In the continuing observance (celebration?) of the fortieth anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, the St. Anthony of Padua Institute and the Diocese of Oakland are sponsoring an all-day conference on August 9 at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. No, I won't be going. But if I were a nurse, I could get continuing education credit by attending. That's right: The California Board of Registered Nursing has rated the conference as being worth 4.6 contact hours for purposes of continuing education.
Ain't that a kick in the head?
Let us at least consider the possibility that the Humane Vitae conference will indeed be educational and not simply a day-long indoctrination on Catholic birth control dogma. After all, nurses have many Roman Catholic patients and one can imagine a secular purpose in learning about the things Catholics believe so as to understand their concerns better. We could list it under “cultural sensitivity,” which I'm sure is a good thing. Right?
Abandon all hope. Here are some highlights of the conference program:
After 9:00 mass (with a bishop!), Janet Smith delivers a plenary address on the Connection between contraception and abortion. She's followed by Christopher Kaczor, whose topic is Humanae Vitae explained and defended. After the lunch break, the final plenary address is Joel Barstad's presentation on Primacy of conscience. (Since many Catholics cite personal conscience as an excuse for using birth control despite Church teaching on the issue, I'm guessing Barstad is going to explain why it's a sin to substitute personal conviction for Church dogma. [But Kevin Keith has a better guess than mine; see the comments.])
If you haven't had enough by this point, just look at dessert. You have three choices for breakout sessions: Choose either Dr. Mary Davenport's Seven myths regarding “reproductive” technology and women's health (held in, of all places, Galileo Hall!), Father Brian Mullady's talk on the Theology of the body (no doubt based on John Paul II's writings on the subject), or Dr. Raymond Dennehy on From contraception to abortion to the death of democracy. (The Catholic Church is understandably really big on democracy and would hate for it to die and be replaced by any kind of autocracy.)
If that's not 4.6 contact hours of continuing education, it's at least an endurance contest. Strangely enough, it's probably the sort of thing I could sit through quite easily (assuming comfortable seats), even though I would undoubtedly have to master occasional impulses to yell “Are you kidding me?” at the speaker. I'm not by nature a disruptive person. (My mildness notwithstanding, I imagine it would incite chaos if I wore a Pharynguloid T-shirt. Are there such things? Just a thought. In any case, it sounds more like a coat-and-tie affair.)
Apparently the California Catholic Women's Forum is the organization that is certified by the California Board of Registered Nursing as a provider of continuing education. CCWF boasts Provider Number CEP 15002 and offers this course description for the Humanae Vitae conference:
Culturally conditioned views of human sexuality influence behavior and subsequent health care outcomes. New and emerging reproductive technologies reframe the connection between intercourse and pregnancy, and affect the marital relationship. This seminar is designed to give nurses the understanding of various views of sexuality and how these views profoundly affect sexual health, marital relationships, and the pursuit or avoidance of fertility.As someone whose scholarship resides in other fields, I cannot say definitively whether the announced conference schedule is likely to meet these course objectives. I'll admit, though, that I am struck by the phrase “understanding of various views of sexuality.” One can be relatively confident in concluding that the various views will indeed be discussed—and conveniently labeled as right or wrong in terms of their agreement or disagreement with Church teachings. That's just a tiny bit problematical, isn't it?
And yet this somehow cleared the bar established by the California Board of Registered Nursing for acceptable course content. Perhaps it's classified under “Cultural and ethnic diversity,” because I'm pretty sure it's out of the running for “Theoretical content related to scientific knowledge.”
Oh, well, if nurses can get continuing education credit for Therapeutic Touch voodoo, why not for training in Catholic doctrine? One shouldn't discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, disability, age, or wackiness. That would be wrong.