The Fight for Life. A Catholic Perspective.
We’ve all heard the jokes about Catholics and their policy on birth control/contraceptives. Even though I support this policy this month, it’s still a tough pill to swallow. Every time I think about the sanction against birth control, I get this image in my head:
The two kids I have now help me understand some days why mothers in the wild often eat their young, so I can’t imagine this. But why is the Catholic Church so adamant on issues regarding life? Isn’t their position a little out-dated?
The issue of abortion will make you popular about as easily as talking about religion. It’s that divisive. But why? Because there is no middle ground. As Pope John Paul II said in The Gospel of Life,
“The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man…is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory…Man has been given a sublime dignity, based on the intimate bond which unites him to his Creator: in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself.“
For the Church, abortion is nothing short of murder. Here, life begins at conception. Human life is sacred, holy, because according to the Bible, humanity is created in the likeness of God himself. Therefore, court decisions like Roe vs. Wade in 1973 cast a major blow against the Church’s effort to preserve the life and dignity of the unborn. Since 1973, an estimated 50 million successful abortions have taken place. Techniques for abortion range from immediate destruction of the embryo after conception, to killing the infant after partial birth (cutting the spinal cord, cutting into the skull and sucking out brain tissue, etc.).
Birth Control and Contraception:
Our next topic seems to be easy middle ground, right? We can still have sexual freedom AND by preventing an unintended pregnancy, avoid the whole abortion issue.
Not so fast, says the Church.
“The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2363
Wow, that sounds really boring. I mean, I thought sex was really fun and exciting (at least on my end), so why would the Church reduce good times into doctrinal legalese?
Because there is more at stake than fun here. I must admit that this policy by the Church is tough for me. Outside of this month, I’m a fan of contraception, but I’ve never even considered the Church’s position because I thought it was archaic and a kill-joy. Since we’re here and enjoying one another’s company, let’s examine why this is such a big deal.
First of all, Jesus described (quoting from Genesis) the union of man and woman in marriage as “one flesh” (Matthew 19: 6). Interesting that we see two as one here and the sharing of love as the bond between them. If we are all made in God’s image, and God is a unity of three parts connected by the Holy Spirit, then marriage is simply a reflection of God’s own relationship with himself.
From the Church’s point of view, love and the sex are selfless acts, just as God selflessly gave his Son to us and the Son selflessly gave himself to his Father and to humanity. With the sexual “freedom” offered to us by contraceptives, what are we really seeking? Pleasure, satisfaction…are any of these selfless? How many young woman are stigmatized as “sluts” because they are participating in society’s “freedom of sexual expression”? The bodies of young men and women are now reduced to a prize or trophy. Is this what the woman of the sexual revolution had in mind?
Other Cases to Protect Life:
The occasions to protect life go beyond the womb for the Catholic Church. Taking direction from God’s command to not kill, the Church is against the death penalty because it essentially robs the individual the opportunity of reform. Catholics are encouraged to visit and minister to the sick and the imprisoned, so it wouldn’t make much since to kill those we are called to serve.
Euthanasia and suicide is also opposed by the Church. Because we are not the creators of our own lives, and because only God himself appoints our very being (Psalms 139: 16), we have no right to take life (except in extreme cases of defense)…including our own. This issue is particularly difficult, especially in cases of suffering. The Church contends that there are morally acceptable ways of curbing suffering through medication and therapy which eliminate the need to end a life “mercifully.”
Stem cell research. Now there’s a battlefield. The Church has tried to make this clear and so I’ll do my part as well. While the Church does oppose embryonic stem cell research, it does not oppose adult stem cell research. The former involves growing embryos which are then destroyed, and because the Church holds firm that life begins at conception (an embryo), this form of research will always be in conflict.
I’ve touched lightly on Church positions regarding the sanctity of life, however there is so much more. There are many Catholic groups out there actively fighting to protect life on all of these fronts and more. Here are a few links for more information:
What are your thoughts on the pro-life/pro-choice debate? Are you a Catholic (or member of another faith) whose religious doctrine conflicts with your personal stance? How do you cope with such struggle?