NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control

Wednesday, April 18, AD 2012

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:

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100 Responses to NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control

  • So… how does this differ from birth control?

    Every line of that excerpt from Emily Stimpson makes it sound like NFP is primarily a “birth control” method, sans the chemicals.

    How many NFP practicioners understand that they need grave reasons to utilize NFP? 1%? Does that make them better people than condom users? Seriously?

  • So… how does this differ from birth control?

    There’s no form of artificial birth control that I’m aware of that people use in order to get pregnant.

  • Paul, how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

  • how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    Um, well, we did. Moreover, what’s your point?

  • I think that what JVC is trying to say is that NFP is often used with a selfish mentality and that using it for the wrong reason is potentially sinful. Note please, that that is what HE means and I am not agreeing or disagreeing with him.

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  • JVC,

    So… how does this differ from birth control?

    Every line of that excerpt from Emily Stimpson makes it sound like NFP is primarily a “birth control” method, sans the chemicals.

    The difference between using NFP to avoid pregnancy and using artificial birth control to avoid pregnancy is that NFP involves not having sex because you don’t want to get pregnant at the moment, while artificial birth control involves using artificial means to strip the sexual act of its procreative character (allowing you to have sex anyway without worrying about the act’s procreative implications.)

    How many NFP practicioners understand that they need grave reasons to utilize NFP? 1%? Does that make them better people than condom users? Seriously?

    Using NFP to avoid pregnancy is fundamentally different from using a form of artificial birth control such as a condom, because it involves not having sex — something which is always licit even between married couples. (Thus, for instance, if I rushed home right now and had sex with my wife, we’d almost certainly get pregnant. That does not, however, mean that I am morally required to do so, or that I need “grave reasons” to remain at work for the rest of the day.)

    I addressed this in detail a while back in a series of posts dealing with the question of the “contraceptive mentality” and whether one can accurately characterize the use of NFP as participating in the contraceptive mentality.

    http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/2010/07/real-sex-vs-contraceptive-mentality.html

    Certainly, it is possible for people to use NFP in a manner that is selfish, but that remains fundamentally different from using artificial birth control which is an inherently sinful act. Not having sex is not an inherently sinful act (or sin of omission.)

  • Ive heard a lot of comments about NFP being de facto birth control. Probably, in the attempt to then make the next step to ‘just take a pill’. But wht I have only heard from my wife and never in comments sections, is the result of NFP. Which aside from not taking the well established health risks, but the fact that (my wife) has learned so much about observing her body, that go beyond just ovulation. She has shaped my opinion as a scientist who studies cancer, yet is a male who will never know what it’s like to give birth or deal with women’s issues. Does one suppress their bodies with drugs or does one listen to their body and make adjustments if,when needed to maintain health. If drugs are medically necessary for ones health, then we should consider the benefits, and not assume there are no costs.

  • how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    Um, well, we did.

    Ditto.

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

    “42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.” — Steven Wright

  • Does one suppress their bodies with drugs or does one listen to their body and make adjustments if, when needed to maintain health.

    Mark, my wife and I share a similar experience here. And really, it has shaped our approach to medicine and nutrition. The human body is amazing.

  • Using NFP deliberately to avoid pregnancy without a grave reason is in fact tautologically
    birth control. Call it natural birth control, if you want. Does it carry the same moral sanction as someone who has sex but uses contraception? Obviously not. But let’s not pretend like the intent is not identical: acting in a certain way as to strip sexuality of its procreative nature.

    I can’t tell if you quoted Emily approvingly or disapprovingly, but that is the exact vibe I get from that excerpt. She cheers on the notion that there is a way to control a person’s fertility in the same way as contraception but without the moral consequences of chemicals or a condom. Totally absent from her comments is any context discussing the Church’s position that NFP must only be used for grave reasons.

    The fact that NFP cultists refuse to entertain the possibility that the Church proscribes that NFP must only be used for certain circumstances is exactly what causes NFP to be little more than “natural” birth control for most of its users.

  • Paul, you have a difference experience among young Catholics? Pray tell. What portion of the under 30 crowd that you know is using NFP to get pregnant rather than avoid pregnancy, on end, for years?

  • An “in truth very wide” latitude to use NFP to space births is Magisterial, FYI: http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2008/04/broadband-nfp.html

  • 63.576% Jvc.

    I don’t know, I don’t run polls among my friends to determine these figures, nor am I that much of a busybody. All I know is that my parish is nicknamed St. Baby’s for a reason, and it’s not because the parishioners there are making an all out effort to delay pregnancy.

    Although if I had to guess, if a married couple is Catholic, using NFP, and under the age of 30 – the proportion using it as a means of avoiding pregnancy is far, far less than nine in ten. Of course I’m just guessing – as you are. I’m just not pretending my guess is authoritative fact.

  • JVC,

    Using NFP deliberately to avoid pregnancy without a grave reason is in fact tautologically birth control. Call it natural birth control, if you want. Does it carry the same moral sanction as someone who has sex but uses contraception? Obviously not. But let’s not pretend like the intent is not identical: acting in a certain way as to strip sexuality of its procreative nature.

    But this is precisely the thing: NFP specifically does not strip sexuality of its proceative nature. That’s why using it to avoid pregnancy involves not having sex through a good portion (quite often the majority) of the cycle.

    What the Church teaches is not that one must get pregnant with some given frequency, but rather that sex is intimately tied to reproduction, and that if one is trying not to get pregnant this means a huge disruption (and diminution) of one’s “sex life” (to use that most modern of terms.)

    That one can use periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy for a period of time and can also use artificial birth control to avoid pregnancy for a period of time is a red herring. It’s like arguing that because eating a healthy diet in the first place and gorging and purging can both result in being a healthy weight, that they are therefore functionally the same thing. (After all, either way you’re not obese!)

    I can’t tell if you quoted Emily approvingly or disapprovingly, but that is the exact vibe I get from that excerpt. She cheers on the notion that there is a way to control a person’s fertility in the same way as contraception but without the moral consequences of chemicals or a condom.

    I am quoting her approvingly, and precisely because I think she provides a good corrective to the WaPo piece (which does suggest that NFP is just natural birth control.) For instance, Emily points out:

    At the same time, rejecting contraception in general requires trust—trust in God’s will and God’s provision. It requires generosity—a willingness to put others needs before our own. It requires a spirit of poverty—detachment from the extras our culture says are essentials. And it requires a heart that delights in pictures of fat smiling babies, that believes babies are precious gifts from God, not a reason to run for the hills.

    Basically, it requires that we be everything our culture has programmed us not to be.

    And also

    NFP is not Catholic birth control. It’s the Catholic world view…lived out in the bedroom.

    Now, you’re correct, she does not specifically state that couples should only avoid pregnancy for “grave reasons”, but frankly I think that this is a term which people at times go a bit overboard on. As Bob notes, it’s not as if the popes have suggested that one must be in a “all our children will starve to death if we have one more” or a “my wife will die if she gets pregnant” situation in order to space pregnancies using NFP.

    “Therefore, in our late allocution on conjugal morality, We affirmed the legitimacy, and at the same time, the limits — in truth very wide — of a regulation of offspring, which, unlike so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with the law of God.” – Pius XII, Morality in Marriage (emphasis mine), from Papal Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family, Werth and Mihanovich, 1955

    Paul, you have a difference experience among young Catholics? Pray tell. What portion of the under 30 crowd that you know is using NFP to get pregnant rather than avoid pregnancy, on end, for years?

    Like Paul, I don’t take polls, by my observation among other young married Catholic couples (though we have now crossed over into our early 30s) is that most couples use NFP to lengthen the natural spacing they would normally experience between children out from 12-18 months to something more like 2 or maybe 3 years. Other than those struggling with infertility (or who did not find a spouse until late in life) I know very few NFP using couples you don’t have significantly more than the average number of children. (And that’s probably fairly natural, since having to abstain from the marital act most of the time — and often the times when the wife is most interested — is a very good incentive to give having more children another thought.)

  • It looks like there’s actually a pretty good article on the USCCB website dealing with the question of “When can we use NFP?”

    http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/seriousq.shtml

  • NFP specifically does not strip sexuality of its proceative nature.

    By definition, excluding the possibility of procreation stripes sexuality of its procreative nature. This is what regular practitioners of birth control do, whether it is artificial or “natural.” Are they both morally evil? No. But the intent is the same. Your food example fails. The method is obviously very different, but the intent is identical.

    I am amused at how NFP enthusiasts cheer one quote from Pius while ignoring another. Have at it. What are those wide limits? It is amazing how the term “wide” for NFP enthusiasts somehow means “literally anything you can come up with.” Are there ANY restraints that you can think of? How about for most NFP users? Have the vast majority of NFP users ever restrained from using NFP due to the reasons Pius gives?

    Darwin, I don’t get the sense that you aren’t a level headed person. Including on this issue. I don’t know how old you are. But the sense I get from the majority of practicing Catholics in my age group (under 30) is that NFP is a perfectly acceptible form of natural birth control. I don’t think older Catholics have a clue to what extent this is the case.

    Paul, nice smarmy response. Have a nice day.

  • Darwin, thanks for the link. I will take a look — I have appreciated Mary Shivanandan’s writings in the past.

  • jvc,
    Frankly, I think you are wrong. If you care read through the article Darwin linked regarding our bishops’ input on this, you might scroll down and see the section on Grave and Serious:
    Paul VI in his encyclical, Humanae vitae (1968), while condemning the use of all contraceptive methods for even grave (gravia) reasons declared licit the recourse to the infertile periods if the spouses have good (just and seria) reasons to postpone even indefinitely another pregnancy.
    I think you are conflating two concepts here: Contraceptives are not permitted for even grave reasons. Also, recourse to infertile periods (periodic abstinence, NFP, etc…) is permitted for just and serious reasons. Just/serious has a different connotation than grave.

  • JVC,

    By definition, excluding the possibility of procreation stripes sexuality of its procreative nature. This is what regular practitioners of birth control do, whether it is artificial or “natural.” Are they both morally evil? No. But the intent is the same. Your food example fails. The method is obviously very different, but the intent is identical.

    The distinction I would make here is that I don’t think it’s the intent that is the actual problem from a moral point of view. (For instance, if a woman is unmarried, I’m sure she wants to avoid getting pregnant. That is good! So long as she achieves this by not having sex.)

    Similarly, I think we’d probably agree that if a couple were to decide to avoid pregnancy for a year by not having sex for that entire year, this would also be morally acceptable, even though their intent would clearly be the same (not get pregnant) as that of a couple using contraception and having sex frequently.

    Using NFP is simply a means of engaging in selective abstinence. The fact that its selective rather than total gives the couple a means to express their unitive love for one another via the marital act — which is a good of marriage — though obviously less frequently and less freely than if they were not selectively abstaining. And since they are not attempting to actually strip the fertility from the act itself, they of course realize that if they’re wrong about this being an infertile time in the cycle, they may very well get pregnant.

    What are those wide limits? It is amazing how the term “wide” for NFP enthusiasts somehow means “literally anything you can come up with.” Are there ANY restraints that you can think of? How about for most NFP users? Have the vast majority of NFP users ever restrained from using NFP due to the reasons Pius gives?

    Well, obviously the Church states that the bearing and raising of children is an end of marriage, to clearly it would be unacceptable for a couple to marry while intending to never have children by using NFP.

    I guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason not to have another child at the moment. I imagine it would vary a lot from person to person. My own experience (my wife and I are both 33, we got married at 22, and we have 5 kids) is that practicing NFP strictly enough to actually avoid pregnancy is sufficiently frustrating that it’s a pretty good way of causing us to reexamine on a very frequent basis whether we are ready to stop using NFP and see when the next child will come.

  • From my perspective, there aren’t enough Catholics using NFP for me to get my boxers in a wad about the motivations of the tiny minority of the faithful who do. Honestly, I don’t get the need to get up in the face of those who practice it (“cultists”–nice) This discussion–which recurs with great regularity on the internet (if almost nowhere else) is a prime example of the circular firing squad in action.

    See also, “Gnats, Straining at.”

    My experience is the same as Darwin’s. Speaking from my own experience, our six-month old is the result of a re-assessment of our reasons for using NFP.

  • I read the piece by Mary. She seems to have a nice summation of the issue without providing a lot of answers. Here, as anywhere, it would be nice if the Church provided more leadership and more answers so we don’t have to argue over language from documents 50 years old.

    Darwin,

    The distinction I would make here is that I don’t think it’s the intent that is the actual problem from a moral point of view.

    You don’t think that there is a moral problem with having the same intent as the people practicing artificial birth control? I must be misreading you. Perhaps what you mean is, the primary moral problem is the method, which I would agree. But I don’t think that, given that the intent is identical, the moral position of those practicing “natural” birth control is oh-so-holier than those practicing artificial birth control.

    Similarly, I think we’d probably agree that if a couple were to decide to avoid pregnancy for a year by not having sex for that entire year, this would also be morally acceptable, even though their intent would clearly be the same (not get pregnant) as that of a couple using contraception and having sex frequently.

    I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year. That would seem fairly contrary to the intent of the marriage sacrament.

    And since they are not attempting to actually strip the fertility from the act itself

    I understand what you mean by this, that they are not stripping each occasion of the act of fertility. The problem that I have is that, when done over a sustained period of time without the reflection of serious or just reasons, they are stripping the overall purpose of that act within marriage of its fertile purposes.

    Can you see how this would run the risk of devolving into the same utilitarian errors of the culture on this issue?

    guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason

    I would hope you are competent! You are or have practiced NFP, yes? The Church calls for you to consider whether there are serious/just/grave/whatever reasons to practice NFP. Surely you and your spouse at least discussed the reasons for this before launching into it?

    Most often today, a problem I see with my peers is that they dive into NFP as if it is the norm, precisely because they avoid or are ignorant of the fact that the Church requires cause to practice NFP. I think it is the failure to consider this that causes the practice to devolve into natural birth control and the utilitarian view of sexuality from our culture.

  • Darwin:

    What some are trying to say on this point is that the method is a secondary (though hardly unimportant) consideration in the matter. It’s the individual motivation we are talking about. If one is preventing pregnancy the motivation must be suspect, unless it is a genuine, unmistakably grave reason.

    What are those grave reasons? I’m not enough of a moral theologian to answer that question, but I do know that merely, wanting more money in the bank, a vacation every year, a second car, a 50″ tv set, the finest schools for my children, more free time between the spouses, a bigger and better house, my wife’s desire to work outside the home and many other reasons like that certainly do not qualify as “grave”. And that’s the rub. I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    Sadly, most priests and Bishops are useless (worse than useless, really) when discussing NFP because many of them are so gutless and afraid to offend that they allow Catholic couples to practice NFP willy-nilly. This is certainly one of the causes of the extreme problems the Church is now facing, and will be facing as the years go on. The sooner we face up to the fact that NFP has been a disaster for the Church, despite some Papal encouraging words, the better off the whole world will be.

    Young, poor and foolish, my wife and I started using NFP after the birth of our first child. I cannot imagine how many little souls we didn’t bring into the world at that time that could now be a joy in our lives. It was a stupid thing to do.

  • Dale, you might not like my term cultists, but they are out there. I don’t think anyone blogging on this website qualifies, but you don’t have to look very hard to find blog after blog devoted exclusively to this issue, with many promoting it as another Solution To Everything.

  • I guess I don’t see that I’m competent to sit down and make our a list of what would or would not be a just and serious reason not to have another child at the moment. I imagine it would vary a lot from person to person.

    Bingo. The Church does not even provide such a list. This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.

  • I think DC is right; we can all agree that having sex during an infertile period is morally okay. Look at sterile people; their whole lives are infertile periods. Abstaining from sex during a fertile period seems okay too; every time we do something other than copulate we are abstaining. Doing both knowingly shouldn’t be a problem then.

  • Actually, the Solution to Everything is the Big Green Egg, which really does have a cult.

  • The Church does not even provide such a list? Did you actually read the article that Darwin linked to?

    PS- Darwin, please feel free to correct my HTML error above with the italics…

  • but definitely, NFP is not supposed to be the norm. It’s supposed to be the exception.

  • This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.

    This is the constant refrain of NFP promoters who dismiss any idea that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP. I would like Big Tex to provide a circumstance or a situation where NFP would not be proper.

    Or, rather, should NFP be the norm in Catholic marriages? Would it be ideal if every couple marrying in the Church use NFP? In other words, is NFP the ideal within every marriage? If not, why not?

  • . I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    At the risk of being accused of being smarmy again, the plural of anecdote is not data. While I’m sure that there are people out there who do engage in the behavior you decry, but why are you so certain that this pertains to a majority of people practicing NFP? I keep hearing these rather generalized statements being thrown out there by you and jvc, but neither of you is backing these assertions with proof.

    Again, consider the population of people who use NFP. This is a subset within a subset of Catholics. As Dale said, the percentage of Catholics even using NFP is small (although the percentage among practicing Catholics would be much higher). Are these the type of people obsessed with acquiring 50 inch televisions? Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but where I am I do not see this type of behavior. Then again, maybe my experience is outside the norm.

  • Paul, it’s the majority of people I know who talk about it. You have your experience, I and others have ours.

  • Paul, it’s the majority of people I know who talk about it.

    Could you please clarify? Do you mean the majority of people you talk to about NFP, or the people you talk to and employ NFP?

  • And by the way, just so I am clear, I’m not suggesting that most people who have used NFP haven’t used it at some point to space pregnancies. I just doubt that a majority have done it for frivolous reasons.

  • The majority of people I know who a) talk about it and use it or b)talk about it with the intent of using it when they get married. In other words, the majority of people who talk about it and have an opinion about it. Hope this clarifies.

    Yes, I fully concede that this group of people may not be representative of the larger population. Nor necessarily would your social circle. It is my experience, though.

  • The Church does not even provide such a list?

    Meant to say exhaustive list. And no, the Church provides no list that details the situations in which it is and is not licit to have recourse to periodic abstinence to space children. Good luck trying to find one.

    This is the constant refrain of NFP promoters who dismiss any idea that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP. I would like Big Tex to provide a circumstance or a situation where NFP would not be proper.

    Or, rather, should NFP be the norm in Catholic marriages? Would it be ideal if every couple marrying in the Church use NFP? In other words, is NFP the ideal within every marriage? If not, why not?

    From whence did you ever get such an idea that I would dismiss the notion that there must be just/serious/grave/whatever reasons for using NFP? To your request, NFP would be inappropriate in saving up for a Porche or 747 or because mommy doesn’t look good in maternity clothes. On the flip side, NFP would appropriate in other situations. For one, a doctor may indicate to a woman that pregnancy is ill-advised based on her health. Or, an up-coming trip to visit relatives 2000 miles from home. Each family’s situation here is unique.

