June 27, 2004

On preparedness

In the homily Deacon Jim gave today, much attention was given to the permanency of marriage and the casualness with which it is entered into (and exited from) these days. A subject which, for the record, I mostly agree with him about. As one of his arguments, though, he discussed the pre-nuptial agreement, and asserted that people that are bothering with a prenup ought to rethink getting married, because obviously they aren't committed enough. It is, he said, like preparing for disaster.

Of course, it is preparing for disaster. People write wills with some regularity, and we run through fire drills and tornado drills, and in none of these cases do we hope for or necessarily even expect the disaster to occur. But it might, and if it does, we'd rather have it be a minor disaster than a major one, or at least to make it less major than it otherwise would be. So it is with prenups: if it turns out that despite everyone's best effort the couple needs to undergo a civil divorce (which is not necessarily a spiritual divorce!), then at least there won't be the further disaster of a messy dispute over what goes to whom.

This attitude that preparing for disaster equates with desiring it is not a new one. It's the same thing we hear from the abstinence-only idiots, who argue that arming kids with information about birth control and safe sex will necessarily grant permission to go forth and be promiscuous. It's not so; there are many ways to transmit the knowledge about things like condoms and birth control pills, and at the same time that having casual, premarital sex is immoral (not to mention usually a bad idea). We have the numbers to show that poorly informed teens are vastly more likely to get pregnant and/or contract STDs. Not preparing for unintended circumstances doesn't prevent them; it just makes them worse when they happen.

In the bulletin was a photocopied statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholics in Political Life. I have pretty mixed feelings on the document, which despite its title is entirely about the politics of abortion. I'm annoyed at the disingenuousness of sentences like "The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law." I object to their positive assertion that lawmakers "have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws." Again with the moral=legal argument.

On the other hand, I was encouraged to see them say explicitly that "as bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates." They do reserve the right of individual bishops to decide about denial of Communion (and the rest of that paragraph makes it clear there was a very contentious debate about this), but their concluding paragraph pretty roundly condemns the practice:

The polarizing tendencies of election-year politics can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.

Hear that, guys? Sacraments are not to be misused for political ends. It's divisive and it's disrespectful to God and the Church.

"This is like worrying about Bin Laden trying to get nukes. Sure, it would do a lot of damage, but terrorism is about terror, not weapons of mass destruction. If there is anything to be learned here, it is to stop layering on more armor on our helmet and notice the fact that we have no protection below the knees." --Kevin Colby

Posted by blahedo at 1:30pm on 27 Jun 2004
Amen to that last point of yours. While I no longer consider myself Christian, I am well aware of the fights and manipulations present in many denominations. I am inclined to agree with my brother, who is entering the Methodist ministry, when he follows John Wesley's advice that "As to things which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think." Posted by Rachel at 7:16pm on 27 Jun 2004
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