Natural Family Planning
If you think you’ve found the key to a better life, the most natural thing in the world is to want to rush out and convince everyone else to do likewise. We want to shout from the rooftops, “Hey! Better life to be found here! You can too!” As someone who finds significant meaning and happiness in the Catholic understanding of sexuality and prohibition of contraception, this view (and the approach to natural family planning that springs from it) is indeed something that I think other need to hear — but as a result it’s doubly frustrating when it seems like it’s being “sold” wrong.
This is why my teeth went a little on edge when I ran into what ought to have been a very encouraging article to see in the Washington Post detailing the efforts of young and faithful Catholic women to re-explain the Church’s teachings on contraception to the modern world. Here’s the section that threw me off:
Yet the images the church uses to promote its own method of birth control freaked her out. Pamphlets for what the church calls natural family planning feature photos of babies galore. A church-sponsored class on the method uses a book with a woman on the cover, smiling as she balances a grocery bag on one hip, a baby on the other.
“My guess is 99 out of 100 21st-century women trying to navigate the decision about contraception would see that cover and run for the hills,” McGuire wrote in a post on her blog, Altcatholicah, which is aimed at Catholic women.
McGuire, 26, of Alexandria is part of a movement of younger, religiously conservative Catholic women who are trying to rebrand an often-ignored church teaching: its ban on birth control methods such as the Pill. Arguing that church theology has been poorly explained and encouraged, they want to shift the image of a traditional Catholic woman from one at home with children to one with a great, communicative sex life, a chemical-free body and babies only when the parents think the time is right.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that my limited experience of dealing with interviews is that what you say and the way you come off in the article are often very, very different. So I don’t want to suggest that McGuire was misrepresenting NFP. It may well be that the WaPo writer talked to her for a long time, wrote up the article in good faith, yet ended up infusing it with an attitude that’s just — off. (And indeed, I see that Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (quoted elsewhere in the article) feels like what came across in the article is not exactly what she was trying to convey.)
That said, I think the message that the article conveys is problematic in that it simply doesn’t reflect all that accurately what it’s like using NFP, and when your advertising message doesn’t fit the reality of your “product”, user dissatisfaction is sure to follow. Emily Stimpson covers this well in a post titled Truth in Adverstising: Continue reading
Some in the mainstream media are so angry about the existence of faithful Catholics that they can’t help themselves in becoming unhinged. I will reference the main points, but suffice to say that I could write a book on the subject. These latest quotes have caused me to scramble to get information to my editor so as to include at least some of this in my upcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, a follow up to my first book. For starters it seems some in mainstream media are so ignorant of religion that even though 90% of Americans belong to some form of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which all believe that evil is manifested through a figure known as Satan, the media still finds it in their power to mock anyone who thinks evil exists. Some in the media seemed to take glee in pouncing on Catholic and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. He was called a kook, a nut, deranged, a mullah and an ayatollah, not by nameless posters on leftwing blogs but named writers in serious newspapers.
Leading the charge was that maven of militant secularism and angry people everywhere Maureen Dowd. Here are some of the spoiled nuggets from her dung heap. She calls Santorum a “mullah” who wants to take, “women back to the caves.” She goes on to deride anyone who actually believes in the teachings of the Catholicism that she once practiced.
Never one to miss a chance at apostasy and heresy; Chris Matthews entered the fray with both of his tingling legs. Matthews claimed the reason the Catholic Church is growing is because homophobic converts are coming into the Church. It would appear that Mr. Matthews is off his meds. Has anyone ever informed mister leg tingler that groups like Courage; the Apostolate run by those who are same sex attracted, is a rapidly growing organization with men and women from all walks of life? They feel the comfort and assurance of living in God’s chaste plan for their lives. The New York Times of all papers did a favorable story on Eve Tushnet, a popular Catholic writer who has ties to the group. She is a successful woman and an Ivy League grad. Are these militant secularists going to claim that she is homophobic?