    I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage. It works rather well to space the little monkeys out, as well as when the doctor says no babies for a little while. Additionally, it’s a fantastic tool to aid in co-creating another one of those little monkeys we all find so precious (dirty diapers aside). The discussions that occur with each new cycle really develop the ability for a couple to pray together as well as communicate openly, honestly, and intimately. And as phase two approaches, and the attraction between spouses intensifies (as Darwin mentioned), said attraction really helps one cut through the B.S. on a couple’s reasons for postponing a pregnancy (i.e. Is this really a just/serious/grave/whatever reason?).

    So, jvc, I think you have taken the pendulum and gone far, too far to the right on this issue. For one, I think you are too easily dismissive of the intensified phase two attraction between spouses and how it can influence a couple.

    I also think you are doing yourself a disservice in equating grave reasons and serious/just reasons. Grave reasons insinuates finances/health issues. Just/serious reasons, which is the language used by our bishops, are broader and generally address (as does HV) situations such as the time in which we live.

    Lastly, I think you (and Ike) have an incomplete understanding of NFP and the Church’s teaching here. It sounds as if you believe we are supposed to be providentialists (think Duggars) when it comes to our family sizes and situations. Rather, NFP when taught with the mind and heart of the Church emphasizes prayerful discernment. The language used in the CCL course is specific: postpone/achieve pregnancy, as opposed to (what seems to be your main thrust in this discussion) prevent pregnancy.

  • I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

  • Maybe the blog should stick to less controversial subjects like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? 🙂 I see 150 comments at least on this thread by midnight! Now I will scamper away from this particular minefield!

  • I got nothing.

    At my age, it is not an issue.

    It was once between my conscience, Father Confessor, and me. And, none of us spoke of it outside of our unique, little group: the Confessional.

    I attended pre-Cana so long ago they still had the wine.

  • I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

    Do you understand what “I do think” means? Now, do you have a source that says it should not? Moreover, you and I have a different understanding what NFP is apparently:

    jvc: NFP = way to not get pregnant
    Big Tex: NFP = way to postpone kids if need be, AND way to aid/pinpoint conception

  • Don,

    Maybe the blog should stick to less controversial subjects like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    No kidding…

    JVC,

    In not particular order:

    I do think NFP should be the ideal within marriage.

    Source?

    It seems to me that Paul VI’s section on “Responsible Parenthood” in Humanae Vitae does basically endorse the idea that couples should understand the fertility implications of the wife’s cycle and make prudent decisions about when to conceive accordingly (i.e. use NFP).

    With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (9)

    With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.

    With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

    Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.

    You don’t think that there is a moral problem with having the same intent as the people practicing artificial birth control? I must be misreading you. Perhaps what you mean is, the primary moral problem is the method, which I would agree. But I don’t think that, given that the intent is identical, the moral position of those practicing “natural” birth control is oh-so-holier than those practicing artificial birth control.

    I don’t think that the intent of “not get pregnant” is in and of itself morally good or bad. A nun does not intend to get pregnant. That’s fine, because her action is being celibate.

    The thing that a contracepting couple does which is sinful is “have sex while removing the procreative element of the sexual act”. This is wrong. The thing which a couple using NFP to avoid pregnancy for a time does is “not have sex during fertile time”. This is not wrong (so long as they are mutually agreed upon it.)

    I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year. That would seem fairly contrary to the intent of the marriage sacrament.

    I’m not sure how one could get to the idea that spouses not having sex for a period of time would be immoral. I’d have to go look up citations, but there are several instances of saints (other than Mary and Joseph, who were clearly a special case) who mutually made vows of celibacy with their spouses from a certain point on in their marriage.

    The problem that I have is that, when done over a sustained period of time without the reflection of serious or just reasons, they are stripping the overall purpose of that act within marriage of its fertile purposes.

    I don’t think you’re correct on why the Church would see a couple that avoided pregnancy for a long time without just and serious reasons would be behaving wrongly. It’s not that it would be removing the sexual act of its meaning, but rather that it would be a failure of generosity and openness.

    I would hope you are competent! You are or have practiced NFP, yes? The Church calls for you to consider whether there are serious/just/grave/whatever reasons to practice NFP. Surely you and your spouse at least discussed the reasons for this before launching into it?

    There are a lot of situations in which I think it is next to impossible to lay out specific and universally applicable rules on questions like “when is it okay to delay pregnancy” or “what is modest dress” or “what sort of art will elicit lustful thoughts”. I think I am pretty capable (with God’s help — and also with the help of very much enjoying sex and not wanting to give it up half the month) of figuring out whether my wife and I have, in a given set of circumstances, serious reasons to put off having another child. I don’t think that I’m capable of saying, “In all circumstances, X is not a good reason to postpone pregnancy” unless I pick something downright silly like “because the wife wants to pursue a hobby of skydiving” or “because they want to go on a cruise every year” or “because the husband wants his wife to stay thin all the time”.

    Similarly, I feel quite comfortable telling my daughters “you may not wear that outfit” even while I am not comfortable laying down some universal law of what is and what is not modest for all people in all places and times.

    Dan,

    Young, poor and foolish, my wife and I started using NFP after the birth of our first child. I cannot imagine how many little souls we didn’t bring into the world at that time that could now be a joy in our lives. It was a stupid thing to do.

    While I can certainly see why one would regret not having been more open to fertility at a certain point in one’s life, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not accurate to think of there being specific little souls who get denied a chance at life because we don’t happen to have sex on the given night on which they would have been conceived. Souls are created by God at the moment that a human being actually comes into existence (at conception) and so while we might be guilty of a lack of generosity or openness at a certain point in our lives in regard to bringing new lives into the world, it’s not as if we have some sort of chute or quota waiting for us that we do or do not fulfill.

    Similarly, if a couple finds that they are afflicted with infertility, it is not as if God is denying them the little souls they so desperately want. As bodies, we just are what we are. Sometimes we conceive, sometimes we don’t.

    I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason and that is why many call NFP merely “Catholic contraception”, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become “Catholic divorce”.

    This appears to be a fairly wide chasm of experience. In my experience, Catholic couples using NFP are mostly just using NFP to have children every 24 to 36 months rather than every 14 to 20 months. They also have far more than the average number of kids. (Some NFP instructors we knew had 10.)

    Now, some people might see the desire to have children “only” ever 2-3 years instead of one ever year to be a failure to be open to God’s will. Maybe for a few people it would be. I think for the vast majority of families, however, that is simply a matter of prudence. Especially as one gets older and the number of kids mount, it helps for the wife to be not-pregnant for a year or two at a time. And that’s not even taking into account the people who have serious medical or financial reasons not to have more children at the moment.

  • Darwin,

    How do you make the connection between that quote from HV and the idea that NFP should be the norm? Of course couples should be familiar with the concept of fertility. How do you go from there to the idea that the Church mandates that couples practice something that regularly prevents pregnancy? Are couples that leave their family size up to God bad Catholics? Is it preferential for parents to determine the exact number of their children?

    NFP enthusiasts seem to be of the assumption that human marriage was somehow deficient before the advent of NFP. Something tells me that families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?

    The thing that a contracepting couple does which is sinful is “have sex while removing the procreative element of the sexual act”.

    And they do this if they choose to practice NFP for the purpose of not getting pregnant when they have no serious or just reason to not become pregnant. Can you see that this is a possibility?

    I don’t think you’re correct on why the Church would see a couple that avoided pregnancy for a long time without just and serious reasons would be behaving wrongly. It’s not that it would be removing the sexual act of its meaning, but rather that it would be a failure of generosity and openness.

    So the Church would not have a problem with a couple engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes, with the cover of NFP to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy?

    Do you think that it *could* remove the sexual act of its meaning, to use NFP just because a couple has no interest in having children?

  • I guess I can’t follow the rest of your analogy because I am not sure it would be morally acceptable for a married couple to avoid having sex for a year.

    Young people bug me.

  • Art, I could be wrong. I know there are plenty of saints who stopped having sex. But I thought there had to be some kind of reason, like you had to be beyond your childbearing years and you had to have the intent of permanently not having sex. Dunno.

  • But I thought there had to be some kind of reason

    Fifty years and fifty extra pounds. That’s two reasons.

  • Art,

    Young people bug me.

    The kids are looking at me funny and demanding to know why I’m laughing so loudly.

  • The kids are looking at me funny and demanding to know why I’m laughing so loudly.

    So it isn’t the scotch talking?

  • This is just my very humble opinion, but I personally believe that any couple with the commitment and motivation to practice NFP at all, for any reason, is already way ahead of the game as far as being open to life and conquering selfishness.

    To complain that a couple who is faithfully practicing NFP is not doing so for serious enough reasons is, to me, like complaining about someone finishing 10th in the Boston Marathon or “only” coming home with a bronze medal in the Olympics. Yes, perhaps they didn’t perform perfectly, but the mere fact they were in the competition AT ALL is a huge accomplishment!

    If a couple were really concerned only about making lots of money, having a nice home, preserving mom’s figure, etc. chances are they are not even interested in NFP in the first place. If they are really as selfish as the “typical” contracepting couple, they won’t even bother with NFP, or they will give it up and revert to contraception after a short trial period.

    There may be other cases in which ONE spouse is interested or willing to try NFP but the other won’t hear of it, or agrees only grudgingly to try it and eventually pressures the other spouse to give it up. In those cases, it may not matter how unselfish and open to life the faithful spouse is, if the wife or husband won’t go along, there isn’t a whole lot they can do about it other than threaten permanent abstinence, separation or divorce — none of which will facilitate being open to life!

  • Wow, a lot of riled up people her today. Some excellent thoughts. Here’s mine: (1.) When the first protestor to NFP called it “Catholic B.C.” and were not refuted loudly and strongly from the pulpit by our teachers – bishops and priests – that arguement belonged to the protestors and they only got louder as the years rolled by. In college debate I learned those many, many years ago – frame the debate, define the terms, win the debate. We did that and one season went 147-0. (2.) Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing.” For the first 4 years of our marriage we used NFP, then accepted the Lord’s gift of three beautiful baby girls born within 20 months of each other. Then, sadly, we gave into the “power of the pill” and had no other children. A couple years ago, at a couples retreat, we admitted to each other that that decision has afflicted out marriage for at least the last 20 years. Alas, we cannot recover those lost years and lost children. The Lord has forgiven us and renewed our love and marriage in Himself. So, my advice to anyone contemplating using NFP bring it to the Lord in prayer and as someone above said recognize that it is the Catholic lifestyle. And also remember it is called, after all, narural family planning not natural family avoidance. IMy wife and I wish we had had the fortitude to live as real faithful Catholics back then. If only we had bothered to really read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “On Human Life.”

  • “how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?”

    Again, we did as well–twice–both when we were under 30.

    Also, don’t discount what NFP does to your heart–starting out using it to avoid pregnancy might be opening the door to God for Him to work on your heart and your attitude about children and family size. I know I had “plans” for a much smaller family before I accepted the Church’s teaching on contraception but I’ve become open to having more children. I probably would not have even entertained the idea of having a larger family if I had used contraception, but I would not have even started using NFP if my instructor had not emphasized its efficacy for avoiding postponing pregnancy bc I wouldn’t have “trusted” it enough to get us through the end of school.

  • JVC,

    How do you make the connection between that quote from HV and the idea that NFP should be the norm? Of course couples should be familiar with the concept of fertility. How do you go from there to the idea that the Church mandates that couples practice something that regularly prevents pregnancy?

    Well, it seems to me that “responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions.” suggests that understanding how to tell when the wife is and is not fertile is okay (thus, understanding the workings of NFP.)

    When he says “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time,” it seems to me that he’s saying that “responsible parenthood” can mean either using that knowledge to have more children (should that be the prudent course) or to avoid having children for a time or indefinitely (should that be the prudent course.)

    Are couples that leave their family size up to God bad Catholics?

    No.

    Is it preferential for parents to determine the exact number of their children?

    I don’t think it’s necessarily preferable (nor necessarily bad) but more to the point it’s usually not possible. I don’t think I know any couples who have never conceived “by accident” while using NFP. (In that sense, I suppose it is a bit like birth control. A lot of my secular friends at work had at least one “accidental” child while using contraception.)

    NFP enthusiasts seem to be of the assumption that human marriage was somehow deficient before the advent of NFP. Something tells me that families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?

    I think there were simply different pressures on couples at that point. Just because there wasn’t NFP and artificial birth control doesn’t mean that fertility didn’t cause strife between couples.

    So the Church would not have a problem with a couple engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes, with the cover of NFP to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy?

    Do you think that it *could* remove the sexual act of its meaning, to use NFP just because a couple has no interest in having children?

    I’m not clear what you mean by “engaging in sexual intercourse for utilitarian purposes” — or at least, all the ideas I’m coming up with at the moment sound more like dirty jokes than serious possibilities.

    Let me see if I can sum up:

    – I do not think that periodic abstinence can ever remove the reproductive meaning from the marital act.
    – I do think that a couple might in some circumstances be guilty of a degree of selfishness in using periodic abstinence to avoid pregnancy without good reasons — and given that selfishness is sinful, I do thus think that it is possible to use NFP sinfully.
    – I think that for the majority if couples, using NFP will in and of itself prove a very good safety mechanism to prevent them from behaving selfishly, because at the age you’re most likely have cause to actively avoid pregnancy, abstaining during the fertile parts of the cycle is seriously un-fun.

    (And now I see that Elaine has summed it all up more concisely and better than me anyway, so I’ll just post.)

  • Very few individuals have sex using contraceptives because they are loving, cherishing and appreciating the other, or being delighted in each other and each other’s company, or being in love with the other person to whom they are promised. It is an abuse of another person to whom they may be married to work off uncontrolled sexual urges, frustration or need for exercise which is what most sexual activity is about with contraception. “Saint Teresa (Martin), the Little Flower’s parents Louis and Zélie met in 1858, and married on July 13, 1858. Both of great piety they were part of the petit-bourgeoisie, comfortable Alençon. At first they decided to live as brother and sister in a perpetual continence, but when a confessor discouraged them in this, they changed their lifestyle and had 9 children. (from Wikipedia)They intended to devote themselves to prayer and did so for one year. Devoting oneself to prayer is the intent of and reason of Natural Family Planning. To grow spiritually and come to realize in one another, each person as a gift from God, who may become another child or remain in a secret place in our hearts. My girlfriend told me she used to lie in bed and listen to her mother and father giggling affectionately most of the night, two friends who happened to be married. The expression of God’s love for mankind expressed in the conjugal act is a gift that remains ever present, ever fulfilling, never needs reworking unless one chooses to bring another person into creation through procreation. The two concepts of prayer and procreation that are the substance of NFP, whereas the use of contraception is an insult to God, to the other person and to oneself.

  • “families got along just well before either artificial or natural birth control came along. When did we become so distrustful of the natural processes that God created?”

    Well, people were able to prepare nutritious meals before vitamins, carbohydrates, calories and proteins were discovered. Does that mean that someone who reads the nutritional information on their food labels and counts the calories and carbs in their food because they want to lose weight, control diabetes, achieve maximum fitness ahead of a marathon, etc. is being “distrustful of the natural processes that God created”? Or does it simply mean they are exercising their KNOWLEDGE of those natural processes in a way that is best for their health?

    There are secular promoters of NFP, or as they prefer to call it, “fertility awareness” who practice it not for religious or moral reasons but simply because it allows women to work with their nature rather than against it — not only for purposes of avoiding or achieving pregnancy, but also as a means of knowing what their “normal” cycles are like and knowing when something is “off” or wrong. God created women to be fertile in cycles and NOT all the time, so how can it be wrong to know about it, and exercise that knowledge prudently? I think this knowledge would be valuable for no other reason than knowing exactly when you could expect “Aunt Flo” to arrive every month… but I digress.

    I’d like to run with the food analogy a little farther because I think it might help us understand how NFP differs from artificial contraception. To me, NFP can be compared to losing or managing one’s weight by proper diet and exercise. You still eat real food with real nutrients, and digest it normally, so you are still fulfilling the natural purpose of eating; but you are doing so in moderation. (Total abstinence would be like going on a permanent fast, with the difference that while YOU won’t die of starvation if you “fast” from sex permanently, your marriage might!) Contraception, on the other hand, is like resorting to bulimia or diet pills to lose weight. You are attempting to go on enjoying food as much as you want and whenever you want, but in a way that actively interferes with the digestive process and ultimately will be very bad for your health. See the difference?

  • Well, I’m a total noob about NFP, and we used the little I know to get pregnant…. Family friend asked for help, I made some simple suggestions to her; their firstborn is adorable and nearly two.
    So non-observant non-Catholics use it to get pregnant, too!

  • I hate these NFP arguments because it usually goes nowhere. Anyway, as I intend to write a book or article series on this issue someday, I guess this is the price I will have to pay …

    No one answered the thrust of jvc’s original objection.
    Basically, these NFP promoters are appealing to women who desire to practice contraception in an attempt to get them off ABC. Despite the fact that their goal is an openness to life, it is marketed in such a way as to convince these women that NFP is a better approach while running the risk that the women they are appealing to will be convinced to go natural, but simply as an alternate means to ABC. So they still do not have the openness to children that really is at the heart of what is wrong with contraception. Almost all the popes and saints who spoke of contraception said it was wrong because it is unnatural, but said that the consequence of that unnatural act was wrong too – it limits the number of children without “just” reason(s).

    It isn’t either/or. It’s both/and. It is not enough simply to practice NFP. You have to do it for “just” reasons, which Dr. Taylor Marshall demonstrates by quoting past Magisterial teaching – most Catholics only reference Humanae Vitae and interpret discontinuously from the broader Tradition (i.e. see Bob’s comment). He also says, drawing on that same Tradition, that the “just reasons” are not as many as we would like to believe (because most couples unwittingly use NFP selfishly too – something Dr. Marshall stated as well), and that there are some objective standards – it isn’t all left to the couple.
    cantuar.blogspot.com/2012/02/you-can-only-use-nfp-for-grave.html

    Btw, if it is true that the “just reasons” are very few, then that would make them also “grave reasons” – which would take the substance out of the semantic argument that NFP promoters often use.

  • @ Big Tex and Paul Zunno
    1. Most people use NFP more to avoid (or “space” or “delay”, if you prefer) pregnancy than to achieve pregnancy. No statistics necessary – just have to talk to enough people, read enough articles, and use common sense.
    2. Most of the NFP couples do have a lot of children – at least relatively speaking, but those families are still half the size of families 50-75 years ago, and half the size of some couples I know who I am guessing have used NFP seldom or at all. In other words, sure, most NFP couples are “open to life” – at least in the sense of not practicing ABC, but that does not mean they are not using NFP for “unjust” or mainly selfish reasons.

    @ Big Tex
    “The Church does not even provide such a list. This decision is between each couple and God, for every situation is unique.”

    An unfortunate necessity because, yes, every situation is different.
    The downside to this is it’s a lot easier to practice NFP without “just reasons”. And many do.

