Is NFP Just Another Form of Contraception?

In the post “French Bishop Urges Vatican to Reopen Debate on Whether 1+1=2”, Funky mentions that:

“Pope Paul VI banned contraception in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, arguing that sexual intercourse was meant for procreation and any artificial method to block a pregnancy went against the nature of the act.” 

I was inclined by this to comment on that post, but its my hope that others might have input on my thoughts about Humanae Vitae and NFP.

The Church advocates NFP (Natural Family Planning) as a form of contraception (though they don’t call it that). Using this method, couples track the fertility of the female through various methods of empirical measurement (timing, body temperature, the consistency of saliva and other bodily fluids). When the female is in her non-fertile period, only then do they engage in sexual intercourse.

It seems to me that this is a rather unnatural (or artificial) act. I don’t see anything natural about having sex by a stopwatch. One might argue that the unnatural act of the measurements and timing happens before sex, so it is not really related. I find that, however, to be a slippery slope. Just as slippery as “when does human life begin?” is for pro -or anti-abortion arguments.

Others will offer caveats that there is still a possibility of pregnancy with NFP. On the other hand, catholic NFP advocates will also tell you that NFP is more effective than condoms or The Pill. If they make this argument, then they must condone both condoms and The Pill as okay, since they offer a higher possibility of conception.

A few might argue that The Pill is bad just because it’s a bunch of unhealthy chemicals that do mean things to the person taking it. I typically disregard this argument. If the Church is disallowing it on these grounds, then most weight loss drugs should be disallowed, but all this should occur under some other grounds than contraception.

Still others might argue the barrier argument against condoms. This argument states that a physical barrier (a condom, empty space, etc.) is the problem. By this argument, The Pill must be okay, since it posses no barrier, but simply controls ovulation.

Finally, some would argue what I call “The Every Sperm is Sacred Rule” (kudos to Monty Python). By this argument, it’s the frustration and waste of sperm that becomes the issue. However, is this not the case with NFP, where there is little or no possibility of anything but death for the little swimmers? Indeed, the little guys suffer the same fate in any infertile scenario, whether with NFP, The Pill, or natural sex that doesn’t result in pregnancy.

Here the “Every Sperm is Scared Rule” proponents may also site the Old Testament in regard to an individual being struck down for “spilling his seed”. This, however, is generally taken out of context. Onan was ordered by God to have a child with his brother’s widow. Onan started “doing his thing” and then withdrew. The offence was not that he spilled his seed, the offence was disobeying a direct order! If God told Bob to shake hands with Larry, and Bob only bowed, I’d expect Bob to get struck down too!

From my humble perspective, I can’t see how NFP is any better than any contraception method. I use NFP. I support NFP, because I’m following that 2000 years of accumulated wisdom. But I still think NFP IS contraception and is no different than methods such as a condom, diaphragm, or The Pill.

Comments 155

  1. John wrote:

    Well I can’t say that I see any substanitive difference myself, but I would like to compliment you on acknowledging an apparent contradiction in your own beliefs and for doing so in such a constructive manner.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 4:14 pm
  2. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    OCs are abortaficient (here, here) and therefore pose a doubly-grave sin.

    At least one difference between NFP and condom (and I’ve not always been Catholic, so I’ve done both) is that NFP requires self-discipline. I.e., the difference is not between a latex barrier and a barrier of empty space, but rather a difference in the presence of something going up against the barrier. (And please don’t make me explain… my constitution is far too delicate!)

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 4:41 pm
  3. BV wrote:

    I think NFP can be practiced (wrongly) from a contraceptive perspective.

    Also, I think the difference between natural family planning and artificial contraception is meaningful. Openness to life is maybe the crux–just as in life: we may not want something from God, but we allow Him to have the final say and humble ourself to His will. The practice of NFP allows us to recognize and keep God a part of the marital embrace.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 4:45 pm
  4. Tom Smith wrote:

    The difference is simple:

    With NFP, one is avoiding conception by not having sex. The sanctity of the sex act is preserved.

    With contraception, one is avoiding conception while still having sex. The sanctity of the sex act is not preserved.

    Posted 30 Nov -0001 at 12:00 am
  5. Rob wrote:

    There’s no difference between NFP and other forms of contraception. Humanity was created with hidden estrus, unlike most other creatures on Earth. If you’ve ever owned a cat, dog, or parrot, you know darn well that there are cues given off when the female is fertile. Some baboons have their butts turn bright reddish orange. We’re not naturally able to tell when intercourse will be effective. What few natural clues women have are very unreliable and difficult to detect. To be able to detect estrus and thus control becoming pregnant is obviously against nature.

    Of course, that’s assuming you buy the whole “natural” argument to begin with.

    Steve,

    The idea that OC is an abortificant is based on old data. It’s the same chemicals as the Morning After pill, which only delays ovulation and slows sperm motility — it doesn’t prevent implantation or cause implanted embryos to be sloughed off.

    No one on the pro-Life side wants to publicize that. I wonder why?

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:07 pm
  6. Tom Smith wrote:

    “There’s no difference between NFP and other forms of contraception.”

    Care to tell us why you think that’s true?

    Also, did you read what I said?

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:18 pm
  7. BV wrote:

    Another thought–NFP can be used to achieve conception, hard to say the same for contraceptives.

    BTW, liked Tom’s analysis.

    Rob, not sure I understand how observing nature’s signs are unnatural. Also not sure that we can apply animal morality (of which I would argue there is none) to humans.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:20 pm
  8. Elena wrote:

    NFP be can’t be contraceptive if you look at the very definition of the word:

    Contra – against
    Conception

    With artificial birth control you deliberately thwart the egg, kill the sperm, destroy normally functioning body structures, make the female body hostile to receiving sperm etc. The very nature of ABC is to work against, or contra to conception.

    NFP isn’t contra conception because no sex act occurs to be against!

    You know, you’re right that it might feel funny to be having sex by the clock so to speak. Perhaps that is why the church teaches that it is supposed to be for grave serious reasons. It’s to be the exception for Catholic couples, not the norm for Catholic couples. The ideal is to enjoy your marriage, and enjoy the fruits of that marriage.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:51 pm
  9. Elena wrote:

    No one on the pro-Life side wants to publicize that. I wonder why?

    Because it’s not true.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:52 pm
  10. Funky Dung wrote:

    “What few natural clues women have are very unreliable and difficult to detect. To be able to detect estrus and thus control becoming pregnant is obviously against nature.”

    Uh…no. Actually, they are quite reliable and relatively easy to detect.

    “The idea that OC is an abortificant is based on old data. It’s the same chemicals as the Morning After pill, which only delays ovulation and slows sperm motility — it doesn’t prevent implantation or cause implanted embryos to be sloughed off.”

    Says you. There are plenty of doctors and pharmacists that would question the studies (actually, I’ve only seen you cite one) used to “prove” this point.

    “No one on the pro-Life side wants to publicize that. I wonder why?”

    Because they believe, based on sound research and data, that it is wrong.

    Stuff!!! We are you? We need you!!!

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:53 pm
  11. Kevin wrote:

    In the overall realm…NFP is extremely different.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 6:53 pm
  12. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Rob, old data, new data, who gives a flip? The point is that it is very much an open question. The mere fact that OCs fail, even when used as directed (and who says they’re always used as directed anyway) suggests that they don’t absolutely positively prevent ovulation. And given the FACT that they do make the uterus less hospitable to implantation, I think it absolutely incredible that someone would say there is ZERO risk of OCs causing a failure for a fertilized oocyte to implant. It is not plausible on the face of it. What IS that risk quantitatively? Well, that’s perhaps an open question.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 7:33 pm
  13. Fred K. wrote:

    The distinction between having intercourse when not fertile and causing infertility through poisons or barriers goes back at least to St. Augustine. See Fr. John Hugo’s book: “St. Augustine on Nature, Sex, and Marriage.”

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 8:17 pm
  14. Funky Dung wrote:

    Don’t get Rob started on Augustine’s views on sex. 😉

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 8:31 pm
  15. Lightwave wrote:

    Wow, that’s a lot of comments. Let me respond with my humble analysis (and opinion):

    Steve:
    While I agree that NFP does require self dicipline, I don’t think that is the basis of the church’s teaching. Using a condom takes dicipline too…all you have to do is listen to men (and sometimes women) whining that they hate using them because it inhibits the pleasure.

    BV: If your argument that NFP makes one more open to life, I can’t agree. NFP claims to be more effective a preventing conception that other methods, hence less open to life than, say, a condom.

    Tom: You counter with this: “with contraception, one is avoiding conception while still having sex.”, in my view, that’s precicely what NFP does, allows one to have sex while still preventing conception. Additionally, I still don’t think that timing sexual acts does much to preserve the “sanctity” of sex any more than The Pill might preserve the sanctity by assisting in timing ovulation.

    BV: On your additional thought, I doubt the Catholic teaching is based on the idea that a contraceptive is only allowable when it can also be used for conception. The Pill can (and is sometimes) used to control ovulation cycles in women. In that sense, it can be used to predict fertility and achieve pregnancy the same as NFP.

    Elena: By your definition of Contraception, the Pill also is not a contraceptive when used to prolong and time the period of infertility in women. Also, you site “grave and serious reasons” and then go on to say that this means it must be the “exception” case. I disagree here. Serious reasons can be quite commonplace in the life of any individual.

    Funky, Elena, Steve: I think one thing is clear on the abortificant issue with OCs: credible Doctors can’t agree, credibile pharmicists can’t agree, and eveyone has an argument for why each study is not credible. Because of this, I don’t think its responsible to claim that we know if OCs have an abortificant effect any more than we know if grape jello has an abortificant effect (on the jello note, its just never been studied ).

    Fred: Perhaps some tradition does come from the writings of St. Augustine. However, the fact that a Saint gave an opinion is not sufficient for me. Indeed, the Catholic church regularly distances itself from particular opinions of individual Saints. That is to say, the opinions of Saints do often have merit, and I am certianly willing to give them their proper weight when endorsed by the Chruch, but they are still the opinions of humans and can be falable with some regularity.

    Beyond that, what would Augustine say about comparing NFP to other contraceptives?

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 9:13 pm
  16. Elena wrote:

    By your definition of Contraception, the Pill also is not a contraceptive when used to prolong and time the period of infertility in women.

    It doesn’t prolong the period of infertility. It artificially makes the woman infertile via the hormonal system. If a women in her childbearing years cannot conceive usually we consider that a pathology. SO in a sense the oral contraceptive or patch, puts the woman in a pathological state. I’d say that’s more than CONTRA ception, it’s CONTRA woman. As a back up it make the cervical mucus and the uterus hostile to sperm. That is also contraceptive.

    Also, you site “grave and serious reasons” and then go on to say that this means it must be the “exception” case. I disagree here. Serious reasons can be quite commonplace in the life of any individual.

    I don’t. I think we’ve talked ourselves into that, but I don’t think it is.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 9:48 pm
  17. Funky Dung wrote:

    Powerball tosses his two cents in by quoting from JPII.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 10:06 pm
  18. BV wrote:

    Lightwave,

    I’m a little confused as to the issue you’re honing in on here:

    –If your point is that NFP, like contraceptives, can be used to avoid conception, then I’d agree.

    –If your point is that NFP is therefore the same as contraceptives, then I’d disagree. The end result does not make the means equivalent.

    Contraceptives prevent/contravene the natural human process of fertility and conception from occurring. NFP does not.

    As a result, contraception (unlike NFP): a) contradicts the total self-donation proper to the marital embrace, b) constitutes a re-working of God’s design of sex, and c) manipulates human biology away from its proper functioning.

    Contraception leads the human in the wrong direction (we are in control and enforce our own way), whereas properly practiced NFP keeps the focus turned in the right direction (God is in control and we work from his way).

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 12:44 am
  19. Roz wrote:

    Based on reading JPII’s writings (granted I’m rusty…) I’d always felt that NFP is not contraception, based on the fact that there is not a chance for conception (as discussed above). There is also the element of respect for the spouse added in. The marital act is to be a mutual gift of self, and with any form of contraception (barrier or chemical), the mutual gift is not fully offered and accepted.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 12:56 am
  20. Mark Thompson wrote:

    In Natural Family PLanning methods, one does not commit any positive act against conception. With contraception one does. If there were absolutely no difference, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish the methods to a degree sufficient for holding this conversation in the first place. If any should argue that observing signs and deciding when and when not to have sex is a positive act against conception, one has merely clarified the nature of the positive act that contraception entails: Contraception is a positive act that is itself an intervening instrumental cause preventing conception. That is, whether by condom, withdrawal, or hormonal pills, contraceptive methods are interventions in the normal progress of the sex act itself. Natural Family Planning does not intervene in the sex act itself. All that I have said is a more complex version of that which was pithily stated by Mr. Smith, above.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 1:20 am
  21. Tom Smith wrote:

    Yep.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 2:15 am
  22. Fred K. wrote:

    Lightwave,
    “Beyond that, what would Augustine say about comparing NFP to other contraceptives?”

    Augustine’s judgement was that intercourse between infertile spouses was permissible. It would seem that infertility is a more effective contraception than NFP or any other means (not 100% of course – because the infertile (Sarah, Elizabeth) sometimes conceive.

    If it is permissible to have intercourse during the infertility of old age, it would also seem permissible to have intercourse at other infertile times. Indeed, even those couples who sneer at NFP will have intercourse during monthly infertile periods and during the post-partum nursing time.

    Contraception, to the contrary, is an act which makes the body infertile.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 2:38 am
  23. Stuff wrote:

    Wow, where do I begin? Firstly, I don’t really think you NEED me, Funky, though I am genuinely flattered;) I’m not really sure I’m going to give you what you’re looking for…
    Secondly, I’d like to applaud Elena for beautifully defending the true teaching of the church. It is only the church of the USA and similar cultures of death that feels the need to “sell” NFP to couples so inundated with the contraceptive mentality that they will only consider it as a “contraceptive option” if you can prove to them that it “works.” I recently read an article about a Couple to Couple League (CCL) educator who was asked to teach NFP classes in Africa, and her Catholic students were OFFENDED by the comparison to artificial contraception. They were there to learn more about a woman’s body and how a husband can fully communicate (in every sense) with his beloved. I’d like to point out that the Church uses the word GRAVE, not just serious, when describing during what exceptions NFP should be practiced. As an example, anyone who knows me will remember that when my husband and I were married, I was starting my fifth of 6 years of pharmacy school and he was a few weeks into a very crappy, basically minimum wage welding job, coming home with burn holes in his clothes every night. We had serious reasons to wait for a child. As in, I was already close to $50,000 in debt and our combined annual income was less than $15,000. I was pregnant my first cycle into the marriage, and threw up several times a day for the entire school year. You cannot imagine how profoundly that deepened our faith and our marriage. I would not consider our situation to have been “grave,” and I would not change it for the world. It taught us that God cannot be outdone in His generosity. If we take the time to look back to before the time NFP was so fine-tuned and fail-safe, “grave” reasons for not being open to children included anything that would require COMPLETE abstinence (not just during the 5 fertile days per cycle). So if, nowadays, paying off a car, finishing school, or waiting until you can afford a bigger home so your baby can be spoiled with his/her very own nursery with matching crib, changing table and armoire would be reason enough for you to abstain from conjugal relations for a year or more, than by all means consider that grave. Personally, I think the only grave financial reason would be the equivalent of living in a van down by the river. Other grave reasons include medical reasons, like requiring chemotherapy or radiation for cancer (which would be abortifacient anyway). “I’m just not ready” does not hold water with the tradition of the Catholic church.

