As a Catholic myself, it pains me that the Church is so incredibly backward when it comes to its stance on the use of contraception, and that it uses such twisted logic to defend it. So it was with some hope that I read this Reuters article (link above), reporting on comments by the Archbishop of Westminster, leader of the Catholic Church in England.
“I think when it comes to Third World poverty, and the great pressure into which many women are put by men, I can see the arguments why, in the short-term, means that give women protection are attractive,” Nichols said in extracts of an interview released by BBC Radio WM before broadcast on Friday.
But then, apparently not wanting to get carried away and seem too wild and crazy, the archbishop tempered his remarks with the usual nonsense:
“The use of condoms doesn’t lack for champions; there are plenty of champions around giving and distributing condoms. I don’t think it’s the Church’s role simply to add its voice to that but rather, in contrast, to keep saying, “If we solve the poverty then consistently we know the birth rate comes down’.”
Tell me, Archbishop Nichols, after looking at a graph of world population for the past 2,000 years, how is that whole “solve poverty” thing working for us? Since the industrial revolution began, poverty has been virtually wiped out in the Americas, in Europe and in parts of Asia. But the result for the world’s population has been an explosion from less than one billion people 200 years ago to 6.8 billion people today – a much higher rate of population growth than at any other time in human history.
Development isn’t the solution to an exploding population, it’s the cause. Everyplace where even the most basic measures are introduced into an undeveloped region – things like simple sanitation and basic medicine – the death rate is driven down rapidly and a once-stable population suddenly explodes. Eventually, over a long period of time, birth rates slowly follow the decline in the death rate, and populations stabilize once again, but only after many decades of explosive growth. The end result is a population many times larger. To then look at the situation and conclude that “solving poverty” was the solution to overpopulation is absolutely idiotic. I want to scream every time I hear someone repeat this myth.
And then the article repeats the standard, goofy logic used to defend the Church’s opposition to contraception:
The Catholic Church opposes contraception saying it denies the divine gift of life.
Oh, really? What about the divine gift of intelligence which actually makes us human, distinguishing us from the rest of the animal kingdom? Though our Creator endowed us with the reproductive capacity to assure the survival of our species early in our history, when life expectancy was about 30 years of age, He also blessed us with the intellectual capacity needed to improve our lives and to rein in that reproductive capacity once it was no longer needed.
If using our intellects to rein in our reproductive capacity is somehow meddling with His will, then isn’t it also logical that the application of that intellect to conquer diseases and extend our lives is also meddling with His will? Isn’t the use of fertility methods like invitro fertilization also contradictory to His will to deny the gift of life to some people? How can any of us even know His will in these matters to begin with?
If the archbishop’s comments on contraception are a sign of progress in the softening of the Church’s stance against contraception, all I can say is that it’s a good thing that “progress” by the sciences didn’t occur at the same pace. If it had, right at this moment, one of us cave men might be poking a stick through a hole in a round rock and celebrating the invention of the wheel.