    @ Big Tex
    jvc: “I do think [not using] NFP should be the ideal within marriage”
    Big Tex: “Source?”
    Dr. Taylor Marshall, citing the Magisterium, with ensuing comments:
    cantuar.blogspot.com/2012/02/you-can-only-use-nfp-for-grave.html

    @Darwin Catholic:
    You say: “Not having sex is not an inherently sinful act (or sin of omission)”.
    Yes and no.
    Perpetual continence has always been highly praised.
    However, sexual union with the intention of avoiding children has always been condemned.
    The Church, being the common sense mother She is, says if you have “just reasons” for doing so, it’s okay, but if not, it is a sin – not of “omission” (abstaining during fertile periods) but of “commission” (consummating during infertile periods).

  • The four statements that pretty much hit the nail on the head on this issue:

    1. Dan: “I will wager that the vast majority of Catholics who use NFP use it for a similar unimportant reason [I would qualify this by prefacing it with “sometimes”] and that is why many call NFP merely ‘Catholic contraception’, in the same way the horrendous annulment process has become ‘Catholic divorce’”.

    2. “Sadly, most priests and Bishops are useless (worse than useless, really) when discussing NFP because many of them are so gutless and afraid to offend that they allow Catholic couples to practice NFP willy-nilly”. [Or because they don’t really understand the Church’s teaching themselves – or dissent from it]

    However:

    3. Darwin: “Practicing NFP strictly enough to actually avoid pregnancy is sufficiently frustrating that it’s a pretty good way of causing us to reexamine on a very frequent basis whether we are ready to stop using NFP and see when the next child will come”. [However, I would say that the more we talk about the spiritual benefits to NFP – and NFP promoters do that in spades – the more likely these will override the desire for sexual union]

    4. Dale Price: “There aren’t enough Catholics using NFP for me to get my boxers in a wad about the motivations of the tiny minority of the faithful who do”.

    Out of all these points, I think the one that is most pertinent is Comment #4.

  • Wade St. Onge,

    I’ve run into the Dr. Marshall piece before, but it strikes me as a flawed piece of guidance for the following reason. He (rightly) quotes Pius XII in his address to midwives in which the pontiff says:

    Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to tile full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles. [emphasis added]

    But what Dr. Marshall proceeds to do is to take the list of indications “medical, eugenic, economic and social” and define them so as to make them things that arise only very rarely.

    So, for example, on medical reasons, Dr. Marshall says:

    The women’s life is in jeopardy or a circumstance would endanger the newly conceived child’s life (eg, the mother is going through chemotherapy or other treatment that would damage or kill a newly conceived baby). In regard to serious medical reasons, Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae n. 16, also spoke of “reasonable grounds for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife.” So then, psychological problems could also be considered serious. If mommy is clinically schizophrenic, or clinically depressed, then I imagine a spiritual director is going to give the green light on NFP.

    The thing is, Pius XII and Paul VI don’t say things like “only if the mother or baby will actually die” or “only if the mother has severe, clinical psychological issues”. The popes say something fairly broad (Pius XII even specifies that the circumstances he’s speaking of are not rare) and Dr. Marshall seems to be at pains primarily to narrow things down a great deal. I don’t necessarily see him as performing a helpful service in implicitly telling people who may be suffering from scrupulosity, “Look, it may be that your wife is having a really hard time dealing with the two kids currently under two (not to mention the other four) and that her body is taking longer to recover from the last pregnancy than it did back in her 20s, but by golly if you don’t think she’d die if she got pregnant you just don’t have just cause to wait an extra year to get pregnant!” Dr. Marshall’s discussion of the other criteria starts to border on the silly. (For instance, when he specifies that “social” reasons would mean “Viking Invasions. Concentration Camps. Black Plague. Hiroshima.” but then backs down and suggests that “perhaps” if a couple were living under the brutally enforced one-child policy of China it might be okay for them to use NFP to avoid pregnancy.)

    If people actively feel called to be providentialist in their approach to fertility, more power to them. I just think it’s a really bad idea to “bind up heavy burdens for others to carry” when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to.

  • What the hell is a “providentialist”? Is that the new NFP cult word for people who let God determine how large their family size should be rather than programmatically deciding for themselves the same way the ABC people do?

  • Oh, I see. Protestants. Nice slur. Yeah, the people not practicing artificial or natural birth control are Protestants. Right.

  • I just think it’s a really bad idea to “bind up heavy burdens for others to carry” when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to.

    You mean like the NFP cultists who insist that a Catholic marriage is incomplete unless the couple is practicing NFP?

  • Oh, I see. Protestants. Nice slur.

    Aside from the fact that it’s not a slur nor the intention of the use of the word, would you have preferred Darwin use a term like, say, cultist?

  • Paul, do you actually deny that there is a cult following among many NFP-ers?

  • If by “cult” you mean “tiny number of adherents, routinely subjected to suspicion and ridicule,” then yep.

  • jvc, a providentialist is one who uses no means of fertility regulation whatsoever. There are Catholics and Protestants who take this avenue. The Duggar (you know, the one from the TV show) family is one such extreme example.

  • Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life.

    That’s a pretty important catch from the allocution–“such as those which not rarely arise.”

    Unless, of course, I was being a frivolous cultist for wanting to delay bringing a sixth child into a two bedroom, 880 square foot house with no basement, garage or even driveway.

    As they say, mileage varies.

  • And Darwin beat me to the punch on Dr. Marshall’s commentary. Good show, old boy!

  • “Psychological reasons” – sounds like the same clause upon which most of the annulments are granted today (apart from lack of form).
    Dr. Marshall gives examples because most NFP bloggers shoehorn every conceivable reason in to these four in order to use NFP – just as canon lawyers shoehorn every possible human defect into the “psychological disorders” clause in order to get an annulment. I don’t think his examples are too far off from the thinking of Pius XII – considering the examples orthodox moral theologians of the time gave.
    ….
    Perhaps Dr. Marshall is too strict – but then again, NFP bloggers are too lax – but they (you?) don’t acknowledge that as a possibility.
    ….
    If you’re scrupulous, it’s best to err on the side of the NFP bloggers. If you’re too lax, it’s better to err on the side of “providentialism”. That’s a good rule of thumb – coming from a scrupulant whose seminary run ended because of it.
    ….
    “I just think it’s a really bad idea to ‘bind up heavy burdens for others to carry’ when the Church doesn’t actually tell us that we have to”.
    So should I feel content to go to confession and Holy Communion only once a year during the Easter season?
    And should my priests quit urging me and my fellow parishioners to go to confession every two to four weeks?

  • Whoa there…

    Most providentialists I have known have been Protestants, but I have also known Catholic ones.

    I had certainly not been aware that the term was pejorative (other than to people who think having lots of children is in and of itself bad — and those people already think I’m bad). It’s not my intention to use it as such. I just needed a term to specifically designate people who make an active decision to simply have as many children as God gives them. Another term I’ve heard is “quiver full”, but to my knowledge that’s more an approach of actively trying to have the maximum number of children rather than doing nothing to space them out further and just waiting to see what God provides.

    You mean like the NFP cultists who insist that a Catholic marriage is incomplete unless the couple is practicing NFP?

    I’ve never heard anyone claim that — though I have heard people at least claim (reasonably I think) that Catholic couples getting married should at least know the rudiments of how NFP works so that they’ll be able to turn to it in more depth should they ever need it later. And yes, there are some (perhaps slightly odd) people who more or less make talking about NFP online a hobby. I think that’s a bit odd, but then I spend time online arguing about politics and talking about brewing beer and shooting antique military rifles, so what do I know?

    At the risk of being seen as playing the age trump card: I think you said you were in your mid 20s, which means I’m roughly ten years older and have been married a good bit longer. (At least, I’ve been assuming you’re married.) If I can speak from that vantage point for a minute: Because it’s so counter-cultural to be a young married Catholic these days (whether using NFP or just trusting in God in relation to family size) there’s a tendency of people to get very, very absolutist about their marriage choices. NFP, theology of the body, providentialism, whatever it is that they’re into becomes The Most Import Key To A Good Marriage. While the enthusiasm is well motivated and good, it often gets worn down quite a bit by the realities of 10-15 years of married life. Not that marriage isn’t good: it’s a constant source of joy to me. But there is something to the old saw of “I used to have five theories and no children. Now I have five children and no theories.”

    In the process, a lot of people who can be annoying because they were talking about NFP all the freakin’ time realize that there’s more to life than charts and mucus (and that NFP is not as fun to use as they thought.) And other people who really felt like NFP was all a bunch of trying to ignore God’s will realize that when you have three kids under four and are out of seats in your car and have a mountain of consumer debt from a couple of family emergencies over the last year or two — you’re too tired to have sex most nights anyway. And that abstaining off and on in order to actually have two or more years between the next few children is not that big a deal.

    It’s from that perspective that I think it’s important to stick to the bottom line: The Church says that you may NEVER using contraception, but that spacing pregnancies using periodic abstinence is not a problem so long as you have a good reason.

  • One last thought: It seems to me (and I think this follows pretty naturally from Pius XII’s quoted statement) that the degree of seriousness one needs as a just reason is pretty directly proportional to the length of time one is seeking to delay pregnancy.

    Thus, for instance, “We have to make a major family trip in three months and I don’t want to be in the middle of morning sickness while we’re traveling” might be a perfectly good reason to abstain during the fertile parts of the cycle for a couple months, but “We like to go on a trip every year and that’s hard with a baby” is a bad reason to simply never get pregnant again.

    If I seem like I’m being fairly lax here, one of the contexts I’m working in that all the NFP users I know really just use it to get a 2-3 year spacing between children — a spacing which is totally natural for some couples, but those who are very, very fertile would otherwise find ourselves having children less than a year and a half apart. As the number of children mounts, that kind of spacing can become very hard, not only on one’s ability to raise one’s existing children well, but also on the wife’s body.

    If I thought most NFP users were using it to put off pregnancy indefinitely, I might be more interested in looking at when it’s acceptable to use. But the only people I know who are doing that are people who do have medical problems such that any pregnancy would end up being a major danger to both child and mother.

  • Wade St. Onge [However, I would say that the more we talk about the spiritual benefits to NFP – and NFP promoters do that in spades – the more likely these will override the desire for sexual union] Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation.

  • Mary: “Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation”.

    A relief – and yet a burden. They desired religious life but were not accepted, so sexual intercourse was a bitter-sweet thing – a good that brought forth children, but also a reminder of the greater good they were missing out on.

  • Mary: ““Notice that a spiritual director instructed Louis and Zelie Martin to abandon their perpetual continence and bring forth children. A relief because there is one more capable and willing to assume responsibility for the decision in procreation”.

    So then you would disagree with Dr. Taylor Marshall that decisions about whether or not to practice NFP should be done with a trusted spiritual director – and should not be practiced without his agreement?

  • Pingback: NFP: Not Just Natural Birth Control | St Anne Center for Reproductive Health
  • I used NFP to get pregnant with my second child. It took us 3 months to get pregnant with our first and 1 weekend to get pregnant with our second. My best friend tried unsuccessfully for 10 months to get pregnant and once I taught her how to chart, she took her charts into her doc who could tell her why it was taking a while to get pregnant (late ovulation in her cycle due to coming off of Norplant 10 months prior). She had scheduled a doc appointment to help with her fertilization and got pregnant the week before, thanks to using NFP and understanding her body.

  • Hey everyone. This is my first post here. I wanted to say DarwinCatholic and Elaine’s first post I agree with. My situation is a little different. So before I go on with my 2 cents I’ll tel lyou what it is. I’m single, 23 , in college, I read about NFP from many places so I know what I am getting myself into when I get married. I’m preparing for it now so when the “hardness” of it hit’s the pill may be less bittersweet. I trust in God and I’m doing what I can to be a good example of a young Catholic. When I get married I will probably still be in debt, live with my folks and just getting started out on a job if there are any left. My wife will be paying off her debts and be starting to work. I will also have a $500 truck payment.

    Are there people in worst cases than me I’m sure it is, but am I going to use NFP? YES! First any method is not 100% effective, I leave the other 2 percent up to God so he wants that 2% to kick in than so be it. BUT ABC is different it’s telling God to take a hike I don’t want any chance of being open to life. SO JVC that is the difference. It’s not about wanting to have a 60″ tv, a beach house, or a Porsche I don’t want any of those things. I want to be able to give a life, a life from God a good life, and in order to be established as such I would need and we would need as a married couple to postpone pregnancy. The cost of ABC and what it has down to society is way more important and worse than bickering about just/grave/ this that upside down and sideways.

    I know it’s going to be hard, Katie at NFPandME has said so. But I am not shutting out the potential for a life.

    Honestly JVC I think when people read your post who want to know more about NFP. They see that if they don’t have those grave reasons then say “well so I shouldn’t use NFP, than what are the options”? ABC is the option they’ll see and go for. I don’t like the bickering, and I’m not saying this in anger, and I’m not saying this like I’m an expert on the matter. Nor am I a Saint, I’m a hopeless sinner who found hope in Christ, and I want people to see the joy had in NFP. I know so many couples who don’t talk with each other or who when board have sex. We put a grand canyon between sex and procreation. NFP closes the gap. I think about it almost daily and make sure that I’m not doing it for me, I’d be doing it for my future wife. I’m the last of my family so Jesus knows that kids are on the docket for me, ideally 3-4 would be nice. So clearly postponing YES, plus if she wold decide hey Nate I can work part time and so I’d like to be a mom, then I’m all open to have kids, will it happen like that it could it could not, that’s why I’m not just thinking of me or something vain. Just wanted to give my two cents, not trying to start a fight. God Bless you all.

  • Wade St. Onge:
    The word I ought to have used is “counseled” instead of “Instructed”. “Instructed” carries the weight of obedience without consent, or cooperation. Persons willing to use NFP are usually more self-directed. God is missing from much of what is written. Thomas More wanted to be a priest, but was sent home, too. It is God’s will pointing the way. Accepting God’s will in all things, not only NFP, makes life joyful. Marriage, children are all gifts from God to help us to mature into the human beings we are supposed to be. The greatest good is doing God’s will in whatever He tells us. “Do whatever He tells you.” Our Lady.

  • Wade St. Onge:
    You are dealing with a person who believes that sexual surrender to a spouse is valid for the other only when there is a possiblity of another person being conceived and it is no more different putting off intercourse than waiting for heaven.

  • Your analogy does not work.
    Waiting for heaven is not a choice. Abstaining from intercourse is.
    Furthermore, it is not the abstaining that is a problem – it is the sexual intercourse deliberately only during infertile periods without just reason that’s a problem.

  • Wade St. Onge: Haven’t you answered your own question? “it is the sexual intercourse deliberately only during infertile periods without just reason that’s a problem.” 1) natural intercourse is ALWAYS open to children. St. Elizabeth, St. Ann, St. Camillis de Lellis whose mother was 68 years old when he was conceived. This is a fact, as doctor said once about popping an egg, or two after menopause. To those who expect to practice NFP, let it be known that the possibility of procreation is ever present. Although there may be less likelyhood, then when it is probable. Increased intercourse brings forth more likelihood. Not trusting in Divine Providence completely imposes the fear and anxiety. But what you are saying is that there are times when a couple is forbidden to have intercourse and that is not right, that the couple is not free to have intercourse during low fertility because the couple did not have intercourse during high fertility. A married couple is always free to have intercourse. A man’s conscience tells him when he has avoided doing God’s will.

  • Mary, you are contradicting Church teaching.
    If a couple practices NFP without just reason, it is a sin. That’s what the Church says, not just what Wade St. Onge says.

  • Actually Wade, I think Mary is closer to Church teaching on this one that you are.

    You appear to be claiming that if a couple didn’t have a just reason for abstaining from intercourse during the less fertile parts of the cycle, then it is immoral for them to have intercourse during the more fertile parts. As Mary points out, this is not true. It is not, immoral for a married couple to engage in the marital act, whether it is at a time likely for them to conceive or not.

    It is true that a couple may be guilty of selfishness and failing to fulfill the purposes of marriage if they tried to avoid pregnancy for reasons that were not just — but neither the act of abstaining from sex (during periods when conception was more likely) nor the act of having intercourse (during the periods when conception was less likely) would be the sin in such a circumstance. The sin would be a sin of the will — the resolution to try to avoid the gift of children for bad reasons.

  • What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control. Sheesh… NFP involves more than avoiding pregnancy. The thrust of the original article here is that NFP is NOT just natural birth control, but those here who seem to be down on it are indeed reducing NFP to natural birth control.

  • “What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control. Sheesh… NFP involves more than avoiding pregnancy. ”

    This is why I hate the term “NFP”. “Natural Family Planning” is not Natural (really, is it natural to temp every morning, stretch your cervical mucus, and chart?) and it’s not “Family Planning”, because let’s face it, a high percentage of the children conceived from NFP are marginally planned at best, frequently after a couple of glasses of wine on a night when the older children went to bed early.

    But seriously, I vastly prefer the term “Fertility Awareness” because that is what the couple is doing: Charting the woman’s symptoms to become aware of the couple’s combined fertility. The couple can use this awareness to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, or they can just not care. Whatever they do, this awareness is an excellent barometer of the woman’s help.

    While some people are worried about people using Fertility Awareness to improperly not become pregnant, this isn’t much of a worry. Although the “perfect use” rates for all methods of FA are quite high, couples have to be very highly motivated to actually avoid pregnancy using FA.

    You see, it is no longer socially acceptable to want more than 2.3 children, and we assume that this is the norm, but people have been having larger families for years. A couple who relies on merely FA and self-control to prevent pregnancy will have their motives tested every month. On one side is the rational mind of man and woman. On the other side is millions of years of evolutionary biology urging reproduction. Unless there truly are “serious reasons”, the rational mind has no chance.

  • There is one aspect of Natural Family Planning that ought to be heard but is dissociated from the whole. This is nursing an infant into childhood. A nursing mother does not ovulate and the chances of a nursing mother becoming pregnant while she is nursing a baby is not in nature’s plan. Pharaoh’s sister called for a wet nurse for the found child Moses and Moses’ sister brought the child to his mother. There is a note of a child being weened at four years of age and a celebration that the infant survived into childhood, and the mother is now ready to bear more children, spacing her children at five years apart, in the bible, but I do not remember who the child is. It may have been Isaac. But of course, in Israel, the men had many wives who would give them many children. In modern America, there are many voices who discourage nursing an infant and outright deny a woman’s right to freely practice her motherhood. I know several women who did indeed nurse their children as well as speaking of experience. After one year I was sidelined as a weirdo, and after a while I thought that the government was going to be called.

  • Paul, how many Catholics do you know using NFP to get pregnant rather than specifically avoid pregnancy?

    I would put the under 30 crowd at about 90/10 avoiding pregnancy rather than getting pregnant.

    In response to jvc….I didn’t read all of the comments but I just wanted to say that I am under 30 and not only am I using NFP to achieve pregnancy but I live in a Catholic community with my husband (he is studying for his PhD) and every woman I know on the street (most under 30 or in their early 30’s) are also using NFP to achieve pregnancy. It’s only common sense that a woman would use NFP to also achieve pregnancy.

