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Pope Paul VI and Two-Day-Old T-Shirts

April 18, AD2016

dream, window, path

During a casual conversation a friend of mine asked me, “How come histocompatibility is not better known among Catholics?”

Histo what? I asked.

He answered, “Histocompatibility. Oral contraceptives may be a major cause of problems in marriages.”

Apart from the well-known side-effects of oral contraception such as nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, and mood changes, there is another possible effect that is “suggested.” Scientists use the word “suggest” when they think they are on to something but don’t want to commit fully.

My friend pointed me to some literature on the subject and I started to investigate. At least what I could find on the Internet. I am not sure if delving into books on the subject would be beneficial at this stage of my interest. Considering the breadth of the genetics topic, how else does a person get to the essential parts of a question quickly?

What is All of This?

Usually two things have to be in sync in our modern world to make sense of a question within God’s province. The two features of life that are not in conflict, but have been working their way into the human mind as a conflict for about three hundred years or so. They are science and religion. For us, it is of course, science and Catholicism.

I started with the science and Sheril Kirshenbbaum from the University of Texas who, as her university says, “works to enhance public understanding of science and energy issues.” A broad description, but she has specific interests and has written a book on kissing called, The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us. The key points about kissing are explained in her Washington Post article here. We already know why kissing is fun and most of us don’t care about the scientific explanation, but one important point she mentioned stood out for me. She wrote:

Scientists suspect that when a couple carry distinctly different genetics for fighting disease, their children are likely to benefit by having a strong immune system. We may not exactly be thinking about parenthood when we connect with someone at the lips, but kissing provides clues to help us decide whether to take a relationship further.

In another article she says, “Evolutionary psychologists at The State University of New York at Albany recently reported that 59% of men and 66% of women say that they have ended a budding relationship because of a bad kiss.”

The Sweaty T-Shirt Experiment

Her article pointed me to a 1995 Swiss study on the “region of DNA known as the major histocompatibility complex or MHC.” In this study, famously called the Sweaty T-Shirt Experiment, four biologists summarized the result of young women smelling the T-shirts worn for two nights by young men. After that, an “odour assessment” was done. Very subjective, but how else are you going to examine the effect of smell on another person without asking?

A partial conclusion of this study explains:

Each male student wore a T-shirt for two consecutive nights. The next day, each female student was asked to rate the odours of six T-shirts. They scored male body odours as more pleasant when they differed from the men in their MHC than when they were more similar. This difference in odour assessment was reversed when the women rating the odours were taking oral contraceptives. Furthermore, the odours of MHC-dissimilar men remind the test women more often of their own actual or former mates than do the odours of MHC-similar men. This suggests that the MHC or linked genes influence human mate choice today. (emphasis mine)

A reversal. The complete opposite!

Sheril Kirshenbbaum wrote in Scientific American magazine:

Pairing off with a male who has a different set of genes for immunity can lead to children that will have a higher level of genetic diversity, making them healthier and more likely to survive. (emphasis mine)

Now For the Catholicism… and Protestantism

Even though the word genetics was coined back in 1905, the writer in 1968 of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI, was not a geneticist who decided to go into popery. He was a priest from about the age of 22 and became a canon law expert who spent his life in church administration. He was never a parish priest. His everyday working life was not with couples seeking marriage direction. However, if you will recall from even the most rudimentary catechesis, we were promised that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would guide the church (John 14:26). Guiding the church, of course, means ultimately guiding mankind, as the Pope confirmed in Humanae Vitae when he spoke of “…the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples.”

Despite early Protestants favoring having children, and the near-“barefoot and pregnant” view of women that Martin Luther held, Protestants made an official 180 turn on the subject of babies at the Anglican Church’s 1930 Lambeth Conference. Then Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Charles Gore, wrote in protest to the newly adopted resolution of the conference that he said gave, “a restricted sanction to the use of preventives of conception.” He answered this change to church law by quoting the absolute opposition to this position just 10 years before at the 1920 conference:

The Conference… regards with grave concern the spread in modern society of theories and practices hostile to the family. We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers—physical, moral, and religious—thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race.

The Wisdom of Pope Paul VI

In 1968 the Human Genome Project had 2 decades to wait before it would begin and another 25 years after that to complete. Because of that project, we in 2016 have a better understanding of how God has designed our bodies. Having the advantage of this knowledge before the events of Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit went about guiding our Church throughout history, teaching us and using the multiplicity of the phrase, “Be fruitful and multiply”. God had already provided the Natural Law which we follow and which promotes human multiplication. The study of the human genome (every gene in a human body) has given us an understanding of the incredible almost invisible control mechanism that God created. A purposeful guidance system for the physical progression of a life from conception to natural death in order to multiply as he designed.

By 1968, however, Protestant churches had almost entirely abandoned their past teaching on contraception. I can attest to the fact that American men and women on the whole had adopted an attitude of complete indifference to contraception. It was considered to be just a simple and logical method of controlling the unwanted results of pleasure. Since 1960, “The Pill” had been available, and in 1969 we had conquered the moon. God was dead, technology and man (and later woman) replaced him in the mind of society. But now, after these many years, we read of science “suggesting” that contraception has just the opposite effect when implementing a human aspect of mating.

