Like a gift from heaven, the thoughts of Cardinal George Pell unfold like blossoms before our eyes. Is this the manna the prophets speak of?
His subject is women and women's rights, and what a fierce feminist the good Cardinal is.
He starts with a forthright denunciation of Opus Dei and its vile attitude to women, including a most remarkable assault on the thoughts of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer
(Escrivá) once wrote, "Wives, you should ask yourself whether you are not forgetting a little about your appearance. Your duty is, and will always be, to take as good care of your appearance as you did before you were married - and it is a duty of justice" Escriva similarly stated that "Women needn’t be scholars - it’s enough for them to be prudent." (here).
Even more extraordinarily, the "feminist Cardinal", as he's known in the antipodes, launched a fierce attack on the Catholic church, and its ongoing patriarchal attitude to women, and its resolute insistence that only men can make that telephone to glory, oh what joy divine, because only they can feel the masculine current moving down the line ...
"Issues such as the authoritarian nature of the church, compulsory celibacy for the clergy, the participation of women in the church, the teaching on sexuality in all aspects cannot be brushed aside," he said. (here).
Oops, we apologise. The lickspittle Murdoch lackey hired to get good quotes got that entirely wrong.
The "he" who muttered those words was Bishop Pat Power, the Catholic auxilliary bishop for Canberra-Goulburn, a well known haven for deviants and Jungian anima lovers. Get from me, you liberal lovers, next thing you know you'll be turning Anglican ...
As usual, the animus is dominant in Pell, and his offering is actually Relationships market after 50 years of the pill, with the intent of the story summarised thus:
Far from bringing equality, contraception has redistributed power away from women, says George Pell.
Dare we re-phrase that?
Far from bringing equality, membership of the Catholic church has redistributed power away from women, for a couple of thousand years, says Cardinal patriarch.
The rest of the Pellist yammering is entirely predictable, with sublime bouts of illogical logic.
While majority opinion regards the pill as a significant social benefit for giving women greater control of their fertility, the consensus is not overwhelming, especially among women.
A May CBS News poll of 591 adult Americans found that 59 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women believed the pill had made women's lives better.
Hah. You see, there's an alleged 5% fewer than men in the opposition camp, concerned at the way the pill has redistributed power away from women and in the Pellist camp.
Of course if you actually visit the CBS poll, you find that the cotton picking cherry picking Pell overlooks some subtle, nuanced qualifiers to the poll, most notably the difference in thinking between younger and older women in relation to the effects of the pill. 69% of the sample 45 and older thought that the pill had made it easier for women to enter the workforce, and among women 45 and older the figure was 64%.
By the way, as you might expect from a poll that size, conducted by phone, the error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points, and the error for subgroups even higher.
But all the same, the pill emerged with its credentials intact, and if you want to read the actual results, as opposed to Pell's cherry picked single statistic, head off here.
Of course it sometimes startles young women for them to be told that the Catholic church still opposes contraceptive birth control and family planning. If you're not breeding for the Pope, you're simply not doing your duty.
Well whatever lights your wick. If the thoughts of a man who has not lain with a woman for many, if any, years, is your way ahead in terms of understanding men, women, sex, love, pain, relationships, marriage and the whole damn thing, go for it. But between brides and grooms of Christ and Meg Ryan, give me Meg Ryan any day ...
Meanwhile, the rest of us can fall about chortling, as Pell offers up some "straight-forward microeconomic reasoning", courtesy of one Timothy Reichert:
His basic thesis is that the pill has divided what was once a single mating market into two markets.
This first is a market for sexual relationships, which most young men and women frequent early in their adult life. The second is a market for marital or partnership relationships, where most participate later on.
Because the pill means that participation in the sex market need not result in pregnancy, the costs of having premarital and extra-marital sex have been lowered.
Well send my ears bright pink with shock. The young things are fucking like rabbits, for free, or at least for knock down two dollar prices, not that we did anything like that in my day ...
What follows is Pell's extrapolation, sans statistics, of the conservative Catholic mind set, as applied to women and relationships, and it sends gentle readers reeling back beyond the nineteen fifties. Or perhaps to the days of Jane Austen, when the marriage market was a serious matter for women of pedigree ...