  • Mary,

    In the main, yes. The one thing I would point out,though, (from experience!) is that some women simply do not have much infertility after birth no matter how conscientiously they nurse. (The which I bring up only because for a while CCL tended to rather coy about this fact, but we’ve known a lot of other people who found themselves quite surprised by it.)

  • I’ve been thoroughly pooped out by this thread, so I stopped responding awhile ago, but I have to ask a follow-up to Katie’s comment.

    Out of curiosity, what do you mean by you live in a “Catholic community”? Like a Catholic university? A particularly Catholic town?

  • DarwinCatholic says:
    Thursday, April 19, 2012 A.D. at 11:40am

    Darwin, thank you for the clarification. Perhaps it would just be easier to describe them as non-NFP, non-ABC practicing Catholics? Seems like the most accurate description, especially if the term “providentialist” is an explicitly Protestant term.

  • What frustrates me here is the reduction of NFP to a mere method of birth control.

    Perhaps the problem is that this is exactly what every promoter of NFP that I have ever heard has sounded like. And it is always discussed in the context of how ABC is wrong. It wasn’t even until years after I heard about NFP that I found out that some people were using it to get pregnant.

  • Jim says:
    Saturday, April 21, 2012 A.D. at 9:22pm

    I agree with the jist of Jim’s comments. Making oneself aware of the nature of fertility is prudent. Making it out to be another solution to everything, which the term NFP and marketing of NFP fall into, is the reach.

  • Nathan, thanks for your kind words, and welcome to this blog! I’m encouraged to see a young Catholic man like you taking an interest in this topic. I think you are a good example of exactly what I was talking about… you wouldn’t even be interested in NFP if you were totally selfish and unconcerned about doing God’s will.

    As for all the “bickering” you see taking place about what reasons justify NFP, for what it’s worth… I seem to remember that the most accurate translation of the actual term used in Humanae Vitae is simply “serious” reasons — meaning, not frivolous or selfish, but it doesn’t have to be a life or death reason either.

  • Darwin: “It is not, immoral for a married couple to engage in the marital act, whether it is at a time likely for them to conceive or not … Neither the act of abstaining from sex (during periods when conception was more likely) nor the act of having intercourse (during the periods when conception was less likely) would be the sin in such a circumstance. The sin would be a sin of the will — the resolution to try to avoid the gift of children for bad reasons”.

    That makes no sense. This “sin of the will” is carried out in concrete action. How else do you “avoid the gift of children” than by limiting sexual intercourse to the infertile periods?

    You could say what you said above about any sin. You could say stealing is not a sin; rather, theft is “a sin of the will – the desire to possess an object that is not yours”. That is true, and that is what motivated the sin, but the actual sin that was committed was taking the object, just as with using NFP for unjust reasons the sin is committed when the couple limits sex to the fertile period. So the act of sex itself is sinful …

    Pius XII: “If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, ***while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality*** [i.e. having sexual intercourse only during the infertile periods], can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.”

  • Wade St. Onge,

    Pius XII is saying exactly the same thing that I am: “the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.”

    Now, while it’s true that all sins involve an act of the will, and that it is that act which is actually the sin, I don’t think your stealing analogy holds. The difference is that stealing something actually is wrong. Thus, while it is the act of taking something which is not yours that is the act of the will in relation to the sin, the taking of something not ones own is itself wrong. (The act of the will remains key in that if you stole something, believing you had not right to it, but in fact it was something you were free to take, your sin would be just as great even though your action, from an objective point of view, would not actually be wrong.)

    A man having sex with his wife is not wrong. Neither is a man not having sex with his wife at a given time — even if the purpose of not having sex at that time is to avoid the possibility of getting pregnant during his wife’s current cycle.

    I think your error here is in seeing that mis-use of NFP in order to treat sex as a strictly non-procreative form of sensuality is sinful, you’re trying to zero in on some specific act on which to locate the sin. Given that periodic abstinence consists of having sex during less fertile times and not having sex during more fertile times — the obvious options are 1) labeling abstaining from sex during more fertile times as sinful or 2) labeling having sex during the less fertile times as sinful.

    What the Church actually teaches is that neither 1) nor 2) is sinful. It is not wrong for a couple to perform the marital act or not to perform the marital act. Nor is the marital act made wrong because one believes it to be highly likely that conception will not occur (as is the case not only with certain parts of the normal monthly cycle, but also with couples who are afflicted by infertility or who have passed the age at which the wife is likely to be able to conceive.)

    What can be sinful is the desire/attempt to experience a “full sensuality” completely unconnected with procreation.

    Now, that said, I think, frankly, that one of the best ways to defeat this “false appreciation of life” that Pius condemns is the practice of NFP, which you seem so suspicious of, specifically because using NFP to try to avoid conception very much does not allow for a “full sensuality”. Trying to avoid conception via NFP means abstaining about half the time, and typically the time when the desire of the spouses (particular the wife) are much, much greater. As such, for the couple which starts out just wanting to space their children farther apart or put off having more children for a while, using NFP creates the awareness that it is impossible to have a “full sensuality” that is not procreative.

  • “I think, frankly, that one of the best ways to defeat this ‘false appreciation of life’ that Pius condemns is the practice of NFP, which you seem so suspicious of, specifically because using NFP to try to avoid conception very much does not allow for a ‘full sensuality’.”

    1. I am as suspicious of NFP as Pius XII was.

    2. NFP is just a subset of “temporary continence” – something that the Church has always encouraged and something that the Catechism of Trent suggested Catholics practice during Lent. Most Catholics who practice NFP today seem largely ignorant of the rich Catholic Tradition of temporary continence within marriage, which was encouraged as a fast from sex the way that we are also to fast from food and meat during specific days and seasons. Most people who practice NFP today do not realize that the benefits of NFP are simply benefits that come out of temporary continence or “fasting from sex”. Due to this ignorance, most Catholics think the only reason to practice temporary continence is to space children. But even if you are trying to conceive, temporary continence is still a good and beneficial practice that the Church recommends. How many NFP practitioners today know that and practice that? I would say the number is close to zero.

    3. You obviously did not read Pius XII in context, because he was specifically referring to an abuse of NFP in that quotation. How can the practice of NFP be the best remedy to an abuse of NFP? If it was, there would be no need for Pius XII to warn against it, because its practitioners, by the very practice of NFP, would defeat this “false appreciation of life”.

  • “A man having sex with his wife is not wrong.”

    Even if he wears a condom?

  • I have a feeling that we’re going in circles, so I’m going to give this one more response and then I’ll leave it to you to have the last word should you so wish.

    Most Catholics who practice NFP today seem largely ignorant of the rich Catholic Tradition of temporary continence within marriage, which was encouraged as a fast from sex the way that we are also to fast from food and meat during specific days and seasons…. I would say the number is close to zero.

    Well, FWIW:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/10/26/nfp-and-fasting/

    You obviously did not read Pius XII in context, because he was specifically referring to an abuse of NFP in that quotation.

    Pius XII talks about the danger of people seeking to “avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality”. My contention, based on experience and that of all other NFP users that I’ve had occasion to talk to, is that abstaining half the time (and because of the way in which women’s hormones work — the half during which their desire is much higher) is very much not “satisfying their full sensuality”. Yes, it’s a step up from the long periods of total abstinence which a prudent husband and wife might need to have were they not able to track the wife’s fertility, and were there serious reasons for them to not conceive at the moment, but it is very much not a satisfying “sex life” (to use the modern term). It feels incomplete.

    Indeed, the times that do tend to feel complete are when they are not engaging in periodic abstinence — either because they are hoping to conceive or in the few months right after having a baby. Thus:

    How can the practice of NFP be the best remedy to an abuse of NFP? If it was, there would be no need for Pius XII to warn against it, because its practitioners, by the very practice of NFP, would defeat this “false appreciation of life”.

    That is, in fact, exactly my point. And I would argue that it is because of the increasing realization of this over the last 50 years that the Church has come to promote NFP fairly actively: because it is to a great extent a self correcting system which, through experience, teaching Catholic couples the Church’s understanding of the nature of sexuality.

    This doesn’t mean that those who don’t use it (or any other way of spacing children) have a less perfect understanding. Rather, it is the best practical counter to the contraceptive mentality. Those who wish to space their children and commit to doing so through NFP (rather than succumbing to some immoral means of avoiding conception) learn at a very deep and experiential level the inextricable connection between sexual intimacy and procreation, and that the “fullness” of marital intimacy can only be achieved when the couple is ready to get pregnant.

    “A man having sex with his wife is not wrong.”

    Even if he wears a condom?

    Now you’re knowingly taking me out of context. You and I both know that to the Church’s mind there is no similarity between a couple having fully natural intercourse while knowing they are unlikely to conceive, and using artificial means to strip the marital act of its fecundity.

  • Darwin Catholic: While nursing a child may not have an impact on ovulation, nursing a child does make an impression on the husband who surrenders his wife to be the mother of his child. Perhaps that is what makes his wife so desireable. “To have and to hold” to remember that moment of procreation in each other’s arms….

  • Having sex while married is licit.
    A married couple agreeing to not having sex is licit.
    Becoming aware of your fertility so that the couple knows when sex is unlikely to lead to conception is licit.
    Using this information to make a decision about whether or not to have sex is licit.

    Therefore, using fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy is, in itself, ALWAYS morally licit.

    Like anything else, of course, it may be done for selfish or improper reasons. But the sin is the selfishness, not the means of how pregnancy is avoided. Still, the abstinence is difficult enough that this problem is often self-correcting in most couples. For those for whom it is not, there is usually some other relational, sexual, or emotional problem or the couple is sub-fertile and the abstinence is shorter and not that much of a burden.

    I think the idea that fertility can be pinpointed with 99% accuracy is “too good to be true” for some people and they are trying to find sin where there is none.

    As for re-marketing, Billings LIFE (Australia) http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org/ seems to have done a good job in marketing NFP (which they call “fertility education”) to a secular audience. They put medical information first, which is what fertility awareness is. Fertility education and Catholic theology are two different things and combining them weakens both. Often this leads to the absurdity of promoting something that is “99% effective at preventing pregnancies” as a way of being “open to life”.

Save Us From the saVE Act

Thursday, May 5, AD 2011

You might think that the following snippet is from The Onion.  Oh, that it were.

A new law proposed in the Senate would require universities to have stricter policies against sexual harassment and have mandatory relationship training–and some free speech groups say there are problems with the law.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Act (The Campus saVE Act) which would require universities to enforce new disciplinary guidelines against crimes of sexual violence. The law would amend the existing Clery Act, passed in 1990, which requires universities to report all crimes committed on campus.

While the law attempts to define and combat all manners of sexual harassment, it would also require all incoming freshman and university employees to attend mandatory classes on dating and healthy relationships.

There’s really one reaction appropriate for something like this.

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4 Responses to Save Us From the saVE Act

  • In fairness to FIRE, the most salient of their activities is legal representation of students in the cross-hairs of college administrations. They would tend to view the problem through a prism ground according to what they do all day. (One suspects that the reporter may have truncated the gentlemen’s remarks as well, adhering to a journalists’ template which sees all social phenomena in terms of conflicts over individual rights and entitlements).

    Heather MacDonald has treated the likely source of this legislation here:

    http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_1_campus_rape.html

    These people have a durable grift.

    You have to wonder about the mentality of Casey and Murray. Between them, they have been in electoral politics for 40 years. You think that would suffice to persuade them not to take what a lobbyist tells them at face value.

  • My guess is that the law ties the requirements to federal funding for universities, which would avoid the constitutional issue.

  • Reason enough to end state patronage of philanthropies.

  • UVA was one of the first to sell-out in ordler to stay in sugar daddy’s good graces:

    http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=14949

NFP and Fasting

Tuesday, October 26, AD 2010

When trying to explain the Catholic understanding of sexuality to someone “outside”, I almost invariably find myself falling back on analogies relating to diet and gluttony.  It’s a natural comparison, and while modern society has lost any sense that it’s reasonable to have any less sex if you want to have fewer children, people are able to get more righteous then ever over the point that if you want to be fit you must, must, must eat moderately and exercise more. 

Indeed, diet and exercise may be the one thing relating to sexuality where modern culture understands a great deal of self denial.  After all, one of the motivations for all this diet and exercise is, I think one may honestly admit, to look better while naked.

Which leaves the obvious question: Why has a Church which finds itself swimming against a quickening current in regards to its teaching on birth control nearly totally abandoned any sort of severity in regards to fasting? 

Sure, we’re an “Easter people” and all that, but maybe some rigorous self denial for the sake of religion would help us with some rigorous self denial for the sake of our faith.  I’ve been pretty much as bad as the next fellow on this — doing the mental calculation of whether I can make one more cup of coffee and still make the hour fast before mass or falling to the “I’ll say some extra prayers tonight as a sacrifice instead” temptation on Fridays outside of Lent when meat is all that appears on the menu.  But this is, after all, part of the problem.  The constant NFP lament is “Look, we played by the rules all those years before we were married.  Why does there have to be frustration now too?” 

If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite.

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11 Responses to NFP and Fasting

  • It seems to me that the Church, after Vatican II, relaxed the fasting and abstaining rules for Catholics because It felt that many could not fast or abstain due to the modern way of life, and therefore, possibly save their souls from being disobedient. Actually, we are still supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays as a sacrifice and penance in honor of Our Lord’s Sacrifice and Death, but if not, we must do some other penance or “good work!” But Our Lady has come to remind us of fasting and has asked us to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Those who are in-tune with Our lady’s requests try to do so and there are millions of us out there in the world trying to do what Our Lady wants!

  • Pingback: NFP and Fasting : The American Catholic « Deacon John's Space
  • Great point, DC. Thomas Merton wrote that none of his old friends could understand him sleeping on a cot, but they used to think nothing of crashing on the floor after a night on the town. We can endure inconveniences on our schedule, but never on God’s.

  • “If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite. ”

    Yes.

    Although it’s so…. difficult.

  • When I think of “fasting” I assume it to mean not eating anything at all, or at least not any solid food. That would be analogous to a single, widowed, divorced or vowed Religious person living in celibacy.

    NFP practiced within marriage would be analogous to a person consuming a normal, balanced diet, neither overindulging nor completely depriving themselves. They might still “fast” completely at times, however.

    However, the kind of sexual indulgence that secular society advocates, complete with artificial contraception, would be analogous to attempting weight loss or maintenance via measures such as diet pills, or bulimia — an attempt to enjoy the pleasures of eating without the consequences.

  • We are a culture of indulgence. Food addiction and is just the latest attack by satan on life. That’s why they call it “morbid” obesity. Although I do see many protestants who understand moderation in lifestyle, only the Catholic Church really has teachings to back it up and if we were following those teachings, it would not be an issue. Seems to me that in a world where some are starving and others are eating themselves to death, there should be no fat Priests?

  • “Seems to me in a world where some are starving and others are eating themselves to death, there should be no fat priests”

    Ideally, I think that is true; however, most Catholics have not been brought up to see food as a moral issue or to consider gluttony as a sin — and this includes priests. Eating habits by and large are more ingrained and difficult to change than drinking or sexual habits (in my opinion) so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every fat person is guilty of serious sin or of giving scandal. Plus there have been people of great holiness, even canonized saints, who were overweight by our standards (I think St. Thomas Aquinas was pretty hefty, and G.K. Chesterton certainly was).

    That being said, priests certainly need to live healthy lifestyles in terms of diet and exercise as much as possible, for the sake of their parishioners as well as for their own sake.

  • No, I don’t think every fat person is guilty of serious sin, and yes, I know about St. Thomas Aquinas, but he did not live in a day when so many people were eating themselves to death. Gluttony leads to sloth – and makes all of us less useful tools for God. I just keep thinking, though, that if any of us has enough to eat to weigh 300+ pounds, we certainly have enough to share. I have also noticed that the percentages of seriously overweight priests is not much different than that of lay people. I guess I just feel we should be able to look to them for examples.

  • @Amy @Elaine : I have been a FAT person. From my own experience it is because people are addicted to junk. We have a international problem since these companies know that by adding excess fat,sugar, and salt will have us hooked. In looking into my own faith, I agree that as catholics we need to start looking at this as a sin. Just as we fight in the prolife areana. I think we need to also look at what sloth has done to our society as a whole. I can also rap this up with fear. When I was a child i remember going out ( ridding my bike, swimming, etc.. ) I see less and less children doing this because of fear, junk food, television, video games .. etc… I am in IT myself and i see many people in my field to be also overwieght but that is a culture problem. We need things like more time off and less stress again many of these issues come down to both a micro level ( getting parents active and a macro level making the national, state, and local gov incentivise what we should be doing as a society. I think this post opens a can of worms that I would hope the people in this block will investigate further. Good Post and sorry if i ranted a little 😉

  • @Alex: I too used to be seriouly overweight – I was a little over 300lbs and lost half of it. Prayer was a HUGE part of my success. In fact, I often say that I asked for motivation to eat right and exercise and God gave me diabetes. So, I’m a recovering food addict myself. I am also a convert to Catholicism (and NO, you don’t want to get caught in a corner with me at a party!) 😉 Seriously, though, I have noticed how many things are sort of cross applicable to spiritual growth and weight loss: Obedience vs Desire, Structure can be applied to food plans as well as prayer life, and who knows more than Catholics about our body’s true role as a Temple of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we have the ability to partake of the one and only food that has all we need. Contemplation of The Eucharist can teach us to desire what is for our own good, rather what creates instant gratification. I am sad to see what people are doing to their bodies – and to the Body of Christ as a whole with all the junk they are filling it with.

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

Thursday, June 17, AD 2010

If you move in conservative Catholic circles much, you have doubtless heard the phrase “contraceptive mentality”. Though used frequently and negatively, I think there is value in delving a bit more deeply into what we mean by the phrase. I was moved to write this in semi-response to an interesting post by Brett Salkeld a couple months back which sought to explore the bounds of what a “contraceptive mentality” is. Another good resource on the topic is this post at Catholic Culture on the contraceptive mentality.

While recognizing the dangers of trying to be too wide ranging in subject matter in the limited space of a blog post, my goal here is to set out answers to the following:

  • What is a “contraceptive mentality”?
  • How is a contraceptive mentality contrary to how humans are “meant” to function morally and sexually?
  • How, if at all, does NFP (natural family planning) relate to a contraceptive mentality?

I think it’s easiest to think about the idea of a contraceptive mentality against the backdrop of how we function sexually as human creatures — a term I use advisedly in that I want to emphasize our rootedness in a certain biological reality of being primates with certain biological systems and instincts, while at the same time not ignoring our rational, emotional and moral sensibilities in the sense that “human animal” strikes me as implying.

