The Catholic Church has become the religion of sexual regulations.
Its only competitor for this distinction is of course Islam. While Islam has attempted to maintain a relatively consistent world-view and separateness from other religions, however, the Catholic Church has made considerable efforts to “modernize”—to concede on beliefs, customs and rituals where concessions were necessary to prevent a wholesale abandonment of their flock.
But the one area they will not bend on, in fact the one area that seems to define the essence of the Vatican world view, its very reason for existence, is its view of the role sexuality plays in human conduct. And that view is more subtle than you might think. The subtlety depends on the principle of “whose ox is being gored.”
The two “crises” of the past couple of weeks illustrate what that world view is. One we treated in our last post. In that case the Bishop of Toledo, Ohio, has ordered Catholic Schools to stop collecting money and donating it to a foundation that sponsors research into the cause and cure of breast cancer. The reason was not that the foundation does anything that is proscribed by Catholic teaching, but rather because some day it might fund stem cell research that uses fetal tissue.
We needn’t go into the dizzying thinking behind the Catholic Church’s hysteria over stem cell research. Let’s just say that it involves a dread that refrigerators are filling up all over the world with dead fetuses.
This fear has led one Catholic moral philosopher who supposedly specializes in bioethics (an official one, not some free lancer at a University or in the press) to condemn in vitro fertilization.
The Toledo diocese’s conduct in that case can be explained this way: There are some evils that are so great that doing anything that makes them more likely is prohibited. And that is so, even when the thing being done doesn’t
necessarily lead to that evil and also in itself is something good.
I suppose you would have to balance the good (a possible cure for breast cancer) against the evil (the use of fetal stem cells), but Bishop Leonard Blair did not spell it out in his letter to his Friends in Christ. Since he balanced a remote possibility against a current scourge on very many women, we have to assume that he believes the evil he is worried about is very considerably greater than the good of doing something against breast cancer, because in the balance you have to discount the evil by the probability of its future occurence.
Of course, predicting how an institution will behave in the future is always tricky.
There was a time that the Church sanctioned the torture then burning of Lutherans, and now they even send ambassadors to Anglican countries, however much they hold them in contempt......read more