Saturday, February 18, 2012

Every Sperm Sacred, Every Ovum Holy: A Primer on "Catholic" Sexual Ethics for Non-Catholic Readers

A brief postcript to what I just wrote about the Catholic bishops, the Republicans, and making Martha jump: as I just said, 

In the Catholic world, those men are, I'm sorry to say, a dime a dozen because of the Catholic church's overweening investment in patriarchy--an investment that now virtually determines the definition of Catholicism for increasing numbers of people who imagine that the scriptures and Christian tradition are primarily about God's revelation that the world is divided into rigid and quite fragile (but immutable) categories of male and female, with males on top.  And everything will tumble back into primordial chaos if this divinely established order is in any way disturbed.

I'd like to develop this idea a bit more, and with specific reference to the issue of contraception.  I'm doing so because I suspect that there are non-Catholic readers of this and other blogs (and journals and newspapers) for whom some notions about contraception, reproduction, and human sexuality that are peculiar to Catholics (and Catholics of a certain stripe, more and more) simply aren't crystal clear.  Not even when these notions drive everything the bishops and the Catholic right (and, to their discredit, not a few Catholic "liberals") are doing and saying these days, as they make war on the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.

I've just had a valuable reminder of what many Catholics really believe about these issues from a reader who logged into one of my postings yesterday to remind me of how God intends things to be, and how I am required to see matters of gender and reproduction if I expect to live in bliss with the saints in heaven.  Because (did I already say this?), it's God who set things up this way.  His male mouthpieces in church and world are merely repeating what the Almighty has said to them--and we who have not been blessed with direct communications from the Divine stop our ears to their messages at the risk of losing our immortal souls.

Here's how God has told His elect men in the world that things are designed to work in the realm of reproduction: in the beginning, there is the sperm . . . . All begins with the principle that life is sacred.  Human life, in particular, is sacred.

And the male seed is the seed of human life.  Its waste--any waste whatsoever of the sacred seed of life--is ipso facto grave matter.  Wasting the male seed of life is tantamount to murdering a human being, since the sperm is, after all, a little man, a potential human being who has at the very least quasi-ontological status as a human person.  

Say it along with me and Monty Python: Every sperm is sacred!  We're dealing here with grave matters, people! matters in which any misstep is mortal sin, evil, and the pathway to the yawning maws of hell.

A corollary of the recognition that every seed is the seed of human life and therefore sacred is that any technology whatsoever we can discover to enhance the sowing of male seeds is ipso facto good.  Bring it on!  Lift it up!  Erectile dysfunction drugs: good!  Mechanical boosters of unwilling flaccid members: better!  Libido-enhancing technologies that make the male wish to rut like a rabbit into ripe old age: best!

The primary obligation of the male in the world of nature, after all, is to sow the seeds of life, and (if the male under consideration happens to be a human being) thereby to give pleasure to his woman, his lawfully wedded wife.  Because women, too, have a primary obligation: their pleasure is derived from serving their husband's divinely designed seed-sowing with every bit of joy and receptivity that their female selves can muster.

The primary obligation of the woman is to receive the seed of life, the sacred, potential little human beings offered to her with devotion by her husband each and every time he decides to honor her body with another implantation of little men-to-be.  The primary obligation of females, God has revealed to His chosen prophets from whom we have received these instructions, is to receive with joy and humble submission each and every seed their male partners wish to sow in their receptive wombs.

And so a corollary of the recognition that the primary obligation of women is to be happy, willing receptacles of the husband's seed of life is the following: though anything and everything we can do to enhance the sowing of the seeds of the male is good, anything at all we do to thwart the willing and joyful receptivity of those seeds of life in the passive receptacle of the female's womb is bad.

It's evil.  Sinful.  Grave matter.

Even when the technology we happen to be applying participates in and enhances a natural process of the female body itself--since the vast majority of female ova are never fertilized by those male seeds of life, but pass through the female body into oblivion at each menstrual cycle.  And even when the vast majority of ova that do happen to be fertilized by the male seed of life do not implant in the uterine wall, but also pass from the female body into oblivion after having been fertilized.

Every sperm is sacred, because every sperm is a little man, and wasting a single one of them is tantamount to murdering a baby.  But this is only half of the Catholic equation.  The other half  is that every ovum is also sacred, equally a little human being, and wasting a single ovum is equally akin to murdering a baby.

We want to use any and all technology at our disposal to enhance the sowing of male seeds, because we have a divine imperative to see that those seeds fertilize ova and fulfill their God-given design to become new human beings.  But, conversely, we are also solemnly obliged, at the risk of losing our souls if we disobey, to assure that not a single ovum ever fails to to be at the disposal of those male seeds of life, because their entire raison d'ĂȘtre is to receive and be fertilized by the male seed.

And so absolutely no technology of any kind must ever be brought to bear on the female half of the equation that would in any way thwart the receptivity of ova to sperm, and the ability of fertilized ova to implant in the uterine wall--albeit that the body is already designed in such a way that the large majority of fertilized ova don't implant naturally.

This is, in short, what Catholics, many of us, particularly the loudest and most self-assured interpreters of the Catholic tradition for the public square today, now believe as a core and immutable doctrine of our faith.  I've sought to summarize the argument as plainly and succinctly as possible, since matters of salvation and sin and damnation are at stake here.

And I want you to understand, if you happen to be a reader who's not inside the parameters of this conversation, why the Catholic bishops and leaders of the Republican party are so resolute right now in defending these teachings on which your salvation and mine hinge--even if you happen not to be Catholic.

I am offering this little exercise in Catholic enlightenment especially to non-Catholic readers, because if the bishops and their Republican allies have their way, how you view things and how you choose to conduct your own business may simply not count, one of these days down the road.

Since that's what religious freedom is all about, isn't it?  It's about my demand and my assertion of my "right" to enforce what God has told me and mine, and to impose that revelation on you and yours, no matter how plain crazy, outright cruel, and impervious to reason or secular truth my revealed truth may be. 

Because I say so.

Please see the brief theological addendum to this posting for further notes.

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