Uncertainty and Conception

One thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that humans have fairly even sexual drive all of the time. Or, at least, men have sexual drive pretty much all of the time. Women seem to have more variation in their level of interest, and indeed there is a fair amount of evidence that one driving (though unconscious) element of their drive is that they are more “in the mood” during the times of the month when they are fertile than when they are not. Another thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that a woman’s fertility is not marked by unmistakable physical signs (change of color and swelling of the genital area, changes in smell, etc.) (Though Bonobos have often been compared to humans in regards to their relatively constant sex drive, they are like chimps in that female fertility is readily apparent through external signs.)

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2 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

  • Though this doesn’t necessarily relate to the topic directly, according to a recent Gallup poll public opinion on same-sex relationships has shifted even more so toward moral acceptance. The two groups that shifted more toward approval were Catholics and men — the “contraceptive mentality” at work?

  • “the “contraceptive mentality” at work?”

    The older I get the harder it is to overestimate the pernicious effects of the “contraceptive mentality.”

Now Showing: The Tudors

Wednesday, March 3, AD 2010

The following is a column posted by Brad Miner of The Catholic Thing on Monday, March 1, 2010 A.D.:

John Timothy McNicholas, Cincinnati’s archbishop from 1925 until 1950, went to a New York convention in 1933 and heard the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Amleto Cicognani (future Vatican Secretary of State), rail against Hollywood’s “massacre” of American moral innocence and call for the “purification of cinema.” McNicholas took the message to heart and founded the Catholic Legion of Decency (CLOD). As TIME magazine reported in 1934, the organization’s mission was simple: the faithful should stay “away from all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency and Christian morality.” So popular did the Legion’s campaign become that Jews and Protestants joined the crusade, and the organization was quickly rechristened the National Legion of Decency.

The Legion’s descriptions of films were exclusively condemnatory; calling only for protests about and boycotts of films deemed impure. And some of the films CLOD listed have been subsequently delisted by its successor, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting. For instance, “Finishing School,” a Thirties production starring Billie Burke, Ginger Rogers, and the too-often ignored Frances Dee, was condemned by CLOD as portraying an “attempted seduction and an accomplished seduction. . . . Protest. . . . Protest. . .” Today, the USCCB rating of the film is A-III, in essence: It’s a quality movie. Go ahead and watch it – you’re grown-ups.

Archbishop McNicholas

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5 Responses to Now Showing: The Tudors

  • Note how that classic film depicted Henry’s adultery. Wolsey: “He’s been to play in the muck again. He’s been with Mistress Anne Boelyn.” Those lines convey the reality of the situation so much better than any nude scene could. The current porn fixation of contemporary films is not only a moral evil, but it is a degradation of the art.

  • There is a place for nudity, not for sex.

    And the sex scenes in The Tudors as well as most of the nude scenes (if not all), are gratuitous to say the least.

    Though I enjoy viewing The Tudors, I stopped after a while. It certainly could have done very well without the sex and nudity and played on the History Channel instead of the porn site that is Showtime.

  • An honest question: If the sex depicted doesn’t glorify the immoral, why can’t the depiction be moral?

  • RR,

    Excellent point.

    But if the sex were allowed, does it have to show full frontal nudity for BOTH sexes?

    Plus the act of watching simulated sex is an occurrence of sin.

    Offense Against Chastity:

    CCC 2354 – Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

    The Sixth Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery. (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18.)

  • Tito you are right. Here are other relevant sections of the Catechism.

    2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

    2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

    2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

    2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

    2525 Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint. Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion.

Chivalry: A Personal Definition

Sunday, October 25, AD 2009

Chivalry to me is the call for men/boys to respect women/girls even if they apparently don’t respect themselves, or even aggressively market themselves as mere sex objects. The visual hardwiring for males is tough to short-circuit since it is there for some very excellent reasons- but a boy in-training to become a good man, must develop the capacity to say “No” the same as for the girls- and he must learn to divert his eyes rather than feasting on the nearly ubiquitous female forms in various stages of undress parading by our senses. It is no wonder that St.Paul said it was better to marry than to burn, and Jesus laid out some very high standards when He said that lusting for a woman in your mind was adultery- pretty clear advice from someone whose opinions form my own.

I know that girls who don’t have close and affectionate relationships with their own fathers will act out sexually at earlier ages to try to fill in a spiritual hole in their hearts. I hope that with my own girls I can reinforce their beauty and worth in the world by showering them with my attentions, my hugs and kisses, and all the verbal and non-verbal affirmations of their excellence and my love for them- with the added bonus of giving all praise and glory to God for them as gifts to me and their mother and the world. They should never have to feel that they “need” some sexually-charged teen to give them the idea that they are special and deserve physical and spiritual affection from a male in their life. I hope and pray that this gives them some invisible support to make the correct choice to wait until marriage for the very special gift of their physical selves to another.

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6 Responses to Chivalry: A Personal Definition

  • I’m also under the impression that how the father treats his wife affects the perception of young little boys and girls. Especially when they mature themselves, they mimic, imitate, and follow many of the same traits and behaviors their parents act out towards each other when they have spouses of their own.

  • I like your definition, but why do you subjectivize it? Why is it “chivalry … to you”? Why isn’t it just chivalry?

  • Zach-
    Because too many folks have re-defined “chivalry” for their personal use, meaning everything from “oppressing women” through “treat women like smaller, weaker men” and up to more sane definitions.

  • It is a “personal” definition in the sense that I take what I know about chivalry and describe it in my own words and way. Additionally, I add some personal detail by bringing it home to my own relationship with my daughters- so I am not saying that one can view chivalry apart from it’s classic definition- but in application to modern society and one’s own family experiences, there is bound to be some individual touches in the description of one’s personal definition.

  • “Chivalry to me is the call for men/boys to respect women/girls even if they apparently don’t respect themselves…”–Tim Shipe

    …or men and boys.

    Thanks, Mr. Shipe, for re-affirming that the expression “male chivalry” is redundant. And oh, does a female counterpart to chivalry even exist?

  • I think it’d be “polite.” Possibly “being a lady” or “decent.”

    I can think of a lot of examples of things that violate it– from false rape accusations through chewing someone out for holding the door, all the way up to demanding concessions for being female while demanding that everyone ignore that fact….

"Taken" Some Life Lessons

Saturday, July 18, AD 2009

I saw the movie with Liam Neeson entitled “Taken”, the other night. It is the ultimate ‘Dads protecting daughters’ fantasy. It plays on a whole lot of primal emotions- particularly the temptation to give oneself over to extreme violence to protect the lives and sanctity of one’s children. Every father wants to imagine himself capable of defending his beloved children from any and all threats- and the father in “Taken” was that ultimate fatherly force. He represented more of a divine Angelic father who slays spiritually evil forces, than a realistic earthly dad- and as such I was able to excuse the incredible violence as something of a parable of ultimate accountability for those humans who perpetrate the evils of human trafficking and slavery.

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3 Responses to "Taken" Some Life Lessons

  • I think you make a key point here about how deeply pornography is connected with the breakdown of the family and the exploitation of women in our society.

  • Can you tell me what definition of “consumerism” you’re applying to the sex-slavery industry which is thousands of years old?

    It seems a stretch to me, but I’m interested to hear.

  • ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
    TO THE MEMBERS OF THE
    “CENTESIMUS ANNUS – PRO PONTIFICE” FOUNDATION

    Clementine Hall
    Saturday, 13 June 2009

    “Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
    Distinguished and Dear Friends,

    Thank you for your visit which fits into the context of your annual meeting. I greet you all with affection and am grateful to you for all that you do, with proven generosity, at the service of the Church. I greet and thank your President, Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, who has expressed your sentiments with fine sensitivity, giving an overview of the Foundation’s work. I also thank those who, in various languages, have wished to express your common devotion. Our meeting today acquires special meaning and value in the light of the situation that humanity as a whole is experiencing at this time.

    Indeed, the financial and economic crisis which has hit the industrialized, the emerging and the developing countries, shows clearly that certain economic and financial paradigms which prevailed in recent years must be rethought. Therefore, at the international congress which took place yesterday your Foundation did well to address the topic of the search for, and identification of, the values and rules which the economic world should abide by in order to evolve a new model of development that is more attentive to the requirements of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity.

    I am pleased to learn that you examined in particular the interdependence between institutions, society and the market, in accordance with my venerable Predecessor John Paul II’s Encyclical, Centesimus annus. The Encyclical states that the market economy, understood as: “an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector” (n. 42), may be recognized as a path to economic and civil progress only if it is oriented to the common good (cf. n. 43). However, this vision must also be accompanied by another reflection which says that freedom in the economic sector must be circumscribed “by a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality”, a responsible freedom, “the core of which is ethical and religious” (n. 42). The above-mentioned Encyclical appropriately states: “just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all” (n. 43).

    I hope that by drawing inspiration from the eternal principles of the Gospel it will be possible, with the research inherent in your work, to elaborate a vision of the modern economy that is respectful of the needs and rights of the weak. My Encyclical dedicated to the vast topic of the economy and work is, as you know, due to be published shortly. It will highlight what for Christians are the objectives to pursue and the values to promote and to defend tirelessly, if we are to achieve a truly free and supportive human coexistence.”

    Consumerism, as I use it, is not the positive business economy that is supported by Catholic social doctrine, but the destructive misuse of business models that overemphasize the commerce angle at the expense of the human beings who are on the giving and receiving end of some business transaction. It is the inadequate juridical framework that allows for such things as pornography and adult entertainment businesses to flourish under a false idealism associated with “Free Speech” and corporations being legally defined as “persons” with rights we normally associate with actual human beings. These modern-day abuses of what true freedom is really all about, help foster the modern situation of sex-slavery/human trafficking. The legal pornography helps to fuel the destructive fires of lust in boys and men of all ages, the freedom of advertisers to use sexual appeals to the lowest common denominator in human- particularly male human nature- also makes the pursuit of sex seem to be an overriding concern in everyday life. The rise of female entrepreneurs in the adult video industry and prostitution lends to the notion that women are getting good money for lending their bodies to men for illicit sexual purposes- so there is no victim in the process, when in actuality everyone involved and women in general and humanity at-large is harmed by the social sins associated with the weakening of public morals, and the encouragement of promiscuity with all the physical and spiritual damage that that entails.

    One could say that “consumerism” is that approach to economics and business that tries to separate the Christian Humanism of which the Pope speaks, with the freedom of individuals to pursue many kinds of “businesses” which contribute to the market demand for young girls and boys to be available for sexual exploitation- which is what drives the sex-slavery “market”. I found this to be the case when I attended local city council meetings where the topic was responding to the demands of adult entertainment business owners to have certain areas of town zoned for adult entertainment lest they take the city to the higher courts, where the findings have been in favor of the adult businesses via the “free speech” rationalization. The small cities must come up with ample sites for adult entertainment or else they risk heavy legal fees to challenge something that right now favors the purveyors of porn in the higher courts. Even though the numbers of speakers from the community who were outraged and against such businesses was very substantial- the juridical framework isn’t developed to address the morality questions in these areas. If we have the human person as our primary consideration in determining how to regulate businesses and their affairs, then this would be something more or less easy to fix. But our system is not set up with the common good/natural law as the guiding light for legal renderings- which is what is lacking in the juridical frameworks so often called for by the Magisterium.

A Few Thoughts on NFP

Friday, July 10, AD 2009

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”.

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19 Responses to A Few Thoughts on NFP

  • I suppose pregnancy is rather misogynistic as well. Women bear this responsibility as well, and bear is a literal word. Men just sit around the house smoking cigars and pounding the table and grunting whenever they want some food. Then when the baby finally comes they’re out buying more cigars and drinking with their friends, bragging about how fat their wife is.

    Well, your mileage may vary. I hope it does.

  • That’s a pretty cynical view. It is not without truths, but I’m not sure there isn’t a bit exaggerated — or rather, the whole ordeal is reduced merely to this activity.

  • If we look to the Orthodox, it amounted to roughly half the year they were required to abstain from relations. Many moons ago, sex wasn’t to be had on Sundays. I’m not sure if abstaining was ever required during Lent. I think we moderns tend to underestimate our ability to regulate our sexual desires.

  • MZ,

    Lent plus Sundays still add up to rather less than half the year — and I must admit to a certain curiosity as to what percentage of people actually lived up to that. However, I would say that there’s also a big difference between giving something up for religious reasons as a known sacrifice and doing it for pragmatic reasons.

    Example: I find it quite easy to give up alcohol for Lent, but rather hard to “not have much” beer in order lose the proverbial last ten pounds. I would say that by the same token, it would be rather easier to say “we won’t have sex on Sundays” or “we won’t have sex during lent” than “Well, we shouldn’t have sex very often.”

    More to the point, that is simply not our discipline in the Catholic Church at this time, and given that we do have a full understanding of human fertility I’m not clear how it would do people a great deal of good to urge them to maintain ignorance in order to bind up a heavier burden for them to carry.

    Honestly, the approach described by the woman in the InsideCatholic article sounds to me like it’s practically designed for (or perhaps from) spousal conflict.

  • Having learned and practiced NFP myself, I see nothing misogynistic about it. If nothing else, charting one’s cycles helps you to know when to expect your next, ahem, monthly visitor, thereby enabling you to avoid lots of potential embarrassment 😉

    Don’t forget, it’s also a very cost-effective method for both avoiding and achieving pregnancy; once you learn the method, you don’t need to spend a single penny more on it (you can create your own charts). Also, some methods (Creighton, Billngs) do NOT require the daily temperature taking that can be a hassle for those following the Couple to Couple League’s Sympto-Thermal Method.

    IMHO the fact that the “burden” of fertility awareness/NFP is on women is no more inherently unfair than is the fact that women often have to work harder than men at losing weight and keeping it off. As for the self-discipline required, I see it as comparable to the discipline required to maintain a healthy diet.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think NFP would be that big a burden to women unless their husbands decide to make it so.

  • Also, in the “if you think we’ve got it bad” department: Orthodox Jewish practice requires abstinence throughout the menstrual period and for 7 days afterward — usually about 12-14 days out of EVERY month.

  • Everything after the first sentence was Latin rite.

    Not to get overly personal here, but we withheld relations for a year.

    I tend to find a major premise of the NFPers false though. That premise is that sex unitive in the absence of desiring children. I’ve met plenty of people in sexual relationships that were otherwise sterile. Plenty of men and women have managed to have sexual relationships without a growth in personal affection. Outside the context of desiring to create a family, that seems to be the dominant case.

  • I tend to find a major premise of the NFPers false though. That premise is that sex unitive in the absence of desiring children.

    That is not the major premise of NFPers—at least not of those who understand and accept the Church’s teaching that temporarily restricting intercourse to the infertile period must be for “serious reasons,” which do not include paying off the student loans or trading up to a better car. The major premise of NFPers is that NFP can respect the unitive dimension of sex, unlike contraception, which cannot.

    That is why you are right to qualify your statement with the phrase ‘the dominant case’. Sex that is both physically and spiritually sterile is indeed the dominant case in a materialistic and over-eroticized culture; but it is far from being the only case. I know plenty of cases of the right sort.

    I’m really getting tired of people overstating Catholic teaching and proceeding to knock down the resulting strawman. I usually have to deal with that in the context of discussing the papacy and/or the Marian doctrines. But since Catholic doctrine on birth control is almost as distinctive and even more unpopular, I suppose I should not be surprised it gets the same treatment.

  • I tend to find a major premise of the NFPers false though. That premise is that sex unitive in the absence of desiring children.

    I guess I’m not entirely clear what you’re getting at here. Are you saying that NFP is a false paradigm in that in HV and elsewhere it is suggested that couples may continue to have sex during infertile times for unitive purposes while avoiding it during fertile times when there are serious reasons for them to space children wider than might be natural — but you don’t think that sex can be unitive unless one desires more children at that time?

  • There are two common stress points I see in marriages. The first one is having the first child. The second one is the cessation of child bearing. Without commenting on the liciety of NFP, the unitive dimension of sex is lessened significantly when the marriage is no longer purposed toward the making and raising of children.

  • The second one is the cessation of child bearing. Without commenting on the liciety of NFP, the unitive dimension of sex is lessened significantly when the marriage is no longer purposed toward the making and raising of children.

    I’m not clear that has anything to do with the unitive dimension of sex, so much as that when it becomes clear that the number of distractions living in the house is only going to go down from here, and the couple likely has another thirty years of life together ahead of them, couples either realize that they actually have very little in common and have problems, or else they look forward to getting the chance to spend more time actually interacting with each other than during the diaper changing, kid chasing, and fight breaking up period of life.

    Also, how would your explanation fit with your point that a certain number of couples run into problems not long after first having children?

  • Darwin, I believe marriage counselors recognize certain statistical crisis points in the average marriage–if I recall correctly around 2 years is one (neatly coinciding with the start of a family for many.) Agreed that childrearing, empty nesting, and major life changes tend to make or break a marriage–the problem isn’t that you are no longer making babies together (as articulated by MZ), it’s that there wasn’t much besides the babies holding you together to begin with.

    My response to his view of the “major premise of NFP” would be that the level of communication necessitated by the use of NFP encourages couples to consider each other’s needs as well as their joint plans for a family. Does this mean there aren’t going to be unitively “sterile” marriages among NFP users as well as among nonusers? Of course not. But I think (and I believe stats bear me out) that NFP confers some advantages in terms of couple communication, and that those carry over into the post baby-raising stage of life. Are you sure you’re not overgeneralizing based on anecdotal evidence, MZ?

  • In some ways, I think the effect that NFP has on marriages is sort of a “chicken and egg” (pardon the pun) effect — does NFP CAUSE couples to communicate better, or do couples who use NFP tend to have better communication and negotiation skills to begin with?

    I kind of lean toward the latter explanation since successful NFP practice requires give and take on the part of both spouses. If a couple is having serious problems communicating or learning to adjust their expectations regarding sexual intimacy, either they won’t try NFP at all, or one spouse will want to try it while the other flatly refuses to consider it or agrees to it only grudgingly and under protest.

  • Actually, Michael, depending on how big the student loans in question are, how much other debt the couple has, and how long it’s going to take for them to pay those debts down or off, that COULD be a sufficiently serious reason to postpone pregnancy.

    I remember reading a book on Catholic marriage that had belonged to my parents — written in the early 1950s — that had a chapter devoted to “periodic continence” (which, back then, meant calendar rhythm) and a discussion of various medical, economic, and social reasons that justified the use of the rhythm method.

    Having large amounts of debt (payment of which is an obligation in justice to one’s creditors) WAS listed as a justifiable reason to postpone pregnancy. However, trying to save money toward a child’s college education (which parents are not obligated to provide for their children, and was not an absolute necessity for their future well-being, at least not in the 1950s) was not considered a serious enough reason. Obviously, trading up to a better car or better house (assuming the house the family currently occupies is reasonably safe and sanitary) would not qualify either.

  • Actually, Michael, depending on how big the student loans in question are, how much other debt the couple has, and how long it’s going to take for them to pay those debts down or off, that COULD be a sufficiently serious reason to postpone pregnancy.

    Which raises the question why the couple should marry into such a state in the first place. If you aren’t ready to raise a family, don’t get married.

