This Sunday's mass took place on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Catholics all over the world joined "Pro-life" marches and vigils and were asked, in the course of the mass, to pray, for the sanctity of life.
Although no "anti-abortion" petitions were proclaimed from the pulpit and seconded by the congregation at the mass I attended, the assembled were asked to pray for the protection of pregnant women and for the sanctity of human life -- to which petition I was happy to respond: "Lord hear our prayer."
But I don't always say "Lord hear our prayer" at Catholic mass when so-called "Pro-Life" petitions are called for.
I prayed for the sanctity of life, this past Sunday, :
I prayed for soldiers, who despite receiving dispensation to do so from the patriarchy of my church, kill innocent people every day. I prayed especially for the children who are killed in war.
I prayed for the countless cases of abuse, neglect and malnutrition which are the result of the Vatican's policy on contraception and for the countless women in developing regions who give birth to babies they can not feed in an effort to adhere to Catholic teaching on sexuality, whom the forces of evangelization have hoodwinked into thinking giving birth to starving children is next to godliness. I pray for the Magisterium, on whose hands the blood of their dead children is.
I prayed for heroic men like Ron McAndrews. McAndrews became an anti-death penalty crusader after working for many years as a warden in the State of Florida's Department of Corrections. His experience presiding over three executions of death row prisoners led this heroic man to a spiritual awakening whereby he came to believe that capital punishment is a grave sin against god and humankind.
I prayed for girls whose abortions are the result (whether direct or indirect) of a momentary lapse in their adherence to Catholic teaching.
Many girls receiving Catholic education today still learn that sex outside of marriage is a grave sin, and that the use of artificial contraception is a sin. The Vatican's positions on sexuality have the effect of rendering sex itself (even in marriage) appear, if not intrinsically unholy, then at least far less holy than celibacy, abstention or asexuality. Our godliest mortal, Mary, is a virgin. Our priests are required to abstain from sex. In my day (I'm 52), some (but not all) religious education teachers even taught that thinking of sex was sinful. Many Catholic school adolescents are still subject to variations on this theme. The fetishizing of modesty and chastity and virginity in girls creates dangerous potential for spiritual, developmental and physical disaster.
I pray for all of the teen-aged girls who think sex a sin which setting forth to obtain, and later use, condoms compounds. Too often in these situations, girls and young women who are taught that using contraception and planning for pre-marital sex are sinful, find themselves relying, in shame, on abortion to serve as a means of birth control.
When they do, in my opinion, the blood shed is on the hands of the Magisterium.
Adolescents are driven by sexual desire and sexual messages surround them. When orthodoxy teaches that sex is inherently sinful, it compromises the ability of older children and young adults to take responsibility for their sexual behaviors. It is hard enough for a 17 year-old kid of any kind to walk into the local pharmacy and buy a package of condoms , but a 17 year-old girl in Catholic pleats is all the more unlikely to do so if she fears that such action constitutes this trifecta of transgressions: thinking about sex, having pre-marital sex, and using contraception.
Consider this scenario: The good Catholic girl dons a beautiful dress for the dance, spends an hour on her makeup and coif, and meets a boy she's in love with at the Saturday night mixer. The two wind up alone, perhaps unexpectedly, and are overcome by a force as powerful as (and not entirely dissimilar to!) religious devotion. The fear of damnation, having foreclosed upon the preparing for sex, has left the girl vulnerable, but the hellfire recedes, supplanted by the prospect of making love with the boyfriend -- which seems a foretaste of heaven. Heaven is strong.
Girls who feel that sex is a gift, meant to be shared in the context of mutual respect, love and devotion, are more likely to plan for it, whether such planning takes the form of waiting for marriage -- or a trip to the drug store.
Girls who feel it is somehow sinful to plan sex are more likely to become pregnant and have abortions.
The Vatican's position on birth control causes abortions.
I believe the Vatican positions on contraception are more politically expedient in nature than they are honest extrapolations from "The Word." The Magisterium's waffling on the matter of condoms points to this, as does the zeal with which it has embraced NFP "Natural Family Planning" (contraception without pharmaceuticals or barriers). After all, condoms prevent conception. When employed carefully, Natural Family Planning can prevent conception almost as effectively as do condoms.
Thomas Aquinas, the "go to" theologian for so much Catholic doctrine, once argued that male masturbation (onanism) was a kind of murder (this at a time when current belief held that sperm contained what we'd today call entire "zygotes"). He also theorized that the soul entered the living matter of a human conception at quickening (in the second trimester) long after the time of conception.
One need not know when, exactly, the soul enters the zygote, embryo, fetus or newborn in order to recognize that as long as the Catholic Church teaches 17 year-old girls their bodies are sinful, there will always be some 18 year-old boy begging (so to speak) to differ, thinking them heavenly. As long as the Church patriarchs teach that planning for sex and electing to prevent unwanted pregnancy is a sin, nice girls in Catholic plaid will, perhaps following a beer or two, be swept up by the thrill of sex, and use abortion, in too many instances to prevent the unwanted births which result from unprotected sex. Many such girls will go on enduring the hell it must be for an obedient Catholic girl to terminate a pregnancy. Their suffering, in this, should trouble the the conscience of the Magisterium deeply.
When the "Right to Life" crowd start showing up with signs and rosary beads to protest capital punishment, the Magisterium's positions on birth control, and the waging of war, I'll start to see them as true believers, and begin to hold them in my prayers -- but not before then.
Until that time, I'll just go on seeing them for who and what they are.
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