Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why aren't Catholics Opposed to Gastric Bypass, endobarriers, artificial sweetener, etc?

Catholic fanatics are increasingly isolated in their nonsensical opposition to contraception.  Their objections, as we shall see below, primarily center on two areas -- abuse of pleasure and the supposed natural purpose of an act.  However, by these standards, all kinds of things, such as the use of gastric bypass or artificial sweeteners, should also be banned by Catholics, and yet we hear not a peep.  Remember, it's not like churches are above trying to run the minute details of peoples' lives. Mormons, for example, ban caffeine, and the Catholic church, at least in the past, had the totally fabricated "fish on Friday" rule.

Consider the first case of abuse of pleasure.  This same argument, by the way, can be used against things like masturbation.  So, before Protestants get too high and mighty, they pretty much use the same logic to oppose masturbation that they reject when they permit contraception.

The objection goes like this.  In the case of contraception, or masturbation for that matter, which is basically what a person using a condom could be seen as doing, only with the assistance of another person's body, these individuals are engaging in sexual activity for the purposes of pleasure alone.  That is the assertion, anyway. It is actually not clear, in the case of conjugal activity, that the sole purpose of the sex act would be for selfish pleasure.  There could be more than one purpose, after all, such as bonding with a partner in a way more intimate than what is done on the mere "friendship" level.

However, for the sake of argument, let's stipulate that, in cases like a casual hookup or "one-night stand", that the purpose of the act is exclusively for pleasure.  Aside from the fornication part of the act, Catholics would argue that this is wrong BECAUSE God's intended purpose for the sex act is procreation, not merely pleasure.  They argue that the pleasure is there as a reward for making proper use of the sex act, but that it should not be done solely for reward.  

If that is true, however, then there should be a similar problem with using artificial sweeteners.  These substances are designed to taste sweet, but have no calories.  Presumably the purpose that God had for eating is not merely for pleasure.  The most reasonable possible reason we have for eating is to provide energy to our bodies.  However, artificial sweeteners bypass all of this.  They provide no energy to the body and they exist solely to give us the (selfish) pleasure/reward associated with eating, without the consequences.  Remember that gluttony is also a mortal sin, along with lust.  Obtaining selfish pleasure with one's mouth is not inherently less "sinful" than obtaining pleasure using one's genitals.  Yet artificial sweeteners have been around for many decades and we see no such prohibition emerging from the bureaucratic apparatus of the Church.

Let's take this a step further. Take gastric bypass, for example.  Catholic hospitals perform this procedure.  However, this creates the same problem as artificial sweeteners on steroids.  It allows one to avoid all kinds of calories, not just special foods, and to indulge in the pleasure of eating without the negative consequences.  Of course, it also has health benefits, but some have argued that frequent sex and masturbation confer health benefits as well, not the least of which might be mood enhancement, lower stress, etc.  

There is, in fact, something even beyond gastric bypass surgery these days.  It is called an endobarrier, and it basically like a several foot long, open-ended condom that is unwrapped on the inside of a patient's intestine.  It doesn't even require surgery.  The purpose is to prevent the absorption of food calories, just as the purpose of contraception is to prevent the absorption of sperm by an ova.  

It allows one to indulge in the pleasure of eating.  In fact, one can safely be a glutton using such technology, whereas gastric bypass often limits what one can eat on a practical level, without getting sick, due to limited digestion potential.  However, as far as I know there is no Catholic ban on endobarriers, or any of these other methods of circumventing normal digestion for the purposes of enjoy the pleasures of eating.  Theoretically, even better technologies might come along, which would allow the stimulation of pleasure directly in the brain without eating, sex, etc?  Would this finally be enough to garner the church's ire, one wonders?  

There are also more technical objections to catholic prohibitions on contraception.   According to the folks over at, they define contraception as “any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible”  (Humanae Vitae 14).  Well this is a remarkably bad definition of contraception because, technically, none of them make it "impossible".  In fact Catholics themselves often loudly insist that condoms don't even work that well.  They are certainly not 100% effective, and therefore procreation is far from "impossible".  I suppose that, if they wanted to be more "romantic" or perhaps even "sporting" about things that they could expose the condoms to heat or prestress them as a means of making them more likely to break.  Would this make them more acceptable in that they make procreation more "possible"?  Sure, they make procreation *less likely* but that is not the same as making it impossible.  Might this fact be used one day by the church to justify the use of contraception after all? 

One could also theoretically conceive of a contraception method that allowed one and only one sperm to be released, for example.  Would that satisfy the Catholic requirement about being open to the possibility of procreation?  

For that matter, one could argue that artificial sweeteners also only reduce the risk of calories, because some of them, such as Splenda, can break down, with excess heat, into normal sugar.  So if Catholics ever want to consider banning these, I am arguing, in advance, that these do not make calorie absorption impossible.  Certainly endobarriers and gastric bypasses allow some calories through.  

The point is that opposition to contraception does not appear to be on any kind of sound logical foundation, and is contradicted, in practice, by the use of other technologies, as I have noted above.  

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