  • It seems that a lot of people get caught up in the worry about whether NFP can be contrary to God’s plan,m if motives affect the use of NFP, and the tensions involved in some marriages relating to same. Then there was the Inside Catholic article which really went all over the place. Here are my thoughts.

    1. Knowing NFP, whether one uses it or not is a good thing. Why? It teaches the guy something about women that he may not know. that is always a good thing = especially in a marriage.

    2. When God made us, he did not make the woman fertile every single day of the month. Yet he gave the desire to the guy all the time. And we guys know when our wives are most desirous. so this means a couple of things. Either the couple talks, or someone is not going to be happy. Early in my marriage, I encountered a powerful truth, and I know that it was a grace, to wit, the marriage embrace is not satisfying in the fullest sense if the beloved is not satisfied. That insight opened the door to a deeper understanding of God’s involvement in marriage and the freedom He gives to couple to work out in His presence the timing, placement and number of children for that family. Again we approach in wonder and awe, hoping to cooperate and open to God’s “blessing” which may or may not be “planned” or desired. given the limited time frame for such blessings, an openness to the self giving of the spouse to the other allows for the marital embrace to be a communion of souls in the mystery of the sacrament of matrimony. Simply enjoying the pleasure of one’s spouse in the beauty of the sacrament is in itself one of the blessings of marriage.

    3. for some this may mean great sacrifice given their personal situation: health factors, financial difficulties, stress, job loss, temperament, etc. God invites us to include him in dealing with any difficult situation. He gives us the freedom in the marital relationship to make the concrete decisions. He only asks us to respect the sacrament and mot violate the natural order. to consider this takes a certain maturity and understanding. This is what is hopefully taught to us both through family life and by the church.

    Finally after all is said and done, one may simply decide to chuck the whole thing and let God be the family planner. It takes a lot of faith or perhaps it is laziness. But in the end if we seek to do His will, we should be okay.

  • Actually, I WAS going to add the argument that observant Catholics or Catholic couples who aren’t financially ready to have children shouldn’t get married in the first place, but omitted it as my post was getting rather lengthy.

    Also, not every couple who has student loan debt necessarily incurred it BEFORE they got married or had children. My own husband had to go back to college in his early 40s due to the fact that he could no longer get work in his chosen field without such a degree. Fortunately, he had veteran’s benefits that enabled him to do so without incurring a huge amount of debt.

  • My few thoughts on NFP.

    It’s not misogynistic to use it and anyone who says that is is probably more motivated by Misandry than any high ideal of justice.

    If you have good reason to space children or want to increase your chances of conceiving a child, consider using it – but follow the rules.

    The Rules:

    1. The science is pretty good but not perfect, and often times leaves you wondering whether you’re still fertile or not. Don’t be anxious over it, wait a day or not, the worse thing that can happen is you get a little earlier than you were planning.

    2. Ignore Internet pontificators like myself. You know that whole opinions are like a-holes thing. It’s your life, your marriage, and your soul. God knows what “serious reasons” are and aren’t even if you’re unsure or mistaken. He will determine whether you’re culpable and to what degree. Besides, even if you are mistaken in thinking your reasons for spacing are valid, your desire to do it through NFP means you’re open to God’s grace, He will inform your conscience long before some guy on the Internet with his snarky comments or feeble attempts at Thomistic extrapolation.

    3. There are a lot of important things on a personal/marital level to consider as well, but those are as varied as each couple and I won’t mention them because you’d be a fool to think some dude on the Internet should have a role in your marital relationship – and you should be leery of anyone who insert themselves there.

    — Wives love your husbands and husbands love your wives.

  • John J, Elaine, and Rick,
    Thoughtful remarks, all!

Father Alberto Cutie Leaves The Catholic Church For The Episcopals

Thursday, May 28, AD 2009

Alberto Cutie

Father Alberto Cutié has abruptly left the Catholic Church and has joined the Episcopal church today.  Father Cutié was recently caught in a scandal involving a woman in a two year affair and asked and received an indefinite leave of absence from Archbishop John C. Favalora.  This has come as sudden and unexpected news to the Church.  Archbishop Favalora of Miami has not spoken with Alberto Cutié since his request and has expressed shock at the news.

“I am genuinely disappointed by the announcement made earlier this afternoon by Father Alberto Cutié that he is joining the Episcopal Church,”

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39 Responses to Father Alberto Cutie Leaves The Catholic Church For The Episcopals

  • So, pursuant to his original premise concerning the high regard he had for the Catholic Faith, he effectively demonstrates his loyalty to such principle by yielding to the abhorrent Act of Supremacy?

    Where are the loyal Romanists of today who would, though few in number, rise up and stand bravely & ever the more faithfully to their beloved and ancient Catholic Faith in a modern-day Pilgrimage of Grace?

    Our worst enemies, it seems, tend to come from within than without.

  • (Incidentally, thanks Tito! TAC citizenship finally restored!)

  • Father Alberto Cutié’s actions do not come without consequences. He will no longer be able to celebrate the sacraments and preach or teach on Catholic faith and morals in the Archdiocese of Miami. Archbishop Favalora further added, “His actions could lead to his dismissal from the clerical state”…

    Somehow I don’t think those “consequences” are going to matter much to this priest.

    this “bishop” needs reminding that the Episcopal ecclesiastical community was born and based on adultery

    Reminds me of the Newt…

  • Reminds me of the Newt…

    to Protestant we may now safely add Novatianist to Michael’s pedigree.

  • or Donatist, take your pick.

  • You can’t call me a Donatist. The Donatists lived a long long time ago.

  • Somehow I don’t think those “consequences” are going to matter much to this priest.

    not in this life anyway.

  • The “fiancee” was described early on (when the very first stories about him on the beach with a woman) as “divorced”. Does that matter in his plans to “marry” her once he is laicized?

    What an astounding display this whole thing is.

  • Reminds me of the Newt…

    Really, Michael, you might do well to step back and examine the things you say through a Christian lens. I don’t care any more for Newt than I do any other stranger, but think about what you’re doing. Aside from me thinking your politics bear poor witness to the Faith (my opinion, anyway), stuff like this is giving awful witness in an objective sense. You’re not really condemning adultery here nor are you identifying and calling out wrong or evil actions. What you’re doing is saying that repentance and conversion is futile. There’s no room for mercy and a new start. Ironically enough, it’s that mercy and hope for a new start that usually touches the convert, and how fortunate it is that the Church was built on that sort of encouragement rather than reminding us of our past sins at every opportunity.

  • Our gain is the loss of the Episcopalians.

  • Chesterton once said that journalism largely consists of saying “Lord Jones Died” to people who had no idea Lord Jones was even alive.

  • Now think about this. The Episcopal Church takes within weeks a Catholic Cleric

    (1) That very well might have been living a life of sin outside marriage
    (2) Was in the middle of emotional and public turmoil
    (3) and within WEEKS WEEKS ordained him a Episcopal Priest”

    My God when Anglicans come over there is a huge period of discernment and evaluation.

    What was this Anglican Bishop thinking over there.

  • jh,

    He’s maximizing this for full effect.

    In response to Archbishop Favalora’s statement of ecumenical manners, Bishop Frade basically said “sour grapes”, or more like “na-na-a-boo-boo” while sticking his tongue out.

    Classy.

  • JTBF,

    The “fiancee” was described early on (when the very first stories about him on the beach with a woman) as “divorced”. Does that matter in his plans to “marry” her once he is laicized?

    What an astounding display this whole thing is.

    Unless the Holy Father dispenses his vows of celibacy in addition to laicizing him he is impeded from marriage on that grounds as well.

    While we feel a sense of relief that this is now an Episcopalian problem, there is a tragic consequence… mercifully Anglican orders are invalid so no sacrilege takes place at their services. With an ordained priest, unless there is a defect of form, or intent he is confecting a valid sacrament.

  • 1. “Fiancee.” Always a good reason.

    2. Is he more like Henry VIII? Or the British cat who tossed aside the crown for his American cutie? Or just handsome dude who was caught in really embarrassing picture?

    3. Seems like the Episcopalians owe us something for signing a Free Agent. Cash, or seminarians to be named later.

    4. Think people will follow him on teevee now that he’s switched teams? And just what will we do with those old Padres jerseys with his name on the back? Round here in Philly, public jersey burnings after Terrell Owens left Birds for stinking Dallas Cowboys. Somehow, joining the Fighting Episcopalians doesn’t inspire confidence.

    5. Cheap p.r. stunt by all concerned. Pay no heed and pray for his soul.

  • Gerard E.,

    4. I’m an Eagles fan and I think we can still win the Super Bowl this upcoming season, if only McNabb plays consistent.

    5. Cheap PR stunt by the Episcopal bishop IMO.

  • This is so very sad. I hope the people in his people aren’t terribly confused or distraught by this, especially children.

  • What you’re doing is saying that repentance and conversion is futile. There’s no room for mercy and a new start. Ironically enough, it’s that mercy and hope for a new start that usually touches the convert, and how fortunate it is that the Church was built on that sort of encouragement rather than reminding us of our past sins at every opportunity.

    Well said, Rick. Thank you.

  • Unfortunate, but at least consistent.

    He clearly values his personal actions more than belief in truth. He found a place to match his choices.

  • Naah, MI’s not being a Donatist, at least by the America magazine definition. He’s not “attempt[ing] to keep the church free of contamination by having no truck with [governmental] officialdom.”

  • Alberto Cutie lied to the Roman Catholic Church. He seems not to understand the consequences of his actions. His lack of honesty says nothing good about him. I admired him. Now, I see a man that is arrogant, defiant, selfish, opportunistic…. The woman that he will marry is not a good woman of faith. She is the one who first contacted him and let him know about her interest for him. Bishop Leo Frade apppeared happy to welcome Alberto Cutie(I no longer respect him to call him Father), he will bring money to the new church. It is a shame that this church accepts people of low moral character. Shame on you Alberto Cutie.

  • I don’t know who is more delusional, Cutie or Fade.

  • “I admired him.”

    Cutie is but the 2nd priest on EWTN who, like Fr. Mark, initially professed such a high regard for the Catholic Church and their Catholic Faith on past EWTN broadcasts.

    I will, henceforward, be a little more cautious & skeptical concerning not only clergy but of any person who generally appears there, less these become but another Judas Iscariot and the once fond admiration held by not only myself but by impressionable family members are not only wasted but contributing to final cynicism especially as regarding those whose sincerity for the Faith essentially boils down to not a Calling eminating from Christ but, ultimately, a Calling eminating from the loins.

  • I think JH is onto the bigger story here. A priest leaving the Church is nothing new, but the Anglicans willing to take him after such a turn around is so insulting that it can’t help but to seriously harm ecumenical relations between Anglicans and Catholics, particularly in that area.

  • Michael D.,

    insulting to who exactly? The real setback is not any offense from this, it’s the fact that the Episcopals are really not Christian anymore, and the Worldwide Anglicans are not far behind (with but a few exceptions).

    Time to move this to the “inter-religious” category.

  • The dialogue between Michael Denton and Matt McDonald only proves this already self-evident deterioriation within the ranks of even the Catholic Church herself.

    To actually deplore the heretics in such a way so as to give them credence, as would seem the case in Michael’s own comments, and, even further, to state that “Episcopals are really not Christian anymore“, shows just how accomodating we have become to what was once considered heresy.

    Perhaps what Cutie has done is not so exceptional after all.

  • While I am inclined to agree with Matt that dialogue with the American Episcopal church is increasingly a waste of time and valuable tree pulp that can be put to better use elsewhere (e.g., Charmin), it’s not fair to write off the entire Anglican communion as apostate. Certainly the western branches (North America, England) are “apostate-friendly,” but the African and Asian Anglicans are still a very solid lot who preach Christ crucified.

  • Dale Price,

    While I am inclined to agree with Matt that dialogue with the American Episcopal church is increasingly a waste of time and valuable tree pulp that can be put to better use elsewhere (e.g., Charmin), it’s not fair to write off the entire Anglican communion as apostate. Certainly the western branches (North America, England) are “apostate-friendly,” but the African and Asian Anglicans are still a very solid lot who preach Christ crucified.

    I said not far behind, and the exceptions I’m referring to are the Africans and Asians. I guess I was being a little “euro-centric” in my “but a few”, since they are a pretty substantial portion in reality.

    Additionally, inter-religious dialogue is also important, but it is decidedly different from “ecumenical” dialogue.

  • e. ,

    The dialogue between Michael Denton and Matt McDonald only proves this already self-evident deterioriation within the ranks of even the Catholic Church herself.

    To actually deplore the heretics in such a way so as to give them credence, as would seem the case in Michael’s own comments, and, even further, to state that “Episcopals are really not Christian anymore“, shows just how accomodating we have become to what was once considered heresy.

    Perhaps what Cutie has done is not so exceptional after all.

    I’ve sometimes been a defender of you despite your often rancorous approach, but I have to tell you I’m starting to question your sanity.

    Adherence to a heresy generally does not exclude one from being acknowledge as a Christian, one who departs entirely from Christianity is an apostate.

    The Catechism is a sure norm in understanding your Faith better to avoid such error in the future:

    2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”11

    I doubt one could avoid the sin of calumny if suggesting that Fr. Cutie is guilty of apostasy just yet.

  • Matt: Yeah, it was the “but a few exceptions” part I had a problem with. The solid branches of Anglicanism contain the majority of the adherents (if not the actual monetary resources).

  • Rancorous?

    I suppose that those who hold to a more traditional Catholicism are a deeply malevolent bunch indeed.

    More Luther, Less More.

  • Since when did embracing genuine tradition automatically render one a schismatic?

    There was a time when a person such as that was simply called ‘Catholic’.

    And people wonder why there are the Iafrates of the world; if anything, such folks are but the inevitable products of such an age as this where the Thomas Mores of the world are put to the rack while the Luthers of the world are ultimately heralded as Saint.

    To answer the question put before me, no I am not; I remain loyal to the Church of Rome, though I remain dis-loyal to the modernity that tends to possess a certain of its members.

  • I could only assume since you reject the Church’s understanding our separated brethren since the council of Trent that you were SSPV.

  • Matt,

    I have no personal quarrel with you or monsieur Denton; only with the heresy itself that you and he seem to hold in special regard.

    Ecumenism is a necessarily Christian act in healing a now hideously divided Christendom torn asunder by the innovations of heresy that has hitherto unfortunately fragmented the Body of Christ; what is unnecessary and, indeed, outright blasphemous is accomodating heresy so as to sacrifice our very Catholicism. That does not promote the healing of Christian divisions; on the contrary, it promotes further Christian disfigurement.

  • e.,

    what is the exact expression from either of us that you find so offensive? I fail to see where we have done what you accuse us of.

  • Sad, but really nothing new here. Anybody remember Emmanuel Milingo, the African archbishop a few years back who joined the Moonies, married one of them, and eventually went schismatic and ordained married bishops? Remember Fr. Francis MacNutt and Fr. Brennan Manning, who were both pretty well known in the charismatic movement back in the 70s? They left the Church to marry and eventually went off into their own ministries. Remember Fr. George Stallings, the African-American priest who eventually started his own schismatic church? There are plenty of other examples.

  • I can’t help to see how many Romanists are so clueless about Anglicanism. Just remember Pope Leo XIII only declared Anglicans “Null & Void” in the 1890’s – and that was at the behest of the English Roman Catholic Hierarchy. That means that from the Reformation until the 1890’s, Anglican clergy were “Valid but Irregular,” an amusing Romish comment. Do you want to curl a few more clerical hairs? The Episcopal Church (American Anglicans) has, for well over 100 years – until 1976, had its Bishops co-consecrated by the Bishops of the “Old Catholic Tradition” (Polish National Catholic Church in the USA). It was John Paul II who formally recognized and welcomed back all PNC Bishops/Priests, Deacons and congregations into Full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Think what that does to the legitimacy of the Anglican Clergy whose Apostolic Succession can be traced to these PNC Bishops? In the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY alone, our Bishops have always had 2 or more PNC Bishops at Consecrations of our Bishops. I remember PNC Bishop Zilinski and others who shared their Apostolicity with us Anglicans. It’s funny to have so much in common and still have all the backbiting, name calling and finger pointing between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. It was Paul VI who called us a Sister Church. We as Anglicans proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ as Savior, we celebrate 7 Sacraments, Celebrate Holy Mass, which some of us call Divine Liturgy, Holy Communion or Eucharist and we try to teach the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith as is found in the Holy Scriptures and the traditions of Holy Mother Church. But what do we do – we focus on our differences rather than our commonality and faith. Satan loves to see us fight and otherwise have us not hear God’s small voice, “that we all may be one.” I think that things, on either side are not so cut and dry, let alone pure. Our Catholic Christian faith should empower us to practice what we preach and in doing so, always remember that for the people of the world “we may be the only Bible that people will ever read.” In the end – as we stand before the awesome throne of God – it will be our faith in action, our sin repented and a loving and forgiving God who will judge our worthiness to enter into Heaven itself. We strive to “daily die to sin,” for that one day that we will hear from our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

  • The schism between Rome and the Anglican Church is more complex still. Unlike the earlier Henrican schism, not a single serving diocean bishop accepted the new ecclesiastical regime set up by Parliament and all were thus forced to resign. As such, only an extremely partisan and polemic reading of history can portray this (the product of the sidelining of the whole hierarchy and the explicit intrusion of the civil power in Church affairs) as a unilateral act on the part of Rome.

    Even then, the new excommunicated bishops were still invited to participate in the Council of Trent to help resolve the schism. Those disposed to do so where prevented by the Crown. I suspect that it is only at this point that Rome concluded that the matter ceased to be merely disciplinary and entered into the realm of formal definitive schism (to be reinforced by formal heresy under the Edwardian regency).

    But my point isn’t to launch into a historical argument about who did what to whom. A joint, fair, nuanced and intellectually honest reading of history is part of a process reconciliation that involves accepting the other’s “truths” as legitimate, no matter how painful or inconvenient, so long as it has a factual basis. Reading selective history used to score polemic points is just tiresome.

    Unlike my interlocutors, I as well as Rome consider the matter concerning the Anglicans still guilty of heresy and, therefore, remain, as it were, obviously invalid as concerning their purported ‘holy orders’.

Dolan: Man-Woman Tradition Is In Our DNA

Sunday, April 26, AD 2009

His Grace Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York spoke eloquently in a recent interview which touched on hot topics such as ‘gay’ marriage and a married priesthood by Dan Mangan of the New York Post.  The following is the entire article followed by the video interview [emphasis and comments mine]:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan yesterday said advocates of gay marriage “are asking for trouble,” arguing that traditional, one-man/one-woman marriage is rooted in people’s moral DNA [His Emminence is not parsing his words here, amen for that.].

There’s an in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA,” Dolan told The Post in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, a week after becoming the New York Archdiocese’s new leader.

