach a consequentialist message. This rejection is restated in Catechism § 1789: "One may never do evil so that good may result from it" is a rule "that applies in every case".

One of the many things St. John Paul II apologized for in the name of the Church was the sanction of torture in securing confessions to heresy. It really doesn't matter, for our purposes, that its use was hedged about with many restrictions, that the clergy never directly participated, or that it was a matter of discipline rather than dogma (and so is covered by neither infallibility nor "tradition").The Church was wrong to do so, and there's an end to it.

Then why, you may ask, did so many white Catholics (the only Catholics represented) come out in favor of torturing suspected terrorists on the recent ABC/Washington Post poll?

Stan Goff, the author of Chasin' Jesus, suspects that part of the answer is due to relentless indoctrination by Hollywood:

... [T]he whole subject is embedded in carefully formulated, dramatic hypotheses. Moreover, we are all indoctrinated with ... "electronic hallucinations" nearly from birth that implant these hypothetical situations in our heads. Television and film, to be more precise, the most effective tools for mass indoctrination in the history of the world, have bombarded us with concocted stories that revolve around something that the late Russian film theorist Sergei Eisenstein labeled the "tempo task." ...

Any time we have this debate, those who want to justify torture evade discussion of the actual acts of torture (breaking someone's limbs with iron bars, for example, or letting him be chewed up by attack dogs, or pumping pureed hummus up his ass, or plunging him into ice water until his core temperature drops), and instead deploy a tempo task scenario. What if he has armed a nuclear bomb in Times Square and you have ten minutes to find it and disarm it? The purpose of the tempo task scenario is not to establish some moral line, but to dispense with morality altogether in favor of pragmatism in extremis.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Impractical Catholic's predictions for 2015!

Making New Year predictions has much more potential for fun than making New Year resolutions, precisely because the chattering classes take them more seriously. I don't know why; they're fulfilled less often than are the resolutions. I suspect it has something to do with politics being a grand game, like watching a real-life, non-violent version of The Highlander ("There can only be one!"). So, following Elizabeth Scalia's lead, I made my own predictions for the year:

1: Pope Francis' apostolic visit to the US will be a smash hit; and the tour will be extended for several more arena dates through the South and Southwest. Ticketmaster will report record sales; his dope new single, "That's Not What I Meant", will defy all expectations by replacing Taylor Swift at the top of the charts for one week.

2: Speaking of Taylor Swift, her torrid relationship with Lena Dunham will last for most of the year, marked by some squabbles over dominance and presence at each other's public engagements. The relationship, which will be considered the power romance for the feminist movement, will end when the two women realize they're not really gay. "But it was kinda cool and empowering while it lasted," Swift will confess. Dunham will marry herself around Christmastime.

3: Vice President Joe Biden will suffer a massive coronary and die at his desk. Cleaning crews will discover his body two days later. His final wish, to be burned in a Viking longboat at sea "just like Richard Mulligan in S.O.B.," will be protested by Greenpeace.