Good Catholics should wear condoms!


To sheath or not to sheath, that is the question. I wade into this age-old debate on the side of the proponents of this motion, which was recently moved by a group calling itself Catholics for Choice. In a nutshell, I wholly agree with the proposition that Catholics should wear condoms. Not always, of course. That would be a peculiar and particularly cruel form of torture. Just when. And that goes for all of us good people.

This is a touchy subject, I know. I am likely to draw heavy flack from the pious, the zealous, the reactionaries  and even the uneasy fence-sitters. It doesn’t help any that I am not even Catholic. Sopilipili usiyoila yakuwashiani? Good sense (read self-preservation) would dictate that I shut the four letter word up and keep my head low. This nosing around in other people’s business is liable to get me into unnecessary trouble. Well, that is one way of looking at it. The other way is to take cognizance of the fact that our lives are inexorably intertwined. We are interdependent in such a way that what a man does on a remote Polynesian island somehow impacts my life here in remote Africa and what I do in remote Africa affects the life of a Koala Bear in the great wilds of Australia. Which automatically earns me every right to contribute to the sort of decisions every man makes because they are also about me and mine. The least I can do is accord reciprocal rights.

The main argument that is put forward against the use of condoms by the Catholic Church is that is it a contraceptive device. Contraception has been all but banned by the Church. In 1930, in his encyclical, Casti cunnubi (56), Pope Pius XI declared, “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”  Pope Paul VI in his landmark encyclical, Humanae vitae, 1968 (14) proclaimed, “Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, would have as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.” According to Msgr. V. Foy, (1994), “The primal evil of contraception is that it puts up a barrier against God’s creative will, a horrendous crime when seen in all its implications in time and eternity.”  And according to Dr. Donald DeMarco, St. Jerome’s College, Waterloo Ontario “Contraception compromises the intimacy between husband and wife because it negates part of their being; in particular, that which is ordered to procreation… The unselfishness of their spousal love is diluted by the presence of self-interest.” Closer home, Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth was recently on TV in the company of fellow eminences exhorting the Catholic faithful feel free to sire as many children as can be and give into priesthood those they cannot raise. Powerful edicts and lofty arguments, no doubt, by well meaning and much learned people. And these are my formidable opponents.

kenya-good-catholics-use-condomsNow here is my simple pedestrian argument. You ride a motorbike, you wear a helmet. You walk into a construction site, you wear a helmet and steel-toed work-boots. You take a walk in Mogadishu in Somalia or Aleppo in Syria, you wear a flak jacket. And a helmet. You go to the Arctic Circle, you wear a thermal suit. Why? Because it is the sensible thing to do. Because your life depends on it. So why do you want to skinny deep into shark infested waters outside a steel cage? The use of condoms is a matter of life and death. HIV/AIDS is a reality. Among other things. Infections lead to costly debilitating illnesses which often lead to the premature deaths of millions of people globally. Dead men or women do not procreate. Neither are they overly concerned about the niceties of God’s creative will or the frustration of the natural power of matrimony. They need to be alive first to care.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that the doctrines and the related teachings are absolute hogwash. I am actually in favour of a more moral, upstanding, God-fearing society. To the extent that that is possible. I’d be happy for all our sex to happen within the confines of the nuptial bed. I’d be happier for sex to be between people of opposite sexes only. I’d be happy for marriage to be all that it is made out to be and more. I’d love for nature to provide all our answers so that we can abandon ourselves to its infinite wisdom and its time-tested self-regulation mechanisms. But the truth is far removed from this rosy picture. Sex more often than not happens outside marriage. There seems to be nothing particularly sacred about it any more  It is mostly an animal act, much like eating when you’re hungry or going to the bathroom when you’re pressed. Or worse. Hate it or like it, that is the truth. As a matter of fact sex today happens within and between genders with almost equal measure. It even happens between different animal species, man included, and between animate and inanimate objects, again, man included. If this is undesirable, I do not know who is to blame and whether apportioning blame should be a top priority at this point in time. Nobody really gives a hoot. You are quite unlikely to stop cold an orgy in a university hostel room or a high class brothel with elaborate pronouncements about how morally wrong pre-marital group sex is, followed by a pithy sermonette about the sanctity of marriage and procreation. My suggestion to you: just dispense condoms, preferably free of charge, and hope that some of the participants will have the presence of mind to pause long enough to wear them before use.

