Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Quite Menopausal Yet

The major papal encyclical confirming the Roman Catholic Church's position against artificial birth control turns forty years old. Articles on this anniversary span the whole distance of opinions from wingnuts arguing that a ban on contraceptives is all that can save Europe from becoming an Islamonazist outpost to articles like this one, about the deaths and suffering the encyclical has caused:

Catholic groups from Europe to the Americas have called on Pope Benedict XVI to reverse the Vatican's opposition to contraception, on the 40th anniversary of a major papal encyclical confirming the Roman Catholic Church's position against artificial birth control.

About 60 organizations signed the unusually frank open letter that was published as a half-page paid advertisement in Italy's largest newspaper—40 years after Pope Paul VI issued the controversial encyclical "Humanae Vitae" that enshrined the Church ban on contraception.

In their letter published on Friday in Corriere della Sera, dissident Catholic groups from countries including Britain, Brazil, Canada, France and the United States, said the effects of Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) had been "catastrophic."

The groups argued that Catholics should be able "to plan their family life with certainty and in good conscience," saying the Church doctrine has caused suffering among the world's poorest and weakest, put the lives of women in danger and left millions of people at risk of AIDS.

The letter said the impact of the Church position had been "disastrous in the southern hemisphere, where the Catholic leadership exercises considerable influence on the politics of family planning."

I just cannot get over the oddity of celibate men deciding on whether contraception is good or not for others. It makes no sense at all. The arguments the church uses against artificial contraception also ignore the disparate impact of the ban on women. It is women who may be doomed to give birth so frequently that their bodies fail, for instance. Now that is something the celibate men who wrote the encyclical would never have to worry about.