    Moving on:
    “The Pill can (and is sometimes) used to control ovulation cycles in women. In that sense, it can be used to predict fertility and achieve pregnancy the same as NFP.”
    This statement could not be more false. Please do some actual research before doing any more foot-in-mouth tricks. While many women start on the pill to “regulate” what they consider an irregular cycle, what most of them don’t realize is that just because they don’t have the standard 28-day cycle the pill provides they are not necessarily “irregular.” A woman’s cycle can be affected by any sort of mental and/or physical stress (like an illness or job change) and will hardly ever be identical cycle-to-cycle. Length of cycle varies from woman to woman based on a variety of factors, and painful cycles can be alleviated by other means. Aside from that, as shown in another article published by CCL, women who wanted to stop the pill to try to become pregnant began charting cycles while still on the pill. These cycles looked very similar to a woman’s normal, unmedicated cycle, precisely because that’s what your standard triphasic OC is meant to do. But these women had blood levels drawn to test if and when ovulation had occurred, and actual ovulation, if it happened, did not correspond with charting in the least. It was not until at least a few cycles off the pill that charting was actually predictive for fertility.

    As far as the abortifacient effects of the pill, I’m assuming that this is where my “expertise” is desired, but I don’t have much more to say than what Steve and Funky already said. Comparing the pill to Jell-O is more ridiculous than I would have expected from you, and shows that you’re really not paying attention to the argument or the gravity of the situation.

    I have to go now because it’s bedtime, but I’d like to wrap up by stating that viewing marital union in terms of contraception alone just goes to show how far the Catholic Church in this country has fallen prey to the mentality of the culture of death. What happened to modeling a marriage after the wedding feast of the Lamb? About living the icon of marriage as a way to teach your children about Christ’s nuptial relationship with his Bride, the Church? Why are we so busy looking at how far we can go without “breaking the law” instead of really trying to live as images of God in both our marital giving and receiving?

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 3:02 am
  24. Squat wrote:

    It truly saddens my heart when I see how the culture of death has permeated the Church and how it has perverted the use of NFP.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 3:28 am
  25. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    In the interests of full disclosure, the diligent searcher will find a comment war between myself (the discontented Protestant) and Eric and Jerry (on the side of Church teaching) in which I pose arguments very similar to what Lightwave has presented here, at least as regards barrier contraception. (I’ve long been convinced about the murderous tendencies of OCs and thank God, we have never used them.) I say all that to say I know where Lightwave is coming from, and to be fair to him, he says he is living in accord with Church teaching. If so, he has committed his will to following the Lord. The intellectual assent will eventually catch up.

    When I started seriously considering the RCC, a few things (or so I thought) stood in the way: Immaculate conception and assumption of the BVM, transubstantiation, papal supremacy, and barrier contraception. I became convinced that faith was acting AS IF certain propositions were true, i.e., that it was a conscious act of the will far more than it was intellectual assent to truth. I did not know HOW to ACT as though the immaculate conception and assumption of the BVM were true, except perhaps not to speak against such doctrines. Similarly, I did not know how to ACT as though transubstantation or papal supremacy was true. But contraception? That’s an easy one: If you wanna act AS THOUGH it’s true, then don’t do it. All the others were a problem with my brain, but church teaching on contraception did not contradict my brain nearly as much as my… hrm… private parts. Such a state of affairs seemed to me to be subhuman. I may not be able to make my brain obey Church teaching on (what seemed) esoteric dogma, but I certainly ought to be able to make my… hrm… private parts obey. So we did begin to obey this teaching. On this Easter Vigil, we’ll (all 7 of us, plus one in the oven thanks to NFP) be entering the RCC… and I think in large part it will be because of our obedience in this private (pun intended) matter.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 4:55 am
  26. Amy wrote:

    no comments other than to say congrats to Steve & family on entering the Church! I think I remember that comment war… if it was the same one that caused me to post about NFP at my own blog. (see feb ’05 archives)
    Congrats on the new baby, too :) You’ll be in our prayers.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 11:13 am
  27. Elena wrote:

    So Funky, I’d kind of like to hear if you still view NFP as just another form of contraception?

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 1:42 pm
  28. Funky Dung wrote:

    Um…I’m not sure I ever said I thought it was. I’m certainly sympathetic to Lightwave’s arguments, but Lightwave wrote this post, not I.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 1:56 pm
  29. edey wrote:

    i just want to give a shout out to stuff. i particularly liked your discussion of grave reason.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 3:17 pm
  30. Tom Smith wrote:

    Yeah, Stuff’s stuff was good stuff.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 3:32 pm
  31. Stuff wrote:

    I actually want to apologize for any snideness of tone in my previous post – it’s harder for me to control my emotions when I’m pregnant. I don’t want to seem like I don’t sympathize with Lightwave’s point of view; to be honest, Squat and I began our marriage with a similar one and it took that first kick in the rumpus to knock us out of it. I mean, come on, I was in training to be a fully self-sufficient, ultra-feminist professional woman! I now see the lies and snares that were placed along that path, and I thank God for saving me from it.

    I still want to emphasize that I feel the focus of marriage and parenthood should be shifted, and speaking to other women in particular, I will leave ya’ll with this quote from Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty:

    “The most Important Person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body…
    The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in perfomring this act of creation….
    What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?”

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 4:19 pm
  32. Elena wrote:

    Oh, that’s so beautiful!!

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 4:35 pm
  33. Lightwave wrote:

    Yikes. I’ve stirred up the hornets nest! Let me respond for those who are still reading:

    Elena: I don’t agree that artificially doing something that we’d usually consider a pathology can be defined as a bad thing by its nature. Indeed, most drugs work by altering the human body to work in a way that we would not want it to usually work, but is important for the treatment of disease, or used for some other desired effect (caffeine comes to mind).

    BV: You say “Contraceptives prevent/contravene the natural human process of fertility and conception from occurring. NFP does not.” I disagree, NFP has the direct, intentional effect of preventing a fertile action (i.e. sex while fertile), allowing only infertile action (i.e. sex while not-fertile), thus still preventing conception from occurring. Perhaps this is just semantics, but it seems to matter in this case.

    Roz: I can’t say this enough times: NFP claims to have less of a chance of conception than other contraceptives! Hence, there is more chance of conceiving with The Pill or a Condom.

    Mark T: You say that “[with NFP] one does not commit any positive act against conception. With contraception one does”. I call this the Matchstick Man argument. A robber holds a gun to your head and takes your money (what I might call a positive act), so that’s illegal. A Con-Artist gets you to give your money to him by fooling you. He didn’t take it against your will. That’s still illegal.

    You also say that “contraceptive methods are interventions in the normal progress of the sex act itself.” I think that NFP intervenes as well…it prevents the act from beginning. Again, this is the slippery slope of “where do you draw the line.”

    Fred: You say “[sex] between infertile spouses was permissible”. But it is important that the intent here is not to prevent conception. Just as accidentally walking out in front of a bus is not considered suicide, but doing so intentionally is suicide, intention maters. With NFP, the intention is decidedly to either prevent conception or cause conception.

    Stuff: Geeze, how long did it take you to write all that (not that I’m complaining)? I can’t agree with your definition of Grave at “I think the only grave financial reason would be the equivalent of living in a van down by the river”, I can go on to describe what I think a good definition of grave is, but I’ll have to call this a matter of opinion, else we will be debating the definitions of words for pages and pages.

    To your statement “This statement could not be more false. Please do some actual research before doing any more foot-in-mouth tricks.” As much as I’m a fan of personal attacks, I don’t see your point. Though you state that other things can affect an ovulation cycle, and there are other methods, you never seem to state anything that disagrees with “The Pill can (and is sometimes) used to control ovulation cycles in women. In that sense, it can be used to predict fertility and achieve pregnancy the same as NFP.”

    You missed my point on the Jell-O (perhaps because I didn’t make it well). The point is that the facts on abortifacient effects are as credible as the “Twinkie defense”. This is an area where people try to use intuition to lend credibility to a less-than-credible finding. Unfortunately, intuition can be, and often is, wrong.

    Squat: I find your statement interesting. Can you elaborate on the connection between NFP and the “culture of death”? Perhaps it?s a worth topic for an article?

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 5:08 pm
  34. Elena wrote:

    Elena: I don’t agree that artificially doing something that we’d usually consider a pathology can be defined as a bad thing by its nature. Indeed, most drugs work by altering the human body to work in a way that we would not want it to usually work, but is important for the treatment of disease, or used for some other desired effect (caffeine comes to mind).

    Most drugs (in this case let’s use drugs to mean licitly used medications) work to alter the body from an illness or a pathology.

    Fertility is not an illness or a pathology.

    And while yes, one may use caffiene for the late night buzz to stay awake during finals or to perk up i the morning, you certainly couldn’t put the need for a mile stimulant i the same importance with the life-giving, God imaging, power of human beings to procreate. It’s an apples to kiwi type of comparison.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 6:31 pm
  35. Squat wrote:

    The connection that I made was that NFP has been PERVERTED by the culture of death(COD). It is a very sad thing that the COD has grown to such a degree that it has even permeated the Church. Lucifer has been prepping the world for a long time. As Christopher West states in his prologue of “Theology of the Body Explained”: “The devil cannot create out of nothing. As a creature himself, all he can do is take what God created to reveal the mystery of his own Fatherhood and twist it, distort it – or, more aptly, tempt us to do so. So if we are looking for that which is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for that which Satan most often profanes: the gift of the body and sexuality.” Basicly: Lucifer has been at this since Adam and Eve.

    Let me see if I can convey this right.(try to follow if you can, i’m not sure where this will take us.) Since the Fall it has been Lucifer vs God. Satan has sought to destroy God. God is love (i think we can all agree with this). What is the most loving act a man and a woman can share? Sex(i think we can all agree with this too 😉 ). Now what has Lucifer done to sex? He has twisted and destorted it to the point that the world at large believes “if it feels good, do it”. This means anytime, anywhere, with anyone, and with any devices that will help you to “feel good”. Lucifer has taken the love (i.e. God) out of sex. This, I’m sure, is no suprise to anyone. Sex is now viewed as just a thing for pleasure not as an act of creation. What did God do with his abundant love? He created. He created man and woman to share in His love and to share this love with, each other, in this creative act. Those who view NFP as “catholic contraception” are taking the creative aspect out of sex. I dare to say that if there were no such thing as NFP that those who use it as “catholic contraception” would go against chuch teaching and open themselves to using sinfull forms of contraception. If this is not the devil twisting and perverting things, I don’t know what is.

    Posted 30 Nov -0001 at 12:00 am
  36. Elena wrote:

    I think the only grave financial reason would be the equivalent of living in a van down by the river”, I can go on to describe what I think a good definition of grave is, but I’ll have to call this a matter of opinion, else we will be debating the definitions of words for pages and pages.

    This would be a good discussion that I wish someone would have. I have some friends who decided to stop at 3 kids because they only had a 4 bedroom home and it was important to them that each child have their own room. I heard of a lady who prevented pregnancy because she was going to be her sister’s bridesmaid and she didn’t want to be pregnant at the wedding?

    I’m definitely leaning towards “Not grave.”

    My own definition of “grave” means that when it’s my turn to be judged, and I’m standing before the Lord to give my “grave” reasons, I’m not going to feel stupid in front of the communion of saints for saying something that in the big picture, was rather silly. For after all, how could a lack of bunk beds stand in the way of creating another eternal soul? things that make you wonder.

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 7:11 pm
  37. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Lightwave, if NFP bothers you so much, if you are tempted to use it as a contraceptive, i.e., to limit the size of your family for ILlicit reasons, then by ALL MEANS DON’T USE IT! If you cannot understand or agree with what Mark Thompson so eloquently wrote, viz.,

    In Natural Family Planning methods, one does not commit any positive act against conception. With contraception one does.

    then I cannot help but wonder whether there is some sort of intestinal pathology afflicting you. The act of Not Having Sex is NOT a positive act, ergo is an INaction that is UNlike any other contraceptive method, i.e., one that involves some sort of positive action, like popping a pill, getting the snip-snip, or donning a rubber. You’re a smart guy… so what’s the problem here? Are you just out intentionally trying to dredge up stupid reasons to doubt the Church’s teaching in this matter, a teaching that you are otherwise disposed to obey? This MAKES **NO** SENSE!!!

    Married couples are perfectly free to have or not have sex, the Church makes no demands on them… provided they at least have sex some time. What is there NOT to get!?!?!!!!! If watching the calendar, taking temperature, checking cervical mucus bothers you, then BY ALL MEANS: Don’t Do it!!!

    Now this whole grape jello is just so absolutely stupid I was hoping not even to have to bring it up. But alas you press this idiotic analogy. Jello is not formulated to prevent ovulation, there’s no reason to suspect it would. People have been eating animal sinew (rendered or otherwise) for about as long as people have been on earth. OCs, by way of contrast, ARE formulated to prevent ovulation. Modern OCs are “better” because they work with lower doses of hormones than the old-fashioned ones. But the payback for this is that they ALSO render the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation… because the “effectiveness” of OCs is defined as the percentage of women who use the drug who over a certain period of time do not have a detectable pregnancy.

    Given the simple facts about how OCs work, and the simple fact that OCs fail occasionally (I happen to know two such failures, i.e., humans, personally) it is ludicrous ON THE FACE OF IT to suggest that OCs **never** cause the failure to implant of a fertilized oocyte, which for those not paying attention is a human being in the eyes of the Church. It only remains an open question of what this likelihood is… 50%, 10%, 1%, 0.0001%… what risk are you willing to take that by a free-will and unnecessary act you’ll “unintentionally” abort your baby?

    The Morning After Pill iss (is and only is) a high dose (like 4X) of ordinary OC. It is thought that it will prevent conception if it hasn’t already occurred, but if it HAS occurred, the lining of the uterus will be quickly rendered by the drug to be inhospitable to implantation.

    And we’re talking about the pill why? Because the teaching of the Church is not clear? Because its rationality is in doubt? NO. I DON’T KNOW WHY THE BLOODY HELL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THIS?!?!!!!

    [/harumph]

    The NFP question is fine, but the whole Pill thing gets on my nerves.

    😉

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 7:19 pm
  38. Stuff wrote:

    Steve, Elena, you guys are awesome!

    Lightwave, I said I was sorry. No more personal attacks, I promise. (sigh) Let me repeat and try to paraphrase the important part about my previous argument:
    “… and actual ovulation, if it happened, did not correspond with charting in the least. It was not until at least a few cycles off the pill that charting was actually predictive for fertility.”
    Meaning: while OC’s makes menstruation more predictable, they make ovulation and hence fertility, infinitely less predictable. That means OC’s make it infinitely harder achieve pregnancy. Do I need to clarify further?

    Not to be the “grave reasons” police, and I admit I am not qualified to step into the lives of other couples to condemn or condone, I am sticking by my statement that a good way of measuring a good enough reason is whether you would be willing and able to abstain completely for an indefinite amount of time. I happened to look to the Catechism for additional guidance on this matter, and what I found was a description of marriage which repeatedly used terms like “total gift of self.” After such definition, the fecundity of marriage is described as “a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful.” Only after addressing a couple’s call to give life and responsibly educate children does the CCC talk about the responsible regulation of procreation, strictly in terms of child spacing, and with explicit instruction that a couple’s desire is “not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.”
    Finally, this quote is taken from the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes:

    “…the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.”

    May I repeat the phrase OBJECTIVE CRITERIA. I take this to mean whatever reasons you have or you think you have MUST be evaluated in the light of established Church teaching, including this one:
    “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.”

    Just a very long-winded way to say, I’m with you, Elena, lack of bunk-beds doesn’t count!

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 11:03 pm
  39. Stuff wrote:

    By the way, I am sooooo early-90’s – can someone tell me how to intalicize stuff?

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 11:08 pm
  40. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    I think you’re right, semantics may be muddying the waters here.