Which brings me to my second argument in favour of the motion. I have heard quite a bit said about the beauty of nature and its nurturing, cure-all properties. I am an ardent fan of nature, myself. I can even be a bit militant in its defence. However, I know how most of its laws are nearly always perfect for nature only, pun intended. The thing is that nature regulates itself. You and I are part of an elaborate ecosystem. In some ways we are not particularly special. You could be killing a chicken one minute, marveling at your powers over life and death and then you are shark bait the very next minute, desperately swimming for dear life. Left on its own, nature is indifferent to us. It sustains itself whichever which way, including killing us en-masse, once in a while, through earthquakes and tsunamis and such. Which is why we have gone to great lengths to tame it. So much so that many of us can now go through our entire lives with only the absolutely necessary contact with nature. In the process, we seem to have nearly vanquished it. At least for now. Nature’s power to keep the human population in check through periodic culling by epidemics and other suitable natural calamities has been effectively curtailed. The net effect is a world that is chock-full of miserable human beings. Perhaps the only means left to reduce our numbers is through the agency of an apocalyptic war, which probably won’t be long in coming anyway. So, what is my point? The point is we have played God. With alacrity. We have created this monumental mess with our own hands. And loins. We need to uncreate it. NOW! With condoms for starters! Before the food and water wars start and a trigger happy moron with (or without) a cause buys a few nuclear heads and several thousand gallons of Sarin gas from a greedy Russian or something.

There will always still be room for high moral doctrines, definitely. Provided we are alive!

By Howlin Wolf for The Reluctant Kenyan

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2 thoughts on “Good Catholics should wear condoms!

  1. This is a well written post, and I appreciate your method of reasoning.

    Just to be clear, I am Catholic and I hold to the Catholic Church’s teachings about contraception. This is a complex question, so I apologize for the long response.

    I know of those who identify as Catholic and who believe according to what you have said here, about condoning the use of condoms for the purpose of preventing disease, particularly in third world countries. It is an honorable intention, I agree, but a wrong action with a good intention does not equate to a good deed.

    The problem of understanding here I think is a problem of worldview. The Catholic Church is an institution founded primarily for the purpose of being a way for human beings to attain the state of being with God in heaven forever, and to avoid eternal damnation in hell. To understand the Christian perspective, then, you first have to have this eternal view – that this life is temporary, and while not unimportant, is also not ever going to be all that we desire or need: our hope is what is ultimately to come in the next life. That said, the reality of this world is a true reality, and the Catholic Church has always placed high value on the importance of the physical body, along with the spiritual soul. The Christian perspective, then, has as its first objective the spiritual welfare of the soul, and secondarily bodily welfare.

    If you understand the Christian worldview, then you can understand why it is so important that these theological matters have continuing practical implications. If condoms are being demanded to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, then the first mission of the Christian is to teach proper human sexuality; improper sexual behavior (like what causes the spread of STDs) is not only harmful to the body but, more importantly, is harmful to the soul. To then add contraception on top of improper sexual behavior is doubly damaging to the soul. Again – if one believes that the condition of the soul will determine whether one spends eternity in bliss or in agony, as the Christian faith teaches, then it becomes of supreme importance that the spiritual condition of the soul be protected.

    The consequence: the Catholic Church will do everything it can for those in poverty, for the care and health of their bodies, but it can never be complicit in causing harm to souls. Providing contraception, which would prevent the conception of life even if the intended purpose of its use is merely to prevent bodily disease, would be to be complicit in harming souls. Using condoms, a man may have a normal earthly life, but the cost might very well be his soul for all eternity. The Church has no authority to take that risk on a soul.

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