Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3]

NFP and the Contraceptive Mentality

In concluding this series, I’d like to address the question which originally set me on on this overly extended journey: Is it possible for users of Natural Family Planning to have a “contraceptive mentality” and if so what does that mean in the context of NFP?

I’ve described the contraceptive mentality as: The idea that having sex and reproducing are two activities with no necessary connection, that having sex in no way suggests a desire or willingness to have children with the person you are having sex with.

At root, I think that NFP is formulated in such a way as to be in direct opposition to the contraceptive mentality. According to an understanding of sexuality rooted in human instinct and biological reality, the way to avoid conceiving children is to not have sex. This is also the means of avoiding conception which is considered acceptable by the Church in the context of its understanding of the moral nature of sexuality. NFP is considered morally acceptable by the Church for the reason that it consists of avoiding pregnancy by not having sex, with the modern refinement of allowing the married couple to understand with a certain degree of confidence when it is that they need to avoid having sex in order to avoid conception. Rather than abstaining all the time in order to avoid pregnancy, the couple can abstain for between a quarter and half out of the woman’s cycle, and achieve the same result with relative certainty.

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4 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

  • Isn’t it true that the self denial is linked to income and increases with lower and lower income? Indeed the very rich Catholic of the level of a Mel Gibson (cited here only for the income and number of children aspect) do not even have to resort to NFP nor do they have to self deny in this area. Far on the other extreme is the poor Catholic in mainland China in those areas wherein the one child policy is brutally enforced so that after one child, the couple can be coerced physically into an abortion if NFP fails in their case for several decades straight. This area is so serious for particularly the Chinese that I will never comprehend how no Pope has worked on this in terms of an ex cathedra encyclical
    to resolve all doubts that arise thus far in the ordinary magisterium. Indeed few Popes have actually written about this (about 8 out of the 265 total) and the ones long ago wrote only fragments. It was more theologians (principally Augustine ( as Fr. Hardin noted) and canon law after several early councils.
    For the high stakes that the Chinese must face, Popes should have made this a priority
    as to facing this area with a view toward an ex cathedra encyclical or admit that they are not sure enough for that level. The rich need not sacrifice in this area but the Chinese couple face enormous fines and forced abortion in some provinces.

  • That should be Fr. Hardon not Hardin for those unfamiliar and wanting to do a search on him.

  • Bill, even for rich Catholics, there are valid other reasons to delay additional children. In Mel Gibson’s case, even if he were still living with his actual wife, his alcoholism could constitute serious reason. I know more than one couple where there is grave mental illness that looks (at least from the outside) as appropriate reason for employing NFP to avoid pregnancy.

    Also, while the general standard of NFP is that you use it to avoid pregnancy “for a time”, that standard is subject to common sense. If the condition that causes the problem that presents serious reason for delaying another child is something that, at least with respect to natural causes, is expected to be permanent, the couple’s use of NFP would be under the same understanding: to avoid pregnancy permanently, unless a miracle solves the problem.

  • Tony
    You are talking of exceptional cases in regard to mental illness. And drinkers like Mel who are rich do not ask what is prudent in this area because they underestimate their problem…since they are bringing in millions.
    Mia Farrow, Madonna, Angelina Jolie…most of the wealthy can have children and adopt also with no practice of birth control or nfp and no self denial…which is the case too with those Catholic who are sterile by nature. There is no encyclical telling the naturally sterile to abstain. Work stress by nature limits over doing this area unless there is the rare mental disorder around this issue.
    And on top of that, Angelina Jolie gave to Haiti 4 times the donation amount of money that the Vatican gave to Haiti. That is real wealth.

    All couples in parts of China have the exact opposite situation on a non exceptional basis. After one child they must use something to prevent a second child which will be killed in some provinces. Yet Scripture told some of the more passionate ones… “it is better to marry than to burn” …(with desire).

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 3)

Tuesday, June 29, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1 and Part 2]

Enter Artificial Birth Control

In Part 2, I discussed the sense in which marriage customs and sexual morality can be seen as an adaptive response to controlling childbearing. I’d like now to turn to the question of artificial birth control.

In my first job out of college, a small chemical distribution company, I sat next to the customer service group, and thus found myself overhearing a lot of middle-aged “girl talk”. One anecdote I particularly remember was recounted by a woman who’d married in the late sixties. She told about how when she and her husband were still engaged, she’d gone with her mother to a wedding, and her mother had taken occasion to whisper to her that it was generally known that the bride had “had to get married.”

“I’m just so glad you’re a good girl and you’ll never need to get married quickly like that, my mother told me,” she said. “Of course, what she didn’t know is that I’d been on the pill for the last three years.”

I think this does a good job of underlining a massive shift in social structure and morality which the advent of plentiful and efficient birth control allowed.

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