Christian theology puts a great deal of weight on the
concept of "free will," for an understandable reason. After all, the concept of sin doesn’t make
much sense if God didn’t give humans a free choice to sin or not to sin, and the
concept of redemption also doesn’t make as much sense if it’s not a freely made
choice, but coerced somehow from an all-powerful God. In the same universe of belief, Satan is
known as the Prince of Lies, a character who tries to steal your freely made
choices from you by lying and misrepresenting reality to you. In general, Christian theology comes down
pretty hard on liars, making false witness one of the Big Ten No-Nos that right
wingers are eager to slap onto monuments in every courthouse and
schoolyard. This observation — that lying
is a form of coercion, an attempt to take away your free choice — is one of the
better things that Christianity has contributed to the world.
Why then, when it comes to reproductive rights, does the Vatican turn
its back on millennia of teaching about the satanic nature of lying? It seems there’s no deception in which the Vatican won’t
engage in their efforts to get women to bear children against their will. Already we have reason to
believe that Catholic officials are lying to people about the effectiveness of
condoms in order to convince them not to use condoms. And now the Vatican is using its authority to
claims about the environmental dangers of the birth control pill.
Many of us are shielded from the
silliness of these claims, realizing that the Catholic Church is a church, not a scientific organization. But sadly a number
of people out there are willing to believe claims like this, made by the church,
because they can’t quite come around to believing that the Catholic Church is
abusing its authority.
But abusing it they are.
The pill "has for some years
had devastating effects on the environment by releasing tonnes of hormones into
nature" through female urine, said Pedro Jose Maria Simon Castellvi,
president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, in
"We have sufficient evidence
to state that a non-negligible cause of male infertility in the West is the
environmental pollution caused by the pill," he said, without elaborating
You’ve got to love how they added the dig about male
infertility on top of the unscientific claims being falsely presented as
science. That’s a rather unsubtle way of exposing the Vatican’s underlying tensions, especially the belief that female independence somehow
damages men who are the "rightful" owners of female bodies.
The argument about the pill is one that’s been popular with
anti-choicers for a long time. After all, these are the same people who hold unscientific scientific beliefs that link breast cancer and abortion (disproven) and belive that fetuses sit
around worrying about abortion. But the argument about the pill is based on a chain of assumptions that make less sense the more you delve. It’s true that sperm counts in human males
are down, and this may be related to the presence of environmental estrogen
have been linked to sexual and reproductive cancers, as well as diminishing
fish populations. But the effects haven’t
been measured realistically in any way at all, and much more research is needed
to prove this link. Even conceding
that environmental estrogens are a problem, there’s no reason to think that the
birth control pill contributes, since (as an AP article notes), the estrogens
are broken down by women’s bodies before they expel waste.
More importantly, we do know that the majority of environmental
estrogens are actually linked not to evil, evil sex, but actually to the
more mundane act of eating. Most environmental
estrogens come from pesticides and growth hormones given to cattle. If you’re worried about it, look more to the
hamburger on your plate than the pill pack in your medicine cabinet (though it
is true that the plastic package on your birth control pills is also a culprit
in the contribution of fake estrogens to the environment). None of this is proven, but if you’re even
talking about the possible source of the problem, pesticides and plastics rank
much higher than birth control pills as a threat.
This is why the Vatican
claim is fundamentally dishonest.
They’re not opposed to birth control pills because they’re a threat to
the environment. If the environment was really their concern, they’d be
more worried about pesticide run-off than the private choices women make to avoid
conception. They’re engaging in
dishonest tactics in the hope of tricking women into giving up their freely
Why does the Vatican
fear honest discourse on this subject?
The real argument against contraception from their point of view is that
it thwarts God’s plans for sex and marriage.
If they believe it, why not just put it out there as it is, and allow
women to consider it and freely decide whether or not they’ve persuaded
us? I do believe it’s frustrating for
them to know that most women, even believing Catholics, reject the idea that
we don’t really love our men unless we risk pregnancy every time we touch them – but that’s no excuse to resort to lying and coercion.
Perhaps they could try to hone their arguments? I suspect those arguments will continue to be
rejected, but they could try. Perhaps
they could consider the monstrous idea that women who use contraception have a
good reason for our choices. But of
course, that would require treating women like we’re knowledgeable people
about our own experiences, human beings with opinions worth considering. I suppose that for many in the church
hierarchy, the "respecting women" choice is too awful to bear, making the
immoral choice to lie all the more appealing in contrast.