The Peculiarities Of Roman Catholic Church

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The story of mankind begins with our beliefs, our struggles, and our inspiration to make an impact on the earth that we share. Over the course of time, civilizations have come and gone but one thing is certain, religion has played an important role in shaping cultural traditions and the laws that govern societies across the globe. However, religions across the globe have fought an arduous battle between a society’s civil liberties and the divine entity that they worship. In the modern era, this struggle for control has intensified as religion has attempted to implement a moral framework that society should follow, as it attempts to bridge the gap between human desire and divine worship.

The Roman Catholic Church, in today’s world, has asserted itself as one of the most outspoken and authoritative religious institutions on Earth. The Church is founded on the promise of enlightenment and attempts to shine as a beacon of hope for society, conveying the importance of a moral education that will deliver its patrons from a world plagued with darkness and sin. The Church’s founding beliefs function in society as a sense of stability and a framework for divine guidance for its billion followers. Despite the Church’s major emphasis on tradition and its founding values, the modern world has seen many flaws in its governance in the wake of human error and imperfection. The Roman Catholic Church, throughout history, has asserted its role in society to control and define the meaning of human morality and human transgression, with the overall goal of delivering its promise of a better world through faith and the expulsion of societal evils. Yet, this historical power struggle has met many trials and tribulations as institutional declarations have been repeatedly misinterpreted and have given way to arguments of injustice worldwide. One of the most significant and firm topics of this historical debate is the Catholic Church’s stance on contraception. Advances in modern medicine and the use of contraceptives are widely accepted as an essential and healthy practice in today’s world. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, has continued to condemn the practice of contraception as a means of family planning and has raised questions about whether or not it plays a necessary role in society.

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The basis of the Roman Catholic Church’s argument against contraception begins with the church’s fundamental definition of mortal sin. For a transgressive action of an individual to be considered a mortal sin, it must satisfy three specific requirements. 'Mortal sin is sin whose object is of grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.'(Vatican archives) A “grave matter” refers to the violations of the Ten Commandments which serve as the foundation of all Catholicism. Examples of mortal sin would be theft, murder, adultery, and the use of contraception. Each of these examples is considered to be a mortal sin in the eyes of the Church, and are punishable by God’s eternal damnation. While it is evident that the majority of these acts should be classified as a mortal sin, it is apparent that contraception seems out of place in accordance with modern societal norms. On the other hand, the argument for change must begin with the acknowledgment of the great power and influence that the Catholic church has asserted worldwide throughout history. The Church in today’s world possesses and controls perhaps one of the greatest understandings of what it means to commit a sin. This divine power that the church holds can be applied to a gamut of human matters, from international conflict to public policy or even the right to exercise war. The Church’s immense power and reach makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish their classification of contraception from mortal sin. However, it is important to understand that their perception of conception as a mortal sin derives from biblical interpretation and historical policies set forth by the Roman Catholic Church.

The arguments against contraception are often derived directly from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. Beginning with the story of creation and the first humans, God commanded them to be “be fruitful and multiply”(Genesis 1:22). With the original intended purpose of sexual relations between a man and woman, to be for procreation any act of contraception or use of artificial contraceptives would be seen as an act of direct disobedience against the will of God. The Vatican has developed this idea and sees the use of contraception a means for providing humankind with meaningless inconsequential pleasure, therefore committing an act of mortal sin against the heavenly Father. However, we must ask ourselves is this interpretation still relevant in the modern era?

In a world that has drastically evolved both culturally and socially, casual sexual encounters have become commonplace all without the intention of procreation or the use of artificial contraceptives, which has made their use a vital necessity. This move toward casual sexual encounters has brought forth an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. This proves to be one of the most compelling arguments against the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of the use of contraceptives and emphasizes the need for basic contraceptive education in developing nations across the globe. The global HIV/AIDS pandemic that has swept across the continent of Africa has begun to spread to different parts of the world. In 2017, it is estimated that nearly 37 million people were living with HIV worldwide. This statistic also includes nearly 2 million children affected by the virus. While these statistics cannot solely be derived from the absence of proper contraceptive education, this statistic measures a majority of affected individuals that have contracted the virus through unprotected sexual encounters. As a religious institution whose founding values are based on proactive charitable work to help those suffering from poverty and illness the Church’s draconian response to this global epidemic directly contradicts the framework of the Catholic Doctrine that traditionalists have long understood to be their guide to salvation. The continuation of this practice of draconian views and ignorance of the significant benefits of contraception, could one day lead to a global epidemic of the infectious virus and even a global cycle of poverty.

Research suggests that widespread access to contraceptives and contraceptive education may hold the key to a drastic improvement in global living standards. Contraception is far greater than an issue only experienced by the mother that will be giving birth to the child. The major toll and responsibility that afflicts hardship on families worldwide effects even a newly born child. “It plays a pivotal role in the financial, physical and emotional health of children, and data suggest that effective contraception and positive social outcomes are mutually reinforcing.” The necessity of contraceptives digs far deeper than the issue of mortal sin and eternal damnation. It is a matter of choice. Without the option for safe sexual alternatives, unplanned pregnancies lead to mothers forgoing opportunities for higher education and their unborn children being born into less than ideal financial conditions, aborted, put up for adoption or even orphaned.

