I am not sure myself of the premise of this post - that Prime Minister Cameron did set about taking on the Pope - though His Grace has taken up an interpretation offered elsewhere in the blogosphere. Indeed, as reported in the Tablet, David Cameron's words could be seen as denying legitimacy to moves other than argument to pressure the Holy See on the question, something that might be quite significant given moves made by some to try and reduce the status of the Holy See at the United Nations, for example:
David Cameron was speaking yesterday at a London summit on family planning organised by Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft tycoon Bill. Mr Cameron was asked by a member of the audience how to put pressure on the Holy See to overcome its opposition to contraception.
He said: "The answer lies in the strength of our arguments. That is the way to overcome arguments for doing nothing. If you give women the power to decide, the power to choose about their own futures: that is in the interests of their families, their children and their countries."His Grace does demonstrate his usual acerbic wit, at the expense perhaps of both the Church of Rome and that of England, depending on the perspective of the reader:
Tony Blair challenged Pope Benedict XVI on homosexuality; David Cameron has chosen contraception. In each case, they appear to believe that centuries of Roman Catholic orthodoxy can be overturned by 'the strength of our arguments'. They mistake Rome's Magisterium for the Church of England's General Synod. The motto of the Church of Rome is 'Semper Eadem'; that of the Church of England is 'Argumentum ad Nauseam'.But I fear His Grace also demonstrates a certain infelicity that is unusual for him (or is perhaps the Arch-episcopal tongue being placed just a little too subtly in the Arch-episcopal cheek?).
And that leaves millions of Roman Catholics all over the world somewhat at variance with their church on this matter. Everyone knows that the papal ban on artificial birth control is largely ignored, and many millions of otherwise sincere and obedient Roman Catholics long for a change of policy.Now, the estimated number of Catholics in the world is about 1.2 bn, and growing by about 15 m a year. Does the millions at variance to whom His Grace refers therefore represent but a minority? And how does "everyone know" in any case? There certainly is a vociferous opposition to the Church's teaching by some; and, though the nature of the case means that the extent to which Catholics act contrary to that teaching might never be absolutely known, some there are that do act in so contrary a manner. But then the occurrence of theft in predominantly Catholic countries probably also tells us that many Catholics act contrary to the Church's teaching on that matter, too. The thief in his better moment will recognise the wrongness of his action; and perhaps, too, the contracepting Catholic couple in the depths of their hearts recognise an action contrary to Church teaching. Even less do we hear of those Catholic couples who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, but undoubtedly there are such couples and, on a world-wide scale, they should be numbered in the same millions to which His Grace refers in his post.
And presenting the question as a matter of "policy" that might be changed does, of course, contradict what His Grace has already said about the nature of magisterium for Catholic teaching.
I have added the italics to the extract that follows, though the other two sentences would also be worthy of comment:
His Grace, being Anglican, happens to believe that condoms save lives, especially in Africa. And he would much rather a child not be conceived than aborted. For these reasons, in this incontinent age of unrestraint, he believes that contraception should be accessible across the globe.The italics do indeed ask a poignant question, a question that it does take some considerable thought to untangle. There are two questions here, not one. Is it right to contracept? An ethical decision made by a couple at the moment of intercourse. Is it right to abort? An ethical decision made (by a mother? by a couple?) once a pregnancy is known. Underlying a decision with regard to each of these questions one can see a likeness in intentionality (in the phenomenological sense of that term). The likeness in intentionality can be seen in the orientation (or not), the openess (or not), of the love of the couple expressed in the act of intercourse towards the life of a child who, in the one case, might come to have life and in the other case is already in possession of life. That intentionality is what is common to the decision whether or not to contracept or to abort; it is not that the decision in favour of contracepting represents a decision against aborting, or that a policy promoting contraception is therefore a policy that opposes abortion. The two elements of His Grace's suggestion do indeed need to be untangled.
And is it to much to challenge our age to become one that is continent and restrained?