David Gergen and Donna Brazile (who is Catholic) didn’t take any pot shots at Catholics per see but did point out that liberal feminist organizations didn’t seem smitten with any of the GOP candidates, because they kept talking about religious liberty instead of the rights of birth control? David Gergen even said it with a straight face, which should really frost Rush Limbaugh who has dubbed the Washington establishmentarian; David Rodham Gergen. As much as they refer to the New York Times, they somehow missed Ross Douthat’s op-ed piece on the growth of Natural Family Planning and the number of women who help teach this non birth control view of family planning across the country and world.
The coup de grace of hate came from David Waldman who writes for a number of publications. This little nugget would make the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s smile. I would rather not give him the pleasure of repeating such delusional hatred; if you want to read his screed click here. UPDATE In a Lisa Miller Washington Post article just out; Ms. Miller not only mocks Catholics but calls bishops “zealots” three times in her article.
If the Catholic Church is so irrelevant why would the likes of Dowd, Matthews and Waldman froth at the mouth at her beliefs? The simple answer is the Catholic Church is growing while their favorite liberal religious bodies are not only dying on the vine, but shriveling in a complete statistical freefall. Catholics and Evangelicals continue to increase in numbers which drive these mouthpieces of militant secularism nuts. Continue reading
In The Birth Control Controversy; The Mocking of Conservative Religious Women By Militant Secularists Will Soon Backfire
We have all seen the supposed polls indicating that 99% of Catholic women use birth control. However, has anyone ever bothered to look at who conducted the poll? It was the Guttmacher Institute; the driving force behind abortion and other leftist social movements. Finally someone in the Mainstream Media (The Washington Post) has weeks after the fact realized the untruthful nature behind this canard. This is just one of many red herrings thrown at religious conservatives to discredit and mock them. It seems some in mainstream media are making it their mission to ask former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum every question imaginable with regard to birth control. Whatever happens to Santorum in the primary race, it does seem as if the Hand of Providence is helping bring up the topic of birth control and the faithful alternative of Natural Family Planning.
While there is some dispute between Catholics and some Evangelicals on birth control; there are signs that many Evangelicals are seeing what Catholics and some Orthodox Jews have long believed about birth control. In my previous book and forthcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, I cite quotes from Chuck Colson and R Albert Mohler, two towering figures in the Evangelical world. They have genuine affection for Pope Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which cemented the Catholic view on birth control in the modern birth control pill era. If you want to really rile up a militant secularist you might mention that it wasn’t until 1930 that the first religious group (the Anglican Church) even approved of birth control. The Progressive Teddy Roosevelt said the idea of birth control was “ridiculous” and even liberal hero Dr Sigmund Freud said the whole concept was “narcissistic.”
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) the late women’s rights activist, who used birth control back before any religious group approved of it, spoke out forcefully against abortion and birth control once she converted to Catholicism later in life. She told men and women that in using birth control they were becoming engaged in a culture that was disconnecting them from God’s plans, along with not using their bodies in accordance with the Holy Spirit. Though her women’s rights and libertarian economic views remained, she became a social conservative, who lashed out at Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, something you aren’t likely to hear or read in the mainstream media.
Families that adhere to the clinically proven facts of Natural Family Planning are treated as if they are some sort of religious nuts. Militant secularists in the corridors of power (Legislative and Fourth Estate) have even thrown out their favorite term “sexually repressed.” Now this term is so widely repeated in our popular culture, perhaps we should examine where it came from. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) of the infamous Marxist “Frankfurt School” came up with the term. Marcuse left pre-World War II Germany and taught at Columbia. Marcuse believed in free love and surmised that the more narcissistic society was with regard to sexual relations, the better the world would become. Before his death, he claimed his prized student was 1960s militant radical Angela Davis. Marcuse was way out in left field in his day and yet the militant secularists in our pop culture have made him seem as mainstream as Dr. Phil. When societies turn away from religion they embrace the crazies like Marcuse; sadly something has to fill the vacuum and it is usually the ideas which come from the half baked among us that do so. Continue reading
Mary at the blog Young and Catholic has a good post up responding to a reader question about Church teaching on contraception versus NFP. Her handling of the NFP issue is great, but I was struck by the framing of her reader’s question, because it struck me as getting at a common impression one can get from being around conservative Catholic circles. Her reader writes:
I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…
…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.