In the encyclical letter on the regulation of birth Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI wrote:

No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared,  that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men’s eternal salvation.

In carrying out this mandate, the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of marriage, the correct use of conjugal rights, and the duties of spouses. These documents have been more copious in recent times.

His contribution was in continuing the faithful teaching, supporting that teaching, and emphasizing that teaching of his predecessors. As he said, “consciousness of the same responsibility” led him to this encyclical. His unique contribution was in exerting the power of his office to interpret and provide direction for a major issue of the day while being very aware of the rebellion of that time. Open rebellion, even within the Church.

He dealt with the specific as to the effects of contraception writing in paragraph 17, “Consequences of Artificial Methods”:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

He reiterated Church teaching on “God’s Loving Design,” “Married Love,” and “Responsible Parenthood,” using understanding accumulated by mankind to that point in history. He said about moral law, both natural and evangelical, “Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter.”

So, What About the Smelly T-Shirts?

This is just one unique scientific reminder of the truths given to us by the Church even without verification at the time by the scientific method. Those of us that have come to regret the direction our country has taken, and by extension the world, point out the disintegration of the family as the largest loss. The recent misuse of judicial power to further destroy marriage by allowing same-sex persons to apply for something that has in reality reduced a sacred covenant, the marriage vow to God, to a civil contract—a contract with no real purpose except to try and mimic a once great purpose. The ultimate contraception is two or more persons of the same sex playing with their bodies for mutual satisfaction, like children who have discovered pleasant sensations. It is the ultimate separation of procreation from the sex act. Similar to a feeding tube inserted into the stomach wall by a doctor to provide nutrition, then never giving the nutrition through that tube. Defeating a God-given purpose. Even with proper use, that feeding tube substitute will never be recognized as eating—because we know the difference through nature.

The poet W.B. Yeats wrote The Second Coming in 1919 after the first massive human slaughter of the new century. He wrote in part:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction,
While the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Without accepting the truths our Church teaches, using great men like Pope Paul VI, our future is in question. We know that we will be judged, and the best and worst of us has been defined. Where do you stand on contraception?

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

H.L. Duncan is a senior citizen widower in his 8th decade of life (70s) who was married for 36 years to his only wife Jill. He lives on 40 acres of the Great Basin Desert in an owner built solar powered home. He has three children who have left the nest and are now too far away. After an Episcopalian childhood, his teen years brought on the disease of agnosticism with occasional bouts of atheism. He entered the Church in 2010 and says he has felt at home ever since. His working life included Forest Fire Truck Driver, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa building schools, Motion Picture Cameraman in industrial films and while in the U.S. Army, production assistant to a Producer in Hollywood, Professional Still Photographer, Photo Lab Technician, Postal Service Letter Carrier, Computer Systems Analyst in business and government, Computer Consulting, Owner of an Internet business, Web site creation. His educational background is mostly self directed reading and experiential but does include; A graduate of the London School of Film Technique, London, England, AA degree in Business Data Processing with an additional course in accounting, Seminars and technical classes. He now spends his days in local parish church work and Right to Life groups, Internet conversations with new friends and old enemies of the Church.

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  • Gail Finke

    Interresting article but please, take anything from an “evolutionary psychologist” with a MOUNTAIN of stuff. They just make things up.

    • james

      Thanks for the moniker “EP”, I’ll wear it proudly. You really ought to see the 1985 movie “Cocoon” as it might just give you enough evolutionary imagination to think outside the box.

    • Gail Finke

      I didn’t say “EP.” I don’t know about you personally, but many “evolutionary psychologists” think so far outside the box that there is no longer any box!

    • james

      Gail, let me give you an example of what I mean. We go back to 10,000 BC when humans lived in caves. Another Gail who lives in this (sexual) society is figuratively being dragged by her hair to be added to an alpha male’s harem. She has no say in this matter, her lot in life is to accept whatever children are
      foisted upon her and among the duties of her life will be gathering berries, mending clothes and maybe being traded against her will to another male. As Grog (BC cartoon character) stops to pick some lice out of his hair, a bravo male takes an opportunity to say. Gail, someday another Gail will live in a (first) world and time where your dignity will be respected and this simple assault and battery you’re experiencing will be punishable by law. You will go on to have opportunities to do everything from boss alpha males around to flying fighter jets. In this new (sexual) society you will court, spark and choose whomever you want to be with and that will extend through your whole life. If you choose to be celibate or promiscuous no male will have the right to alter that and you can wield a club bigger than Grog and kill him if he tries. The alpha, beta, males
      in your society will be equally free to mingle for either traditional reasons (marriage) or retain their options to know as many people as they wish (natural
      consequences not withstanding.) Now, …can you picture Gail BC saying to another like minded person as Grog drags her away “ Interesting article but please, take anything from an “evolutionary psychologist” with a MOUNTAIN of stuff. They just make things up.” Now add another 500 years or less to our present first world sexual society and … try to think outside the box.

