Oh my dear, dear Kathleen Sebelius, you lost your cool and accidentally said what you really think.
The quick version of the video’s at the bottom, and the link to the whole thing is here if you want context. Since I tend to skip blog posts with videos in ‘em and I don’t want you to miss this, I pulled the transcript. Come on, just skim it.
Conversation is between Sebelius and Rep. Tim Murphy.
TM: Who pays for it? There’s no such thing as a free service.
KS: The reduction in a number of pregnancies is — compensates for the cost of contraception. The overall plan —
TM: So by not having babies born, we’re saving money? I just want to get this on the record — you’re saying, by not having babies born, we’re gonna save money on healthcare.
KS: Providing contraception as a critical preventive health benefit for women and their children reduces —
TM: Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me. I yield back.
KS: Family planning is a critical health benefit for women, according to the institute of medicine — and that’s, again, scientists!
You can see KS slowing down her sentences, trying to think carefully and avoid speaking plainly. But then she says it: “the reduction in a number of pregnancies.” You know that that’s what “preventive services” prevent, right? Not colds, not the flu: pregnancies.
The last line is also telling, and chilling. Having been trapped into saying what she thinks, Sebelius falls back on what she really believes in: Science Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It. The problem is that Murphy’s not talking about science, but about ethics.
Okay, here’s the clip. Excerpted bit starts at about 4:30.
This from Father Peter West of Human Life International. I stole it off his [public] facebook page, so there’s no link.
A woman visited her doctor. “Doctor,” she said, “I have a perfectly functioning circulatory system.”
“That’s good,” the doctor replied.
“Well,” she said, “I was wondering if you could give me a drug to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to.”
“That’s crazy!” the doctor replied. “Why would I give you something to make your circulatory system stop functioning well?”
“Ok,” the woman replied, “but how about my respiratory system. It seems to be working fine. Could you give me something to mess it up?”
The doctor was shocked. “Of course not! No doctor in their right mind would intentionally give you a drug to mess up a healthy respiratory system.”
“Well, how about my reproductive system?” asked the woman. “Can you give me something to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to?”
“Certainly,” the doctor replied. “We have all kinds of medicines to do that.”
Hey, but unrelatedly, I’m pretty excited to be working on a post for Catholic Exchange. It’s the standard “Hey, guess what! I’m gay — BUT ALSO CATHOLIC!” but I think it turned out pretty well. Will let you know when it goes up.
Poor commenters: they leave a few perfectly innocent(ish) remarks buried deep in the combox, and I resurrect them for A WHOLE POST. Sorry. But not very.
Commenter 1 says:
This does not mean that every time a person has sex he has to intend to make babies and nothing else. He may just think his wife looks ravishing that Thursday night. It Does mean that when he does have sex, though, he has to do it appropriately; that is, by ejaculating inside of her vagina.
Commenter 2 responds:
As a non-Catholic, I have always considered this to be a very queer and partial formulation of the purpose of sex. As expressed, it also seems disharmonious with Catholic beliefs [...] it doesn’t matter if someone’s decision to have sex is purely carnal so long as it follows a strict mechanical formula of ejaculation within a vagina?
From my own perspective, what you are describing is a particular physical activity that can be successfully performed given the capacity and a particular configuration of genitals, but is by no means the only legitimate activity or exclusive purpose for sex. Each human being is a complex and unique organism with their own emotional and psychological needs, wants and preferences, and has a body which is capable of experiencing pleasure in a number of different ways. In this context, sex can mean a number of things to any one person. Reducing this complexity to a single “correct” act doesn’t really make sense without very powerful moral assumptions.
Allow me to transpose these comments into a different key.
This does not mean that every time a person eats he must think of nutrition and nothing else. He may just think the pizza looks ravishing that Thursday night. It does mean that when he does eat, though, he has to do it appropriately; that is, by digesting the food inside his belly.”
And the response, only lightly changed:
As a non-Catholic, I have always considered this to be a very queer and partial formulation of the purpose of eating. As expressed, it also seems disharmonious with Catholic beliefs [...] it doesn’t matter if someone’s decision to eat is purely because they’re hungry, so long as it follows a strict mechanical formula of putting food in your actual mouth?
From my own perspective, what you are describing is a particular physical activity that can be successfully performed given the capacity and a particular configuration of mouth and stomach, but is by no means the only legitimate activity or exclusive purpose for eating. Each human being is a complex and unique organism with their own emotional and psychological needs, wants and preferences…In this context, food can mean a number of things to any one person. Reducing this complexity to a single “correct” act doesn’t really make sense without very powerful moral assumptions.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that wives are meat (or pizza) to be consumed by their husbands. I’m suggesting that to say “There is an appropriate way and an inappropriate way to perform a particular bodily activity” is perfectly compatible with believing that there’s a deeper meaning for that activity.
