Pace e Bene Blessed be God!
In last Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul says that we should not try to offend anyone – even those who do not have the same faith with us. That statement weighed heavily on me as I considered whether something should be said from the pulpit regarding the ‘health mandate’ promulgated by Ms Sebelius from HHS. I finally felt that something needed to be said. But I did not engage in the typical conservative vs liberal or republican vs democrat type of bickering that usually takes place. It is generally agreed that the principles are the foundations for actions and the principles do determine the understanding we have concerning the nature of the human being. Since we all attempt to live the best lives we can and since we believe that the Church has had and does have a very important contribution to make regarding the meaning and value of human life, I attempted to look at the issue not from a political point of view but specifically a point of view from the Catholic perspective. The modern way of looking at the human body is specifically modern – it begins with the 17th century development of science as we know it today. We did not always have the information we now have about the world. It was the pioneering work of Galileo, Copernicus, and Descartes who initiated our understanding of the world. In Descartes’ Meditation on First Philosophy, he compares the human body to a well cared for clock. If the clock is well oiled and the springs cared for, the clock will last a long time.(#85,86) This early consideration of the body as a ‘mechanical thing’ begins the modern tendency to look away from the human being as a person and approaches the body merely as a machine. When we understand that the heart is a pump (we even know how to construct pumps), then it is a short distance to fabricating a mechanical heart. In modern medicine, the human being is finely sliced into different processes and parts. We go to the neurologist, the ophthalmologist, the hematologist, the pulmonologist, the eye and ear and nose specialist, the dermatologist, all of which consider only a slice of the human body (person) but never the whole, the totality of who each of us is. When we know how the bodily functions operate, it is very easy to arrive at the point where we know how conception works and how, then, to stop or prevent the conception or the birth of a child through abortifacients or abortion out- right. In this case, morality is merely the ability to do something irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. It is merely a mechanical act, devoid of reflection about its morality or the consequences of the act. The Catholic Church has a long history of dealing with the morality of actions. This history goes back even before the origin of the Church because the Greeks (and others) had elegant ways of thinking about the human act. In fact, the Church absorbed Greek moral thinking and baptized it into its own theology. This combined approach to the human act looks at not only how the act ‘works’ but also its intended purpose. Because we believe that God created the world and us, then sexuality was ‘created’ for a purpose, that purpose being the procreation of children, the continuation of the human race. Thus, the primary purpose for the human sexual act was the procreation of children and the secon- dary purpose was for personal and mutual satisfaction and the sense of fullness or completion for the family as a whole. When we contrast this with the ‘modern’ and ‘mechanical’ point of view, the conversation is on two different paths. The point to remember is that the Church does not consider the sexual act merely as a biologically driven passion or without consequence for the human person. The sexual act is a very deep, integral part of the human being pointing the person towards the future of the human race because its primary responsibility is God’s will that we continue the human race. This is a sacred role for the person. It is not a play thing or child’s play. Of course, the conversation will never get to this level. Our society is not comfortable nor adept to speak coherently about God nor about the nature of the human act. But for us, as Catholics, it is very important to have a clear understanding of these issues so that our decision making will be informed and correct.
God bless. Fr. Bill.