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4 Responses to Dolan: Man-Woman Tradition Is In Our DNA

  • “your emminence”

    I’m only quibbling on a minor point here, but technically, in the Roman Rite, he would not be referred to as eminence until he is made cardinal. For now, he would be excellency. I apologize for going off-topic (feel free to delete this).

  • “An in-built code of right and wrong that’s embedded in the human DNA” is about the best modern definition of “natural law” that I’ve heard yet.

  • Alan,

    You are absolutely correct.

    I was just going to post on how to address religious and I got ahead of myself.

    I pray that His Excellency does receive the red hat, but more importantly that he does the will of God.

    No quibbling at all and no need to apologize.

    ;~)

    Tito

  • I regularly attended the Archbishop’s Mass at the Cathedral of St. John in Milwaukee, so I (and my fellow Milwaukee Catholics) felt sadness when he left. Our loss is truly New York’s gain, and I can guarantee that the Big Apple’s new Archbishop (who does not have a shy bone in his body) will deliver orthodox Catholicism to his new flock with humor, wit and grace. I will also wager that many Manhattanites will not want to hear it – but, hey, New Yorkers are supposed to be tough cookies, right?

Childish Mentalities

Monday, March 9, AD 2009

Here’s a question.  If, when you were a teenager, your parents had taken you aside and explained that sex before marriage is wrong, sinful, against the Catholic faith, carries the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and might end in a pregnancy, but if you intend to do so, please protect yourself, what would your interpretation of that lecture be?  Let’s keep in mind that the intent behind this discussion is not to focus on the contraceptive aspect, but the (limited) protection that some contraceptives (namely condoms) afford against sexually transmitted diseases.

My wife had the fortune of having this lecture and, being the obedient child she was, she understood that to mean, “Okay, no sex before marriage.  No problem.”  Listening to her explain this, though, I realized that as a teenager, I would have interpreted the lecture much differently.  Maybe because I’m male, or because I was already fascinated by sex, I would have translated the lecture into saying, “We disapprove, but it’s okay to have sex as long as you use a condom.”

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5 Responses to Childish Mentalities

17 Responses to Theology, Sanity, and Homosexuality

  • We are not to conform to the world but conform to the kingdom of heaven which Jesus preached as love, care, concern for one another. If same sex couples are called to love care and concern for one another then they must follow their truly formed consciences. Sin occurs when we turn away from love. Christians must follow Jesus and Jesus is not made in our image but we in is. Follow love and allow otehrs to do the same. Love is AND not OR.

  • Ryan,

    an excellent post!

    Ken,

    actually Christ also called us to sexual fidelity in marriage, or celibacy. He defined marriage as one man and one woman. There’s no loophole for “loving same sex couples”.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Ryan,

    Thank you for explaining the role of the Holy Trinity. That is one aspect that I am still a novice at understanding how the family roles are to be understood.

  • Tito,

    Glad you liked it, though I wonder if I truly did it justice. There’s so much to say on that one particular topic, especially in addressing concerns of how we can compare such a physical, material action with the spiritual nature of God, and how the condition of man as both matter and spirit applies. In addition, I still feel like a novice myself about it.

    My wife suggested that I glossed over a lot of things in my post that would have made it better, especially with leaving out statistics. For example, I could have (and maybe should have), for example, linked in to Catholic Answer’s tract on gay marriage, or searched out the studies themselves to cite the negative consequences of homosexual acts. She also felt I more or less wimped out (PC style) in denouncing homosexual acts as sinful. Any thoughts?

  • Great post. I’ve enjoyed the whole series, especially this one.

    Maybe you could write more about infertile couples and how a love that is “open to life” even when it is not likely to occur is still sacramental and valid. I get very irritated when people compare infertile married couples to homosexuals. Like you wrote, love is not more important than procreation. But sometimes we can be made to feel inferior because of our infertility. We want to be both unitive and procreative. I’d like to have a short but effective position statement on why male and female are still important, even when procreation is not possible.

    Are there any good Church documents that explore infertility and adoption in more depth?

  • Ryan,

    Good post. I think a sincere and candid discussion about the nature of homosexuality is so vital and yet so far away with the politicization of everything in society.

    It is very, very difficult to grasp the understanding you have presented with a poor understanding of metaphysics and how things relate to one another. The Theology of the Body which is fundamentally what you’re arguing is a metaphysical presupposition of a certain ordering and arrangement of things.

    I’ve heard it argued and in the past, have argued that homosexuality is natural. What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural. There are actually documented cases of homosexual behavior in hundreds of animal species. However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design. Cows are different from dog. The nature of a dog is different from that of a cow. A cow cannot live a life as a dog and still be a cow. What is natural to a dog is not natural to a cow. It does not fulfill the cow’s nature. Cows do not go about sniffing and burying things. So, it follows what is “natural” to animals is not necessarily “natural” to humans. In fact, some animals can change their sex. Male seahorses bear life. This is not the case for humans; hence, animals should not be the objective point of reference for human behavior. But with a reductionist mentality and with little sense of Christian metaphysics, it is rather difficult to get people to see this point though to us it seems self-evident.

    In my own life, I came to a startling realization and it is clearly based on Christian metaphysics. The sexual design — which goes beyond sexual activity — is wired into our very nature and to participate in its fulfillment by the act of free will is to flourish and be human.

    However, when I became suspicious of whether or not — and I’ll say it is my view that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but I don’t believe it to be the sole cause — God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of, to act on homosexual desires is destructive because it’s an attempt to abolish the very order written into human nature and thus harmful at every level.

    One can begin with the most obvious — the physical — it seems curious as to how it is so readily never considered how it could not harm a man to suffer rectal trauma by being penetrated repeatedly through an opening clearly designed for a radically different function.

    Emotionally and spiritually, the harm is not as self-evident, but I think, more pronounced. Consider the emotional harm: if God designd the male-female pair to complement and balance one another, then it follows that same-sex relationships drive each partner to extremes — instead of balancing, the two reinforce one another.

    If one considers — presupposing one actually believes this — the fact that because men are more inclined to be promiscuous than woman because a difference in physiology as childbearers that makes women more conscientious, unbalanced by women (this is not considering contraception) such inclinations ca lead to anonymous no-brakes promiscuity of men who have sex with hundreds of other men. On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    I think much sociological evidence confirms such notions not to mention basic concerns of health — active male homosexuals on avg. have a lifespan 20 years shorter than that of heterosexual males from a variety of reasons.

    I think even if a couple is not capable of giving birth to physical life, there unity is life-affirming and giving in emotional and spiritual ways. The union and activity of marital love in an infertile couple does not directly contradict the very design of the sexual order. They have a magnificent cross and will suffer a temptation not shared by many others; I read about a Catholic couple who can’t procreate because of natural reasons and to protect themselves from impurity, they practice NFP as penance. So I think there is much possibility there; at least, I don’t think it is immoral as long as the intentions are correct.

  • On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    Eric, it’s amazing how you can articulate so much better than I can the points I want to make! Thank you.

  • Eric,

    What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural.

    I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    From Merriam-Webster:
    occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature

    Just because it occurs in nature does not mean it’s “natural”.

    God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil? It seems to me that this is dangerously close to the anathema addressed by the Council of Trent regarding Calvinism (props to Peter Park on pointing this out):

    Canon 6 on Justification:

    If anyone says that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God works as well as those that are good, not permissibly only, but properly and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.

    It follows that, if God actively wills homosexuality then does it not follow that the behaviour inherent, is a work of God as well. We do not believe that concupiscence is the active will of God but a consequence of original sin, how could this particular temptation be actively willed?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil?

    Matt, I think you missed the point here. Eric was stating that these are the arguments put forward by people trying to justify homosexual acts. He then goes on to explain why those arguments are wrong. For example, he states:

    However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design.

    This clearly refutes the proposition that you (rightly) denounced but (incorrectly) attributed to him. He also goes on to state that he has examined the argument of whether

    …God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of…

    Latter, here, refers to the passive permission as opposed to the active intent. Eric is fully stating that he believes that God passively permits people to struggle with same-sex attraction, not that God actively intends people to deal with same-sex attraction and act on it.

    We appreciate your comments, but I would ask that you carefully consider what someone actually says before rebutting his arguments. (On the other hand, don’t for a moment think that I haven’t been guilty of the same many times before!)

  • Ryan,

    I’d appreciate if Eric explained his intent here, it’s quite possible that I’m misunderstanding, but your response only adds to the confusion. I certainly wouldn’t want the apparent contradiction to be left unclarified.

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I was making a distinction between the world “natural” as used in modernity in reference to anything that has a genetic cause — directly wired into one’s behavior via genes — or biological, which refers to things inborn that are not necessarily genetic. Some extend the connotation to things that frequently occur, e.g. sayings like it’s a “natural” temptation or it’s “natural” to feel that way. I clarified that this is not what Christians, in theological language, mean by the word “natural” — the word in theology implies what something’s place is in the creative order and respects God’s design. The nature, is practically synonymous, with the very essence of something. Thus, I was implying that this reality if taken to be true, redirects one’s opinion of homosexuality as acceptable to be expressed to a inclination toward a grave sin. The latter being my conviction.

    In regard to God’s will, I was making a distinction. God from a purely metaphysical basis is the First Cause, therefore, he literally holds everything in existence even creatures with free will that can choose to do evil — God wills actively that we have free will with the full knowledge we may misuse it. I once had the challenge of explaining to someone how a good and loving God could somehow be involved — don’t misunderstand my language — in creating at every moment of it’s existence, the planes that were crashed into the twin towers because any existing things hinges upon God’s creative act, which is not a one time thing, but rather creation is an ongoing activity and God is participating in it with an incomprehensible divine plan that we humans struggle to learn.

    Now in regard to homosexuality, I do believe that God allows homosexuality to exist. Nothing can exist without God allowing it. However, the question I asked myself before I converted to Catholicism, as a person who is homosexual was whether God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends, but rather permits as it were. I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t think it’s the sole cause or the cause of it for everyone. I don’t believe this reality — a physical evil — changes the very essence of human nature or implies that man should re-write his metaphysical place in creation to accomodate homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are fundamentally against the natural law and in Christian terms it is a sin.

    I didn’t think I was in anyway ambivalent on the matter, seeing that I was praising a post that made zero accomodations for morally accepting homosexual behavior.

  • Eric,

    I think I understand what you’re saying, but could you clarify that you what you are saying is that it is God’s “passive will” to allow homosexuality to occur? I guess I’m just too simple, but you seem to keep leaving that question open.

    a. active will – God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or

    b. passive will – is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends

    I think the only orthodox answer is b, wouldn’t you agree? While “a” doesn’t necessarily justify homosexual acts, I believe it is contradictory to Catholic teaching on God’s nature.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Yes. Point “b” is the position I hold and was expressing.

  • I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality.

    Just for what it’s worth, I thought I’d add my thoughts on the issue, though I’m by no means an authority.

    The question is: is homosexuality a matter of genetic predisposition or is it a psychological phenomenon? Or I should say, this is how people pose the question, and I think it glosses over a huge number of important factors, the first and foremost being that “both” is as a legitimate answer as either.

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we do a lot of training and conditioning of ourselves in matters of sexual attraction, especially in bad ways. There are many, many “fetishes” out there that people wouldn’t normally ever consider sexually arousing, but with exposure and a disordered desire for arousal and sexual gratification, these fetishes become very sexually charging.

    This is exemplified in the largest plague of sex crimes in Wyoming: child pornography (possessing, not producing, thankfully). Therapists and offenders themselves both will tell you that most people who get heavy into child porn don’t do so because they were naturally inclined to pedophilia or anything like that; rather, in their usage of pornography, and their ongoing drive for new ways to stimulate themselves, they came across child porn, and developed an association with it. Through repeated exposure (and willingness to expose themselves to it), they eventually trained themselves to be aroused by children.

    Of course, that’s on the extreme end of deviancy, and many people will protest that those people are latent pedophiles, anyway. They’ll also claim that people who go for the weird fetishes are latent perverts, as well. I disagree, for the most part, but where I do agree will wait until I hit the biological portion of this reply.

    Part of the problem of following this line of thought is that many will jump down my throat for comparing homosexuality to child porn, but I feel there’s a connection. Christopher West said that humans aren’t necessarily programmed for homosexuality or heterosexuality, but instead are programmed for sexuality, and the natural (as in the Christian “natural” that Eric defined) development of that is in opposite-sex attraction. Various influences in a person’s life lead them towards and away from properly ordered desire (positive influences like a strong, committed, loving family; negative influences like movies, TV shows, magazines, etc). Some of these influences can occur very early in a person’s life so that they’re not even aware, years later, that they even had an influence. Others are recent enough that it is easy to track back how a person ended up with a particular sexual desire.

    So yes, I do believe that there is a “nurture” component to same-sex attraction. I’ve seen too many people “nurture” themselves into a particular sexual deviancy not to believe that. And yes, I feel I’ve seen people “nurture” themselves into same-sex attraction. In some of the more “socially progressive” areas of high school and college (I’m thinking the liberal arts here, specifically theater), the pressure to be openly homosexual or at least openly supportive of homosexuality was strong enough to lead some to experimentation and to the struggle with sexual identity. Of course, one can simply say that in such a homosexual-friendly environment, homosexuals would naturally drift there, especially those who had hidden it away for so long (even from themselves). But as I said, this whole reply is a matter of personal opinion, not a scholarly treatise.

    But I also believe that there is some genetic propensity towards homosexuality, as well. This belief comes from two lines of thought. First, I believe that there is a biological imperative to see the opposite sex as sexually desirable, and if we are to believe that, then I think we must be willing to admit at least the possibility of the wires getting crossed in some people. Second, while I hold that training has a lot to do with what we find sexually appealing, I also believe that some people are more prone to various forms of sexual behavior than others. Some people naturally have a huge sex drive, others barely have a sex drive at all. Some people very easily slip into (or readily embrace) sexual fetishes, others continue to be repulsed no matter how often they come across it. Thus I believe that no only can wires get crossed, but they can cross in a spectrum of degrees.

    So, to sum up, I believe homosexuality originates first in a biological predilection (very strong in a small number of people, less strong in a few more, and weakly in others), but after that, it depends on influences and training. Some people, a very few, need practically no influence or training at all; others need only a nudge, and others still require some traumatic experience. People with only a weak predisposition (or even no predisposition at all) can still train themselves into same-sex attraction.

    So there’s my theory. It squares with what I know from my limited exposure to homosexuality (I have had a couple friends who are homosexuals, but we’ve almost never talked about it) and from my struggles with my own sexuality. However, it may not square with anyone else’s experiences, so I’m willing (and perhaps eager) to hear what others think.

    As a note, when I say that I feel people are trained or conditioned into homosexuality due to particular influences, that is not to say that they chose to do so of their own volition, or that they would have agreed to it if they knew what was happening. Indeed, my theory of influences and conditioning tends to lean towards early life experiences that perhaps aren’t even remembered. But in any case, my belief that there is training, influence, and conditioning leading to same-sex attraction does not in any way imply that anyone is culpable for his homosexuality.

  • Ryan,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Studies by the Catholic Medical Association find very similar conclusions. This a very strong argument indeed, for the dangers of the homosexual indoctrination that is being foisted on our children.

    Frankly, the attempt by gay activists to push for the genetic origin is simply a red herring. It really doesn’t matter whether this propensity is purely genetic or purely learned, it is still disordered in a moral sense, and in a biological sense.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Excellent thread.
    If some genetic material carries a ‘homosexual’ component, Why is the homosexual act described as an ‘abomination’ in Scripture?
    i.e God creates the process for this genetic material then condemns His creation…we’d better call Plantinga on this one!
    Could it be that homosexuality is not a psychopathology but rather a pneumopathology?
    Scripture also says that homosexuals will not gain heaven, but then neither will liars, whoremongers, ect., an indicator that we all require forgiveness and salvation.

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5 Responses to I'll Take Her on a Test Drive

  • Love “consists of a choice to devote oneself to another.” That is one of the truths that the vast majority of Americans don’t know about or cannot come to grips to. Love is a choice, it is not a “feeling”. Yes, you can have feelings of love, but the greater and correct definition of love is “the commitment of oneself to another”.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • I’m paraphrasing it badly, having seen it only once somewhere, but didn’t Bishop Fulton Sheen say something to the effect that to like is biology, to love is an act of the will?

    Ryan, this is probably your best post in this series so far. There’s a lot here to think about. Just for the sake of counterargument, one might say that you’re arguing by assertion that all premarital sex is not self-giving. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think that they’re very giving of themselves in this regard. How do you convince them that they’re holding back from that full union?

    I think your point about the “must have sex” mentality is a very good one, one that’s completely lost on our society. However, I’m sure that someone would counter that it might not be an imperative to have sex, but that it’s darn close enough. I’m not sure how to change that understanding.

  • I agree with J. Christian, an excellent post as well.

    How does one engage with secularists who live together and claim they are willing participants and thusly not “using” each other so to speak. Citing statistics that cohabitating couples have the highest propensity of divorce certainly shoots down their theory of “preventive divorce” by “living together”.

  • I would argue that any premarital sex is not self-giving, but there’s a lot of qualifications to be made about that. I’d be willing to concede, for example, that there are indeed self-giving aspects to some of the premarital relations out there, but that perhaps the selfish aspects outweigh the self-giving. That’s a very hard thing to judge for either the individuals involved, much less for someone looking on. It takes a vast amount of self-honesty to look at our sexual behavior and see it for what it is. (Of course, we can go overboard the other direction and feel any sexual behavior is reprehensible, so keep that in mind.)

    One of the questions I found myself asking a number of years ago when I was obsessed with one girl or another was, “If I can’t have her as my girlfriend, do I even want to hang out with her?” Implicit behind this is the selfish mentality. If we’re not going to have sex, do we even have a relation? I think a lot of people would be surprised at their answers if they were actually confronted with that reaction. We’ve become so inculcated with the notion that to be a couple is to have sex that we’ve grown to the point where a relationship is practically only about having sex, and then, sex for pleasure, not sex in its fullness.

    One revelation I had recently, probably back in February or so (so about 3 months before our wedding), I had to seriously stop and ask what it meant for my relationship with my wife if we could never have sex (for health reasons, for example, or simple accident in following NFP and not being in the mood during the infertile areas of the cycle). It was astounding when I realized how personally painful the thought of never having sex was, and eventually making the commitment to give up sex altogether, if our marriage warranted it, was something that has greatly strengthened our relationship.

    So how do we talk to people about whether or not their sexual relationship is selfish or self-giving? That’s hard, because sex tends to be so intimate an act you have a difficult time getting anyone to talk seriously about it. Trying to suggest to someone who is not seeking advice that, say, cohabitation is harmful is bound to turn them away in anger. The problem, of course, is the cognitive dissonance. I’m willing to bet that most people feel there’s something not quite right with premarital sex, but they dismiss it with any number of excuses. It doesn’t feel quite right because of the linger social expectation that sex should be within wedlock, or because of fear of pregnancy, or something like that. Eventually, we become so acclimated to bringing out those excuses to the fore that, for most intents and purposes, we rarely feel that discomfort.

