Saturday, April 18, 2009

George Pell, Condoms, Choice, Cold Showers, and the gift of sexuality

(Above: Cardinal Pell compelled by the sexual implications of lizards and snakes. Man in white not identified).

Rich pickings this weekend, but no sign of Michael Duffy, esteemed columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, though he could be heard burbling away on the radio about the need to end the war on drugs - such a sensible policy that we might have to consider revoking his honorary status in the commentariat, and - gasp - changing the name of this blog.

Meantime, the subbies at the Herald - the few left - still retain a sense of humor. Over Miranda the Devine's latest blathering about global warming, they're run the header Planet doomsayers need a cold shower, while next door to it (in the hard copy version), over George Pell's latest blathering about condoms, they've run a header Choice, not condoms, the difference with AIDS.

Of course, it should have read Cold Shower, not condoms, make the difference with AIDS to make sense of Pell's meandering justification for his and his church's injunction against birth control, an injunction largely ignored by its affluent membership in the western world, and a policy not promoted by many other Christian churches. As usual, the theological hair splitting involved in these different interpretations of Christ's teachings are a marvel to behold.

Pell is way out there in terms of la la land understanding of human sexuality.

Catholic teaching is opposed to adultery, fornication and homosexual intercourse, even with condoms, not because it denies condoms offer health protection, but because traditional Christian moral teaching believes all extra-marital intercourse contradicts the proper meaning of love and sexuality.

So condoms do offer health protection, and the church is actively campaigning against an effective form of health protection?

And incidentally, and by the way, that's right you poofters, you don't understand the proper meaning of love and sexuality. And as for you fornicators and adulterers, it's off to hell with you.

Christ called Christians to a different way of living, to a purity of heart where even looking on a woman with aggressive and disordered desire (lust) is wrong.

Pell doesn't seem to think a woman can look on a man with aggressive and disordered desire (lust), but that's just as well, since when he says 'wrong' he actually means sin, though whether such devious, perverted, disgusting, lustful, sinful thinking is punishable by a yellow card, ten minutes in the sin bin, a thousand years in purgatory, or a red card, sent off the field, and a billion trillion years in hell, he doesn't quite elucidate.

What it does mean however is that any young lad forced to sit down and watch Video Hits is likely sinning at least a hundred times per video clip, while it seems that a young girl might well escape even if she goes a little moist at the sight of Justin Timberlake (I know, I know, an unlikely scenario but I'm told such foolish young things do exist).

We llearn a few other things from Pell, all equally depressing:

At least 25 per cent of the services and care for people with HIV/AIDS in Africa is provided by the Catholic church.

Well that helps explain why we're doing so splendidly in the battle against AIDS on the African continent, doesn't it?

We also learn that Pell is a dab hand at a Pontius Pilate impression, and can wash his hands with the best of them:

Catholics are not obliged to protest publicly against every harm minimisation program, even when the church urges her members not to participate. In the same way, governments and non-Catholic agencies can and will continue to hand out condoms in HIV/AIDS progams, though the evidence suggests they may on balance be exacerbating the problem.

That's right, Catholics will just stay silent in the corner, while rampant perversion and filth and condom abuse stalks the land at the doing, at the behest of vile governments and secularists.
So much for Christ storming the temple and ridding it of moneylenders. Pell's idea when secularists flood the world with condoms? Write a newspaper column and wring his hands.

And what's Pell's hope to redeem the world from rampant sexuality? Well it really is a cold shower, though dressed up in strange language. "Behaviour modification". Yep indeedy, Pell is of the school that thinks behaviour modification (surely not electric shocks after a wet dream?) is the way forward.

That's because it's all the fault of casual sex, and condoms just encourage promiscuity and irresponsibility. Thank the lord it has nothing to do with the thousands of men displaced all over the continent, going wherever they can to find work to support their families, left behind in faraway places, and looking for a little relief while they work as strangers in a strange land. A cold shower should see them right.

Yep, it's the condoms that drive men into a frenzy of sexual excitement.

Condoms give users an exaggerated sense of safety, so that they sometimes engage in "risk compensation". In one Ugandan study, gains in condom use seem to have been offset by increases in the number of sex partners.

But wait a second, it seems that if condoms are ineffective, so is Catholic teaching:

To blame Catholics and Pope Benedict for the spread of HIV/AIDS requires proof that while people are ignoring the first, essential Christian requirement to be chaste before and within marriage, they are slavishly obedient to a second requirement not to use condoms. I doubt anyone thinks that is realistically the case.

Huh? Please explain. Let's get rid of the double negatives. Is this saying that people are ignoring the requirement to be chaste within marriage, and are also ignoring the church's ban on condoms? And therefore it's nothing to do with the church, whether spouting nonsense about fornicators, adulterers and poofters, and following it up by spouting nonsense about condoms which people ignore anyway, and aren't conflicted about it, despite being warned about a lifetime in hell because of their behavior?

No wonder David Marr gets agitated about Pell, who is such an old fashioned conservative, you could cast him in a medieval morality play, and he'd still sound more conservative than the societal values going around at the time (bring back priests with an interest in the pestle and the mortar, I say. You might think Anglican priests are soft cocks but at least they know about sex in a real, practical way that cuts down the amount of guff they must speak).

But back to the main game. Condoms are useless, and people aren't following the church. What do do?

... the evidence is that it's not condoms which make the crucial difference, but the choices people make about how they use the gift of sexuality.

The cheek of the use of that word 'choices'. Now in the United States, the word has a mythical status. There isn't a movie goes by without the hero or heroine having to indulge in choice, while the baddie has always made a choice, and chosen unwisely (ususally they choose evil or a really bad kind of coffee).

But the notion of choice, rich as it is, implies that if people want to make a choice, they should be able to indulge in sex as they see fit (and as their sexual orientation dictates) in a safe manner and to the mutual benefit of them and their partners. Without prattling priests looming over their shoulder and waving a forbidding finger at their choice to use condoms during sex.

That's real choice, and behaviour modification and cold showers and abstinence and holding off isn't much of a choce. Talk to Sarah Palin's daughter about the 'choices' she made, befuddled as she was with the usual mystifications about abstinence and a lack of practical sex education.
(And worse, or maybe better still, the wedding is off, so no need for shotguns in Alaska).

Sadly, sections of the Catholic church remain hooked on Pauline tradition, which reviles sex, women's role in it, and the evils of the human body. Better to marry than to burn is about as good as it gets.

Bottom line? The Catholic church has nothing to offer to anyone interested in constructing a meaningful use of the gift of sexuality, at least if you happen to think the gift came along as part of evolutionary forces rather than by a god hooked on the idea that Eve would eat an apple, the snake would get his way, and Adam would be left wondering why he was forced out of paradise by the idle distracting ways of women.

Here's my idea of choice, a simple binary one. Stay within the Catholic church, or leave, and find without its pious platitudes and irrelevance, your own brand of intellectual, personal, and social responsibility and freedom. It's a simple choice, and it's surprising what a relief a simple answer can produce.

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