Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pope and the AIDS-condom controversy

Time to review obsolete laws on sexuality

The Pope Benedict XVI's comments that use of condoms can be justified to prevent the spread of HIV caught everyone by surprise. It may be a controversial one that has created a lot of confusion among Catholics worldwide. However it is hoped it would at the same time provoke debate on the age-old fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church on sex and contraception which needs review to keep up with the trends of modern society. The Pope’s comments may signal what seems to be a major shift in the basic teaching on sexuality that in badly needed.

While some bishops are seeking clarification from the Vatican on the Pope’s comments which was widely reported in the secular media, many church officials worldwide have as expected been conspicuously silent, which is indeed regrettable. It is time for all especially those in the church hierarchy to voice out on this important issue which must be put to rest once and for all.

While many agree with the Pope’s argument that that the use of condom may not put an end to AIDs but condom use is a definitely proven means to reduce the spread of the deadly disease which is unfortunately more prevalent in the very poor countries. Allowing these HIV-infected people of a satisfying sex life with their spouses is undoubtedly a humane consideration especially during the final days of their lives. Most devotedly married couples will agree that there is no other more intimate way of showing their love for their partners other than the sexual intimacy.

The subject of love and sex brings us to the next important issue of birth control. The Church is against all forms of birth control other than natural methods related to a woman’s menstrual cycle as it contends that sex is solely for procreation. It is unfair to expect the poor and illiterate people to understand these physiological processes of reproduction which even many educated people find it difficult to comprehend fully to make it a fool-proof method of contraception.The high population and extreme poverty in many underdeveloped countries bear testimony to the failure of natural contraception.

The time has come for the Church to seriously weigh the unfavorable effects of overpopulation. Wouldn’t it be better to have a smaller population of healthy, literate and free people rather than a large population that is illiterate, sickly, impoverished and enslaved by the rich and powerful? Isn’t the former scenario the ideals and dreams of every good government and the great and wise men and women who tried to change mankind?

Natural birth control methods that are sanctioned by the Church, like the artificial ones banned by it, are to prevent conception. How can the latter which are more effective be considered morally wrong when the motives of both natural and artificial methods are the same, to prevent conception and procreation.

Moreover to my mind the contention that sex is solely for reproduction is not acceptable. It may be true in animals but definitely sex is far more than merely for procreation in humans. It is an extreme form of expression of love between a man and a woman who are united in matrimony by God himself. It is the most important physical ingredient of this sacrament of the church, whose sanctity is on the decline of late.

The purpose of sex in humans should be two-fold; procreation and enhancement of the love between a husband and wife who are bound by God and they should not be dictated on how to express that intimate love for one another. Both procreation and love are intimately twined and no attempts must be made to separate them. The high rate of divorce and family break-up today is directly or indirectly related to this breakdown of the dual purpose of sex. Children are the product of that love which binds the couple to become loving parents to their children.

Sexual activities between a husband and wife are highly private and it must be left to them as responsible adults to decide on the nature of such activities based on the moral principles of sex as a guide. The Church should instruct and enlighten them on the moral aspects of sex and not get unduly obsessed with what they do as they are responsible to God for whatever they do.

The Church has far more pressing issues to deal with rather than being obsessed with sex and condom. Marriages and families are breaking down, adultery is becoming rampant, unwanted pregnancies and abortions are on the rise and moral values are deteriorating due to the loss of real love between husbands and wives as God is no more in their lives. Marriage that used to be so sacred is losing its sanctity and divorce is becoming the norm of the day.

The alarming rate of these immoral trends even among Catholics who are brought up with strict ‘sex ethics’ may be an indication of the Church’s irrelevance in their lives, particularly in sexuality. Instead of wasting its time and energy on issues of condom and the likes, the Church hierarchy should become more realistically involved to address the many moral issues confronting their congregation in particular and the mankind in general.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sunday Reflections - Zaccheus the tax collector

Reaching out to those who are lost

Last Sunday’s(31.10.10) Gospel reading (Luke 19:1-10) related a very wonderful story about a man named Zacchaeus who was a tax collector. Tax collectors in days of Jesus were considered sinners as they were seen to be accumulating wealth by unscrupulous means at the expense of the poor.

Jesus did something that was right but unacceptable to the people by going to stay with Zacchaeus whom they considered a sinner. They were angry with Jesus for accommodating a sinner. This unprecedented and controversial action of Jesus brought about the repentance of Zacchaeus,who was willing to give up all his wealth and seek forgiveness from all those whom he had cheated.

Jesus’ reply to him that he had come to “seek and to save what had been lost” was very apt and relevant to all of us today. We too are asked by Jesus to seek and reach out to those who have gone astray.

Our PP, Fr.Victor Louis nicely summarized the meaning of this passage when he emphasized two main points:

1.Jesus continues to knock on our doors. It is entirely up to us to decide whether to open or not as the doors are locked from inside

2.Every person however bad he/she may seem to be have something good in them and it is up to us to seek that goodness in them

Yes, we are all sinners like Zaccheus and Jesus continues to knock on our doors and the onus is on us to open them to him. The problem is often we wait for Jesus to come in person to knock our doors like He did to Zaccheus, not realizing he comes in disguise whom we refuse to acknowledge. He comes in the form of our spouse, children, parents, priests, the lonely, the sick and dying, the poor and despised. In fact he comes in each and everyone we meet in our lives, good and bad alike.

The second point is very relevant to our lives where we have to relate with fellow humans in every aspect day in and day out. Everyone has something good however bad he/she may appear to be. It is up to us to knock on their doors like Jesus did to Zaccheus to touch on their goodness to bring about his/her repentance. It is meaningless to read about the greatness of Jesus and say “praise to you Lord Jesus Christ” but refuse to emulate him in our own lives.

Another inspiring action of Jesus was his courage to do something right although that was against the norms and condemned by the people – visiting Zaccheus, a sinner. Very often we too meet with such challenges in our lives but we are afraid to take a stand to defend the truth. We are afraid of what others will think of us; label us as rebels, trouble makers and power crazy. We see people suffering from all sorts of miseries; do we have the courage and the will to reach out to them? We see injustice in our midst; do we have the courage to stand up against such injustice especially when it is inflicted on the helpless by those in power?

Many of us are ever willing to offer prayers for those in need hoping that God will send someone else to help them out, not realizing that He wants us to knock on the doors of those around us. Yes, Jesus wants us to get out of our own zones of comfort and reach out to Him in those around us. The question is how many of us are willing to accept His challenge?

The following is the Gospel reading for Sunday 31.10.10

Luke 19: 1-10

And having entered, he walked through Jericho. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. And he was the leader of the tax collectors, and he was wealthy. And he sought to see Jesus, to see who he was. But he was unable to do so, because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree, so that he might see him. For he was to pass near there.

And when he had arrived at the place, Jesus looked up and saw him, and he said to him: “Zacchaeus, hurry down. For today, I should lodge in your house.” And hurrying, he came down, and he received him joyfully.

And when they all saw this, they murmured, saying that he had turned aside to a sinful man.
But Zacchaeus, standing still, said to the Lord: “Behold, Lord, one half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone in any matter, I will repay him fourfold.”

Jesus said to him: “Today, salvation has come to this house; because of this, he too is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man has come to seek and to save what had been lost.”