Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Pill, "Social Activism", and the Deterioration of Religious Life

Whatever this guy writes is good stuff, and Fr. Mankowski does it again.

Here he discusses the contraceptive mentality's long-term effects on the Church, particularly on religious, priests, (and Bishops and Cardinals, for that matter.)

Dissenters, [from Humanae Vitae] on the other hand, pounced on this opportunity, and placed enormous rhetorical stress on the primacy of charity in the Church's moral tradition. No one could deny the centrality of charity in this tradition, but on the level of popular controversy it resulted in the illegitimate derivation of two erroneous propositions: first, that an act that is not a sin against charity is no sin at all; second, that any act done with a charitable intention is for that reason justified. The application to married life virtually wrote itself: contraception involves no obvious sin against charity (for neither husband nor wife is wounded) and therefore involved no sin at all. Or again, if contraception be employed with a charitable intention (making life easier for one's spouse; ensuring more advantages for one's children) it is morally praiseworthy.

The theological justification for these arguments, however, necessitated a reformulation of the Christian imperative of charity and of traditional Catholic moral reasoning. In this new scheme, the morally preferable option is not one that conforms to a relevant principle of conduct but the one that results in more good (i.e., more "pre-moral good") than its rivals. It takes little imagination to devise scenarios in which contraception will result in more pre-moral bounty than other options, and therefore contraception was handily offered to Catholic couples as a licit moral choice.

...The chasm that separates those dissenters from Humanae vitae that employ this new scheme from orthodox Catholics has been described with felicity and precision by John Finnis (4), who argues that, while it was the traditional belief of Christians that they were to serve the good, the dissenters hold that our duty is to effect the good.

The effects:

Consider once again all that is consequent upon the change from serving the good to effecting the good. Call to mind the direction of change in religious communities in their apostolic involvement over the past 25 years, the de-emphasis on adoration, catechesis, spiritual works of mercy (even the term has become comically antiquated); the new stress on consciousness raising, political action, community organizing, world peace, environmental awareness.

And, we should add, "liturgical feel-good-ism" as opposed to rightly-ordered liturgy and music therefor.

It's also the foundation for the "proportionalism" debate which JPII settled (albeit to little effect in many places.)

But that's hardly all. Here Mankowski acknowledges that there may not be a perfect cause/effect relationship--but urges us to consider whether it's just co-incidence:

Was it merely coincidence that the massive dissent from Humanae vitae marched with a near total abandonment of the asceticism of renunciation in religious life? ...once human sexuality became assimilated to the number of satisfactions whose exercise belonged to the prerogative of the self-constituting individual, and was consequently emancipated from any larger system of meaning and responsibility, the denial to the self of any and all satisfactions, pleasures, and consolations seemed precariously close to irrational. The notion of rigorous training (the askesis from which the classical idea of asceticism is derived) vanished in favor of a number of developmental schemes of monitored growth in which the underlying anthropological assumptions were contrary to those undergirding the older via perfectionis. In the new scheme, all men are born good, naturally holy, and their chief requirement is opportunities for education, self-expression, and enrichment of experience in order to become godlike, that is to say fully human. The banisters and railings and fences and other "boundary safeguards" of religious life were discarded, inasmuch as their existence implied notions of trespass and constraint and an innate human tendency to sin. Gone is the rule of tactus (8), the stricture that sent nuns out of the house in pairs, the early curfews, mandatory and distinctive religious garb, the manifold impediments of cloister. Gone are the multitudes of requisite permissions; gone is all but minimum responsibility for the use of time and money — both of which used to be viewed as the common property of the community, not perquisites doled out to the individual for his discretionary employment. (9)

We might add that there's plenty of money out there in priests' salaries...

HT: Some Have Hats

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