    Perhaps the best we can do is try to, subtly, force people back into thinking about why the discomfort exists in the first place. Trying to get them to answer seriously the questions “Could you go without sex?” or “if you couldn’t have sex with her, would you still want to be with her?” could at last replant the seeds of doubt. Something else we could try is just to explain our Catholic position. Instead of trying to denounce any of their actions, simply explain why we Catholics view premarital sex with disdain. If we can get them to hear us out, and perhaps even get them to ask questions just so they know better the reasons why Catholics seem such prudes, that might also plant seeds.

    The biggest problem with secularists, especially materialists, is that trying to suggest there’s something wrong with using another as an object, or even demeaning oneself as an object for someone else’s pleasure tends not to work. They’ve convinced themselves that there’s no inherent dignity in the human person, and that’s where, I think, we have to start. It is sometimes horrifying in conversation to realize that the person you’re talking to really has no respect for the human person, believing we’re just chunks of meat with a “take what you can, when you can” mentality. To be honest, I have no idea how to uproot that, other than through prayer that God might move this person to faith.

  • Recognizing the dignity in each person is one of the basic concepts of Christianity that seems to have been fallen on the wayside in society. Part of this problem may lie in the public school system as well as parents, both of which have stopped in teaching Christianity at all (which could be an entire post in itself).

    Not recognizing the dignity in each other tends to make us more course in our engagement with others. Thus it’s easier to demean other whether physically, verbally, or any other manner.

Sex Talk from Steven Greydanus

Wednesday, December 17, AD 2008

My own thoughts on fornication and adultery in specific are slow in coming right now, but Steven Greydanus has an excellent piece up at Jimmy Akin’s blog dealing with sex, its multiple purposes, and how those multiple purposes can go right or wrong depending on intent.  I especially like

However it may work out in practice, sex must always be done in a way that is at least open to the multifaceted goodness of sex in all its levels and aspects. Whatever aspect of sex is a couple’s motivation tonight, either they take the occasion to accept the mystery of sex in its fullness, insofar as it is available to them, or they seek to reject and exclude some or another aspect, to the detriment of the act itself and their own being.

It is my hopes with my next post to speak directly to what those detriments that SGD mentions are, especially in terms of trust, deceit, relational bonds, maturity, and so on.

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As Long as Nobody Gets Hurt

Monday, December 15, AD 2008

“I think it’s okay as long as nobody gets hurt.”

That has become the rallying cry of our times, the gloss over all deeds, the excuse for practically any sin. It is the banner of the sexual revolution, the fallback position of those confronted by the “narrow-minded” religious in society. After all, who does it really hurt if teenagers have pre-marital sex, as long as they play it safe? Who does it hurt if two consenting adults decide to have a one-night stand? Who does it hurt if two men or two women decide to sleep together? More importantly, how could one possibly claim anyone is harmed if someone masturbates?

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6 Responses to As Long as Nobody Gets Hurt

  • Sorry, Ryan. The Prophet Mark Shea has explored these matters with two questions:
    1. What can it hurt?
    2. How were we supposed to know?

  • Excellent evaluation, Ryan.

    Have you read Thomas Howard’s philosophical exploration Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism? — Quick read, but very insightful. With a good chapter on sex. From which is excerpted:

    ‘Masturbation would be a form of solipsism, that is, the attempt to seize a special kind of pleasure (orgasm) that attends the carnal knowledge of the other, when the other is attendant only in fantasy; hence it would represent also a denial of the idea that authentic meaning emerges only from the real union of form (the ritual act between two bodies) and matter (the quest for knowledge of the other). That is, the individual mastubating is seeking one of the benefits of union with the other while at the same time in effect disavowing the importance of the other by acting in solitude. Even in this forlorn act there would be, perhaps, levels of pathos, with the person who at least attempts to try and summon the other in fantasy not sunk quite so far into Gommorah as the person who is aroused and gratified only by the image of his own body.”

  • Gerard E.,

    The prophet Mark Shea.

    That cracks me up!

  • Gerard,

    No need to be sorry. I’m sure you’re familiar with “nothing new under the sun”? Nothing I write to this blog hasn’t been written a million a times over, in variation. All I can do is try to represent the material and hope that maybe I touch some of those who have not been touched yet.

    I do like Mark’s writing, and you’ll probably see a little of his influence in mine.

    Chris,

    Great quote. I haven’t read the book, but I can see it would have been quite useful. Howard stated what I was trying in clearer and yet more succinct terms.

  • Behind much of the “what could it hurt” mentality is the idea that we never need discipline our actions to conform to our will. Because we do not discipline ourselves to control our impulses, the idea of conscience becomes an idea of following our desires without thought to where those desires originate or lead to, ending in the recent election time demonstration that “sin makes you stupid” as Mr. Shea says. Not to mention lack of discipline makes it very hard to act virtuously.

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Sex, the Fall, and the Resurrection

Wednesday, December 10, AD 2008

My inspiration for starting this post and continue the topic through several other posts is the “Day without a Gay” protest, which is supposed to inspire homosexuals and those in support of homosexual marriage to take the day off and perhaps commit to volunteer work (to take a little bit of the sting out of the strike).  Whenever issues like this come up (as they do at least annually here at the University of Wyoming with the Matthew Shepard Symposium), I find myself reflecting on human sexuality, the importance it plays in our lives, and the great detriment its misuse has caused, both to the nation and to myself personally.

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20 Responses to Sex, the Fall, and the Resurrection

  • Good post.

    I’d actually be interesting in talking about pornography and masturbation. I once read a statistic that said that roughly 12% of the ENTIRE internet is pornography and that the porn industry made more money than all major sport franchises and major television networks combined. It’s mind-blowing to even think about.

    I think sexuality would make a good chain of posts because it’s the clearest way to present the Catholic vision of the human person and how can we do that, if we ourselves are not equipped and ready to do it?

    I think I’d like to join you on this endeavor. Finals are almost over. I have SO much to talk about.

  • Ryan, your courage is astounding. What we need to do is accelerate efforts to educate the faithful on JP’s Theology Of The Body lectures. The esteemed George Weigel has commented that if these lectures received widespread circulation, this ol planet would turn upside down. Worth a try.

  • Ryan, Eric, et al.: I welcome this discussion, because it’s pretty clear that much of the objection to Catholic teaching (in the West, at least) is over sexual morality. I don’t need to say it to this crowd, but the debate over abortion, gay marriage, and many other issues really hinges on our concept of human sexuality, its forms and its ends. The debate might seem “over” and “lost” in many respects, but opinion can change quickly.

    I wonder, though, if the “Theology of the Body” is a tractable argument to someone who has no theology. How much can we push arguments from reason? Certainly there is solid scientific evidence to support much of the traditional view of sexuality, but is it persuasive and comprehensive enough to the person who rejects Catholic sexual morality not because he is advancing hedonism, but because he thinks “all things in moderation?”

    What I’m trying to say is, few of us know true hedonists. Most of the people we interact with on a daily basis espouse some form of sexual libertarianism — “What consenting adults do in their bedrooms is none of my business.” This is the majority in the middle that is skeptical of what they see as absolutist morality coming from Christianity. This is also the majority that sees no contradiction in telling their teenaged daughter to abstain from premarital sex, but then happily let her tart herself up for the prom. Mixed messages abound.

    As a practical matter, how do we speak to this group?

  • j. christian,

    We use words only when necessary. Some of these folks are lost, no matter what we do or say.

    And I think over 400 years of watching arguments from Natural Law become increasingly unpersuasive would give us a healthy scepticism about attempting to argue metaphysics and anthropology apart from Divine Revelation. Both are needed to make the most cogent argument.

  • Great post, and I admire your working through those struggles.

  • Eric,

    I’d love to have your collaboration on this issue. It is a huge matter to talk about, with plenty enough to for everyone to have their say and still have leftovers. My plan was to post about masturbation on Monday, pre-marital and extramarital sex on Wednesday, and homosexuality and other topics on Friday, but all that is open to adjustment. What do you have in mind?

    j. christian,

    Indeed, the argument that the misuse of human sexuality pits body against soul means nothing to a materialist (or someone from other groups that see the flesh as only temporary). About the only way to proceed with someone like that is in a Socratic line of inquiry, hoping to get him to admit that there’s dignity behind the human person, and that even with just the material to work with, the human person is more than just a body.

    But then, perhaps only a crisis situation will bring such a person about. One of things that drew me back to the Church was, essentially, that the Church’s teachings, as a hypothesis, perfectly explained the evidence I’d encountered, and that brilliant flash of insight, once kindled, burned for more. Before that, I would have argued to the death that masturbation is not only good but necessary; that pornography was perfectly legitimate; and that artificial birth control was a viable means of avoiding pregnancy.

    So to an extent, I think that one of the best things we can do is clearly state, in entirety, what Catholic thought is on the matter of sexuality. People might completely disagree with the Church, but maybe if they have the full picture, something will click. (But then, if it happened with me, it should happen with everyone, right?)

  • Following on J. Christian’s question — I think most people would, given the name, not consider “theology of the body” an attractrive term, since they’re too used to thinking of sex as being a necessary condiment to be sprinkled freely and generously on one’s life.

    And yet, for all that it’s often taken rather casually, most people (women probably more than men) seem to have a sort of Platonic first-knowledge that sex does mean something and more to the point ought to mean something.

    So I think there’s a hunger of sorts for explanations of what sex means and how it can give life meaning — though the challenge is to present this in a way that sounds like a “holistic lifestyle” (to use the new-agey parlance) rather than “a bunch of rules”.

  • http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n20_v40/ai_6701958/pg_3?tag=artBody;col1

    BTW, here is AJ Ayer’s account – to his surprise – of experiencing brain function after the body stops.

  • OK guys. This is my first post and I see a little too much inbred back slapping going on. So here is some Ultra Kudos from outside the gene pool. Great post.

    I am not Catholic. I wish I could be a member of this community, but I have two stupid divorces that I refuse to annul because I will not let my decisions when I was younger and dumber be washed away. I am very proud to be in a happy, loving marriage now because of the hard lessons I hung on myself in years gone by. I shall always see myself as an example of never give up on life’s true treasures (and let your parents fix you up when all seems lost).

    That being said, the teaching of the Church and rational for our existence on this earth, as you alluded to, are indespensible to the future of mankind and we (if I may be so bold) should never give up on the truth and meaning of our life now.

    Keep me informed. I will pass the word. Bless you all.

  • Texas Tom,

    We’re very happy to hear from you and appreciate your blessing (and passing on the word). I wonder, though: could you clarify on what you mean by “I will not let my decisions when I was younger and dumber be washed away”? Or how you perceive annulments as accomplishing this? There might be a misunderstanding here that, once clarified, might just open the path for you into the Church. (No pressure, though–if you don’t wish to discuss it, that’s fine. This can be an intensely private matter that maybe shouldn’t be just posted on the internet for anybody to see.)

  • Ryan, a strained construction of a personal trait.
    I accept full responsibility for my actions and as far as I am, in investigating my options with regard to requesting entry into the Catholic faith, I see and annulment of my two previous marriages as the only way to be a full participant in all the Church has to offer. Annulment sounds like finding a technicality to invalidate the now “inconvenient” moral bonds. (CCC 2384-2387)
    So I can’t, as yet, see a way clear for me to accept that what I did of my own free will and in an informed state can be nullified and my conscience remain clear.
    I had no faith based training as and adult and was not aware of the ramifications of these actions. Heck, my folk dragged me to an Episcopalian church when I was 4-6 for Right and Wrong training and the free Polio vaccines at the health center that was open on Sunday to catch all the little boys and girls.

    As far as privacy… I am a great example of walking, talking oops. I learn from my errors an I always hope someone will look and note that life’s lessons are only lessons when they are known. So, I share and I feel real nice anybody takes an interest in what I have to say.

    I’ll go on a pun rampage later. For now I will curb my inner comedian. (Smile)

  • Texas Tom,

    God is merciful.

    If you accept your past transgressions, but more importantly, ask for forgiveness, then you’re good (to enter the Church).

    What you are doing to yourself sounds like purgatory on Earth. God is the sole judge to determine what cleansing you need to go through, hence why we have Purgatory.

    I’ll let the others help explain better than I can. But if you need more information here is a good starting point –>

    See defintion of Purgatory with all the Bible passages and Church teaching: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm

  • Hey, Tito. I am a happy and grateful man with a wonderful life and an iquisitive nature. Darn tootin’ God is merciful! Heck, He has this blessed life gig down pat and I’ll back his play any day. I do not punish myself or feel deprived in any way and I love being a stand up guy who can give some practical advice to someone who won’t take God’s word for it. (Ha, ha. Almost a pun)
    I will talk to a priest soon to get more first hand low down. I was in a bit of funk about having a Catholic rug pulled out from under me because of my past, but I am still very uninformed about the nuts and bolts of where I may be headed.
    Quick lesson: If you are in the dark over the answer to a question … Maybe it’s a good time to take a nap. When you wake up, ask someone who might know the answer. Then get some hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream. Chocolate is one of God’s blessing too, ain’t it?

  • Texas Tom,

    First, sorry this is so late in coming. I typical am not around a computer with access to the internet on the weekends.

    Second, annulments are not simply trying to find technicalities. They really aren’t the Catholic answer to divorce. There’s a fair amount of theology behind it, especially in how the married couple image the Trinity, but the quick and dirty is this.

    A marriage between two baptized Christians is sacramental and in no way can be broken. The question remains whether a marriage truly existed in the first place. Normally, what looks like a marriage is treated as thus, but closer examination could reveal that one or both of the couple went into the marriage with discernible reservations. A valid marriage must be free, full, faithful, and fruitful.

    A violation of the first would be if you discovered you were closely related to your intended, such as brother-sister, step siblings, in line of descent, and so on. That doesn’t happen often, but given how fractured our society is becoming, I’d be surprised if it didn’t creep up now and then. Another example would be if one of two was already married (such as divorced without an annulment, or even engaged in polygamy).

    A violation of full is best described as “I married him because I was worried he was my last chance.” Full entails full devotion, full giving of the self to the other. This is why women who marry when they discover they’re pregnant tend to be found in an invalid marriage–they married because they were scared of having to raise a kid alone, or were trying to do the respectful thing and marry the father, and either of this conditions could very easily get in the way of the full giving of self. Another, darker example, would be to get married simply because then you’re guaranteed sex with your spouse. Anytime one of the couple goes into the marriage with more of an intent to use the other (be the intent benign or malevolent), the full condition is violated.

    The faithful condition should be fairly obvious. The simplest way to describe a violation is if one or both of the couple doesn’t mean “till death do we part”, but rather “until it becomes inconvenient”. But it can also be violated by wandering eyes (even if they only wander to underwear ads in the magazine), which entail a desire for more physical arousal than what the marriage provides.

    The fruitful condition doesn’t mean that kids have to be present, but it does mean that the couple needs to be open to children in the conjugal act. A couple that marries fully intent on contracepted sex, fully intent on preventing any children in their union, is a couple that violates the fruitful condition.

    Moreover, you’ll find that most violations do not simply fall into one category or another, but span several. Sometimes the problems are obvious; other times obscure.

    The point, though, is not get out of a marriage, but to understand whether or not the marriage was valid to begin with. Getting it right is important, more so than personal pride. To top that, an annulment is a difficult thing for the couple to handle even after it is granted. Consider what happens if nullity is declared, you happen to be at fault. That means you have to do some–undoubtedly painful–soul-searching, praying, and rebuilding of your moral life before you can move beyond that declaration. Some people have received a declaration of nullity, but have been prohibited from marrying again until they show proper signs of repentance and maturation.

    I don’t know if this helps any, and it will probably be a small portion of what a priest will tell you. But the main point is this: a declaration of nullity is not a cakewalk, and it doesn’t simply give you a free pass on mistakes or broken commitments in the past. I would definitely encourage talking with a priest, and I hope that goes well.

  • As a former Catholic who formally defected from the Catholic Church over
    fake annulments, this quote, I assert with experience, is false and dangerous:

    “Second, annulments are not simply trying to find technicalities. They really aren’t the Catholic answer to divorce. There’s a fair amount of theology behind it, especially in how the married couple image the Trinity, but the quick and dirty is this.”

    Our marriage was intentionally undermined by catholic priests and the annulment process and it remain under attack, with the full knowledge of the local ordinaries and the Pope as well as the new head of the Papal Signatura, Raymond Burke.

    The Catholic Church has sold its soul to the Devil regarding marriages. I do not care what statistics you cite or the canonists or priests you have who can defend your position. I know what I continue to experience and the Catholic Church can act but WILL NOT ACT to work towards healing a valid marriage that its own Roman Courts found valid after the corrupt American Tribunals and many priests and laity have aided and abetted open and permanent adultery!

    If the Pope gave a darn he would send me a ticket with an open eneded audience to inform him of what I have seen in person. HE DOES NOT CARE! He listens to his bishops and priests who are corrupted thoroughly.

    He fiddles while Rome burns.

  • Karl, I will pray for your healing. As regards the terrible experience you have met with the clergy, I can only offer sympathies. They are as human as the rest of us, but they have a greater duty to uphold the dignity of their office. That they failed for you is a grave tragedy. Please, if you will, pray for these men who you believe have betrayed your trust, that they might see the error in their ways.

  • “but WILL NOT ACT to work towards healing a valid marriage”

    Karl the Catholic Church was not responsible for the fact that you and your wife had a marriage that fell apart. The idea that but for the Catholic Church you would have gotten your wife back is unlikely in the extreme based upon the facts that you have disclosed in the past in numerous postings on other Catholic websites. Your wife ran off with someone else and got pregnant by him. The idea that anything done by the Church would have gotten her to return to you may give you comfort, but simply does not comport with reality. When someone is willing to commit adultery the idea that not granting them an anullment will cause them to return to their spouse is risible. I think you probably know this deep down but for some reason you have decided to make the Church the target of your bitterness and grief over the fact that your wife did not want to continue to live with you.

  • Mr. Harkins,

    I will continue to pray for the Church and those clerics and the vast majority of laypeople who really do support adultery and whose support encourages unending abuses by the clergy including the bishops and the Popes.

    These clerics are hard-hearted men unwilling to listen to those of us who have seen their corruption first hand. The Pope knows well of the corruption and encourages it through his failure to address these issues with those of us who raise them and his unwillingness to provide a simple recourse against corruption. His failure to help us root out those who have done us wrong means he has joined in their wrongs and he should resign the papacy, forthwith. He coddles priests who openly encourage adultery and all types of crimes against innocent spouses. He knows his fellow bishops are corrupted and care little about truth and the damage their practice does.

    They did not fail me or our marriage. They deliberately chose to do all they could to destroy it and they still do. The evil is incredible in the Catholic clergy. To me failure means there was a desire to to good. I am certain, otherwise, about the efforts of the Catholic Church in these regards.

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