This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.
She goes on to ask about why the Church teaches against artificial birth control, and as I say, Mary’s answer is great. However, I think the other thing worth touching on is the impression people sometimes get that from a Catholic point of view you should either be in the religious life or else you should be married and having lots of kids. Continue reading
Sometimes you run across an argument which strikes you as wrong in such a way as to crystallize and clarify your thinking on a topic. Such a case, for me, was running into this debate from last week at InsideCatholic on the topic, “Is NFP Misogynous?”
The “yes it is” argument contained the following key elements:
Assuming any methodized sexual intercourse devised to avoid pregnancy by an otherwise open-to-life-marital-couple can actually “work,” who bears responsibility for the method? I seriously question whether NFP, for many, isn’t a misogynous practice — imposing upon women an undue share of the physical and emotional burden of the theologically questionable quest of planning pregnancy.
First, we must be real. Modern NFP practices demand daily bodily measurements of women, not men…. A woman most desires sexual intimacy when she is at her most fertile…. This is also the moment when we are most likely to conceive a child. It’s the moment NFP-practicing women measure and chart and predict as “fertility awareness,” a “maybe-child” zone. For NFP-practicing women avoiding pregnancy, it is the moment they must say “no” to both themselves and their spouses….
I don’t buy it. It sounds like a scheme to impose on women who wish to time pregnancies an almost penal practice of self-measurement, self-control, and self-denial, while requiring, at a minimum, a sort of suffering acquiescence from a spouse whose interest in the chart becomes rather strategic….
NFP needs to go the same way as the rhythm method — which did not “work” and was, more importantly, female unfriendly. In its place, perhaps we all need to suck it up and admit what the theology asks of us: Have sex whenever you both want to… and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don’t copulate. That’s a fair burden on both spouses.
The woman presenting the “no it isn’t” view did a perfectly decent job of presenting the standard arguments for NFP, but I’d like to dig into one aspect in particular, especially given that by the sixth comment on the article we already see a theology student trying to argue that the “planning” involved in Natural Family Planning is really no different than the use of barrier methods of contraception since it involves “the intention of having sex without baby” and is thus “using one’s intellect to create a tool which limits the possibility of procreation”.
One of the richest gifts we have received by the graces of the Holy Spirit as we embark into the third Christian millennium is what Pope John Paul II coined the “theology of the body.” Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body and Apostolic Exhortation on the Family articulated how the use of contraception is against the sacrament of marriage and more fundamentally contra-human nature. This reiterates what Pope Paul VI expressed in Humanae Vitae in the 1960s in the wake of the sexual revolution that was followed by shock and dismay that the Catholic Church had no intention of embracing the forward-moving sexual “liberation.”
The issue of contraception is one of the most difficult to argue with non-Catholic Christians and those of other faiths, or even no faith at all. However, it seems that it is an issue that we’re called to debate with other Catholics unsure of the Church’s teaching. In reading Peter Kreeft, I have found a way of talking about this issue – for Catholics – that is both helpful and very insightful. I have seen it change the mind of three people in my life. Therefore, I feel compelled by my conscience to share it, so that it may help any poor sinner that may need it.
Taking a quiet Saturday morning to catch up on reading the newspaper, I was perusing a WSJ article on the lost virtue of prudence in our modern American society when I came across this jarring note:
The puzzling thing is that, under normal circumstances, our Americanus prudens should be flourishing. By looking ahead and exercising self-control, these unassuming homebodies tend to do well in school, form solid families and make lots of money — which they compulsively save, tucking it away in banks or mutual funds (once-sturdy institutions recently found by scientists to be hollow). The prudent have only the children they can afford — prudential parenthood is inevitably planned — but these offspring tend to thrive thanks to a stable home environment in which education is emphasized.
This threw me because the most financially prudent people I know at work are those with single incomes and large families