    It seems to me that your argument boils down to: ‘Contraception is any method used to prevent conception. Drugs and barriers are methods used to prevent conception. NFP is a method used to prevent conception. Therefore drugs, barriers, and NFP are all forms of contraception.’ Said differently: ‘If your intent is to _not conceive_, then you are contracepting.’

    To which I would reply: ‘Abstaining from an otherwise good act for just reasons, is not the same as perverting it.’ (I’ll set aside the issue of just reasons for the time being so as to focus on the main issue of abstaining versus perverting.)

    For example, fasting lunch for the purpose of mortification of the flesh is not the same as binging and vomiting lunch due to insecurities. They both result in an empty stomach, but one is properly ordered and the other is disordered and damaging (physically & psychologically).

    Forgoing intercourse during fertile periods to space the births of children, is different from engaging in intercourse and deliberating attacking one of its two purposes via chemical, barrier, etc. Married couples have a right (and daresay duty) to the conjugal act and to plan their family. As part of that responsibility, they can chose to forgo sex for morally licit reasons. On the contrary, there is no morally licit reason to pervert the sex act by modifying it.

    Borrowing from Christopher West: ‘non-creative and anti-creative are different.’

    This is not to say that NFP can’t be practiced (wrongly) as anti-creative. NFP by itself is not a “get out of sin free” card. As in all moral acts, to be virtuous, they must be done for the right reasons. You can just never use contraceptive products for the right reasons. You can forgo sex with your spouse for the right reasons.

    Does this help to explain the difference?

    (BTW, thank you for your patience through this discussion and your responses which have helped to clarify the issues at question here.)

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 11:17 pm
  41. Lightwave wrote:

    Let me see if I can tie this all together. I’m feeling a bit enlighted by the comments (or perhaps sadly misguided, depending on the feedback I get next).

    BV: Thank you! Perhaps I should have just written what you suggested my argument boils down to in the first place: –SNIP– ‘Contraception is any method used to prevent conception. Drugs and barriers are methods used to prevent conception. NFP is a method used to prevent conception. Therefore drugs, barriers, and NFP are all forms of contraception.’ Said differently: ‘If your intent is to _not conceive_, then you are contracepting.’

    To which I would reply: ‘Abstaining from an otherwise good act for just reasons, is not the same as perverting it.’ (I’ll set aside the issue of just reasons for the time being so as to focus on the main issue of abstaining versus perverting.)
    –SNIP–

    To that end, my point is NFP or Condom, the result is the same, and your intent is the same. But your intent matters, and makes the difference.

    Squat: I agree with many of your points. I think what defines whether NFP is “perverted”, as you say, is perhaps the intentions of the indivudal using it.

    Stuff/Elena: I think your comments on grave matters is also important, though I guess I feel the words leave too much wiggle room. But if one is not using the “graveness test”, then I think one’s intentions are clear.

    Steve: Please relax.

    I don’t think we’re going to come to an agreement on the “pathology” issue, so lets agree to disagree there. I just see it differently than you do.

    By the way, I don’t particularly see my individual use of NFP at issue here. If I suggested that I did, I appologize.

    On the OC abortificant issue, its not a matter of probability. From a perspective of one who doesn’t believe the hype, the probability is 0% (or, to quote my “twinkie defense,” is statistically insignificant…that is to say that the measurment is within the random variation one would expect among separate sets of test subject under identical conditions).

    To All: The bottom line of what I’m getting out of all the points of view here (including mine) is, as I mentioned before, “NFP or Condom, the result is the same, and your intent is the same. But your intent matters, and makes the difference.” Which goes to my original point, I just don’t see a difference between contraceptive methods.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 2:35 am
  42. Elena wrote:

    I just don’t see a difference between contraceptive methods.

    You don’t see the difference between having an orgasm and abstaining? Gee, my husband and I understood that one immediately!
    😉

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:25 am
  43. Funky Dung wrote:

    Um…Elena…The having and not having of an orgasm is an orthogonal issue to contraception.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:43 am
  44. Elena wrote:

    Uh…Gesundheit!

    Hey to us regular married lay Joe-6-pack, Catholic folk… that is the major difference. Kind of the first one we noticed. It’s so obvious. How can you not notice the difference?

    And truth be told, that’s the real reason people whine so much about NFP. It’s really what people are thinking about.

    Just keeping it real.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:57 am
  45. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Hey to us regular married lay Joe-6-pack, Catholic folk… that is the major difference. Kind of the first one we noticed. It’s so obvious. How can you not notice the difference?”

    I’m still a bit lost. Whether one does or does not have an orgasm is quite independent of whether or not contraception is used. Since you mention “gesundheit”, I’ll use sneezing as an example. Let’s say my wife takes medication that somehow prevents colds. If I sneeze, spewing my mucus at her, she will be grossed out, but not get sick. If I sneeze into a tissue, she won’t get messy or sick. If she just happens to be immune to the cold I have (for whatever reason), if I sneeze on her, she’ll be messy but not sick. If she has no immunity, takes no medication, and I don’t use a tissue, she’ll be messy and there’s a chance she’ll be sick. Any way you look at it, I sneezed and mucus came out.

    The medicine is OC, the tissue is a condom, and immunity is NFP. Orgasm, like a sneeze, is independent of the means used to prevent potential consequences.

    Specifically, unless something is busted, the guy will have an orgasm. That’s a given. Whether the gal has one, though, might be influenced by the use or non-use of barrier methods. I’d still argue that it’s mostly independent of that, though.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 4:10 am
  46. Tom Smith wrote:

    “NFP or Condom, the result is the same, and your intent is the same. But your intent matters, and makes the difference.”

    In ethics, there are many things which matter: as you have stated, results and intent matter; you forget to include means. With the Church, I contend, perhaps at a variance with the others commenting here, that *means* are what makes the crucial difference, rather than intent.

    Although the ends are the same, and the intent may very well be the same, the means are objectively different, and that is what makes the difference.

    Namely, the re-ordering of fertile-period sex to artificially render it infertile, which ontologically changes the act itself, versus the abstinence from fertile-period sex, which, obviously enough, does not alter its objective nature.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 4:32 am
  47. Elena wrote:

    Specifically, unless something is busted, the guy will have an orgasm.

    Just curious because that’s a new one on me. How does one have an orgasm if one is abstaining? (assuming of course that one isn’t masturbating and not talking about involuntary orgasms.)

    But getting back to LIghtwave’s comment:

    “Which goes to my original point, I just don’t see a difference between contraceptive methods.”

    The most obvious difference – sorry, is in the orgasm. One couple is having em, the other isn’t!

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 4:43 am
  48. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    On the OC abortificant issue, its not a matter of probability. From a perspective of one who doesn’t believe the hype, the probability is 0% (or, to quote my “twinkie defense,” is statistically insignificant…that is to say that the measurment is within the random variation one would expect among separate sets of test subject under identical conditions).

    Unless you willing to let “perspective” alone stand as a valid claim to objective authority, I’d appreciate sources for your confidence on this bit.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 5:53 am
  49. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Just curious because that’s a new one on me. How does one have an orgasm if one is abstaining? (assuming of course that one isn’t masturbating and not talking about involuntary orgasms.)”

    Ahhhh…Well, unless I missed it (if so, please show me where), you didn’t specify that the lack of orgasm was due to lack of intercourse. 😉 I wasn’t even thinking of the times sex is avoided (when the woman is fertile or menstruating). I was thinking of sex during infertile times.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 12:02 pm
  50. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    I’m estatic I was able to connect! Though, I must say, since I can’t see where you’ve directly refuted my counter-argument, I’m still a little hazy on where the point of departure is. As a help to zero in on where we’re different, I’ve laid out a line of reasoning below. Let me know at which point you disagree.

    As a backdrop, I am using the classical evaluation of morality which depends on: a) the object chosen (in this case the action or inaction), b) the intention (i.e. the purpose pursued in the action/inaction), and c) the circumstances (which do not change the morality, but impact its degree of goodness/evil and culpability).

    1. Do you agree that the use of contraceptive drugs or barriers *is* objectively immoral? (i.e., that without considering intent or circumstances, contraceptive drugs or barriers can never be moral). If not, then please explain how actively thwarting one of the two ends of sex can be considered moral.

    2. Do you agree that abstaining from sex within marriage *is not* objectively immoral? (i.e., that without considering intent or circumstances, abstaining is not of itself immoral). If not, then please explain how abstaining itself is in every case immoral.

    If we are agreed on #1 and #2 above, then all that remains is to establish under what intent abstaining from sex can be moral/immoral. I’m going to leave that issue aside, since it’s outside the scope of what I’m trying to accomplish at this stage.

    I want to re-emphasize again (because I think it may be the point you’re driving at), NFP can be wrongly practiced with contraceptive intentions. It becomes immoral at that point. However, it is not the NFP which is contraceptive, but the way it is being used. NFP can be rightly practiced without contraceptive intentions. It can be practiced not with the intent to avoid conception, though that may be its immediate effect, but with the intent to orderly grow a family. At that point it doesn’t become a “way to avoid another kid”, but a way to fulfill the duty of raising up a family.

    Let me know if this helps.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 1:32 pm
  51. Lightwave wrote:

    Tom: Ah, you’re speaking against the heart of my argument whey you say “that *means* are what makes the crucial difference.” I guess my point is, I don’t see what the *means* has to do with it. I just can’t see how “re-ordering of fertile-period” by definition “changes the act itself” while “abstinence from fertile-period sex” does not. There’s a leap to a conclusion here that I’m not getting.

    Steve: I won’t clutter up my comment with posting piles of long links, just to create a battle of the studies, because that misses the point that its the studies themselves that are incredible. Rob’s comment that “The idea that OC is an abortificant is based on old data.” made my point, there are competing studies out there. This results in the battle of the experts. My point is that without overwhelming credible evidence to one side or the other, the probability is > 0% only if you believe the OC abortificant side. If you don’t believe the non-abortificant side, then you’re likely to believe the probability is 0%.

    Funky/Elena: Interesting discussion. But to get back on your original track, Elena, are you saying that lack of orgasm is what makes NFP rightous? It seems to me that the point of NFP is to allow the big “O” while reducing or eliminating possiblity of pregnancy. Isn’t that the same as other contraceptive methods?

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 1:33 pm
  52. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Lightwave, so you’re telling me that scientific studies are only credible if one is predisposed to believe them? That itself is not credible. Why are you predisposed, in what you admit is the absence of “overwhelming credible” scientific evidence, that one side is right? Usually when one doesn’t have “overwhelming credible evidence to one side of the other,” one usually holds judgements with some level of skepticism, one does not keep insisting upon 0% probability with black and white moral certitude.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 2:46 pm
  53. Elena wrote:

    “Elena, are you saying that lack of orgasm is what makes NFP rightous?”

    No. I’m just marveling at how you can’t tell the difference between NFP and other forms of contraception when orgasms on demand is clearly one of the big differences.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 2:53 pm
  54. Lightwave wrote:

    BV: Let me respond to your questions. 1) I guess my whole point is I don’t see the how contraceptive drugs or barriers can be immoral if NFP is not (hence my statement that I don’t see the difference). I see NFP as just another method of “thwarting”. I’m not so sure “Actively” or passively doing so should make a difference (see my “Matchstick Man” analisys). What I’m saying is that if you believe any one is immorral, then they all should be. If any one is moral, then they all should be. Hence I find the current situation inconsistent.

    2) At the moment, I can’t think of why abstainance by itself is objectively immoral, so I’ll have to agree there. However, manipulating the practice of abstinence leads me back to the statements I made above.

    I also agree that NFP can be practiced wrongly. But if NFP can be practiced for the proper reasons morally, then I suggest that so can other contraceptive methods.

    Steve: What I’m saying is scientific studies can be credible, but when they have conflicting results, the only issue that remains is which study do you believe (to which do you lend the most credibility on an individual basis). Let me be specific: If one believes a study that says there is no evidence of abortificant effects of OC, then one believes the probability is 0%. You’ll just have to accept that I won’t believe your statistical data, and you won’t believe mine.

    By the way, if we want to assume I believe the data in your camp, some studies show caffeine is abortificant, but I don’t see a rule for women about not drinking coffee while married and in their fertile years!

    Elena: So, by your agrument, could I use a condom with NFP? Now I don’t have “orgasms on demand.”, but I’m still using a condom.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:30 pm
  55. Elena wrote:

    Elena: So, by your argument, could I use a condom with NFP?”

    I wasn’t making an argument. I was expressing surprise that you couldn’t tell the difference between having an orgasm and not having one.

    And now I’m more surprised.

    Why on earth would you want to abstain for a week or so, and then spoil it all by using a condom?

    I’m amazed.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:44 pm
  56. Squat wrote:

    I think Elena has hit the nail on the head here. The reason people use, what I’ll call, artificial contraception is for sex on demand without the possible cosequence of(*gasp* oh, God forbid)having a BABY. We SHOULD be having babies, that’s what God made us for! Have babies! Have LOTS of babies! If your house is maxed out with bunk beds(which I’d love to see), park a trailer in the yard. But that’s just my opinion.

    Lightwave, you mentioned in your original post that Onan was struck down for not obeying a direct order form God. “God blessed them, saying: ‘Be FERTILE and MULTIPLY(emphasis mine); fill the earth and subdue it.” Gen 1:28. Have you heard that before? I’d call that a direct order from the Big Man:). It’s a good thing that God doesn’t smite peolpe anymore or we may see alot of people bursting in flames;).

    My rant for the moment.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:49 pm
  57. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    I fear there’s a little avoidance: you haven’t really answered Agree or Disagree on my first question. Whether contraceptive drugs or barriers are objectively immoral by themselves has nothing to do with NFP. I understand they can be compared, but we’re not comparing them yet, we’re just taking a look at them by themselves first. So:

    1) Do you agree that the use of contraceptive drugs or barriers *is* objectively immoral? (i.e., that without considering intent or circumstances, contraceptive drugs or barriers can never be moral). If not, then please explain how actively thwarting one of the two ends of sex can be considered moral.

    (BTW, it is the answer to #1 that resolves the counter-argument you raise: ‘that other contraceptive methods can be practiced for the proper reasons morally’.)

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 3:49 pm
  58. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Why on earth would you want to abstain for a week or so, and then spoil it all by using a condom?”

    More likely, someone would use a condom during fertile times and not during infertile times, thus permitting an additional week or so of sex each cycle. This is advocated by those who call NFP FAM (Fertility Awareness Method). all the same medical science applies. The only difference is that artificial contraceptives can be used fertile times.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 5:18 pm
  59. Funky Dung wrote:

    A book on FAM:

    Taking Charge of your Fertility

    It’s a really good book. If you’re Catholic or for other reasons against contraception, just ignore the bits about that subject.

    There’s even a cool charting and prediction program you can use:

    Ovusoft

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 5:23 pm
  60. Lightwave wrote:

    Squat: I’ve got no problem with multiplication, but I don’t know that an individual has to be required to single-handedly cause exponential growth either.

    But still if NFP is okay for “be fruitful and multiply”, why not a condom for the same purposes and intent?

    BV: I guess I didn’t answer the question because this whole dialoge is about me not knowing the answer. If NFP is objectively moral, then why not other forms of contraception? If there’s no good reason, then I say “yes” other forms of contraception are just as objectively moral as NFP. My problem is that I haven’t found a good reason that differentiates them from a moral point of view, so I guess I’m still in the “yes” camp to your question.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 6:49 pm
  61. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I guess my point is, I don’t see what the *means* has to do with it.”

    Because their is a possibility that means can be objectively immoral, their consideration is important. Do you agree with this very simple point?

    “I just can’t see how ‘re-ordering of fertile-period’ by definition ‘changes the act itself’ while ‘abstinence from fertile-period sex’ does not.”

