Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Patricia Miller on Pope Francis's Breeding Bunnies Remark: Challenging the "Breath of Fresh Air" Spin

I like how Patricia Miller calls the bluff of all the adulatory (heterosexual, male, married) Catholic journalists who have been trying to spin Pope Francis's remark about breeding bunnies as some kind of breakthrough on birth control for the Vatican, a breath of fresh air. As she asks,

But who in the twenty-first century thinks Catholics "breed like rabbits"? That's an offensive stereotype of Catholics that went out of date in the 1950s, when most Catholic women got on board with contraception—which the Catholic Church bans. 
And he made his comments after saying Catholics shouldn’t use birth control and while criticizing a woman who was pregnant for the eighth time and facing a cesarean section: "Does she want to leave the seven orphans?," he said, adding, "That is an irresponsibility." 
So she's irresponsible for getting pregnant eight times because she not using the contraception that you say she can’t use? But Francis has an answer for that: 
"God gives you methods to be responsible…This is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors. I know so many, many licit ways that have helped this."
So many licit ways? How many ways are there to say natural family planning? Francis doesn't seem to have the foggiest notion that the reason most people don't use natural family planning is that it's not reliable. It's how you end up pregnant eight times.

As Patti Miller suggests, some breakthrough. Some breath of stale fresh air. The gist of this spin-doctoring treatment that a number of adulatory  (heterosexual, male, married) Catholic journalists are now trying to give to Francis's inane remark is that he's shifting the entire burden of dealing with contraception to the consciences of Catholics, in consultation with their confessors. He's upholding magisterial teaching as it's now written (and why, I wonder, is that a good and praiseworthy thing, in the view of these journalists), while recognizing that there should be ample wiggle room for the 90%+ of married Catholics who reject that teaching as written.

There's little that's new in this "fresh air" approach. It's how the Catholic hierarchy has dealt with the issue of contraception for over half a century now. It pretends that entirely mutable, non-infallible papal teachings are set in stone and cannot be questioned — as if they've been infallibly declared. It employs a wink-nudge approach to church teaching that may well work fine for the heterosexual, male, married journalists writing adulatory articles about Francis's breeding bunnies zinger, but doesn't work at all for any of their fellow Catholics who are gay.

Where there's no wiggle room at all for conscience and consultation with their confessors, no option at all to marry and remain in easy connection to a Catholic community whose pastors adamantly oppose that option for gay people . . . . Where church teaching offers no option at all for intimate relationship that expresses one's human nature as someone born gay, but demands unchosen lifelong  celibacy for every human being in the world made gay by God. . . .

Try telling any of the gay Catholics fired from jobs of late in Catholic institutions that magisterial teaching about sexual morality is hunky-dory as it now stands, and all they need to do is bow to it while following their consciences, wink, nudge, and let the chips fall where they may. Not everyone in the universe enjoys the privileges some of us take for granted as we applaud the benign operations of systems of power that, while they may serve our needs just fine, crush other human beings. The systems of moral thinking some of us take for granted as set in stone and as fundamentally benign don't necessary work in such benign ways for many others of us.

The cartoon is by hana thomson at her hana's world blog.

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