Not only are the two perfectly compatible, but saying the latter (that there is a deeper meaning) implies the former (that there is a right and a wrong way to do it). That’s the reason there’s a right and a wrong way to do it: because it has a meaning.
There’s no right and wrong way to put on your socks in the morning, because putting on your socks isn’t a very meaningful activity. Do it upside down and backwards, use your teeth, do it while wearing lubricated latex gloves — who cares?
But the life-giving act of union with another human? Yes, that’s important enough to be able to be done wrong.
It’s not pretty, folks, but you knew it was going to show up here sooner or later, right? I’m talking about — I really don’t like the word — the big M, solitary vice, M-A-S-T-U-R-B-A-T-I-O-N.
Whew, that wasn’t so hard! Back when I was a wee lad, I glommed onto the fact that you didn’t have to say the word itself in confession. You just say “an impure act” and he says “with someone else or by yourself?” and you say “by myself” and you take your Hail Marys and you go and you swear never ever to do it again, not even if you really want to.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.
I don’t even remember where I got the phrase “an impure act,” but he knew what I meant. A friend in seminary tells me they specifically train you in common Confessional Euphemisms, as in: “Bless me father for I have sinned, I gave my boyfriend a birthday present.” (“But that’s not a sin! You’re a very thoughtful young woman.”)
Sort of strange that it should be so embarrassing to say, because I doubt I know a man who hasn’t done it. It might be because sexual matters lie very close to our hearts. Or maybe because it’s such an obvious failure: for Christians, a failure of chastity; for secularists, a failure of getting an actual woman (or man) to do the job.
I notice that lately, the Powers That Be are trying to deweirdify the phenomenon. Not an entirely wrongheaded goal, though their reasons for it certainly are. The idea abroad, just watch any sitcom, is that masturbation is healthy, masturbation is fine, nice people masturbate all the time. Here’s Planned Parenthood on the topic:
There are a lot of myths out there that masturbation is dirty, dangerous, or something to be embarrassed about doing. But the truth is, masturbation is a safe and healthy way to have sex, and it’s here to stay.1
Pardon me while I guffaw. Someone is very confused about what “having sex” means. They’d like to call everything “having sex.” I’d reverse it — what they call having sex, viz. wrapping yourself up in plastic to keep from making actual contact with your beloved, I call masturbation.
Tom Wolfe, reporting from the inside the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is a college frat house, relates2 this scene, in a similar vein, in I Am Charlotte Simmons:
Ivy Peters…appeared in the doorway and said, ‘Anybody got porn?’…This was not an unusual request. Many boys spoke openly about how they masturbated at least once every day, as if this were some sort of prudent maintenance of the psychosexual system.
The idea, I know, is that now that we’re all finally free of the rigid, puritanical, body-hating3 Catholic Church, we can do what we like and not make a big deal about it.
Now, there is actually something to this idea — at least the “not making a big deal about it” part. I remember reading in Healing the Unaffirmed4 about a man who was only able to stop his compulsive masturbation after being told by his therapist that it wasn’t that bad. And a friend has told me that, in order to deal with his problem with masturbation, he had to recognize that his usual cycle of (1) jerk off (2) descend into emotional self-flagellation (3) go to confession, was a kind of addiction in itself, sort of a binge-and-purge. The cycle can be broken by not giving in to temptation, but it can also be broken by not giving into self-hatred.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a big deal, because all sin is a big deal; because our sexuality isn’t to be treated lightly; and because, even if you can’t get your head around it, you have to at least admit that the Catechism very clearly calls it “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”
Be mindful that the enemy always tempts us twice: first to sin, and afterwards to despair. If we could see clearly, we’d know how shameful every sin is, not just the obviously icky ones. But if we could see that clearly, we’d also know how much God loves us, and how ready He is to leave our sins, big and small, behind in the confessional, 100% forgotten.
Round Two with Mr. Shrink — I’ll have to come up with a better pseudonym than that — gets another mixed review. On the one hand, he had some good insights about my family, stuff I’ve actually never thought of before.
On the other hand, he also got a bit snarky when I said I’m from a family of eight. And when I said that no, I didn’t believe in contraception, his response was that the Catholic teaching on contraception “puts lovemaking in a box.”
Ewwwww. I hate it when people use the word “lovemaking.” Who is he, Al Green? And, seriously: puts it in a box? How is birth control not a box? How are condoms not a box?
Maybe I should be seeing someone who pisses me off with a little less frequency. Seriously, the secular therapist I saw when I lived out west was easier to take than this guy. At least with a non-Catholic you know where you stand.
That’s it! I’ll call him Dr. Switzer! After my favorite skit ever. Speaking of boxes. See below.