Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Making the world safe for stupidity

Sometimes, it seems like the only issues religious debates hang on now have to do with sex and reproduction. It’s like listening to Johnny One-Note playing the kazoo: it gets old very fast. Like much else, the same ground gets covered over and over, like a flock of crime-scene investigators looking for a toenail in a farm field.

Take the issue of contraceptives, for example. At least since 1968, the year Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, various people (both Catholic and non-Catholic) have been grumping about the Church’s decision to maintain its traditional opposition to artificial birth control, either damning it as an example of the Church’s refusal to join the twentieth (now twenty-first) century or bemoaning it as well-intentioned but ineffectual.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "Lazy Man's Diet"

I’ve used this line quite a bit, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it anyway: It wouldn’t be true to say I’ve battled obesity since I was fourteen. Rather, it’s been a long, slow surrender punctuated by occasional fits of dieting.

The least I’ve weighed since graduating high school, at a slightly short 5’8”, was 175 pounds, just before I was released from the Marine Corps. For most of my adulthood afterward, it varied between 200 and 220, with a peak of 240 and a valley at 187.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is "pro-choice Catholic" an oxymoron?

In a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter, Kate Childs Graham declared as her final argument for being pro-choice, “… my Catholic faith tells me I can be. The Catechism [of the Catholic Church] reads, ‘[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths’ [CCC 1776]. Even St. Thomas Aquinas said it would be better to be excommunicated than to neglect your individual conscience. So really, I am just following his lead. After years of research, discernment and prayer, my conscience has been well informed. Being a prochoice Catholic does not contradict my faith; rather, in following my well-informed conscience, I am adhering to the central tenet of Catholic teaching—the primacy of conscience.”

Um, no. Where she got the idea that the primacy of conscience is the central tenet of Catholic teaching, I couldn’t tell you, but it wasn’t from The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (If there is a single central tenet, it’s that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection set us free from sin.) Let’s look a little further, in paragraphs 1790-1792:
A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. … Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case where a man “takes little trouble to find out what is good and true, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 16). In such cases, the person is culpable for the sins he commits.

Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [emphasis mine], lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.