    When a contraceptive method which subverts the fertility of the ACTUAL ACT OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE is employed, their is an ontological change in the nature of the act; it is no longer intentionally left open to procreation. That, I think, is sufficient grounds to call this a “change.” Dig?

    With NFP, fertile-period sex is not changed in any way, because you’re not having fertile-period sex! How can you change something that you’re not doing?

    “There’s a leap to a conclusion here that I’m not getting”

    What’s that conclusion? Where’s the leap?

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 6:52 pm
  62. edey wrote:

    I’m not getting into the OC issue or the orgasm issue because they are both besides the point.

    I think the heart of this argument seems to be what makes contraception immoral, the intention/ends or the means? Lightwave seems to be arguing the intention/ends is what does so (hence he doesn’t see any difference btwn nfp and a condom for example) whereas Tom, Mark, Stuff, and Squat seem to be arguing that it is the means that is what makes contraception immoral.

    I think it would be prudent to repeat what Stuff quoted from Gaudium et Spes: “…the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.”

    There needs to be an objective criteria rather than intention. Unfortunately for the sake of this argument, the Church does not give “objective criteria” to measure what qualifies as “grave reason” so let’s set that aside for a moment. There are guiding principles (and I’m with Stuff on this one in terms of what qualifies), but there is no set of qualifications (this always qualifies but that never qualifies).

    Which can be objectively evaluated? The means. Therefore the means would be the measuring stick, not the intention, to determine the morality (which seems to be the conclusion of the document).

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 7:08 pm
  63. DSA wrote:

    I thought the following article might interest some of you about how Catholics should think about NFP. In particular, I found the following questions interesting, “Why do so many say that NFP is such a good thing?” and “Is it true that practicing NFP can actually help one’s marriage?”

    We so often discuss NFP in relation to artifical contraception and rarely ask what impact the practice of NFP can have on a marriage. This article does a good job in at least helping us to challenge our assumptions.

    Here is the article. Sorry for the length.

    NFP — What should Catholics think about it?

    What is Natural Family Planning (or NFP)?

    This refers to the practice of achieving or avoiding pregnancies according to an informed awareness of a woman’s fertility.

    Is NFP morally acceptable for Catholics?

    NFP is only permitted under certain conditions. In addition, if it is used to avoid children, there must be a serious reason for not wanting to have a child. Without these conditions, it is gravely sinful, as Pope Pius XII said.

    Can you explain this a little more?

    Any act or thing which directly frustrates or stops conception is a serious sin in the eyes of God. This includes all artificial birth control. NFP is not directly sinful because it does not directly frustrate conception. It is not any action or thing. It is simply periodic abstinence; meaning that the married couple refrains from the marital act at certain times. Because of this, NFP must be judged in the same way as abstinence itself.

    How does the Catholic Church judge abstinence?

    When a man and woman marry, they give over to their spouse the rights over their own body to perform the marital act. In a sense, their body no longer belongs to them but to their spouse. Because of this, it is a grave sin for one spouse to deny the other the marital act when it is requested in a reasonable way. This is a grave responsibility for married couples. Abstinence from the marital act then, including periodic abstinence, can only be permitted in certain conditions for serious reasons.

    What are these conditions and reasons which are necessary for a married couple to practice periodic abstinence (or NFP?)

    The first condition is that there must be a mutual agreement to abstain from the marital act. If either spouse is unwilling, the abstinence would be forced. This means that one spouse would deny the other the right which properly belongs to him or her. It would be gravely sinful for the person who denies this right to his or her spouse.

    The second condition is that there must be no danger of either spouse sinning against chastity, either on his or her own, or with someone else. Any serious danger in this regard is enough to prohibit abstinence, whether periodic or complete. God can never justify sin, even to bring about a good effect.

    The simple fact that the two conditions related above do not pose a problem is not reason enough for a married couple to use NFP. There must also be a real and serious reason for doing so. After all, abstinence, whether periodic or complete, is not normal marital life.

    The reasons serious enough to allow the practice of periodic abstinence (or NFP) were given by Pope Pius XII. These reasons do not change with time.

    They are the following:

    # serious danger of health to the mother
    # serious problems in the child to be conceived
    # very serious financial or social condition

    How does a Catholic married couple know if any reason they have is serious enough to justify using NFP?

    It’s not enough that the couple themselves believe their condition is serious. They must also have the advice of a good Catholic-minded doctor, if it is a medical question; and the permission of a good Catholic priest nefore they can start practicing periodic abstinence.

    Why won’t the advice of any doctor or priest suffice?

    Because today most doctors have the contraception mentality. They openly promote artificial contraception (which is always morally wrong), and would have no problem with a married couple practicing NFP for any reason or no reason at all. Many would even consider you as foolish for not doing so.

    Unfortunately, the same mentality is often prevalent among priests. Although many do advise against artificial contraception, they often promote NFP without any regard for the conditions and reasons given by the Catholic Church which are necessary to practice it. It is hailed as a great thing for married couples. It is treated as something normal to married life, when in fact it is not.

    Why do many say that NFP is such a good thing?

    Several reasons. Firstly, they take the stand that married couples today are going to practice some kind of family planning or birth regulation regardless of the fact that it is usually against the law of God. Therefore, to make them avoid artificial contraception which is condemned, they widely promote NFP as the answer.

    Also, they claim that a couple’s marital relationship is strengthened by the use of NFP. They even state that most couples claim it has a positive effect on their marriages. However, we often find benefits for the things we want to have.

    Is it true that practicing NFP can actually help one’s marriage?

    No. Although the practice of periodic abstinence may help some couples learn to respect each other more, and communicate better, it is often gained at a severe price. How many in practicing NFP fall into sins against chastity? How many end up denying their spouse who would really like to make love, simply because it is not the right time of the month? How many times does the practice of NFP put a strain on marriages? Reports and figures are never given to such questions as these.

    In addition, the good effects stated above could be gained by the same couples who practice NFP if they would live a normal marital life. This is because sacrifice is built into every marriage. There are always occasions when spouses must refrain from the marital act due to illness, the birth of a child, travel away from home, or any number of reasons. The same occasions for self-control, respect, and improved communications are present for all couples due to the normal circumstances of married life. Despite all its adherents, practicing NFP does not create an improved normal marital life. It is an abnormal practice, which can only be justified in certain serious conditions.

    Is there anything else to say about NFP?

    Just this; even when a couple has a serious reason to practice NFP, it is not meant to become a permanent way of living. As soon as the condition improves, the couple must return to normal marital life.

    Also, it needs to be stressed that couples must not judge their own case by themselves. Especially when it comes to financial situations, couples often too easily justify the practice of NFP. The financial condition must be very serious, and it must be present now, not just foreseen in the future. Often the financial reason is simply used as an excuse to avoid the responsibility of having more children. If couples consult a good priest, they will not deceive themselves, nor offend God.

    Many of the difficulties today among married couples which involve the acceptance of having a child, or more children, are linked to a lack of trust in God. We live in a world where we want to control and plan every aspect of our lives. However, there are certain things that we cannot or must not control. Conceiving children is an example. No married couple is in total control of having children, even if they want to. Many would like to and cannot. Others judge that they know better than their good Father in heaven how many children they should have and when. If married couples would only abandon themselves more into the hands of God by living normal marital lives, and trust Him completely, they would find a peace and happiness which only God can give. Our good Father in heaven knows just how many children each married couple should have and can handle. All He asks is our trust to bring about His plan.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 7:55 pm
  64. Funky Dung wrote:

    That’s an awesome article. Do you have a URL for it?

    “permission of a good Catholic priest before they can start practicing periodic abstinence”

    I don’t recall getting permission. Eep. :/

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 8:06 pm
  65. Funky Dung wrote:

    Aha! Found it:

    NFP — What should Catholics think about it?

    Here’s another one:

    Answering Four Common Objections About Contraception and Natural Family Planning

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 8:09 pm
  66. BV wrote:

    Great article-thank you DSA! I think it says everything much better than I could.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 9:25 pm
  67. Squat wrote:

    WOW! DSA, that’s great stuff. I don’t think there’s much more to say about NFP. God bless you!

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 9:42 pm
  68. Stuff wrote:

    DSA, thank you, and Amen!

    Funky, thanks for the links, they will definitely come in handy!

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 10:55 pm
  69. Elena wrote:

    Wonderful links – particularly the last one. I run across those objections all the time on line and in real life. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 1:06 am
  70. Lightwave wrote:

    DSA: Yikes, that article just doesn’t see acurate. I’m skeptical about some of the statements in that article. Particularly: “the permission of a good Catholic priest nefore they can start practicing periodic abstinence”. Is that canon? I can’t find anything that would support that in canon. I can say without a doubt that it doesn’t exist in Humanae Vitae either (it sums it up with only “”serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions”).

    This seems like an opinon that someone decided to declare as law. Most likely its an extrapolation on Pius XII’s address to Italian midwives in October 1951. JP2 actually seems to speak directly to this point when he said “God the Creator invites the spouses not to be passive operators, but rather ?cooperators or almost interpreters’ of His plan” in Familiaris consortio.

    Off subject, I think its also important to note that he says “the fruitfulness of conjugal love is not restricted solely to the procreation of children…it is enlarged and enriched by all those fruits of moral, spiritual and supernatural life which the father and mother are called.” The typical interpretation of this is, sex is not just about having kids, its about the love between husband and wife too!

    Tom: I think you and I are differentiated by semantics. You say with NFP, “fertile period sex is not changed”, I say it is, in that it is omitted. When you say its only bad when “method which subverts the fertility of the ACTUAL ACT OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE is employed”, I think we’re splitting hairs. I guess I feel that culpability follows the bullet. In a different case, its not just murder to pull the trigger to kill someone, its also murder if you intentionally remove their body armor prior to being shot that would have stopped the bullet so as to see the same result. The leap I don’t see is the separation of culpability just because there is a time lapse between events.

    edey: I’m not sure I entirely follow, but let me say this: I typically reject that means, by itself, is enough to call any act immoral. Since I’ve been using guns lately (too many late night action movies, I think), it is not immoral to shoot a gun at someone. Indeed, there are several good moral reasons why one might do so (say, a just cause). The means is irrelevent. Its, I think, the intended end.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 1:44 am
  71. DSA wrote:

    Lightwave

    I didn’t post this article as the definitive word on the matter; nor am I suggesting that what is stated need go uncontested. What I found provocative was the author’s challenge of our view of NFP and its impact upon the marital relationship.

    No. His comments about speaking to a priest are not canon. To be honest, what I found interesting was the change in perspective that the article brings. We always seem to speak of NFP in relation to artificial contraception and rarely ask ourselves the questions that this author puts forward.

    I simply think that there is alot here that could be discussed.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 2:41 am
  72. Skyva wrote:

    Let’s use an analogy. Say my grandmother is suffering from a terminal disease and is in a lot of pain. As her family members, we wish her to die quickly, so that she does not go through the pain.

    But there is a difference between directly killing her and in letting nature take its course.

    In both cases, the same end is achieved – grandma dies. But the means are different. In one, we directly take action to make her die; in the other, we allow God to work through natural law.

    The same it is with NFP and contraception. In both cases, the parties involved do not wish to have children result from sexual intercourse. In contraception, we directly take action to prevent conception; in NFP, we let nature take its course and have sexual intercourse only when the woman is infertile, in line with natural law.

    As for the Pill, it is less a contraception than a mini-abortion. In most cases, the Pill works by changing the wall of the woman’s womb, so that the fertilized egg is able to attach itself to it.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 3:31 am
  73. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    Although less than resounding, it seems we are agreed that:

    a) the use of contraceptive drugs/barriers is by itself immoral
    b) abstaining from sex is not by itself immoral (note that this is different from saying abstention is by itself moral)

    Having addressed the “objects”, we have laid the first plank in our bridge toward moral evaluation (remembering that moral evaluation depends on object, intent, and circumstances). Yea! :-)

    We can now turn to the second plank: intent. This seems to be the sticking point and the one which is muddying the waters so much that we could barely distinguish it from the “objects”. As a first step, I ask:

    Do you agree that it is not immoral to abstain from sex (“object”) with the purpose of avoiding serious danger to the health of the mother (“intent”)?

    So that we can make progress, I’m going to ask (and beg) that you restrict your response to my post to this question only (please, please). :-) Without this laser precision, I’m concerned we’ll get lost in a fog.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 4:46 am
  74. Lightwave wrote:

    Skyva: I don’t think your analogy quite works. Indeed the end is the same, but my point is the intent with NFP is the same. In your analogy, the intent is entirely different. With killing her, well, that’s your intent. With alowing her to die naturally, your intent isn’t to kill her.

    Again, see my “suicide/accidental death” example. The means are the same (getting run over by a bus), the only thing that is different is intent (i.e. did you intend to get run over by the bus).

    BV: I think you misunderstood my response. Since, for the sake of argument, we’ll agree that NFP is objectively moral, then I must say that bariers/durgs *are* also objectively moral. Only if we were to say NFP is immoral, could I say that drugs/barriers are considered immoral. My whole point is that there seems to be no objective difference amongst the methods, so therefore they should all either be moral or immoral. But I think we’re agreed on B. :) Sorry about the fog!

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 1:51 pm
  75. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    No problem–if we end up disagreeing at the end of the day, that’d be okay (our discussion has been beneficial I think). My aim, though, is to at least understand why we disagree, and I’m having trouble putting my finger on it.

    In your response, I think you might have misread my post: I’m not asking that ‘we agree for the sake of argument that NFP is objectively moral’. (In fact, I don’t believe this is the case.) And at this point in the discussion, I’m not even talking about NFP directly (let’s simplify things by just focusing on abstention). My hunch is that the sticking point is somewhere deeper, so I’m pulling apart the components to figure out which one it is.

    It looks like our first plank (“objects”) may not be as sturdy as I thought, so I’ll back up. We appear to be agreed on “B”, but “A” is still in question.

    Regarding “A” then, I don’t understand why you think the morality of contraceptive drugs/barriers is determined by the morality of abstention. The morality of each of these acts should be determined by the components of the acts themselves (their “objects”, “intents”, and “circumstances”). Whether one is immoral does not depend on whether the other is immoral. They may both be immoral, but we should be able to evaluate each act separately, since they are in fact distinct. Does this sound reasonable?

    If not, we’ll just be stuck in a logic loop: if we can’t look at contraceptive drugs/barriers, and see its morality is determined only by itself, then we have a very fundamental problem.

    Thanks.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 3:04 pm
  76. Edey wrote:

    Lightwave: even if the intended end (say, in this case, avoiding conception for the sake of spacing children) is objectively moral, the means of artificial contraception is immoral. you need to have both (moral intent/end and moral means) for a moral behavior, wouldn’t you agree? the document that Stuff cited earlier (Gaudium et Spes) states clearly that moral motives are not enough: “the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; ” i’m sorry if it seemed like moral means was enough, but my point is that moral intent alone is also not enough.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 4:55 pm
  77. Lightwave wrote:

    I’m experimenting with some of the allowed tags, forgive me if my comments look like poop.

    BV: Well you probably “don’t understand why [I] think the morality of contraceptive drugs/barriers is determined by the morality of abstention” because I don’t. I think that the morality of NFP and other methods are the same. Thus if we can determine one (say the morality of NFP), then we have determined the others.

    When you say “The morality of each of these acts should be determined by the components of the acts themselves (their “objects”, “intents”, and “circumstances”)”, I agree, but I think my point is that essentially, the objects, intents, and circumstances can be applied the same to each contraceptive method. For example, one could use a condom with the same intent as NFP.

