We are all excited that the pontificate of Pope Francis has opened up new vistas for the exercise of Mercy. Its first objects were, as we all know, the adulterers, so unfairly excluded from the Eucharistic banquet, although oddly only those who combine their adultery with spousal abandonment. By all accounts, contraception shall be the next great mercy frontier.
This isn’t exactly a new idea. For decades, people have pleaded with the Vatican to allow the use of condoms for medical reasons, usually having to do with AIDS in Africa. As a foul-minded but loyal son of the Church, I would like to propose a more logical plan. I suggest the Vatican issue dispensations to masturbate. If an AIDS-infected African is going to spill his poisonous seed, I would prefer it be as far from other human beings as possible. But, Bonald, are you suggesting the Church authorize mortal sin?! Oh, but the Merciful have already settled on that; only Promethean neo-Pelagians disapprove. We’ve even already settled on just a different species of the very same mortal sin! I’m just proposing to make the safety even safer. Of course, a License to Spill could be used for contraceptive sex (they would, after all, be given to both spouses), but this will often be imprudent.
I do find it odd how my fellow Merciful Catholics seem ready to excuse a sexual sin only if it is combined with some other sin. Adultery is okay, but only if you don’t just keep a mistress, but also in her favor eject your wife. Spilling your seed is okay, but only if you make sure there’s still a chance of infecting a partner. In both cases, the sin is less obvious–one gets the appearance of a normal marriage and normal marriage relations–but the appearance is bought with the commission of a second sin. Would not consistent mercy be even more merciful?
Maistre wrote, in defense of the pope’s right to relieve subjects from their duties to their kings, that dispensations respect the rule in a way generalized “rights to rebellion” don’t. Similarly, any kind of dispensation would be better than invoking a supposed inviolability of the rights of conscience in face of the moral law. The latter could be abused by people in any situation, and this is one area where we don’t want the faithful taking matters into their own hands, as it were. We’re not yet ready to be that merciful.
Or are we?
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