Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's not a bug, it's a feature!

My comment on Jennifer F.'s blog:
(A previous commenter said): Just by making NFP a standard thing implies that most of us will need it as a standard part of marriage, when all HV says is if there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions . Sounds like an optional thing to me.

Humanae Vitae also says that "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." It seems only appropriate that Catholic couples understand the biological processes by which their fertility is governed.

I agree that NFP classes are too long to present the necessary biological material. Still, it seems that a newly married couple would be prudent to realize that even if they are "eagerly anticipating children as quickly as their fertility allows", there may be events in the future which might necessitate spacing of children if only for a month or two. Implying that couples who use NFP prudentially (and with the church's blessing) are less open to life or don't trust God enough comes off as rather a childish slur.
The response:
mrs darwin, I have to respectfully disagree. m_david actually hit upon the exact reason that many Protestants simply cannot accept the teachings of the Catholic Church on this particular issue.

Please allow me to explain. If a couple is using NFP to space children, then they are abstaining from intercourse whenever the woman is ovulating. OTOH, if a couple is using a condom to space children, then they are probably having intercourse regardless of whether or not the woman is ovulating. The people using the condom are actually more likely to conceive than the couple using NFP.

So who's really more open to life?

FTR, I'm not arguing that Catholics should toss out Church teachings on this subject and go buy a pack of Trojans. However, under the circumstances, it does come across as a bit of a childish slur when Protestants are told by Catholics that we're not open to life, or that we're part of the culture of death, just because we use condoms instead of NFP. "Because the Church said so" does not make it a logical argument, and since I don't recognize the authority of the Catholic Church, the argument would have to be more logical to convince me.
The sound you hear is my head exploding.

Update: The sorely missed Opinionated Homeschooler replies as well:

Frankly the "open to life" argument for NFP always left me cold. I know Mormon couples who use contraceptive methods to space their families of six or more children. "Open to life" means anything and nothing.

The *only* reason to say yes to NFP and no to contraceptive methods is that Christians have always forbidden contraception, and condoms etc. are contraceptive while NFP is not. That this is unclear to many, Catholics and non-Catholics, is because of a fudging of the meaning of "contraception."

Contraception is a deliberate interference with the conjugal act so as to prevent pregnancy. Condoms so interfere; abstaining from intercourse does not, because there is no conjugal act to interfere with.

That's it. "Contraception" doesn't mean "having a contraceptive mentality" or "not being open to life" or "family planning." It may be that using NFP to avoid any children, or to limit children for selfish reasons, is a sin--but it's not the sin of contraception, and so to say that it "can be used with a contraceptive mentality" and that then "there is little difference between [NFP] and a condom" is simply muddying the moral waters.

Protestants are right to be offended by being told that by using artificial contraception they are "part of the culture of death" or "not open to life" or "using each other as sex objects" (I actually heard this used in an RCIA class, to the great offense of most of the potential converts present, and was later removed from the RCIA team for pointing out how offensive it was). There's no need for that kind of insulting hyperbole; all that needs to be said is that (a) condoms, the Pill, etc. are contraceptive (while NFP is not), by the meaning of "contraception" that's always been used; and (b) Christians from the earliest times have shunned contraception.


John Farrell said...

Excellent post. And boy, when your head explodes--it's LOUD.


Sarah Reinhard said...

Thank you, Mrs. D, for this post. I don't always get to the comments on Jen's posts (or on any posts, for that matter), and the points you make (and that wonderful Opinionated Homeschooler!) are well worth reading! :)

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Now I'm going to have to go to confession for vanity.