    • Gail Finke

      Oh please. You know NOTHING about what people were like 10,000 years ago, and neither do I. The difference is that I do not make up a stories based on wild speculation and tell people that my expertise in evolutionary psychology lets me know what people were like then and how that evolved into The Way We Are Now.

    • james

      In third world countries it may as well be 10K BC for women; FGM being one of
      the sicker aspects. The Way We Are Now is radically different from any other age and it’s our minds that have evolved. I’m sorry if your inability to extrapolate
      fiction becoming fact is so hampered. And, What do you know then ?

    • Gail Finke

      Our minds have not and cannot “evolve.” They are the same as human minds have always been, at least as far as we know. Thanks for proving my point. Enjoy your evening, and your very fertile imagination.

    • james

      ” at least as far as we know.” Touche. Enjoy yours too.

    • james, I remember this from Ron Howard years ago. Lots of sex by old folks, interesting personalities (out of work actors), and the shameless borrowing of ET super-being characters from “Close Encounters” and “Starman”.

      Evolutionary no, imagination (or imagine) yes.

    • james

      It seems you are confounding the brain and mind, Howard. The former can not be located in any temporal or spatial system while yes, the brain is most likely done
      growing in size or capacity. Now factor in that we use only 10% of our brain – the
      equivalent of having a car and knowing only how to start it. The mind, however
      is capable of evolving thought without limits in so far as our consciousness being
      raised. It’s why Grog, in my post to Gail, now treats women with respect. It’s why
      we are now caring for the earth and trying to put an end to war. And if some of those characters in the OT could live to be hundreds of years old – look at the
      now defunct 3 score 10 standard compared to today – I think anything is possible
      in any area.

    • So, you are proposing some sort of universal evolving mind that you share with Grog, Caligula, Atilla the Hun, Vlad II, Hitler, and Stalin?

    • james

      Yes, just like healthy athletic bodies and minds are shared with disease ridden
      cancer patients and sociopaths The exceptions prove nothing other than evil
      exists.

    • You do realize that this is a Catholic website? You appear to be using your portion of the universal mind to change Catholic teaching. Especially the part about free will.

    • james

      I’ll leave free will for another day and meditate on the church teaching that most likely unbapatized babies can never see God, only Catholics go to heaven and at one point in time you went to hell for eating meat on Fridays. With a track record like that I’m sure the free will debate has some flaws in their reasoning. But I see you’re at the end of this thread too, and as always I wish you a good day.

    • I refer you to this link for authoritative answers to your questions instead of wherever you have picked up anti-Catholic gossip. Have a good day.

      http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/index.html

    • I am not a fan of scientific studies and prefer Philosophy which relies on reasoning. Peer reviewed published studies worldwide are retracted at over two a day, often years from the original publication date. However, this is a possible path to the truth when bodily effects are noticed.

    • adam aquinas

      “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

      ― Niels Bohr

  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    There are many amazing scientific facts about human sexuality. The birth control pill skews a woman’s preferences in men, breast feeding can immunize women from certain illnesses thanks to the remnants of baby’s genetic material within her, and a couple truly becomes one since a woman will carry genetic material from her partner(s) within her body.

    God’s creation of monogamous marriage and procreation is truly a spiritual and scientific miracle! Can you imagine the Blessed Mother’s body containing genetic material from Jesus? The Ark of the Covenant indeed!

    http://www.laici.va/content/dam/laici/documenti/donna/culturasocieta/english/the-biology-of-sexual-faithfulness-and-fruitfulness.pdf

  • james

    I think woman swallowing pills so they can have sex without fear of children is dumb. I think you have a much, much, much bigger problem on your hands by not addressing why 20% of the ten commands have to do with sex, contraceptive withstanding. Even today, couples in some countries will risk being stoned to death to have sex. In Matt 19:10 Jesus agreed it is not expedient to marry, and yet this institution is not seen as the raison d’etre of its own worse enemy. Consenting and responsible sex for pleasure will never, never, never go away. It is an oblique way of avoiding the ominous reason why God would have to say the same thing twice – unprecedented. Until we know why multiple marriage was allowed, why modern shows like ‘Sister Wives’ still resonate, why Muslims dream of 72 virgins and God would have to say something twice about an institution that is becoming unraveled – could it be human evolution in a dimension that was never considered ? – the jury is out. All the evidence suggests that our sexuality is an unstable, immature area of life that has its roots in the snake and the garden – a myth (albeit substantive) about the birth-life-death cycle of eastern deism. If the evolution of our sexual nature is the agent at work here then today’s birth control physical issues like sensitive breasts et al will fade to black once a perfect non invasive 100% guaranteed method is developed. And, if another evolution of sexual mores develops and life goes on with just the usual hitches, someone, somewhere down the religious line will have a lot of explaining to do. The old caricature of a cave man dragging a woman by the hair has been replaced by Viagra commercials – and to those old playboys who imbibe it’s easy to lump them into the category of dumb too.