Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » July 2005 » From the Practical Moral Theology Department....

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07/17/2005: From the Practical Moral Theology Department....

I've confessed in this space that I have done a bit of online dating, and I'm still occasionally "meeting" people online, mostly as chat friends vice face to face. So far it's amounted to a bit of harmless fun, a few good dates, and even fewer relationships of any length. But a recent conversation with a chat friend has me wrapping my mind around a conundrum that's occupied my attention several times in my life (in other words, this isn't the first time I've become aware of a situation like this one).

Recently I've had a few conversations with a new online friend who lives a bit aways from me (defined as farther than a block's radius, but closer than 600 miles). Of course, when one is my age, one of the first things that gets discussed is children, as in how many does your new acquaintance have and how many live with her? That part of the discussion led to this exchange:

FRIEND: My eldest [mid-20's and in the service at this time --LRC] is my ex-husband's. My youngest is 8, and his father wants NOTHING to do with him, though he does send support and pays for doctor's and dental bills, so I guess I don't have much to complain of.
ME: Well, you're lucky there; there are a lot of deadbeat dads out there who try to skip out completely on support.
FRIEND: Yeah. We were engaged when I got pregnant. Once he learned that my son was on the way he decided he didn't want to be a father at his age, so he broke the engagement.
ME: That's sad. Well, I can understand; I really don't want to be a father again at my age. I don't really look forward to putting a kid through college in my mid-to-late 60's. But you know, if he didn't want to be a father, there
are things that he could do to prevent that.
FRIEND: Well, he's Catholic....
A little later in the conversation, I learned that after my new chat friend and her fiance had broken the engagement, she then learned that he was still married. Granted, he was separated pending divorce, but the divorce wasn't final, and he had never told her about that....

Well, I'm sure you see the part that I find so puzzling.... We have a guy here who, apparently, has no great qualms about having sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife, and who in the eyes of the Church is, quite probably committing adultery (we don't know for sure, because my friend didn't tell me whether her paramour was validly married "in the Church" or not). But he refuses to use contraception because "he's Catholic", the implication of her statement being that he felt it was morally wrong for him to use contraception. More wrong than committing fornication/adultery.

Well, maybe my morals have become a bit perverted, but I was raised Catholic, and I didn't do too badly at four years of Catholic grade school religion class, four years of Catholic CCD/PSR (PSR = "Parish School of Religion"; i.e., Catholic "Sunday School" for those of us who were attending public school at the time), and four years of Catholic high school. And along the way, during those 12 years of Catholic religious education I got the distinct impression that the Church rather heavily condemned having sex with a person you weren't married to--not to mention that it wasn't at all better (and probably, in fact a good deal worse) to be having sex with someone not your spouse when in fact you have a spouse out there!

So we have a guy out there who's thinking, "Fornication/adultery? Not a biggie. But contraception? Good God, I can't do that! I'm Catholic! The Church would never forgive me!"

Is it just me, or do any of you see the disconnect?

So I suppose I'm just opening this up to the readership. Anyone out there with a better grounding in Catholic moral theology wanting to explain to me how using contraception is somehow a worse sin than fornication or adultery? How someone can still consider himself "a good Catholic" while still getting some non-marital or extra-marital nookie, as long as s/he doesn't use the dreaded contraceptives? Last I remember looking into the matter, all of those acts were considered pretty damn grave sins. So it seems to me, as long as you're going to go ahead and commit fornication/adultery, you should at least be rational about it, and use a contraceptive as well. Because, as I remember it, if you die after the act of fornication/adultery, I'm not convinced that your deciding not to use a contraceptive is enough of a factor in mitigation to save you from the fires of Hell.

Or am I just full of shit again?

These are the thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools
--George Carlin

Len on 07.17.05 @ 05:27 PM CST

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