Condom confused

is my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Last week, a couple of friends of mine had the opportunity (or misfortune) to attend a workshop at the University of the Philippines on "Religion, Gender & Sexuality." I say misfortune because -- as that line in Platoon goes: "hell is the impossibility of reason" -- nobody should be subjected to hour after hour of reason’s absence. Or, as the late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once, quite correctly, exclaimed: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts."

The workshop’s major flaw is that, rather than providing a venue for honest intellectual engagement, it presumptively made a judgment call at the onset framing the entire discussion, thus advocating for a particular view. And that particular view (as the workshop’s program declares) is that "the Roman Catholic Church poses as a major block in population and reproductive health work."

While it proceeded to ostensibly assist participants to discern and "make informed decisions about gender and sexuality-related issues, including family planning, abortion, and homosexuality;" it also made clear that workshop’s intent is to "serve as venue for RH advocates to be able to reconcile their personal faith with their work."

The manner in which that is to be achieved is by portraying religions as not "monolithic, that there are varying views and positions among officials, clergy and laity"; and that rather than faith, there are "social and historical circumstances that shape official Catholic Church policies around gender and sexuality."

In short, the tired old argument that Church teachings "evolved," came about due to existing social norms, or that "believers" are licensed to interpret Scriptures that will accommodate their particular thinking and allow them to "follow their conscience."

There is nothing radical, new, or modern about such stale positions.

And the reply to that is simply to repeat the same answers given so effectively by far better teachers than the pro-RH academe can ever produce.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in his famous Erasmus lecture of 27 January 1988, tells us the proper way to approach Scripture (and, consequently, our faith): one who studies the Bible "must realize that he does not stand in some neutral area, above or outside history and the Church. Such a presumed immediacy regarding the purely historical can only lead to dead ends."

But even way before that, Thomas a Kempis, in his classic The Imitation of Christ (written circa 1418-1427ad), wrote: "Mankind is always changing; God’s truth stands forever. And he has many ways of speaking to us, regardless of the human instruments he uses. Often enough, our reading of Holy Scripture is distracted by mere curiosity; we want to seize upon a point and argue about it, when we ought to be quietly passing on. You will get most out of it if you read it with humility, and simplicity, and faith, not concerned to make a name for yourself as a scholar. By all means ask questions, but listen to what holy writers have to tell you; do not find fault with the hard sayings of antiquity, their authors had good reason for writing as they did."

And then even way before a Kempis, St. Paul warns us that "the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations." (2 Tm 4:2)

The simple fact is this: while the Church as an organization and with regard to its externalities may have evolved through time, and while the manner with which it preached its message may have adapted to sociological circumstances (i.e., pastoral references to a people whose life revolved around agriculture and sheep herding), its doctrine, its message, its teachings have not. The Catholic Church’s position on contraception and homosexuality, from Scripture, to the Church fathers, to Sts. Augustine and Aquinas, to Popes Pius XI and John Paul II, and now Pope Benedict XVI, has been unflinchingly constant.

It must also be emphasized that, contrary to what most people think, the Church’s position on those issues is based heavily on natural law, an expression of right reason universally applicable to everyone regardless of belief or culture.

The Church compromising on contraception or homosexuality, considering both violate natural law? It will never happen. In the same way that the Church will not agree that 2 plus 2 equals 5.

So, again, I repeat this urging: Considering the incredibly smarter people who’ve defended the Church and the fact that the Church has always been proven right, one would be wise to take this piece of advice from Archbishop Charles Chaput: "If you’re Catholic and you disagree with your Church, what do you do? You change your mind."