Here's a few of the key talking points:
Evolutionary biology dictates that there will always be more men than women in the sex market. Their natural roles are different. Women take nine months to make a baby, while it takes a man 10 minutes. St Augustine claimed that the sacrament of marriage was developed to constrain men to take an interest in their children.
Take the pill and it'll take a man longer than 10 minutes ... But hey St. Augustine as sociologist clearly knows something about the Greeks and Romans, who strangely somehow managed the institution of marriage without benefit of the teachings of the Jews or the Christians ...
Still, you can see the danger in evolutionary biology and natural roles. Why next thing you'll be laughing at the story of Adam and Eve and biblical literalism and intelligent designers ...
Oops sorry, missing the point again, The point being, that if women play the sex market game poorly, they'll end up on the shelf:
This means that women have a higher bargaining power in the sex market while they remain there (because of the larger number of men there) but face much stiffer competition for marriageable men (because of the lower supply) than earlier generations.
But younger women are likelier to link up with older, successful men than older women with young men, as any number of married women can attest after rearing children, only to find their husband has left for a younger woman.
Another consequence is a greater likelihood of divorce. Because of their lower bargaining power, more women strike "bad deals" in marriage and later feel compelled to escape. This is easier today because the social stigma of divorce has declined and because of no-fault divorce laws.
More women also can afford to divorce and, in some cases, prenuptial agreements provide insurance against the worst.
Only the official teaching of the Catholic Church remains opposed to the pill and indeed all artificial contraception, but this is not even a majority position among Catholic churchgoers of child-bearing age. Indeed, this particular Catholic teaching is often cited as diminishing the church's authority to teach on morality among Catholics themselves, as well as provoking disbelief and even astonishment among other Christians and non-believers.
Catholic teaching does not require women to do nothing but have children but it does ask couples to be open to kids and to be generous.
What this means in any particular situation is for each couple to decide.
Progressive Catholic opinion 40 or 50 years ago urged believers to follow their consciences and reject the church's opposition to artificial contraception. Today's advocates of the primacy of personal conscience urge Catholics to pick and choose among the church's teachings on marriage, sexuality and life issues, although they generally allow fewer liberties in social justice or ecology.
These changes, regarded as progressive or misguided depending on one's viewpoint, are not coincidental but follow from the revolutionary consequences of the pill on moral thinking and social behaviour; on the broadening endorsement of a moral individualism that ignores or rejects as inevitable the damage inflicted on the social fabric. This revolution was reinforced by the music of the 1960s, for example Mick Jagger's Rolling Stones, or the Beatles.
While early Catholic supporters of the pill claimed it would diminish the number of abortions, this has not eventuated. Whatever the causes, abortion rates have increased dramatically since the mid-60s in Australia and the US, although the number has peaked.
Real-life experience suggests that the "contraceptive mentality" pope Paul VI warned about in 1968 has had unforeseen consequences. To paraphrase Reichert, an unwanted baby threatens prosperity and lifestyle, making abortion seem necessary.
It is the women who bear most of the burden of trauma and grief from abortions.
Even women who believe deeply in the Christian notion of godly forgiveness, and those who do not believe in God at all, can battle for years with unassuaged guilt.
In support of his claims that women are bearing a disproportionate burden in the new paradigm, Reichert cites evidence that in the past 35 years across the industrialised world women's happiness has declined absolutely and relative to men.
We have a new gender gap where men report a higher subjective wellbeing. This decline in women's happiness coincides broadly with the arrival of the sexual revolution, triggered by the invention of the pill.
The ancient Christian consensus, which lasted for 1900 years, linking sexual activity to the lovemaking of a husband and wife to create new life, was first broken by the Anglican Church's Lambeth Conference approval of contraception in 1930.
In this new contraceptive era, where no Western country produces enough children to maintain population levels, the Catholic stance is isolated, rejected and often despised.
But the use of the contraceptive pill not only changes the dynamics within a family between husband and wife, it is also changing our broader society in ways we understand imperfectly.
But 50 years is not a long time; it is still early in the story.
(Below: Carnaby street, wherein the whole of civilisation was undermined, women were crucified, and men got to wear spiffy gear and escape the marriage market by turning themselves into preening peacocks. No wonder women are unhappy).