UNICEF estimates that nearly 153 million children are orphans worldwide. The Catholic Church, through the teachings of Christ, has indeed taken his charitable work to heart, establishing orphanages and providing shelter for orphaned individuals. Yet each year many unwanted pregnancies result in children being forced into the streets. One example of the proactive effort by the Catholic Church to put an end to orphaned children is embodied in the spirit of Mother Teresa. She was the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and is often considered to be one of the most influential women of our time. While her selfless mission associates herself with helping orphaned and impoverished children, she strongly opposed the practices of abortion and contraception. Throughout her time as a selfless humanitarian she brightened the world with her devoted effort to promote adoption, yet stated in 1988 at an Oxford Conference she stated that “she would never allow a child entrusted to her care to be adopted by a woman who had an abortion or used contraceptives...Such a woman cannot love.” While this statement is deeply flawed and contradicts her mission to help impoverished and orphaned children, her qualifications for an adoptive parent are absurd. A person’s choice to use methods of contraception does not leave them incapable of loving an adopted child. It is through her opinion, that we truly see the major disconnect between the Catholic Church and the debate around the use of contraceptives in the world today.

Through the use of artificial contraceptives, it provides the two parties engaging in sexual relations a reliable safety net against both the spread of infectious and lethal diseases and unplanned pregnancies. This momentous debate around their use has also shed light onto the issues of overpopulation and child poverty as a result of parents not having the means to take proper care of their children. However, despite these factors playing a major role in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the global cycle of poverty, the Roman Catholic Church has maintained their firm position against the use of contraception, as it is still condemned as a “violation of natural law.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his famous encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. This letter reemphasized the Roman Catholic Church’s dedication to their traditional values and emphasized their condemnation of contraception as “intrinsically wrong.” Humanae Vitae relays an important message to devout Catholics and traditionalists about the possible consequences of artificial contraceptives as a possible reason for an increase in marital infidelity and suggests that the overall cause for the cultural and societal shift towards more casual sexual encounters may be a result of their widespread usage.

Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.

Humanae Vitae develops a substantial argument against the use of contraceptives and how there may be societal repercussions for their use. The Pope refers to cognitive weakness and temptation of younger generations that see the use of contraceptives as a means to partake in sexual activities solely for sexual pleasure rather than the intended purpose of procreation. It is his Holiness's belief that this leads to actions of mortal sin and further leads to a violation of natural law by the youth.

In recent years, the Catholic Church has shifted towards a more understanding position in the debate around contraceptives. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged [“that the need to prevent diseases like AIDS could outweigh the church’s long opposition to the use of condoms.”] This was a surprising acknowledgment from the conservative Pope, however, nearly a month after the article was written Vatican officials clarified, stating that “his words had been “repeatedly manipulated” and did not “signify a change in Catholic moral teaching.” As traditionalism continues to envelop the Roman Catholic Church, its stance on contraception stayed firm. Based on the articles from the New York Times, it is apparent that this ‘misrepresentation’ of Pope Benedict’s acknowledgment of this long-standing debate, inevitably demonstrates the major disconnect between the Catholic Church’s values and modern day society.

In 2013, Jorge Bergoglio became was elected Pope. He entered his role as Pope Francis and his papacy with a very progressive and liberal approach to church matters and has since redefined the meaning of what the world considers to be a leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Through his selfless actions and modern approach to the many issues that have surrounded the Vatican for years, he has brought about hope for both practicing and non-practicing Catholics worldwide. Despite Francis’s progressive agenda as Pope and over half a century of controversy surrounding the contraception debate, he applauded the work of Pope Paul VI. He stated that “Pope Paul had the courage to side against the majority, defend moral discipline, put a brake on the culture, oppose Neo-Malthusianism, present, and future.” These remarks took followers of the contraception debate by surprise as Francis’s character had previously indicated that he was a more liberal and accepting Pope of modern societal opinion. He even indicated that there can only be a distinct tolerance for artificial forms of birth control under certain circumstances. In the wake of the Zika Virus epidemic, Francis finally spoke out about the issue of contraception. “Pope Francis said that contraception could be permissible in areas struck with the Zika virus, because of evidence linking it to a birth defect. The Vatican spokesman explained that the pope meant a Catholic could rely on his or her “well-formed conscience” to decide whether to use “contraception or condoms” in “situations of grave urgency.” Many people have inferred that the Pope’s statement puts a distinct emphasis on one’s personal conscience. Yet, it is apparent that the Catholic Church and Pope Francis have continued to assert the Church’s reliance on longstanding traditions regarding the matter. While it is unlikely that the Roman Catholic Church will change its firm stance against the use of contraceptives outside of a few defined circumstances, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this debate. You can infer from Pope Francis’s remarks that only clear factual evidence can influence the rationale for decision making in the Vatican. Perhaps it is this lack of knowledge and factual evidence that has left this great debate stagnant for so many years. The Vatican must come to terms and understand that the issue of contraception stretches far beyond the concept of mortal sin, it is an issue that has become a concern for global health and the wellbeing of all mankind on earth.

At the end of the day, Catholicism’s reliance on traditional values has served as one of the primary reasons why the Vatican’s opinion on contraception has remained unchanged. As membership and attendance at Catholic masses have reached all-time lows, it appears that the Roman Catholic Church’s long-standing reliance on traditions, doctrines, policies, and inflexibility may be to blame. The Church in today’s world is up against technological, ideological and cultural shifts, as humans search for spiritual guidance that aligns with their own beliefs and moral ideals.

The Catholic opinion and fixation with an individual’s choice should never be considered to be a mortal sin. The messages of exclusion and inflexibility have not only contributed to a decline in church membership but have inevitably detracted from the founding principles of the Catholic faith. Significant changes must be made within the social and moral framework of Catholic Doctrine to bring about acceptance and understanding of common societal norms. Rather than marginalizing and shunning individuals that practice the use of contraceptives, the church must come to terms with the changing times and welcome the faithful with open arms.

These changes must come about through a reexamination of teachings of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and savior. After all, it is through His image, love, forgiveness, compassion, and humility towards all humans that the church was founded. By emulating the qualities of Christ, in all Vatican endeavors, the Roman Catholic Church may come to terms with their own transgressions and once again be able to “love thy neighbor.”

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