November 21, 2006

Breakfast conversation

Three mornings a week, I eat breakfast on campus – a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice. The students and colleagues who eat with me over in the snack bar are usually looking sleepily through the newspaper as we eat. Sometimes we discuss one of the articles in the paper.

"Look at this," one of the students said last week, as he was looking through the Big City Newspaper, "The Catholic bishops – they came out saying married people shouldn't use birth control."

His tone of voice was shocked. Since I grew up Catholic and live in a Catholic community, none of this was news to me. I shrugged.

"Yeah, that's what the church has said for decades. It became a big deal in 1968 with the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae." I went back to reading my section of the newspaper.

"That is so irresponsible. They can't be serious."

"Sure, they are. It's a mortal sin. A Catholic who uses artificial contraception can go to hell for it. That's what the Church is saying."

"So Catholics don't use birth control?"

"No, actually, they do. The use of birth control amongst American Catholics is no different than use of birth control in the overall population."

"So the bishops get together and make these pronouncements, and no one listens to them?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"How weird is that?"

"Well, think about it. It would be even weirder if Catholic women let a bunch of celibate old men in power make decisions about their sex lives."

19 comments:

ppolarbear said...

I'm a little surprised that this is the first he's heard of it. Where's he living?

jo(e) said...

PPB: When I asked him later, he said he had "sort of" heard about it before, but figured it was something in the far-away past, like maybe the medieval ages or something. Or that maybe it was just some kind of rumor. Seeing it in print in an up-to-date Big City Times was what made him actually think about the issue and the implications of it.

Suzanne said...

Yep, it's yet another example of cafeteria Catholicism, whereby you pick and choose the beliefs/practices that make the most sense to you (raising hand, and not the least bit guiltily...).

Jeff Tan said...

Just as male doctors should never be obstetrician/gynecologists. And doctors can't treat cancer unless they've had it or lived with someone who had it.

Think about it...

jo(e) said...

Jeff: It's funny. When I showed this blog post to my college-age daughter before I put it up, she said to me, "You are just pointing out the obvious. Where's the controversy? I can't imagine anyone saying that they thinks the church should dictate whether or not people should use birth control."

I said to her, "Oh, you'd be surprised."

Sure, a doctor who has never had cancer can operate on a tumor. But should that doctor dictate to the patient whether or not she should have that operation? Only the patient can make that decision.

I cannot imagine telling my daughter that she should allow some other group of people make decisions about her body -- her sex life, when to have a child, etc. I have always told her: it's your body, your decision.

I already have four children -- and it's hard for me to believe that I am committing a mortal sin every time I have sex with my husband. I've been married for 22 years; without birth control, I would likely have about a dozen kids by now. (When planning children, I have always gotten pregnant the very first month I stopped using birth control.) I grew up in a Catholic community in the 1960s with families that size.

You probably don't know this because I don't think you read my blog, but I work at a college that specializes in environmental issues. So that is the angle my student was coming from. He was saying that is irresponsible to tell people not to use birth control in an age when overpopulation is already a problem.

nancy said...

Love this:

"It would be even weirder if Catholic women let a bunch of celibate old men in power make decisions about their sex lives."

Jeannette said...

It doesn't take growing up Catholic to be clued in. All the kid needs is Monty Python. "Every sperm is sacred" and whatnot. :-)

Anonymous said...

I know this is a post about something that is like, meaningful, or something, but I can't get past the fact that you eat peanut butter and drink orange juice at the same time. That just sets my teeth on edge. Ewww.

jo(e) said...

Linda: What? That's my favorite breakfast. I rip off pieces of the bagel, scoop up some peanut butter with it, and then wash it down with orange juice.

I think they go together wonderfully.

Leslee said...

I'm not Catholic and I've heard of this! But I loved your come back. Priceless!!!

jar said...

I'm so impressed that now professors talk to their students in informal settings. My oldest meets with his Physics professors and fellow classmates almost every Friday for coffee, donuts and conversation. That is so cool. At least one of the German professors meets with the students informally on Wednesday evenings to discuss topics (in German only). When I graduated from college in 82 none of our professors talked to us out of class or even encouraged it. How much better the experience could have been.

Her Bad Mother said...

I love this - especially for the fact that you have demonstrated that Catholics have greater self-reflectivity (and HUMOR) than popular culture gives them credit for.

net said...

love your blog, your pictures and your writing, jo(e! be blessed! happy thanksgiving!

YourFireAnt said...

Sometimes it's irresponsible to do what you're told. Period.


FA

BeachMama said...

That is the best answer I have ever heard for that one.

Anonymous said...

LMAO! that is an awesome answer and I will be joining you in hell. I'll keep a seat cold for you. ;)

Marie said...

What I love about Catholics is that they don't let that stuff get in the way. They just ignore the celibate old white men and go on with their lives. When I moved north, it was teaching in a Catholic school that made me realize that one could be a person of faith and a thinking human being as well.

Anonymous said...

You brought back fond memories of driving home from Mass with my parents while my mother lectured to us about where the priest's sermon was totally off the mark.

The perception of Catholics as strict adherents to Church doctrine has always surprised me, given my upbringing. My Protestant friends used to tell me that Catholics weren't really Christians because they didn't adhere closely enough to what the celibate old men in power told them to do.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jo(e). This made me smile. I love your blog. (And I happen to love pb bagels and oj, too.) Happy Thanksgiving -- a little late -- to you and yours.

Meanwhile, maybe I'm crazy, but that lake looks so familiar. I had a similar spot near Former City that was very special to me. How lovely your family's connection to the lake.