Hey! Did you know that the majority of Catholics ignore the teachings of their own church when it comes to their sex lives? As shocking as it is that people would have such little regard for the sage sexual wisdom of a group of single old celibate men in funny hats, it’s true. And it’s not just true, but it’s very true. So much so that the Catholic Church — an organization for which every day is Throwback Thursday (to the 1600s) — now admits that basically nobody cares what it thinks about sex.
After sending out a 39-point questionnaire to Catholics around the world, the Vatican received thousands of responses on matters from birth control to divorce to homosexuality. The Church has long held that birth control is immoral and that sex should essentially only happen between a married couple for the purpose of pro-creation because, you know, sex is naughty and all that.
“A vast majority” of responses stressed that “the moral evaluation of the different methods of birth control is commonly perceived today as an intrusion in the intimate life of the couple and an encroachment on the autonomy of conscience,” the document said.
Translation: People want the church to mind its own business and not teach that every time a person has sex conception must at least be a possibility, if not the goal of the exercise.
This sentiment should have been clear enough by now, especially considering that Italy — even with all its love-making Catholics — actually has a negative population growth rate.
The frankness of the Vatican’s own report on its growing irrelevance as a moral authority on sex has led some to speculate the Church could ease its fervent opposition to birth control. While that’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility, particularly with Pope Francis at the helm, any reform on this front would certainly come in increments and at a glacial pace. That’s because the Catholic Church is one of the most sexually repressed and neurotic organizations in the entire world. Its clergy obsessively preach on sexual activity that many or even most of them have never experienced themselves. They do not marry. They do not raise children. They do not start families. And yet, these are the men — and let’s emphasize men — who are presented as authorities on morality, spirituality, and life.
The sad thing is, if a pope ever does finally enter the 1960s by giving birth control his blessing, he will be hailed as a great reformer and friend of modernity, especially if it’s Pope Francis who does it. We’ve already seen the praise heaped upon him several times for mere rhetorical niceties that run counter to the usual buffoonish and judgmental preachments from his predecessors with respect to gay people and nonbelievers. And while these might make Francis liberal among his peers in the Church’s leadership, it doesn’t make him liberal. That’s because the organization he runs is so socially conservative, it’s actually to the right of a few Republican senators on gay marriage, and to the right of Pat Robertson on birth control.
So sure, the Vatican might come around eventually, and that will be a good thing for a lot of women in the developing world where the Church teaches poor people that it’s immoral to have sex without trying to procreate. But for the other Catholics who have left the Church in the dust on social issues, it will be a token gesture indicating that their moral teachers have finally learned what they’ve known for a long time.