Of all the Christian and quasi-​​Christian groups that exist, of all the pos­si­ble sects one might encounter, I think the Catholic brand remains the most con­sis­tently exasperating.

Whether they’re refut­ing the helio­cen­tric model, tor­tur­ing Christ into infi­dels, or bug­ger­ing acolytes, their par­tic­u­lar model of god­dish­ness is at once infu­ri­at­ingly arro­gant and laden with self-​​righteousness. These guys have had hun­dreds of years to per­fect the art of being smugly wrong, and they are mas­ters at it.

On the other hand they have man­aged to do — or back — some damned fine things, such as the Sistine Chapel ceil­ing and Gregor Mendel’s rather sig­nif­i­cant work in study­ing inheritance.

Nevertheless, if you want to match empires in terms of pro­tec­tion of human learn­ing and early sci­en­tific progress, Islam is well ahead of the game.

Not that I’d like to see a return of Islamic caliphates, mind you; how­ever, I can’t say I like the Catholic trend in fer­til­ity much either.

Faith-​​Based Medicine

From the Washington Post, this. Creighton University in Omaha is fund­ing work in a Catholic approach to fer­til­ity. Run by Thomas Hilgers and dubbed the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, the cen­ter has the bless­ings of — among oth­ers — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, paus­ing in their end­less pur­suit of bon­ing choir­boys long enough to issue a posi­tion on the subject.

Let that per­co­late for a moment.

For one thing, the Catholic church has never had a par­tic­u­larly strong his­tory in study­ing human repro­duc­tion so much as mak­ing infan­tile claims about it (and insist­ing that it must hap­pen or it sim­ply won’t sanc­tify any action that might be remotely asso­ci­ated with it); this is a church that, after all, con­sid­ers a blas­to­cyst to be, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, fully human.

For another, who gives a greasy hand­shake what a bunch of old, allegedly vir­ginal men think about any part of human repro­duc­tion or the study thereof?

But the insti­tute doesn’t sim­ply study repro­duc­tion (which, tech­ni­cally, is what many peo­ple do late at night while surf­ing the net) — it actu­ally indoc­tri­nates teaches doc­tors how to prac­tice repro­duc­tive med­i­cine in a way con­sis­tent with Catholic beliefs.

A Gathering of Understatements

What’s the prob­lem with a few doc­tors going god-​​goofy and cater­ing to their sim­i­larly infected patients? To begin with, med­i­cine — which is at its heart a sci­en­tific prac­tice — has very lit­tle to do with god­dish pur­suits. Consider: If you have pneu­mo­nia, would you rather have a ten-​​day course of antibi­otics, or a pair of crossed sticks hang­ing over your bed?

Shockingly enough, some of the god-​​boys agree.

Combining med­i­cine and reli­gion is dan­ger­ous,” said the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, pres­i­dent of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “This ten­dency is creep­ing into our health-​​care system.”

Dangerous is one adjec­tive; fuck­ing stu­pid is what I’d be more inclined to say. The Catholic com­men­taries on sci­ence have proved, over the cen­turies, to be false; why in hell would any­one imag­ine their record with human health would be any bet­ter? Remember, this is the same church that said, recently, Hitler and Stalin had been pos­sessed by Satan.

Worse, there’s the polit­i­cal side of it. Already the fanat­ics are try­ing to both block abor­tion and pre­vent the dis­tri­b­u­tion of con­tra­cep­tion; as Pam reports some are even try­ing to push absti­nence “edu­ca­tion” on adults. How long do we imag­ine it will be before Catholics and Protestants link hands in an unholy alliance against human repro­duc­tive choice?

If you look at what’s hap­pened with abor­tion ser­vices being severely lim­ited in large parts of the coun­try, this is not at all an unre­al­is­tic fear,” said R. Alta Charo, a bioethi­cist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

With Bush and his cadre of inbreds still avidly fund­ing “faith-​​based” (mean­ing pri­mar­ily Christian evan­gel­i­cal) social ser­vices, this is much more than sim­ply a real­is­tic fear; it’s damned near a pre­dic­tion of what will hap­pen if the reli­gious gal­va­nize along this line.

Holy Water, Holy Rocks; What’s the Difference?

What’s prob­a­bly the most out­ra­geous part of all this is that the insti­tute is tak­ing a New Age approach, tout­ing the holism of their treat­ments in an exam­ple of clas­sic rock-fondler’s rhetoric.

While most of the patients are Catholic, Hilgers accepts any­one. He said they are drawn by his holis­tic approach, atten­tive care and supe­rior outcomes.

Mainstream gyne­col­ogy and repro­duc­tive med­i­cine take a Band-​​Aid approach. Our suc­cess rates tend to be much, much bet­ter,” Hilgers said.

And it just gets more stu­pid. While the insti­tute boasts med­ical tech­nol­ogy, while it inar­guably uses med­ical sci­ence to acheive its ends, and while it appar­ently does have some suc­cess — despite the Catholic rejec­tion of in-​​vitro fer­til­iza­tion on doc­tri­nal grounds — they sure are quick to trot out the m-​​word.

