Gloria Arroyo, in deference to the will of the Catholic Church, has adopted a government policy that encourages natural, not artificial, birth control. This is a sore issue with me, really. But, perhaps, not sore enough to prevent me from mulling over the subject still.
Just what is the big objection to artificial birth control like pills, condoms, diaphragms, vasectomy and ligation? While the arguments point towards the position that artificial birth control is somehow synonymous with abortion and, thus, disrespectful of human life, I have problems connecting the proposition with the conclusion. I tried approaching the problem from another perspective.
The Catholic Church equates sex with promiscuity. That is the general rule. There is only one exception–sex as an incident of marriage when it is an act of procreation. In short, for sex not to be considered an act of promiscuity, a couple needs permission from the church, granted in the form of a spiritual blessing called marriage. Marriage, therefore, is a form of control. No permission (marriage) equals promiscuous sex.
Considering the unholy alliance between church and state during the Spanish colonial era, it is not suprising that this form of control was supported by legal sanctions. There was a time when an illegitimate child had no rights to hereditary succession, no rights to bear his father’s name, no rights to support, no rights to acquire his citizenship.
The objection to artificial birth control, therefore, is an objection against any deviation from a Catholic moral rule. Which leads to the inevitable discussion as to whether sex is wrong except to procreate. Should every sexual act be a conscious effort towards conceiving a child to remove it from the parameters of promiscuity? How many husbands and wives engage in sex with the conscious intention of conceiving a child? If that were the case, married couples would be having sex only once a year.Sex is a natural human activity. Conception is a consequence. So is physical pleasure. There are psychologists who claim that sexual pleasure goes beyond the physical aspect. There are suggestions that sex can lead to emotional gratification. Sex has also been used as a means for control and domination. In short, sex means different things for different people. Procreation is only one of them.
Promiscuity, on the other hand, is a label which conservative-Catholic-Philippine society uses as an equivalent of loose moral values. Question: is promiscuity based on the high number of sexual acts a person commits or on his motivation(s) for performing each and every sexual act? If it were based on number, married couples who have sex three times a day, seven days a week would be considered promiscuous (but they are not–such couples are referred to as having a high sex drive which has no negative connotations the way promiscuity has). What about the prostitute who, despite the quantity of sexual acts performed, may feel no physical or emotional gratification from them?
If it were a matter of motivation, what motivations should they be? A desire to give or receive physical pleasure or both? A desire for some form of emotional gratification? These are common desires of many happily married couples. Are they all promiscuous?
Based on the Catholic Church’s position on birth control, it seems that even in marriage, deriving pleasure from sex–unless merely incidental to procreation–is a sin. Since the probablity of conception through natural birth control is high, faced with harsh economic realities, the consequence of having more children becomes a sanction. Married couples who are conscious about this fact are left with only one choice–abstinence from sex.
Think of all Catholic-related teachings about sex–the value attached to virginity, the condemnation of pre-marital and extra-marital sex, celibacy, homosexuality. Think about all the moral guilt and social humiliation associated with deviance from these standards. Then think about them in relation to sins enumerated by the Catholic Church and that sinners go to hell. From childhood Catholics are fed with too much sex-related guilt.
Now, what is it that the Catholic Church is saying about the wrongness of birth control as being disrespectful to the value of human life? Baloney. It’s all about sex and sex-related guilt.