Once again, I watched the weekend talk shows. They’re like a car accident: you want to look away, but you just can’t tear your eyes off the wreckage. This time, one of the programs featured a woman from some organization called Catholics for Choice, which is, of course, an oxymoron. But, not being Catholic, I can stand on the sidelines and ponder the wisdom of belonging to a society while disputing its most basic, fundamental guidelines.
In this instance, the spokeswoman was all up in arms because those in the Catholic hierarchy refuse to condone the use or encouragement of condoms in the fight against spreading AIDS. In her argument, the woman claimed that condoms are “almost the most effective means” to combat the disease, and decried the inhumanity of the church leaders in not expounding their benefit.
What is interesting about her argument is that, as far as I can tell, the church leaders have already found the most effective means of halting the spread of AIDS: abstinence outside of marriage. Were all people to practice that form of disease prevention, AIDS would disappear within a generation or two, because there would be precious few people to disseminate it.
However, this woman implies that abstinence is simply too lofty a goal for most people to reach, and so it is the church that needs to abandon its principles and face reality. My question (again, as a non-Catholic) is, what, exactly, is the point of a church without principles? Is it the duty of a church to espouse high ideals, then when those ideals prove difficult for the average Joe to attain, just say, “Never mind. We didn’t mean it. Just go about your business. We’ll let you know when we’ve made religion a little easier to perform.”
That sounds like a Monty Python bit.
I understand that AIDS is a dread disease. I wish that it didn’t exist, and I think that it is horrible that anyone has to suffer it. I wish that no one ever had to suffer anything—I have heard the adage that we cannot appreciate the good without some knowledge of the bad, but I’m the type who’d like to give savoring the good on a daily basis a try.
What I don’t understand is claiming membership in a group, while tearing at its bastions. At what point does a Catholic who refuses to abide by the tenets of Catholicism become no longer a Catholic? Is not abstinence one of the basic guidelines of that faith? Aren’t purity and chastity ways that Catholics demonstrate devotion to God? Isn’t then asking the church to put aside its teachings in recognition of the fact that followers of the faith are sinners, raise the practical above the spiritual?
And what is truly interesting about this woman’s argument is that I’m sure she is not making it for herself. She is not the one who is concerned about getting AIDS; she is trying to help all those other poor souls who are in need of her guidance. Never mind any Catholic who is actually able to abide by the principles of the faith—her concern is with those who want to be called Catholic, while acting like heathens. The fact that she is tearing at the foundations of Catholics who prefer to have high ideals to live up to seems to trouble her not a whit.
For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul? This woman is chiding the church leaders for not forsaking their principles in order to make the earthly life of their followers easier. Never mind what they shall have to answer for in the afterlife. Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?