    Hopefully this gets us out of a loop :)

    edey: Gaudium et Spes does say

    the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone

    but it doesn’t go on to say that “means” are the other half of the equation either. All it says is that it “must be determined by objective standards.” My read of that is: “rather than giving you moral rules to follow, it would just be easier for us to give you an approved list.” While this is within the authority of the Church, it doesn’t give me the least bit of guidance as to why NFP is any different than other forms of contraception. I suspect the only reason is that because NFP is significantly more dificult to implement, its less likely to be abused. That argument doesn’t work for me though. As an example, one could say that using pain killers are too easy to abuse, so lets declare them bad. But the use of pain killers are not bad, its using them the wrong way thats bad.

    The bottom line is, I don’t believe “means” can be moral or immoral. I think what makes them such is only by applying intent to them.

    Funky: Hey, where’d my photo go?!?

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 8:57 pm
  78. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Lightwave, you need a Morality 101 course…

    I tried to post this earlier when the comments are down, but you are making a huge mistake here:

    Since, for the sake of argument, we’ll agree
    that NFP is objectively moral…

    There is no such thing as an “objectively moral” act, which is to say an act that is morally upright irrespective of the motives behind it. Or if there is, there is at least no human agency to define such a category. Any act CAN be immoral if done for the wrong reasons.

    The bottom line is, I don’t believe “means” can be moral or immoral. I think what makes them such is only by applying intent to them.

    Here you are saying explicitly that no act can be objectively immoral, for an act is objectively immoral if and only if it is immoral irrespective of the intent or motive. So this assertion flat out contradicts the explicit 2000-year unbroken teaching of the Church, including your quotation from G&S, and common sense to boot. I admonish you: This is heresy.

    Now everyone agrees that both abstinence and contraceptive sex CAN BE engaged in for the wrong reasons, making either of them immoral. And hopefully everyone sees that abstinence and contraceptive sex CAN BE engaged even for good and just reasons. Motives or intent therefore tell us nothing of the difference between abstinence and contraceptive sex. Motives or intent for any act can be just or wicked. They are simply a nonstarter in this discussion.

    The difference between abstinence and contraceptive sex lies inn (in and only in) their intrinsic natures. It is not objectively immoral to abstain (tho’ it could be immoral on a case by case basis, depending on intent). It is however objectively immoral (i.e., irrespective of the motive) to defeat one or more of the natural ends of sexual intercourse.

    You are conflating two distinct moral issues: 1) licitness of motive to limit or space births, and 2) licitness of behavior in contraceptive sex). Then you add to this confusion a bald heresy about objectively immoral acts (which is that they don’t exist). This conversation has gone on long enough, Lightwave. You have about 15 people screaming truth at you from every conceivable angle and you still persist in this grave error. You have stepped far beyond a mere attempt to reconcile Church teaching. At this point, one may only conclude that you are a) stupid (which I doubt and why on earth would a stupid person bring this up?), or b) that you are willfully ignorant and care little for putting your faith at risk.

    Later

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 1:15 am
  79. Lightwave wrote:

    Steve: You’re getting philisophical on me (with a theological twist), but allow me to respond:

    I don’t think you are applying an incorrect meaning to “means” or “an act” when you say

    Here you are saying explicitly that no act can be objectively immoral, for an act is objectively immoral if and only if it is immoral irrespective of the intent or motive. So this assertion flat out contradicts the explicit 2000-year unbroken teaching of the Church

    Let me use an example. Usually when I ask someone to name an act that is objectively immoral they say something like “murder is objectively immoral”. Indeed, murder is immoral, but murder is not an act. Murder is an “end with intent” usually after applying “an act” or “means”. In this case, killing another person is an “end”. Running over a person with a vehicle is the “means”. Assuming this is done without recklessness or intent, its at best “accidental death,” which is not immoral. If it’s done with intent, only then does it become murder.

    I challenge you to supply an actual “means” or “act” that is objectively immoral. If you choose to do so, I’m betting I can show that the its really an “means-intent-end” combination. Those can be objectively immoral, and that’s why we’ve given them names like “murder”.

    This is precicely the issue I raise with NFP (a “means”). I find that if one were to apply the same “intent” (and perhaps “end”) to other forms of contraception, I find it hard to understand how they could be considered immoral.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 8:48 am
  80. BV wrote:

    Steve: I don’t think Lightwave disagrees so much as he/she is pointing to a different issue which we haven’t addressed directly.

    I think Lightwave is saying: “If my intent is to not get pregnant, then what does it matter whether I use an IUD or simply abstain?”

    We’ve responded by saying: “Well one of those actions is always immoral (IUD), and one of those actions is not always immoral (abstinence).”

    This, of course is true, and Lightwave may well agree, but he/she is saying it doesn’t address how the intents in his/her mind are still the same, and therefore the moral characters of the two actions are still the same.

    This, however, is only partly true, and where I think the sticking point is (I think I’ve finally found it!). “Not getting pregnant” is not an intent in itself. You have to ask why you don’t want to get pregnant: Is it because you want to experience the pleasure of sex but don’t want the possibility of a kid right now? Or is it because you know that a pregnancy would seriously threaten the life of the would-be mother?

    If it’s the former, the intent combined with either act (IUD or abstinence) results in immoral. If it’s the latter, the intent combined with abstinence is moral, but combined with an IUD is still immoral. That’s because use of an IUD is objectively immoral.

    And this is where I differ from one statement Lightwave made in the last post, namely, that no act is objectively immoral in itself. While I agree with the murder analogy presented, I believe that some acts are objectively immoral. An example would be fornication (sex between an unmarried man and woman). There are no intents that make this act moral. (There may, however, be circumstances which impact the degree of evil or culpability.) Similarly, there are no intents which make use of an IUD moral, because an IUD actively thwarts one of the two ends of the sexual act (namely, procreation).

    In contrast, sexual abstinance is not objectively immoral. (Otherwise single folks would be in a heap of trouble.) :-) Instead, the morality of abstinence is determined by the intent and circumstances. In the circumstances of married life, sexual abstinance is immoral unless there are grave (in the gravest sense of the term) reasons (a.k.a. intent).

    So, I guess my point to Lightwave is: “not getting pregnant” is not a complete description of intent. It’s the reason why you don’t want to get pregnant which separates moral NFP from immoral NFP. When that reason is grave (as outlined in Humanae Viatae) NFP is moral. If there is no grave reason, NFP is immoral.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:13 am
  81. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Correct, killing is NOT objectively immoral. Murder is objectively immoral, but only because evil intent is ascertained. Correct.

    But there ARE objectively immoral acts. We’ve been talking about a good one: contraceptive sex. Another one would be rape. Sodomy, the forced kind and the consensual kind. Larceny. Masturbation. Lying under oath. Torture. These are actions that are objectively immoral (not of course all equally grave), which is to say immoral irrespective of the reasons behind them.

    Now as to sexual abstinence versus contraceptive sex, I’ve already admitted that intent does NOT distinguish them. They can both be undertaken for licit and illicit reasons. A point on which you seem to agree, and in fact is the basis for your entire argument. But the argument doesn’t hold water because the ONLY THING that distinguishes them is objective action. (“We Believe in the Resurrection of the Body.” Ergo objective actions ARE important, and may occasionally be the only thing that separates a well-intended sin, which is sin, from a well-intended virtue, which is not sin. Maniecheism may be popular, but it is still heresy.)

    You seem to be looking for a magic rationalistic formula here, and there isn’t one except for thinking with the Church on this issue (and all issues) and obeying. You seem to be doing the latter. The former will come in time (assuming a practiced obedience). It is a process. The will is master of the intellect. Faith is allowing our will to be bent by God’s grace, not necessarily (and quite rarely) in having our intellects be convinced.

    I’m not saying that the Church has no reasons for teaching what She does on this matter. She does have reasons, very good reasons. And these reasons are bound up together in an intricate (and beautiful to those with eyes to see) moral and social tapestry. If you don’t accept those reasons, i.e., if they are unconvincing, then the problem is with you (not with your brain, but with your will), and you yank on the threads of this tapestry only at your own peril (and of those who might perchance be weak in faith).

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:44 am
  82. Squat wrote:

    Everyone keeps talking about intent, means, ends and all that other philosophical crap. what I would like to know from lightwave is: What was YOUR intent in posting this article? Are you REALLY searching for the TRUTH? Are you trying to see how far you can go without “breaking the law”? I guess what it boils down to is this: Are you trying to get to heaven, or just stay out of hell? If it’s the latter, than I say you are no better than the millions of “cafateria catholic” that plague the world today! I’m sorry if I’m being hostile, but I’m tired or your plugging your ears while shouting “la-la-la” attitude while you have friends who are trying to look out for your soul. DSA gave you a GREAT article to read and pray over and all you come back with is “Is that Cannon?” Don’t be such an ass. How much of the Catholic FAITH(meaning:believing with out proof) is based not on Cannon but Tradition?

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 4:09 pm
  83. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think you’re being a little unfair to Lightwave, Squat. I think I know where he’s coming from because I feel similarly. He’s a faithful Catholic who’s obeying the Church’s teachings regarding contraception. However, he doesn’t feel he really understands or appreciates those teachings. That is, he believes that NFP is used contraceptively and wonders why the Church says that’s not the case.

    If you are using NFP to avoid conceiving children (as opposed to any marital benefits it purportedly engenders),you are contracepting. You hope to not conceive. I know that’s why my wife and I use it.

    Where’s the distinction from artificial methods? The intent seems to be the same – to frustrate the natural end of sexual intercourse.

    Barrier methods do it by blocking the gametes from meeting. Chemical methods do so by either preventing the production of one kind of gamete or making the uterus inhospitable to gametes that have joined to form an embryo (i.e., a chemical abortion). Surgical methods (i.e., various types of abortion) do so by killing the end products (children).

    NFP variants do so by restricting when intercourse takes place.

    The sole difference I can see is that NFP requires periodic abstinence, whereas the other methods allow for intercourse at one’s convenience. Periodic abstinence may or may not be a desireable spiritual practice, but it may be performed irrespective of contraceptive use or non-use, so it is a red herring. What we are left with is the fact that the means of contraception seems to be the chief differentiating factor.

    Since it does not kill children, NFP is morally better than chemical and surgical methods of contraception. Then again, condoms don’t do that, either. One might argue that NFP is better than condoms because neither gamete is inhibited. Tell that to the sperm that have to swim through cervical mucus that’s hostile to their presence. The chance of fertilization taking place is about the same for NFP and comdoms. Just ask any NFP evangelist and they’ll tell you how effective it is at avoiding pregnancy.

    So, here we are, back to the point that NFP is natural, i.e., involves no artifical and/or inorganic interruption of the process from coitus to birth. IMHO, that only makes it apparently less immoral than artificial means, not objectively moral. This seems to be an example of the “appeal to nature” fallacy. It’s natural, and the other methods aren’t, so it must be better. Why? What is so inherently moral about this method that the Church does not condemn it, even though the intent is the same as that for artificial methods?

    These are the questions that Lightwave seems to be asking. I think he is right in doing so. The important thing to remember before launching into a hissy fit and calling people bad Catholics, is that Lightwave and I are faithful Catholics who are obeying the Church and seeking to learn more about our faith. How can the second part be bad in light of the first?

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 4:56 pm
  84. Squat wrote:

    I am sorry for the insults. I will not post on this topic anymore. I am getting too heated about this. Mea culpa.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 4:56 pm
  85. Fred K. wrote:

    Funky: “The sole difference I can see is that NFP requires periodic abstinence, whereas the other methods allow for intercourse at one’s convenience.”

    Sterility (due to age or natural causes) also allows for intercourse at one’s convenience.

    The sterile person is 100% sure that sex will not lead to pregnancy, so sterile spouses must be extra careful not to use their sterility with contraceptive intent.

    Fred

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 5:17 pm
  86. Funky Dung wrote:

    The only way I see around that, Fred, is adoption.

    Also, an infertile couple is not culpable for their infertility. On the other hand, when a fertile couple deliberately limits intercourse to times when conception is a vanishingly small statistical anomaly, they are culpable for that.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 5:29 pm
  87. Stuff wrote:

    So I’m on my way home from work today and I call the house, only to hear Squat say, “I did something really bad.” Funky – remember the baby seals? Yeah, he didn’t clear that one with me either. Next I diligently type out a lengthy comment that I’m sure everyone will find edifying, and as I’m about to publish, my **angelic** 15-month old hits the power button. So here I am, retyping my entire thesis in Word so I can at least save progress and hopefully copy and paste when I’m done. I apologize in advance both for the length and any glitches that occur during transfer.

    I’d like to start by kind of summarizing how I perceive we have gotten to where we are. My take on the gist of the original post was that NFP-as-contraception was something supported by Church officials and teachings. I hope we’re all agreed at this point that, while this practice is definitely prevalent among faithful Catholics, it is not in any way endorsed or condoned by Church Authority.

    Likewise, I think we’ve also shown that the Church’s teaching on the necessity of procreation in the context of marriage is tempered by the call to responsible parenthood – hence the allowance of any method to be employed toward the end of spacing births (i.e. not achieving pregnancy for some amount of time). I also hope we’re all agreed that for the Church to mandate that all fertile married couples MUST MAKE BABIES NO MATTER WHAT would be stupid and tyrannical. We’ve also shown that the circumstances under which a couple would refrain from pregnancy is a subject that’s up for some serious (and beneficial) debate, and one that can ultimately only be determined between each couple and God.

    So we’re down to the question of the means, as Funky concluded. Maybe this is why I was asked into this conversation in the first place. I’m going to try to look a little more deeply into what differences exist between NFP and various methods of artificial contraception, and hopefully such an analysis will shed some light on other questions and be of some ultimate use. Please note that I do NOT promise to be free of bias.

    I’d like to start by looking at why exactly the Church says NFP is morally licit. The following is from the Catechism: “These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom.” (see CCC2370)

    Easy enough to say, but how so? Working backwards, the idea of “authentic freedom” can be addressed by the fact that NFP requires that both spouses not only accept the method, but fully agree to it and cooperate with each other toward its end (to achieve, or not to achieve [pregnancy], that is the question). The responsibility must be equally shared: the wife must be diligent in charting, and the husband must be completely ready to be turned down or to turn down (otherwise you’re either facing a situation of rape or, with mutual consent, not really practicing NFP at all). For this mutual cooperation, I feel that a baseline of strong trust and respect of other is a necessity, which leads into the next point.

    As far as “encouraging tenderness,” I feel that this comes about by virtue of the fact that communication about procreation and where a couple is going in general is prompted at least once a month: the spouses feel amorous one night, they pull out the chart and see that they really shouldn’t if they don’t want a baby. Immediately the question, “why not?” is staring them in the face, whether they address it every time or not . Procreation is a very difficult subject to broach for many couples, and being forced to at least consider it, if not really hash it out, at least once a month, is more healthy than not in my humble opinion. And this communication helps deepen the spouses’ understanding of each other’s motives, goals, etc., which is a key to deepening tenderness. This is a reason quite often cited to show that NFP is healthy and formative in a marriage.

    Finally, there is respect of both bodies (which are, after all, temples of the Holy Spirit created male and female in the image and likeness of God). This is essentially the “natural is better” argument that everybody poo-poo’s. But I argue that this is not your typical homeopathic, take some herb/root, rub some plant/animal oil somewhere natural. This natural is the simple observation of what goes on in a woman’s body whether you bother to look or not, while leaving the man’s body the way it is and exactly where it’s supposed to be.

    WHEW!

    Now let’s look at artificial contraception with respect to the same criteria.

