Thank God for Jesuits. If not for some of them, many young wives of my generation would not have been able to receive Communion during most of our reproductive years, when, at one time or another, we were on artificial contraception of one form or another.
Still, in spite of the pill—the most popular and most convenient contraceptive at the time— those of us who got married in the early 1960s still averaged four children. One definite benefit was that, in those few months we were on the pill, our uterus had time to rest from child-bearing. We might have given it a longer rest if prolonged pill use didn’t pose probable risks—unlike the alternative injection available today, safe and good for a whole year.
Contraceptive use is another of those antifeminist sins the clergy has invented, of which the original one, pinned principally on the mother herself of all womankind, Eve, cost her and her complicit partner, Adam, paradise.
Tired of too many inconsistencies that have placed my Catholic soul in peril, I decided to take matters regarding my own reproductive health into my own hands decisively: I chose the one ultimate, then newly introduced, method of contraception—ligation.
But, Catholic at heart, I, along with my dear friend Bea, had first sought permission from one of the few reasonable members of the clergy—a Jesuit, unsurprisingly. Both in our mid-40s and with having gone forth and multiplied enough—I had four children; Bea, five—we easily qualified.
We shared a doctor and a room for an overnight stay in the hospital, took local anesthesia and assumed a kneeling position (“exotic” was our doctor’s preferred description). When hospital nuns discovered what we were there for, they grudgingly allowed it for Bea, but not for me for some reason—possibly, for having one child too few.
One of the nuns went in frantic search of the usual suspect, whose familiar signature appeared on my permission slip. By the time the Jesuit was found, and his permission affirmed, I needed another shot of Demerol, which reduced me to a limp rag doll, now no longer capable of managing the required “exotic” position without the assistance of an orderly and a nurse. I heard giggling around and was surprised that I myself contributed to it—uncontrollably. At any rate, the procedure went smoothly enough—outside the realm of sin.
Trust that there’s always a Jesuit when you need one and, in this day and age, it’s a Joaquin Bernas, who, for further authority, happens also to be a constitutionalist. Coming to the rescue of the confused female faithful, he explains that the Reproductive Health Bill is more about responsible parenthood than about artificial birth control or population control, as argued by the opposite side of his Church.
Indeed, the Church itself concedes that it does not stand on the infallible ground of dogma on the whole issue of contraception. Father Bernas points out and calls “irresponsible” those voices from the pulpit condemning the supporters of the bill and branding them as sinners deserving excommunication.
He is also aghast at the untruthful insistence by leaders of the Church that the bill permits, even encourages, abortion. He reminds us that we live in a pluralistic society, and should allow for diverse beliefs on the morality of contraception. And if the government decides to fund an information drive on it or even make contraceptives available to the public, it shouldn’t matter, he says: “Public money knows no religion.”
This, in fact, has been his stand on the bill since the debate on it began to heat up early last year. Even then, he says: “Some people consider me a heretic and say that, at the very least, I should leave the priesthood. But my superiors still stand by me.”
And so do more than 80 percent of the nation, according to the polls.
An even more basic point is raised around the Church’s depriving the laity the simple, natural, legal pleasure of sex, begrudging it such pleasure even within Holy Matrimony—when else, how else, to enjoy sex, pray tell?
Ah, but contraception will lead to promiscuity—or doesn’t contraception in fact ensure less anxious sex? The problem with the Church, it seems to me, is that it foresees abuse, rather than free, responsible choice; in other words, it presumes misuse of God-given free will.
Couples simply want to decide for themselves how many children they can afford to take good care of. As Bill Gates’s wife, Melinda, Catholic and Pro-life advocate herself, says: “Children should not be accidents, but planned.”
Not since the Inquisition has the Church been so self-righteously rabid. If only priests foamed as much at the mouth against the deeper and more relevant moral and social issues of corruption, plunder and mass murder! Indeed, I don’t remember seeing anyone of them join the widows and kin of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre in their march for justice every Nov. 23, the day it happened in 2009.