One of this pope's many self-appointed handlers, in this case a lay blogger named Scott Eric Alt, attempted to reply to some comments I recently made about Pope Francis.
It's revealing that Francis requires a phalanx of official and unofficial handlers to "clarify" his statements. That's usually a sure sign that a public figure is either losing his marbles or never had the Tombowlers to begin with.
In the combox, Steve “Purple” Hays (who also posts at Failablogue) gives us a list of observations, only a few of which interest me.
Since purple is the color of episcopal vestments, I've flattered by Alt's honorific epithet, but I must decline the promotion.
The first is a question: “What’s so bad about a C-section?” Well, nothing at all is “bad about a C-section,” Mr. Hays; and in fact, if you had bothered to read the transcript, you would have noticed that the pope was speaking of a woman who had already had seven of them and was going out of her way to get pregnant again.
i) Evidently, Alt's dad never told him about the birds and the bees. A woman who's been pregnant eight times doesn't need to "go out of her way" to become pregnant. Rather, that's the natural result of regular conjugal relations.
ii) It is only in the case of infertile couples that the woman must go out of her way to get pregnant–by visiting fertility clinics. But, clearly, fertility isn't this woman's problem.
iii) A woman who's been pregnant eight times would need to go out of her way not to become pregnant again. Alt has it precisely backwards. In her case, the challenge isn't getting pregnant, but avoiding pregnancy–assuming, for the sake of argument, that that's even desirable.
A Facebook friend and fellow Catholic blogger, JoAnna Wahlund, explains why the pope was right to be concerned. (This was in a Facebook thread on my own page.)
Another one of this pope's ubiquitous handlers. Whatever else you might say about Ratzinger, he can speak for himself.
All pregnancies have the potential to be risky. But seven C-sections drastically increases the risk of placenta accreta, which can cause the uterus to rupture (killing both mom and baby). If a woman has had seven C-sections, her uterus is paper thin, and doctors tell her, “Another pregnancy could very well kill you and your child,” then yes, it is risky and irresponsible to deliberately seek to achieve pregnancy in that situation.
Several problems with that analysis:
i) Do fertile couples who engage in regular conjugal relations deliberately seek to achieve pregnancy, or is that simply the natural outcome?
ii) Risky for whom? Not for the baby. In that situation, the baby has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Yes, there's a danger that the baby will die. If, however, the baby was never conceived in the first place, then he inevitably loses out. In a choice between possibly losing out and inevitably losing out, contraception is far riskier to the baby than a risky pregnancy.
To take a comparison, if it's a choice between terminal cancer and life-threatening therapy, a patient will opt for therapy. With therapy, he may live or die. Without therapy, he's bound to die. The risk assessment speaks for itself. A chance at life trumps no chance at life.
iii) To my knowledge, the risk of medical complications increases with the age of the mother as well as the number of pregnancies. Yet throughout church history, and in many parts of the Third World today, Catholic wives have continued to become pregnant until they either hit menopause or died in childbirth.
Since when has it been church policy to tell Catholic mothers to stop having children above a certain number or above a certain age? Since the risk factors increase over time, with added age or added children, then by Alt's logic and Walhlund's logic, it is irresponsible for Catholic wives to keep having babies until they pass the childbearing years. If so, where can that be found in canon law?
Now, what the pope says, in effect (if Mr. Hays had bothered to read the transcript and not just the liberal media), is not, Don’t have a C-section but, If you’ve had seven of them, maybe going out of your way to get pregnant again isn’t the best thing.
Since it's the husband who impregnates the wife, why blame the wife? If you insist on framing the issue that way, then isn't it the husband who's going out of his way to make another baby?
Don’t tempt God.
Have Catholic wives throughout church history (as well as Catholic wives in Third World countries today) been guilty of tempting God by continuing to conceive babies until the clock runs out?
There are licit ways for you to avoid pregnancy, which you should use.
Of course, that's easy for "celibate" clergy to say. Catholic clergy practice contraception by having sex with altar boys. That's clerical family planning. Sodomy is a surefire way to avoid pregnancy. Pedophilia is the perfect prophylactic.
If you do otherwise, you risk that you will die, your baby will die, and your other children will be left without a mother. Responsible parenthood.
Since when did patristic popes, medieval popes, Renaissance popes, Enlightenment popes, et al., set the maximum age beyond which it is unsafe (hence, "irresponsible") for Catholic wives to reproduce? When did patristic popes, medieval popes, Renaissance popes, Enlightenment popes, set the maximum limit on the number of children beyond which it is unsafe (hence, "irresponsible") for Catholic wives to procreate? I'd like to see the documentation.