    Sterilization: involves cutting, burning, or otherwise removing/deforming a part of the human anatomy, usually permanently. Obviously not respectful of the body, closed to the option of conception ever. (That’s the easy one)

    IUD: Not respectful of the woman’s body, as it involves inserting a foreign object (may or may not be medicated) into the uterus with the express intent of causing inflammation of the uterine wall, thus preventing implantation. Risks, though rare, include but are not limited to perforation of the uterus and severe bacterial infection. This also falls into the category of abortion according to the Church with respect to morality. (also pretty easy)

    Barriers (condoms, diaphragms): I’m not extremely well-versed in the safety of the diaphragm (I assume there’s some increased risk of infection due to the need for insertion), but for the most part these do not impart any lasting physical damage as far as I know. These, however, do go against the idea of “total gift of self,” as well as not fitting (in my mind), with the ideas of tenderness and authentic freedom. Full responsibility for the contraceptive act rests upon only one half of the couple, which can put undue strain on the relationship. Also, should it fail, it’s easy for the one not using the barrier to play the blame game and make it all the other’s fault.

    Chemical Contraception (the pill, patch, Depo-Provera, etc.): Again I feel this method places too much responsibility on just the woman, leaving room for the man to blame her for doing something wrong should it “fail.” It is also not respective of the woman’s body due to the number of physical changes it can produce (side effects include but are not limited to: life-threatening blood clots including stroke, diabetes, depression, weight gain, decreased libido). What tender husband would let his wife risk a stroke or pulmonary embolism, no matter how small the risk?

    I’d also like to state that, while it’s completely possible for a couple to have a healthy, loving relationship with mutual adoration and respect to use and not abuse artificial contraception, the same fail-safes that are built into NFP are not present with other methods. My personal opinion is that the other methods leave more wide-open avenues to things like deception, dishonesty, manipulation, and abuse. As examples, a spouse who is “ready” but is afraid the other isn’t can simply poke a hole in a barrier or “forget” to take the pill. A husband insistent that his wife start on the pill can belittle and berate her for her sudden moodiness and blame her for the subsequent extra pounds she puts on. Either party can more readily cheat since there is little chance of an extra-marital pregnancy. And again, the blame game is always a possibility should a method fail.

    I’d like to emphasize again that the above observations/opinions are by no means definitive, nor universal (i.e. just because a couple uses NFP doesn’t mean they won’t cheat), and that I do not claim to speak for the Magisterium. But I do hope that at least some of this is helpful and will further this discussion in a positive way.

    I am SO SORRY for the length!!!

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 8:26 pm
  88. Fred K. wrote:

    Funky: “Also, an infertile couple is not culpable for their infertility. On the other hand, when a fertile couple deliberately limits intercourse to times when conception is a vanishingly small statistical anomaly, they are culpable for that.”

    This discussion would have benefited from a closer examination of the text of Humana Vitae, which draws on the ancient principle of permitting intercourse between infertile spouses:

    “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.”
    [note that the intention not to have children is not absolute, but limited to a certain time OR to an indefinite time – absolute denial of fertility during the whole marriage is not permitted]

    The reasons for having recourse to infertile times are pretty broadly defined:

    “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.”

    [note that HV does not say that NFP is OK only when the method is so poorly applied that its results are uncertain. To the contrary, HV proposes NFP as an effective method for achieving the totality of goods within marriage]

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 9:22 pm
  89. Lightwave wrote:

    To all: forgive me for the length, I have a lot to respond to.

    BV: Before I begin, if you’re pretty frustrated with me by now (how could anyone not?), I’m honestly not trying to be contrary, just calling it like I see it. By the way, thanks for being the only one (that I remember) with a point-of-view contrary to mine who hasn’t bitten my head off so far. :) This is by no means an invitation to end the conversation, rather I just wanted to make it known that I do understand how frustrating it can be to reason to this extent. I’m quite aware that I can be wrong, and hoping by way of exploration I can either get support for my understanding, or get an alternate understanding that I feel I can support. I’m not ready to give up yet!

    I’m still not convinced that any act is objectively immoral. Even in fornication, the act is Sex, which I think from our previous conversation that we can say that sex itself is not immoral (the means would be with someone outside of wedlock, the end would be pleasure). Unfortunately, this is where the philosphers and theologins will begin to argue about what parts constitute intent-means-end.

    You’re right, not getting pregnant is not an “intent”, its part of an “end,” the real “end” being “pleasure without getting pregnant.”

    So that being said, I’m sadly right back where we left off last: NFP or IUDs are both means, and I don’t think “means” can be objectively moral/immoral.

    Steve: As I stated above to BV, even though Rape is objectively immoral, it is not an act. Sex is the act, as one can not unintentionally Rape another (except in some cases that are so exceptional, I won’t go into them here, but in those cases intent would not attach at all).

    I do agree to your statement that intent, as applied to contraceptive sex, is (at least partially) determinate of its morality. But I don’t follow the purpose of your application of the quote “we believe…” You probably have a few theological legs up on me. Can you help me understand what you mean?

    I do, however, reject the “just obey the Church” explanation. I already do that! Faith? Got that too (I think), hence the obedience to something I don’t understand. I think even the Church is not in the position of desiring to lay down rules or laws without basis. Indeed, with this rule, it is often cited that there are moral implications.

    Let us not also say, then, that if one is to disagree with the Church on a teaching, the problem is with the individual. The Church has reversed its teachings on more than one occasion (but never with Dogma, some doctorine, and infalible statements). So if I’m broken today, we both retain our beliefs, ad infinitem, and the Church were to change the teaching tomorrow, would I instantly be fixed, and you be the broken one? Even the Church agrees that some teachings are failable.

    Squat: I know things can get a bit heated. I’m sorry that you won’t be continuing with us, I can certainly use all the input I can get. Allow me to respond to the rest: I am indeed seeking the Truth (or I’ve at least convinced myself that I am.) This isn’t about how close can one get to the line without crossing it (i.e. your heaven/hell analogy). In this case, I think the “line” is in a blurry state, and should be focused (i.e. the teaching on a moral issue seems inconsistent to me.)

    As to DSAs article, it may be making statements based on tradition, but its no tradition I’m aware of. What bothers me about the article is it claims to be offering the rules the Church teaches, but the information seems to be fabricated. If there is one conservitive fabrication, I must consider the entire document suspect, and be wary that there may also be liberal fabrications, and thus discard it entirely.

    Funky: Thanks for elaborating on my point. Its nice to know that though you may or may not agree with my perspective, there’s someone who doesn’t think I’m completely off my rocker.

    Stuff: The second half of your comment essentially analyzes methods of BC in relation to the theories you propose. I won’t take on the analysis, since I don’t agree with the theories they’re based on, so let me take the theories point for point:

    You say:

    NFP-as-contraception was something supported by Church officials and teachings. I hope we’re all agreed at this point that, while this practice is definitely prevalent among faithful Catholics, it is not in any way endorsed or condoned by Church Authority.

    I can only agree that if we play semantics with the meaning of contraception. The encyclicals mentioned above specificly say that it may be used to delay pregnancy or spacing births (that’s why we talk about “grave reasons”). If delaying pregnancy isn’t contraception, I don’t know what is. By the way, I can use a condom to delay pregnancy or space births. Isn’t that contraception?

    You also say

    We’ve also shown that the circumstances under which a couple would refrain from pregnancy is a subject that’s up for some serious (and beneficial) debate, and one that can ultimately only be determined between each couple and God.

    Yes! I agree. My previous comments on intent…yada yada :)

    You then say:

    NFP requires that both spouses not only accept the method, but fully agree to it […] toward its end […]. The responsibility must be equally shared: the wife must be diligent in charting, and the husband must be completely ready to be turned down or to turn down ([…]). For this mutual cooperation, I feel that a baseline of strong trust and respect of other is a necessity, which leads into the next point.

    Okay, so if I do all that, but use a condom too, then is it still okay?

    Finally,

    Finally, there is respect of both bodies (which are, after all, temples of the Holy Spirit created male and female in the image and likeness of God). This is essentially the “natural is better” argument

    I’m afraid that I must, as you say, “poo-poo” this. I find no acceptable evidence that nature is better. Indeed, we don’t say nature is better when we take “unnatural” medicines to fight disease rather than letting our natural systems (often unsucessfully) deal with it. On point, drugs to increase fertility are considered completely licit by the Church, so I don’t see how “nature is better” can have anything to do with the moral argument.

    I don’t disagree with everything you say though. You do say “the same fail-safes that are built into NFP are not present with other methods.” I agree here, and my current thinking is this is the sole reason for the inconsistency with other contraceptive methods. The problem here is that the “fail-safe” idea is also inconsistent with typical Church teaching. Indeed, the Church doesn’t teach that “thou shall not use a gun,” but rather “thou shall not murder your fellow man.” In this sense the Church seems to typically teach based on morals, using specific cases as examples. With NFP, though, it just seems to pick methods and label them.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:32 pm
  90. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    Thank you for your kind comments. I have to admit, I have been a bit frustrated at times, :-) but I realize that you have a sincere interest in examining this issue and finding a satisfactory answer. I think you’ve raised a not-so-inconsequential point, and while I hope we can resolve it, even if we can’t I believe our exchange has been beneficial, at least it has been to me. I must also commend you for your calm handling and stick-to-it-tiveness, while trying to keep an open mind.

    Regarding the issue of objectively immoral acts (which I think is an important factor in our discussion), you replied that you’re still not convinced that an act can be objectively immoral. I wonder then, what is it that makes fornication (sex between an unmarried man and woman) immoral if not the objective facts themselves?

    As an aside: In your explanation, you’ve drawn a distinction between the “act” of sex, and the “means” of outside marriage. I’m not sure what use this distinction is. When evaluating morality, there’s: what you did (a.k.a the “object/act/means”), and why you did it (a.k.a. the “intent/end/purpose/reason”). [See comment 50.]

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that people can fornicate with good intentions. What, then, makes it immoral?

    Posted 25 Feb 2006 at 1:15 am
  91. Stuff wrote:

    Lightwave,
    I do have more to add…eventually. I want to take this chance to thank you for this post because it has definitely brought to light some important issues that otherwise get ignored. I’m not giving up either, but this topic has required just so much of my time, thought, and prayer, that (especially on work days) it has been taking a toll on ye old pregnant, nauseated body. The kids don’t particularly care for it either (see my previous comment about the power button). I work today (which is why I’m posting before the sun is up :( ) and I won’t be posting again for at least a day or so. Baby and I need some time to rest. thanks in advance for your patience.

    Posted 25 Feb 2006 at 6:45 am
  92. dsa wrote:

    Lightwave,

    It is curious how you summarily dismiss the article. Pius XII and Pius XI before him both spoke about abstinence in the way the the article puts forward. In regards to speaking to a priest about the practice and its spiritual implications, one doesn’t have to look too hard to find in the traditon of the Church reasons for doing so. It seems to me that many priests are also formed by the culture and have a contraceptive mentality – perhaps many priests would not make an effort to help a couple properly discern such a delicate spiritual issue. They promote the practice without offering any counsel about how and in what spirit it is to be embraced.

    The author’s point that “we often find benefits for the things we want to have”, I think, is insightful. Perhaps we resist looking at how we practice NFP because we don’t want to see the flaws in our thinking and behavior.

    Posted 25 Feb 2006 at 8:05 am
  93. Lightwave wrote:

    DSA, BV, Stuff: Thanks for responding. I was about to make a post, but I was strugling to make coherant(sp) statements. Apparently my fatigue (long day) has altered the consistency of my brain such that its not that different from the coco-wheats my daughter had for breakfast, even at this not so late hour. I hope you’ll forgive me for not responding at this moment. After a bit of sleep I’ll be re-reading your posts in the hope of comprehending better.

    Posted 25 Feb 2006 at 11:47 pm
  94. dsa wrote:

    Lightwave,

    I certainly believe that such open and frank discussion can be a very good thing. In fact, one might say we have a responsibility to know and understand our faith to the fullest extent of our abilities.

    Yet, sometimes all the conversation seems as though it becomes an end in itself – an intellectual exercise that is disconnected from the person of Christ and the mystery of the Cross – where faith ceases to inform and illuminate our understanding. Some of Squat’s comments above, while perhaps spoken in frustration, seemed to express the same concern. As I have said in a comment on a previous post on liturgy, intellectualization can be a powerful defense and a very fun one at that. We can spend great deal of time talking about such matters, many very important matters worthy of our consideration, and even point to the astute observations of theologians and popes to add weight to our perspective. However, behind all the chatter and along with all the important and even valid judgments can reside a powerful resistance to embracing the far more challenging truth – the self-emptying and self-sacrificing love of Christ crucified – the love that Christ has for his Bride the Church It is this love that must form our judgments and that must be the measure of our actions and behaviors. What light do these realities shed on our discussion of NFP, abstinence, and the relationship between husband and wife? What limitations might they reveal in our thinking?

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 11:21 am
  95. Lightwave wrote:

    Ah, its amazing what a few hours of sleep will do for you :)

    BV: I think your two statements/queries in reply to me are connected. My essential reason for the distinction that fornication is not an act (nor is contraception). Fornication is what we call the result of the intented end (sex for pleasure outside of wedlock). Contraception, or preventing conception, is the intended end of another act (taking a pill, or wearing a synthetic/natural material). The acts (sex, swalloing pills, wearing a material) cannot be construed as objectively moral or immoral, they are simply acts. When I say “an act” it is very similar to saying “means”.

    To break this down more simply, think about all the requirements you have to call something fornication. If sex is always fornication, then would could consider fornication an act. However, I’m sure you would say sex is not always fornication. Indeed, you must apply both circumstatial and intentional qualifiers to say sex is fornication.

    To tie this back to my original point, its clear to me that contraception is not immoral, since the use of NFP to “space” pregnancies is not immoral. I consider this to be clearly a method used to intentionally prevent (or delay for a time) conception, hence contraception. If contraception is the “intent” and another similar act (i.e. using a condom) with the same intent and end is engaged, then I don’t see how that can be considered immoral.

    Stuff: I’m sorry to hear you’re too busy, but I look forward to any other posts you might find the time for.

    DSA: You say:

    the self-emptying and self-sacrificing love of Christ crucified – the love that Christ has for his Bride the Church It is this love that must form our judgments and that must be the measure of our actions and behaviors. What light do these realities shed on our discussion of NFP, abstinence, and the relationship between husband and wife? What limitations might they reveal in our thinking?

    I’m afraid you’ve abstracted the issue past my ability to follow you, even after sleep. I’m sure one could draw a countless number of connections between “NFP, abstinence, and […] relationship[s]”, and “the self-emptying and self-sacrificing love of Christ crucified.” Can you elaborate specifically on the connection(s) you are proposing?

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 3:23 pm
  96. dsa wrote:

    Lightwave,

    No. I think you have missed my point. It is you, I believe, that have “abstracted” the issue – pulling it out of and away from any connection with Christ and his Cross. How might we discuss these question in light of his outpouring love and complete gift of self?

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 3:50 pm
  97. emily t wrote:

    How can the self-emptying, self-sacrificing love of Christ crucified ever be considered an abstraction??

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 4:14 pm
  98. Funky Dung wrote:

    Perhaps now would be a good time to note that in today’s reading from Hosea, when God said that he would take Israel as His bride and Israel would know Him, the word for “know” in Hebrew is the same that is used for sexual intercourse. God promised to become “one flesh” with humanity. Indeed, Christ is the bridegroom Israel was promised and He has taken the Church (the new Israel) as His bride. Every time we partake in the Eucharist, we celebrate our nuptial union with Christ. He withholds nothing from us, and we receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 4:32 pm
  99. dsa wrote:

    Having said what I did in my previous comment should not put an end to the discussion. Here is an article from a woman who is struggling with the issue precisely in the light of Christ’s love. She is deeply rooted in her faith and offers a critique of a certain view of providentialism. Some good insights I think. Here’s the article. Sorry for the length.

