Sat | May 15, 2021

Catholic Church, condoms and male sexual responsibility

Published:Friday | April 23, 2021 | 12:09 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Rev Ronald Thwaites points to dancehall lyrics as undermining our focus on the common good in his article published in The Gleaner on April 6, and Archbishop of Kingston, Rev Kenneth Richards, in a letter to the editor on April 19, targets the condom culture as the source of the abuse of women and children.

This finger-pointing would be quite entertaining if it were not so sadly misleading.

I am at a loss. I always thought that wearing a condom was a signal of male sexual responsibility. Among stable couples, it shows a shared responsibility for contraception. In other relationships it also indicates a measure of caring – not to transmit or contract sexual diseases.

If the condom is associated with abuse, it is more likely to be when a woman insists on it and her partner refuses.

I also cannot separate the Archbishop’s concern for the abuse of women and children from his institution’s long history of sexual abuse of innocents who placed their trust in the priesthood. Nor can I separate his blame-the-condom thesis from the Catholic Church’s peculiar history with contraceptives.

The oral contraceptive was partly developed by gynaecologist and a devout Catholic, Dr John Rock. He faithfully believed that since it worked along with a woman’s hormonal cycle, it would meet with church approval of being natural. He was wrong. He had underestimated the power of the Catholic notion that sex without the desire for progeny is inherently evil.

The church established a Pontifical Commission on Birth Control to review the matter. That commission was politics on a grand scale. The commission’s report was overwhelmingly in favour of accepting artificial methods of contraception. Almost unanimous. In the end, in 1968, in Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI took the minority view and ruled that all forms of artificial contraception were inherently evil.

Of course, in the real world, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops promptly issued their Winnipeg Statement of dissent. Later, they relied on the primacy of the Catholic principle of the conscience of the individual. Today, almost 80 per cent of Catholic women use modern methods of contraception.

But surely the Archbishop must know that the church now accepts the use of condoms by male prostitutes and people with HIV/AIDS as a more humane approach. So why this broadside against condoms? And why the peculiar interest in women who are so severely restricted within the Catholic Church?

FRED NUNES

Silver Spring, Maryland

United States