Life is God’s to cre­ate,” [Cami] Carlson said, echo­ing the sen­ti­ment of half a dozen other women from around the United States and Mexico inter­viewed this month while being treated at the clinic. “It’s a huge sense of peace know­ing that we’re going about things in a morally sound manner.”

Not that m-​​word. This one.

Bulletin boards titled “Miracle Baby Hall of Fame” are filled with snap­shots of children.

Miracle. Miracle? …Miracle!

Someone needs to con­sult a dic­tio­nary. Miracles are events which are phys­i­cally impos­si­ble. Fucking and get­ting preg­nant, while not always causally con­nected, are nearly enough so to con­clude that the for­mer, in many cases, leads to the lat­ter. Certainly enough that the m-​​word doesn’t apply, how­ever impos­si­ble it might be for spe­cific cou­ples to accomplish.

The above miracle-​​referencing quote looks pretty absurd in the con­text of this obviously-​​slanted opin­ion; but take a look at it in the con­text of the insti­tute itself.

The insti­tute, which is attract­ing more than 700 new patients a year, melds mod­ern med­ical facil­i­ties with the phi­los­o­phy and sym­bols of Catholicism. The wait­ing room greets patients with a bust of the Madonna and Child and an illu­mi­nated stained-​​glass cru­ci­fix. Bulletin boards titled “Miracle Baby Hall of Fame” are filled with snap­shots of chil­dren. Down the hall is a fully accred­ited lab for ana­lyz­ing hor­mones. An ultra­sound suite down­stairs is equipped with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. A large statue of St. Therese stands in a stair­way lead­ing to the Chapel of the Holy Family, where Mass is cel­e­brated weekly.

This is a per­fect, clas­sic exam­ple of the human capac­ity for com­fort with total self-​​contradiction. In the mid­dle of “mir­a­cle” dec­la­ra­tions, holy stat­ues and wor­ship facil­i­ties sits some of the more advanced tools of med­ical tech­nol­ogy avail­able. This is at least as egre­gious as any evan­gel­i­cal using tele­vi­sion to decry the value of sci­ence. This level of selec­tive blind­ness regard­ing what is accept­able or ordained of “god” is obsessed so totally on minu­tiae as to be pathological.

No Actual Numbers

The insti­tute shifts clos­est to New Agers and fanat­ics, how­ever, in its will­ing­ness to present unsub­stan­ti­ated claims about itself. Regarding Hilgers’ com­ment on the sub­ject of “holism”, for instance, one doc­tor had this to say.

I don’t think he under­stands what a tra­di­tional repro­duc­tive endocri­nol­o­gist really does,” said Jamie Grifo, a New York University fer­til­ity spe­cial­ist. “It’s sim­ply a myth that we don’t look for the under­ly­ing disease.”

Hilgers’ insti­tute uses a kind of rhythm method — along with hor­monal treat­ments and, one assumes, prayer — to (accord­ing to Hilgers) accom­plish results that are med­ically sig­nif­i­cant. While this is fea­si­ble, I’ll sub­mit that it has less to do with pray­ing up a baby and more to do with the cou­ples involved feel­ing like they’re in com­fort­able sur­round­ings. Stress and zygotes do not get along very well.

There are other objec­tions. The institute’s stud­ies have not been pub­lished in peer-​​reviewed jour­nals — a bedrock neces­sity for any sci­en­tific claim, as this allows testa­bil­ity, fal­si­fi­a­bil­ity, and the oppor­tu­nity for peers in a given field to eval­u­ate the mer­its of a given set of claims.

Hilgers objects that no jour­nals will pub­lish his results — a com­mon and rather pathetic excuse offered by those clearly caught up in pseu­do­sci­en­tific non­sense. Put another way, he says he’s get­ting results, yet refuses to offer proof of those claims and, when asked for proof, objects that no one will let him present it.

Rather than argue facts, though, Hilgers offers “train­ing” instead for health-​​care pro­fes­sion­als — work­ing in both the US and over­seas loca­tions — to con­tinue to offer religiously-​​based repro­duc­tive med­i­cine to all who come. (Sorry.)

One imag­ines it’s only a mat­ter of time before some­one devel­ops a Catholic form of physics wherein a crit­i­cal mass of prayer­givers becomes suf­fi­cient to cause fis­sion; or a Pope-​​approved math­e­mat­ics that sets π equal to 3.1 and even­tu­ally squares a circle.

Either of these pur­suits is sure to have as much merit as Catholic dab­bling in sex; how­ever, given the human ten­dency to see mir­a­cles in the most mun­dane events, given our gulli­bil­ity as a species and our abil­ity to sup­port sev­eral oppos­ing ideas at one time, I don’t expect the issue to be set­tled much before our species evolves into some­thing else entirely — assum­ing the reli­gious idiots let us last that long.

Share

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.