    Abusing NFP

    by Kathleen van Schaijik

    Janet Smith’s recent talk at Ave Maria College, “When is it Moral to Practice NFP?” gave a cogent objectivist argument that Natural Family Planning may be licit in a broader range of circumstances than many Catholics think. But, the sympathies of the crowd seemed to be providentialist.(1) Many who were present clearly regard NFP as morally dangerous. One woman scoffed out loud at the absurdity of newly weds imagining they could have serious enough reasons for postponing children. Another person proposed that since most women are fertile for 20 – 25 years, 8 – 10 would appear to be the “default number” of children per family–at least for couples married in their early 20s with no fertility problems. In other words, the fact that so few Catholic families have that many children is a good indication that NFP is being widely abused.

    Though she is certainly not one herself, and though her talk was framed as a refutation of their position, I fear that much of Dr. Smith’s talk might have been taken as encouraging to the providentialists.(2) For instance, the concrete examples she gave as potentially legitimate reasons for practicing NFP were mostly rather extreme ones: a serious health problem, joblessness, a retarded or handicapped child who needed an exceptional amount of parental attention for a year or two. She mentioned the instance of a couple she knows who practiced NFP for a year so that the wife could finish law school, but she treated it as a somewhat doubtful case. Perhaps it was legit, perhaps not. She wasn’t sure. She also spoke of the moral duty of spouses to have children–giving aid and comfort to those who hold that unless there are definite obstacles intervening, each couple ought to be having children at more or less regular intervals from the beginning of marriage for as long as they’re fertile. And, when an astute member of the audience asked whether she perceived any “danger from the right” in this discussion–namely a kind of pharisaism among the providentialists–Dr. Smith gave a humorous, but emphatic No in reply: “Generally couples who make an error on the side of having too many children are too busy to do much damage.”

    Dr. Smith has spent decades of her time and gallons of her spiritual lifeblood fighting contraception, so it is easy to sympathize with her affection for big families, and her reluctance to say hard things about providentialism. But, still, I wish she had given a more forceful response to this very insightful question. It is bad to leave an impression that the only harm likely to come from providentialism is a few superfluous babies. (If it were, how could we speak of a problem at all? Who can bear with patience the idea of “superfluous babies”?)

    No, the real problem with providentialism is something very different; something deep and far-reaching–going, in fact, to the innermost heart of our Faith. In brief, providentialism represents and perpetuates a false view of human sexuality, of marriage and of the Christian moral life–a view that malforms consciences, grievously burdens families, and misrepresents the Church to the world.

    Serious charges, I am aware. Please bear with me while I explain.

    First, let me repeat a key distinction, helpfully enunciated by Dr. Smith in the course of her talk. There are two critically different kinds of providentialists, which in shorthand we may call personal providentialists and theoretical providentialists. The problem I am speaking of is only with the latter. It has nothing at all to do with those spouses who, taking into prayerful account the unique inward and outward circumstances of their married life, freely and generously open themselves to as many children as come to them.(3) In fact, I’ll even grant gladly that the Church has a “preferential love” for such families, just as she has for the poor. (What Catholic heart can resist them?) The problem is not with these, but with those who “add to God’s law” by seeking to impose an obligation on all married couples that is not to be found in the teachings of the Church, viz., that unless prevented by nature or emergencies, all married couples ought to have large families; and, correlatively, no couple should make use of NFP, except in very rare cases, and then only with sincere regret and extreme caution.(4) (NB: This kind of providentialist can be found among priests, teachers and single lay Catholics, as well as married couples. It is not unknown among college students.)

    What does the Church really say?

    The teaching of the Church with respect to family planning is straightforward, clear and easily summarized.

    1) Spouses must be willing to accept children lovingly.

    2) Spouses may not practice contraception.

    3) Taking into consideration a whole range and variety of factors, including physical, economic, psychological and sociological factors, spouses may do well to practice Natural Family Planning to space children and/or limit family size, provided that they do so with due moral seriousness–with a generous, responsible and prayerful sense of what they owe to God, to one another, to their children and to society.

    That’s all.

    The theoretical providentialists wish there were more to it than that. They wish they could find quotations in Humanae Vitae to support their view of the matter, as, for instance:

    # “NFP, while distinguishable from contraception in not being absolutely immoral, is seldom licit and always regrettable.”

    # “Most married couples (especially in the wealthy West) are perfectly capable of having large families, and most reasons cited for not having large families are bogus.”

    # “Couples who choose to have large families are making the religiously and morally superior choice.”

    # “Since selfishness is such a near and present danger, no one should practice NFP without first consulting a priest.”

    # “The following do not constitute valid reasons for using NFP: wanting to finish your education; wanting to save up for children’s future education; being tired; being stressed; being burdened by debt; having to move; having a small, crowded house; being depressed; feeling overwhelmed, etc.”

    Theoretical providentialists would like to find such statements in Church documents, but they can’t. They are not there, because the Church does not want them there. They are not there because “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” The Church lays on each married couple the solemn responsibility to discern well for themselves, and on all of us the solemn injunction against presuming to know what is right for others. She resists going further on purpose–not because there are so few people willing to hack the rigors of real Christianity, but because real Christianity is, precisely, freedom.

    The chronic temptation of pharisaism

    Salvation history can practically be summarized as God’s tireless endeavor to liberate His people from captivity, in the face of our persistent, self-destructive hankering after slavishness.

    In the Old Testament this hankering manifested itself in various ways, including, among others, a tendency to adhere to the letter of the law while offending against the spirit of the law; or in confusing external conformity to the law with inward righteousness; or in imagining that “piling on” the dictates of the law should be counted as “going the extra mile” religiously and morally.

    In the New Testament the preference for being “under the law” can be seen in the Pharisees’ rejection of the good news. Exemplary adherence to the law of Moses was the core of the Pharisees’ personal identity, as well as the basis for their social stature. When this law was super-ceded by Jesus’ proclamation of mercy for all, it meant that the Pharisees were no longer exceptional. They were, in truth, no better than “those others”–the tax collectors and prostitutes, and everyone else whose righteousness depended utterly on God. It was intolerable. They preferred the law that established their superiority.

    After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the spread of the gospel among the gentiles, the same tendency reasserted itself in new forms. Very early on in the life of the Church, some Jewish Christians insisted that gentile converts be circumcised, while others held that circumcision was no longer necessary. The controversy grew so intense and divisive that it prompted the convening of a kind of pre-Vatican Vatican council, and the dissemination of the first “proto encyclical” of ecclesial history. Here is what it said:

    “We have heard that some of our number without any instructions from us have upset you with their discussions and disturbed your peace of mind….It is the decision of the Holy Spirit, and ours too, not to lay on you any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from illicit sexual union.” (Acts 15: 24-29, my emphasis)

    Thus, from the beginning we see the Church using her authority to minimize rules, maximize freedom, and reprimand those who burden and confuse the consciences of the faithful with teachings that “add to the law.” (Paul’s letter to the Galatians is an elaboration of this theme.)

    Generalizing for brevity’s sake, we can say that the majority of the heresies condemned by the Church (Donatism, Pelagianism, and Jansenism, to name a few) have been rooted in a similar principle. They follow a pattern: A portion of the faithful get carried beyond what is required in the practical application of their religious zeal; they resent and condemn the perceived laxity of the wider Church; they are reprimanded by authorities for their unwarranted severity; and they are so appalled and indignant to find the Church on the side of their opponents that they condemn the pope as apostate, and declare themselves the remnant of the true faithful.

    Nor is this base tendency confined to the extreme instances of outright heresy. It is a perennial spiritual plague within the Church, as well as in the private dramas of our own souls. In every age, and in various ways, we are tempted to reject the freedom given to us in the Holy Spirit, and place ourselves under laws of our own making. We resist authentic freedom for two reasons:

    1) Because it is so costly. We do not like to bear what C.S. Lewis calls “the weight of glory”–the overwhelming demands of our vocation to live as sons and daughters of the Most High God. (It is much easier to adhere to a law than to become holy.)

    2) Because a law gives us an objective, external measure of our superiority over others. (This is an extremely pleasant thing to have.)

    I will not hesitate to say that I think theoretical providentialism is a modern manifestation of this age-old evil. Rather than “rejoicing with joy” in the freedom that has been granted to married couples in our age–a freedom divinely calculated to meet the peculiar challenges of family life in today’s world, and a freedom not enjoyed by couples past, whose only licit means of limiting child birth was total abstinence–they want to clamp down, impose restrictions, and dramatically narrow the range of married liberty. Unconsciously, they are allying themselves with the Pharisees.

    The face of pharisaism

    The alliance between the Pharisees and providentialism becomes clearer when we note that classical pharisaism is characterized by especially two features: externalism and judgmentalism–both of which are prominent in theoretical providentialism.

    The externalism can be seen in several ways:

    # In the talk of “default numbers’ of children (as if we were not given the Holy Spirit, and called to discern God’s perfect will for us as unique individuals.)

    # In the idea that a couple’s generosity can be measured by the size of their family, as opposed to the depth and completeness of their inward gift-of-self (something God alone knows.) In truth, it is perfectly possible that a given mother of two is more generous than a given mother of 12, just as the offering of “the widow’s mite” in the Gospel was worth more than the lavish offerings of the wealthy man.

    # In the reduction of “serious reasons” to the objectively measurable categories of financial or health crises (as if “subjective reasons” such as stress and depression are nothing but smokescreens for selfishness.)

    # In the very notion that anyone standing outside the intimate, sacramental bond of a marital union is in a position to determine whether or not NFP is justified in their case. Only the spouses have that capacity, that privilege and that responsibility. Not even a priest is capable of determining what’s right for them. He may advise; he may help them overcome perplexity; he may undeceive them of an error in their thinking. But in the end, the judgment about how they should exercise the rights and duties of their vocation is exclusively their own.

    The judgmentalism shows up in the tendency theoretical providentialists have to heap scorn on married couples who practice NFP, accusing them of being sensualists and materialists who are rejecting the cross and compromising with the world. I have known providentialists (even unmarried ones) who do not shrink from interrogating married couples about their intimate lives and their reasons for using NFP–as if it were their place to “admonish the sinners.” I understand that they mean well; they think they are “speaking the truth.” But it is nevertheless inexcusably impertinent.

    To those who may find themselves speaking or thinking this way: “I see that couple over there. They were married at 23; they are now 40, and yet they have only four children. They have a large home, two nice cars, blooming health. Quite obviously they had no serious reasons for practicing NFP. What faithless Catholics! What compromisers!” I beg you to note how perilously like the “righteous man” excoriated in the Gospels you sound. “O Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast not made me like that couple over there; I thank thee that I am one of the few who serve you truly by having (or planning to have, once I am married) even more than the default number of children!”

    Thinking this way is bad enough, teaching others to think this way is worse. It burdens and disheartens exactly where the Church is working most to bless and encourage: marriages and families.

    So, if not law or “Providence” what should guide our “family planning”?

    To the question: “When is it good to practice NFP?” There is only one perfectly true answer. It is this: “When love calls for it.”

    Love is the meaning of life; the meaning of marriage; the meaning of human sexuality. It is (or should be), both explicitly and implicitly, the source and reference point for all our acts and judgments within marriage.

    If a man notices that his wife is exhausted and overwhelmed, it is love in him to suppress his desire to embrace her sexually. (To insist on his “conjugal rights” at such a time would be an act of unlove.) Or, if a woman sees that her husband is being crushed by a too-heavy weight of responsibility, then it is love in her to put aside her longing to have another baby, and wait patiently for a better time. Or, if devoted parents notice that their children are suffering from too little attention, then they may, out of love, discipline their desires in order to be better able to attend to their education. Or, if a husband recognizes in his wife an extraordinary vocation–to teach, say, or to law–then he may, out of love, urge her to complete her studies before the duties of motherhood become consuming, so that when the call comes to use those gifts, she will be ready.

    Or, on the other hand, if an NFP-practicing husband and wife have been apart for a long time, then they may, for love of each other, decide that their reunion at this moment is more important than their reasons for postponing a new birth. Or, though a couple may be suffering serious financial and other difficulties, their love of life, their joy in their children, and their confidence in God’s providence may be such as to make all obstacles seem like nothing in comparison with the gift of another child.

    This is the way marriage is supposed to be–a fully free, fully conscious and responsible participation in the self-forgetting, self-donating love of the Holy Trinity. At times, and according to the unique and unrepeatable “illative sense”(5) of each married couple, this love will call for the conjugal embrace. At other times it will call for sexual abstinence. For some couples it may mean that NFP never enters the picture. For others it may mean that NFP becomes a normal part of married life.

    In sum, the Church’s teaching is divinely designed to help us realize and increase our potential to live in the Image and Likeness of God.

    Conclusion

    To those who are bewildered by the mass of conflicting arguments and testimonies on this issue, I can only urge you, read Humanae Vitae; read Love and Responsibility; read Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love. You will see how unlike the providentialists the Church is!(6) She is not severe and condemnatory. She is, like her Lord, full of tenderness and mercy. She is not frowning on married couples the world over. She does not load us down with crushing demands, but carefully restricts her laws to the minimum necessary for our holiness, and then “stands back” and delights in the revelation of the fathomless diversity of the faithful response to the sacramental grace of marriage.

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 5:18 pm
  100. Jordan Wales wrote:

    Lightwave, you are arguing under the (now-)stated assumption that all acts are neutral, and that the intention wherefor the act is initiated determines that act’s moral value. This is not a “taken-for-granted” position in Catholic moral theology and is in fact the subject of great dispute. You may not, therefore, invoke it as if it were common ground in this argument. There is a different view taken by the majority of the tradition, and upon which the tradition and magisterium have based their unchanging repudiation of positive contraceptive acts that constitute a positive interference in the natural physiological processes involved in human sexual intercourse. The view upon which this repudiation is made is that acts do have moral value. At the simplest level, all killing is evil, even in self-defense. However, a severely-lowered degree of culpability attaches to killing in self defense, because one’s own right to life and self-defense take precedence. Nonetheless, the klling is still evil. At a second order, there are certain acts which remain unjustifiable in any case, assuming no other external facts are introduced. Among these acts is contraception. I suppose that, if a man with a gun threatened to kill your unless you had sexual relations with your wife while wearing a condom, having the relations would be permissible (although some might dispute me on this) because you were under coercion. The free decision, however, to engage in intercourse wherewith one interferes in the natural physiological processes of the human sexual system by a positive act to prevent, interrupt, or abort conception, is always wrong.

    Lest one ask why NFP to avoid children is different, we note that the intention here is twofold: with a condom you intend (1) to avoid children for a licit or nonlicit reason and (2) to interfere with the natural processes of human sexuality. In period abstinence, you do not intend the second condition (positive interference). In NFP it all comes down to reason (1): Is your reason for wishing to avoid children licit or not? Reason (2) not being a factor, one can truly consider periodic continence to be a way of regulating birth which does not interfere and, if undertaken for proper reasons and with an authentically-self-giving disposition, can be moral upright.

    The real question about NFP is why is one attempting to not conceive? But, you see, we’re already on different ground because abstaining in order not to conceive is quite different from interfering with sexual processes in order to frustrate conception. You can’t claim that NFP is no different from a Pill merely because both seek to avoid conception. The church has no problem with avoiding conception, but has a big problem with doing so by interfering with normal sexual processes. If you want to do so by abstaining during the fertile period, then the question is what your motivations are for avoiding conception. That is something to take up with one’s confessor. Periodic continence interiorizes the action of “avoidance” because one is now abstaining rather than interfering. The use of artificial contraception introduces an external factor of interference that the Church has always condemend as impermissible.

