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Sex is good, condoms or not

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let us be frank about the fact that sex is good. In fact, sex is great. It is holy. God is a big proponent. And I get the feeling that a lot of what God made is good, in and of itself, apart from its function. Creation was good before humans ever exploited it.

I would agree with Eleanore Strong (“Contraceptive society morally harmful,” Jan. 21) that God knows best. But I take strong issue with the idea that the Catholic Church always knows best. Passive acquiescence to theology with such far-reaching implications, when the experience on the ground screams in pain for theological review, cannot be our best answer.

Theology is the work of every man and woman trying to discern how to live their lives. I will not deny that 2,000 years of collective experience and wisdom, in many realms of life, is truly a great resource. But contraception is too new, and its theology is just being worked out at a time when there are life and death decisions riding on the Church’s interpretation.

People, including priests, make mistakes. It doesn’t mean everything the Church says is wrong. Far from it. It just means we need to be careful. So with that said, the irony of the Church’s position is that while attempting to uphold the sanctity of sex, it actually demeans it. Objectifies it, really, in the same way our worth as humans today tends to be tied to what we can produce for our efficient profit-driven society. For whatever reason, we are uneasy with the idea that something can be good just because it is, not because of what it can produce. And the union of two people into one flesh through sex is something that is holy whether or not it can or does produce another human life.

It is an expression of love, a very deep and binding one, and not one that condoms or a pill can even begin to defile. If you want culprits for “more abortions, fewer children, more divorce and more AIDS cases,” I suggest something other than contraceptives as the scapegoat. Millions of lives are riding on that careless statement.

Try looking at our society of material decadence, where we exploit what we want from people and the environment, and then discard without thought.

Try looking at the general commercialization of sex on TV and every other sphere of our lives. The problem is deep within each of our psyches. Fewer children can be attributed to more women in the workforce due to greater empowerment, not least of which is our greater access to education, not just reproductive control.

I cannot tell you what causes higher divorce rates, but something tells me its not just condoms. And AIDS could be prevented through greater education and access to preventive tools, and less stigma associated with the virus so that people might actually want to get tested. Even promiscuity probably has little to do with birth control – it probably has everything to do with chastity just being difficult.

Talk about sex is so taboo that most sex education is left to schools, as I have a feeling that most of our generation never got a real sex talk from our parents. Coupled with the fact that our faith exposure to sex when we are young is primarily through warnings against carnal temptation, which suddenly changes as sex becomes holy when we are to be married, it seems as if we are trying to coax our minds to jump through schizophrenic hoops once we have a ring on our finger, or else abandon the cause of not saying more than we mean – the concept of chastity – long before. Which is really a shame, because the Church has some great theology about sex, under the title of “theology of the body,” which unfortunately is still relatively obscure. And for all of the Church’s 2,000 years of struggling with chastity directly, if given the chance, it may have insights which we find helpful.

But please do not try and tell me that condoms remove “permanence from marriage.” I’m sure there are a number of octogenarians still going strong, who in their heyday used birth control, but who nonetheless are now celebrating their 50th anniversaries. A piece of plastic does not kill the significance of sex or cause societal destruction. We do, if we allow it.

Amanda Tarkowski


Lyons Hall

Jan. 22