Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Contra-coitus 3/3

The point of this second half of the story is that the Bible hardly indicates that the actions or consequences of characters within those stories apply to everyone. Certainly, Lot getting drunk and having sex with his two daughters in a cave is a sub-optimal moral standard for modern humans to follow. In fact, Genesis has a nasty habit of telling stories of a morally ambiguous nature. Genesis spends much time branding individuals wicked or evil but often offer little explanation as to why a given character or city is actually evil. Given that some characters commit some pretty grievous crimes yet remain holy in the eyes of the Lord, the unnamed crimes become less actual violations of some higher more and become more an explanation of why tragic events happen to people.

The people blessed in Genesis own slaves, get drunk, are whoremongers, murderers, and much more. The qualities that tend to make a character ‘good’ in Genesis are more based on heritage (a relative of Abraham) and longevity. Few of Abraham’s blessed relatives live less than 90 years.

Recall Er. Er lived, loved, and was struck down for his wickedness in two short passages in the Bible. His contracted biography doesn’t indicate the nature of his sins. Instead Er’s life seems to be one cut short by some unknown biological cause, something corroborated by the sudden demise of his brother shortly thereafter. Of course that is conjectural, but the point is that the sins or circumstances of one character--especially in Genesis--do not universally apply to everyone that believes in the Bible.

Onan’s masturbatory non-procreative sexual act should clearly not be the basis for any sort of church doctrine regarding beliefs in contraception.

Onan’s story is one of many within Genesis that points not to a clear moral or rule in society but rather a very special circumstance.

There are two other passages in the Bible that make mention of what could be considered masturbation. They are hazy to say the least. The first is that spilling the seed of copulation on one’s body or on cloth is not a sin. The soiled objects or body must be washed and cleaned. And they are “unclean until the even.” Spilling spunk seems sinful only in that cleanliness is next to godliness. Clean up the mess. Seems simple enough. And that’s Leviticus 15:16.

That leaves Matthew 5:28-30. This one might be getting a little closer to the matter--it’s still a stretch. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” For every lustful thought a man has, he should remove a part of his body. It doesn’t say anything about actually masturbating--or contraception. It has to do a lot more with an unrealistic standard for thought control.

When there are a bunch of limbless Catholics walking around, this passage has to be disregarded literally and obviously left as a metaphorical passage. In a metaphorical context, the passage is one about controlling lustful and illicit desires. Don’t do things that could hurt another through unfettered primal action for surely it cannot lead to long-term happiness or societal stability.

Basically, adultery stems from primal thought and unchecked action. But the passage explicitly states that the offense is adultery. Adultery is a broken promise a person has made to another person for life--even though Judah didn’t do so well at maintaining that promise it is possible to do so in a modern society.

And that leads to modern Catholic doctrine. Catholic ministers, bishops, and the Pope are all celibate. Their concept of marriage does not come from personal experience often. Popes have also been rocked with scandals of out-of-wedlock children. The church is not pure by any means.

And the Pope isn’t either. But a lot of the argument of contraception and masturbation actually revolves around the First Vatican Council of 1870. Papal Infallibility; the concept of moral infallibility for official Papal documents relating to moral dogma of the church. Basically, when it comes to moral decrees the Pope is not wrong because he converses with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is omniscient. All of the major guiding documents related to the church’s views on contraception and masturbation stem from these decrees and are implicitly infallible.

This presents a major problem to the church if it were ever to go back on those documents. One Pope is not holier or more divinely informed than any other Pope. New decrees that contradict old ones look as if they weren’t divinely informed. And it gets even more dicey when it comes to these sorts of acts.

The main guiding document on these topics is Humanae Vitae. The document was produced as a decree of church doctrine on how they viewed changes in science and medicine in relation to scripture. Was the use of contraception ok? How about masturbation?

The Majority Report gave a thumbs up to evolving with the times. The Minority Report said that wasn’t such a good idea. Pope Paul VI went with the Minority Report. It declared that seed spilling in a non-procreative setting was a sin. But it was declared a sin based on other Church documents.

There was no basis in the Bible beyond the flowery moral ambiguities of lust, desire, coveting, and the sacred bond of marriage. Those arguments hold little water given Judah’s actions, and he is not the only one. Certainly the papacy was not immune to it.

The argument has always been a political and theological one stemming from the prudish and backward tendencies of a conservative church. There is no basis in the Bible--the only passages from which the arguments could stem are morally ambiguous at best and unequivocally non-applicative. There is no basis in consensus--the Majority Report favored an opposite course. There is no basis in science--masturbation and non-procreative sex are not by any scientific definition the cessation of life. There is no basis in morality--morality of the Catholic church derives from the Bible which fails to support the argument. There is no basis in Papal infallibility--the prevalence of a majority dissent on the issue demonstrates a clear lack of revelation.

The arguments of the Catholic church lie only in the hearts of fallible men. The lack of moral death in all societies around the world has proved the dogma wrong. The church would do well to remember it’s own arguments. “God is love,” and “love is total.” To try to limit God is to go against the Lord’s will. The Lord God cannot be stopped by such small and mortal men, and the church would be wise to remember that.