Saturday, October 20, 2012

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: In search of a consistent ethic

Many thanks to guest contributor, Ray Temmerman, for his blog article below.  
Our Catholic leadership has taken, and continues to take, a strong position on life issues, especially where sexual ethics and the first nine months of human life are concerned.  They have made it clear that any deviation from a sexual norm determined long ago is considered an intrinsic moral evil.  And any activity, or indeed any method of acting, which is contrary to the natural order of things is not considered morally acceptable.  They are to be applauded for their clarity of vision, and their determination to hold life sacred, allegedly from conception to natural death.  

But I find myself wondering, and questioning.

If the natural order of things is so important, should not nature as understood today be considered, and the findings of present-day science considered when determining that natural order?  If, for example, we now know that there exists in nature a spectrum of sexuality, can heterosexuality still be deemed to be the only "natural" order?  Or should our understanding of what constitutes the natural order be updated to reflect the natural order that we observe happening "naturally" around us today?

If the natural order of things is so important, why is not the entire spectrum of "disorder" not included in our hierarchical condemnations?  For example, if "the pill" is such a moral evil, why are all those who knowingly involve themselves in the design, development, manufacture, marketing and distribution of "the pill" not equally condemned?  Why are the owners and operators of PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) farms, whose sole purpose and intentionality is to produce the raw materials used in the manufacture of "the pill", not condemned for their direct participation in this moral evil?  Why is it that condemnation is directed only at those who actually use "the pill", i.e. women?  Where is the consistent ethic?

Arguments have been made that by using "the pill", women are going against nature by forcing the body to do what it is not meant to do, and thereby burning out the body for the natural order of conception, pregnancy and childbirth.

If that argument is sound, then why do I not hear equal condemnation of the use of fertilizers in food production?  Why is there no condemnation of introducing into our food chain, and hence into our bodies, at the rate of one pound per person per day, a whole range of chemical and other fertilizers designed specifically to make nature do more than it is naturally meant to?

Why do we not hear condemnation of the use of chemical pesticides, designed to destroy or at least frustrate specific components of nature, and introduced through plants into our food chain, there to wreak havoc in our bodies?  Where is the consistent ethic?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) has been determined to be an acceptable method of planning family sizes and spacing of children, based on the idea that through its use, a couple "collaborates" with nature.  But Humane Vitae, while saying that, also says that each and every sexual act must be open to procreation.  Is this not about method rather than intentionality?  And is intentionality not of greater importance in moral decision-making than is the method of implementing the decision?  How is the intentionality in using NFP, except for the express purpose of having more children, any different from the intentionality of using Artificial Birth Control (ABC)?  Are not both methods expressive of a common intent not to be open to procreation in this sexual act at this point in time, and hence in contravention of the teaching of Humanae Vitae?  Why is there condemnation of the method, but complete silence on the intentionality?  Where is the consistency of ethic?

If life is sacred throughout its entire range, why is there so little focus on the environment, that envelope in which we live, on which our intentions and actions so severely impact, and whose consequential changes will so severely impact those not yet born?

We hear condemnation of all actions which jeopardize or terminate millions of lives in their first nine months.  Why do we not hear equal condemnations of actions which jeopardize, and may terminate, the lives of billions in their remaining nine decades?  Why do we not hear sound condemnation of the greed and rapacity which we now consider "natural" but which contribute untold tonnes of carbon to our atmosphere, thereby raising temperatures and changing the whole natural order of things such that food crops cannot grow, precious water becomes scarce, and people are forced to migrate or die – and perhaps to die even as they migrate?  Why, having failed to speak out against practices which force migration, we then refuse to welcome to our shores those who suffer the consequences of our greed?  Where is the consistent ethic of life?

When will our hierarchical leaders listen to the voices of the Spirit of God in the people, including the scientists and naturalists in our midst, and learn from them of the presently understood realities of the natural order?  When will our hierarchical leaders begin to speak out in support of life at all stages, not just on the first nine months but on the full ninety years?  When will their voice begin calling for a consistent ethic across the entirety of life?

Unless and until that happens, their voice will be heard, then dismissed as being out of touch with the natural order of things.  The consequences, for people today and for generations yet unborn, are too great to be set aside.

Ray Temmerman

1 comment:

  1. Welcome, Ray. This is a great article. I think the hierarchy concentrates on the abstract and not the present. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has called for complete reconsideration of sexual ethics, and he is right, but his reward is to get blackballed by his fellow bishops.