    Jordan

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 5:25 pm
  101. Jordan Wales wrote:

    And why are we not to interfere? We are not to interfere because the marital embrace is, despite its joys, also a Christian participation in the cross because one accepts the fullness of the other person and the responsibility that would attend a possible pregnancy. (Even infertile couples are actualizing their mutual self-surrender to the maximal degree of which they are capable. Such is most certainly not the case when one uses artificial contraception.)

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 5:30 pm
  102. Funky Dung wrote:

    A difference between NFP and artificial contraception that I just realize I neglected in my defense of Lightwave is that the ends of sexual intercourse during fertile periods are not defeated. When periodically abstaining, a couple does not interfere with gametes meeting and potentially joining to become a new human life. IUDs and abortion have this in common with NFP. However, in those cases, the natural end of intercourse during a fertile period is defeated by either not allowing an embryo to attach to the uterus or forceably removing the embryo from the uterus. All other forms of contraception interfere in one way or another with gametes meeting or joining. Summing up, NFP does not violate fertile union because such union is avoided. IOW, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    Anyhow, I think this is what Tom was trying to get across about 300 comments ago. 😉

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 5:45 pm
  103. edey wrote:

    Anyhow, I think this is what Tom was trying to get across about 300 comments ago

    probably, but if people had gotten the point back in the day, we wouldn’t have had such interesting asides as oc and orgasms 😉

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 8:29 pm
  104. edey wrote:

    i tend to be on the side of grave reasons are required to use nfp to avoid, which could lead one to the position of ‘have sex whenever you want within marriage and be open to life and God’s will; if a child happens, cool.’. however, one doesn’t want to be too much of a providentialist or a quietist. so where is the balance of ‘working as if it all depends on you and praying as if it all depends on God’? assuming that the couple doesn’t have grave reason to avoid and is, thus, open to the idea of new life, should the couple pray before each act that God’s will be done? should the couple pray at the beginning of each month to discern God’s will for that month and then use nfp to act accordingly to achieve or avoid? something else? where is the balance?

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 9:31 pm
  105. BV wrote:

    Lightwave,

    “BV: I think your two statements/queries in reply to me are connected. My essential reason for the distinction is that fornication is not an act (nor is contraception). Fornication is what we call the result of the intended end (sex for pleasure outside of wedlock). Contraception, or preventing conception, is the intended end of another act (taking a pill, or wearing a synthetic/natural material). The acts (sex, swalloing pills, wearing a material) cannot be construed as objectively moral or immoral, they are simply acts. When I say ‘an act’ it is very similar to saying ‘means’.” [Lightwave comment 96]

    Huh?

    “Fornication is not an act.” Coulda fooled me.

    “Fornication is…the result of the intended end.” Sounds like the definition of an “act” to me–that which you do to achieve your intended end.

    “the intended end (sex for pleasure outside of wedlock).” I thought sex was the “act”, not part of the “end”.

    “The acts (sex, swallowing pills…” Here it seems sex is the “act” again.

    “When I say ‘an act’ it is very similar to saying ‘means.'” Okay, but what about your previous statement:

    “Even in fornication, the act is Sex…(the means would be with someone outside of wedlock, the end would be pleasure).” [comment 90] You seem to be suggesting a difference between “act” and “means” here. And how does this relate to the statement above where the “end” is made up of sex, pleasure, and outside wedlock?

    You seem to be moving the pieces around and I’m getting lost. Also, I see your analysis of fornication, but I don’t see why you think it’s immoral.

    Posted 27 Feb 2006 at 1:05 am
  106. Lightwave wrote:

    DSA/Emily T: I don’t think either of you follow me (in that I don’t follow DSA). DSA said:

    the self-emptying [..] love of Christ crucified […] is this love that […] must be the measure of our actions and behaviors. What light do these realities shed on our discussion of NFP, abstinence, and the relationship between husband and wife?

    My point is that within a few moments I can draw dozens of connections between everything you mention in that comment. That’s a bit too abstract for me. I need to know which connections you’re speaking about in order to understand where you’re going. Claim its not abstract if you like, but can you help me (and any others like me) that don’t know which connection(s) you’re focusing on?

    Funky: What’s the story with comment 100? It doesn’t seem to be complete or have an author…

    DSA: Further, on your article, it states ” In every age, and in various ways, we are tempted to reject the freedom given to us in the Holy Spirit, and place ourselves under laws of our own making. We resist authentic freedom for two reasons” This is my concern with the rules regarding contraception. NFP = okay, others = bad. In this case the law is not of our own making, but merely seems inconsistent in itself.

    Jordan: Indeed, I do not take for granted my argument that acts are neutral, hence my repeated defense of the subject. I don’t agree that “all killing is evil,” indeed, the concept of a “just war” seems to be contrary to this. To say that a “severely-lowered degree of culpability attaches” would seem to say there are grey areas. Another way to put it is, “its bad, but not as bad”. I can’t see, however, how the Church can be in the position of condoning “bad” behavior, even if it’s “not so bad”, so I must personally reject an philisophical method similar to the one you espouse.

    Furthermore, if as you say “there are certain acts which remain unjustifiable in any case, […] Among these acts is contraception.” If this is the case, then if NFP is contraception, how may it be justified by the Church? You also say, essentially, that NFP does not interfere with the “natural processes of human sexuality,” I disagree. Again, I cannot find that sex by a stopwatch is natural.

    BV: I’m sorry my logic is a bit confusing. I realized that when I posted it but didn’t have a good idea of how to relieve the confusion. You are now making the point I made earlier, which is: the definition of a moral/immoral act then lies in where the philosophers (or theologens) draw the line.

    If you insist that things like murder and fornication are acts, then yes, *some* acts can be objectively moral or immoral, while others (sex, for example), are neither. Hence, back to your question (way back), I can’t say that contraception is immoral or moral objectively, since it can be either (for example, in the eyes of the Church, immoral when used with a condom, moral when used properly with NFP).

    Posted 27 Feb 2006 at 9:06 pm
  107. dsa wrote:

    Now I understand the strong current of frustration throughout the course of this post. There seems to be a consistent inability or incapacity to hear what others have been saying (let alone listening with the possibility of changing one’s opinion). Whether it is deliberate or not is unclear. In either case, I’m done. Thank God it has only take a short while to realize what an enormous waste of time and energy blogging really is.

    Posted 27 Feb 2006 at 10:50 pm
  108. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Thank God it has only take a short while to realize what an enormous waste of time and energy blogging really is.”

    Boy, you really know how to make a fella feel good about himself and his hobbies. 😉

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 6:26 am
  109. Funky Dung wrote:

    “There seems to be a consistent inability or incapacity to hear what others have been saying (let alone listening with the possibility of changing one’s opinion). Whether it is deliberate or not is unclear.”

    For some people, it’s deliberate, but I think for most it’s not. I don’t think this phenomenon is much worse on blogs than it is in person, though. What makes blogging different, I think, is that it tends to draw out opinions that might otherwise be held privately. Nevertheless, those opinions are there in everyone, though they may not have been presented to you yet. If someone becomes frustrated with conversations on blogs and throws in the towl, IMHO it’s not the medium of the blog they should blame for poor listening, shallow thinking, and unwillingness to to learn or change one’s mind; it’s humanity. DSA, pardon the presumption, but I fear you have either been overly charitable in your appraisals of human motives and behaviors in live interactions or overly cynical in your appraisals of the same in electronic interactions. People are people. We don’t metamorphosize into demons when we start typing at keyboards. 😉

    DSA, you have offered a number of good insights. It would be a shame if you walked away in frustration. One of the many lessons I’ve had to learn over the years is that sometimes when you’re ready to bang your head against a wall because you don’t think someone’s listening, you find later that your message actually got through. Outward appearances indicated otherwise, but long after the conversation ceased, the ideas you planted grew and a mind was changed. Besides, rather than curse the darkness, wouldn’t it be nicer to light a candle? That’s what I’m trying to do do. A quote from a recent post:

    If I had to summarize in one sentence the main reason I blog and how I choose what to blog about, I’d say that I’d like to help people stop begging questions, talking past one another, and calling each other silly and rude names, and start thinking critically, listening to one another, and treating each other with, at minimum, the same love they’d ask for themselves. That, of course, is easier said than done. Popular legend has it that G.K. Chesterton, among other eminent authors of his time, was asked by a newspaper to write an essay on the theme “What’s Wrong with the World?” His reply? “I am.” When it comes to the kind of acerbic and caustic blogging that I believe is poisoning the Body of Christ, and the rest of the world for that matter, I too am guilty.

    The internet is mission territory. Won’t you please stick around and help me to help myself and others? If blogging is such a pointless exercise, then please help me to give it a purpose. Help me to utilize modern communications for the new evangelization JPII called for.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 6:48 am
  110. Funky Dung wrote:

    Lightwave, comment 100 is a trackback.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 7:06 am
  111. Funky Dung wrote:

    A request to any and all readers and commenters:

    Would some able individual be interested in writing a post about the positive aspects and uses of NFP, rather than its purported similarities to artificial contraception? Stuff? Squat? DSA? Steve N? ANYBODY?

    I think if any real headway is to be made in this discussion, we need to address whether proper practice of NFP could be beneficial to a marriage and how that might be different from all other methods of fertility management.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 7:11 am
  112. emily t wrote:

    Funky,

    Perhaps you should cut dsa some slack. First of all, some folks have more time to devote to things like blogging than others. And you have to admit, the individuals posting who have had insightful things to say (Stuff, Squat, dsa, Steve N and others) have met with what appears to be a consistent inability to even consider another opinion. For instance, the first article dsa posted sought to turn the tables on how we think about NFP. And all Lightwave could respond with was “is asking a priest permission to practice periodic abstinence canon??” The rest of the article was dismissed. dsa even said that he didn’t intend it to be the definitive word. There were a number of positive responses to the article because most people could see the value and could see where dsa was trying to go with it and yet Lightwave was concerned if it was canon.

    Perhaps blogging isn’t the medium for everyone, and I think you have to respect that. Regardless of it allowing for privately held opinions to come out, something is lost when you try to engage a person while looking at your computer screen. Besides, if these privately held opinions are going to come out on a blog then perhaps the individual posting them should be a bit more ready to be open to changing their opinion. After a hundred some odd posts (and often lengthy, insightful posts), Lightwave does not seem willing to even budge and I think even in face to face conversation, lots of people would be ready to throw in the towel. I haven’t even participated in the conversation and was ready to give up on even reading when Lightwave said the self-sacrificing, self-emptying love of Christ crucified is an abstraction. That should be the most real thing of all. It is the love Christ had for His Church that a husband is called to have for his wife and yet when discussing NFP, this all of the sudden becomes abstract thinking????

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 8:24 am
  113. dsa wrote:

    Funky,

    I don’t wish to be rude or to dismiss the value that blogging has had for you and the many others who have contributed in their posting. In fact, I admire how well you and others have addressed the subject at hand. But it is not for me. I’ll stick to the dialogue between persons that doesn’t necessitate going through cyberspace. While it may be a good tool and have its purpose, I’m not convinced it is the best way to use one’s time and energy. Benedict Groeschel once said something on EWTN that has come to mind in the light of this conversation. He was speaking about prayer and the spiritual life and said, “Mother Angelica probably won’t like me saying this, but the Saints probably wouldn’t even be watching TV or this show.” This may be entertaining, informative and a fun way to talk about the faith, but ???? Groeschel wasn’t diminishing the use of TV, but trying to see it from the proper perspective. Similiarly, St. Philp Neri once said: “More is learned about God on one’s knees than from books.” He wasn’t, I think, diminishing the value or importance of study, but suggesting what is of greater value. I hope no insult was given to you or anyone else in my previous comments and I thank you letting me for this short while join your conversation.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 9:20 am
  114. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I hope no insult was given to you or anyone else in my previous comments and I thank you letting me for this short while join your conversation.”

    I confess I was a little stung by “what an enormous waste of time and energy blogging really is”. Thank you for clarifying.

    Also, in light of what Emily said, allow me to apologize to you. I hope I didn’t react too strongly to the wound I perceived.

    “I thank you letting me for this short while join your conversation.”

    And I thank you for your participation.

    Numbers 6:24-26

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 10:14 am
  115. emily t wrote:

    Funky – If it is of any interest to you, the latest issue of Ethics and Medics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center has an article titled “Dualism and Contraception.” I believe a couple of their previous issues also had articles about NFP that you might find interesting.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 11:47 am
  116. Lightwave wrote:

    DSA: I’m sorry for your frustration. Funky might tell you, though, if you were to meet me in person you might find me even more obtuse, though I think myself a resonable fellow. In any case, my intent is neither to frustrate nor to offend, but rather to understand.

    Emily T: I don’t think you’re being fair. I’m not sure if you read my previous comment, but in two cases I’ve invited DSA to help me understand the meaning of her post. Perhaps you are more learned than I am, so you can follow her line-of-thought, but I cannot. Call it what you want, but all I’ve recieved is antagonism for requesting a clarification of something I don’t understand.

    Furthermore, you criticize that I seem to be unwilling to budge from my position, meaning there is something wrong with me. It seems to me that you, and some others who orginally disagreed with me, have not budged from your original opinions, yet I cannot find myself ready to say that your unwillingness to change your opinion is the result of any personal flaw. I must suspect that if I was towing the party line and still “unwilling to budge”, I might be applauded.

    Remember, Copernicus was right, though most just thought he was being obtuse and unwilling to budge from his position. I don’t claim to be correct, as I find this conversation but an exploration of what the truth might be (certainly in part because I would not compare myself to Copernicus).

    By the way, I don’t claim to be unwilling to budge, just seeking something that might be compelling to “budge” me.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 2:00 pm
  117. dsa wrote:

    Lightwave,

    If I am frustrated, it is not with any person’s inability to understand my opinion or the teaching of the Church. My frustration is with myself – spending so much time engaged in an exercise that allows for no direct discourse. It is not that it has no value, but limited value in my mind. And so I freely make a choice not to participate.

    Having said that, I think such a medium also makes it quite easy for people to be obtuse – to be insensitive to the meaning of what others bring to the discussion; to place themselves in the position of Copernicus in order to make their obtuseness a virtue. Is one truly seeking clarification in order that they might understand or are they playing a game that purposely frustrates and takes advantage of other people’s generosity, good will and time.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 3:07 pm
  118. emily t wrote:

    First of all, while I may have specifically referenced dsa’s posts, you have failed to see the possibility of the other side in response to anyone’s posts, dsa’s, Stuff’s, Squat’s, etc. I think dsa hit the nail on the head when he said that intellectualization is a powerful and, at times, fun defense. There was no wild abstraction in his reference to the love of Christ. As a matter of fact, by going back and reading that post, he explained it rather clearly when he said “It is this love that must form our judgments and that must be the measure of our actions and behaviors.”

    That is only one point of reference, however. He provided two lengthy articles on the subject, both of which were summarily dismissed. Stuff (and others) provided excellent points, which I think are all the more interesting given her line of work, all to no avail to a point where I am not surprised that Squat had a little outburst of emotion.

    Please also pay attention to who is disagreeing with you. I did not chime into this argument until very, very late and have not offered much as to the original discussion. Therefore, you cannot tell me that I am unwilling to budge from my position when you don’t know what my position is. You are the keeper of the original post, so the burden is on you to enter into the discussion with an open mind, is it not?? Or were you just posting to hear yourself talk?

    I never intended it to mean that it is a “personal flaw” however active discussion on such issues must at some time reach a point where one is willing to say perhaps my opinion is wrong or when one is willing to say, we must agree to disagree before this turns into a 300 comment post. Willingness to discuss means that at some point, one would say, I see your point, I will think and pray about that, neither of which I recall you doing. For that reason, I am not surprised dsa “threw in the towel.”

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 3:11 pm
  119. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’d just like to vouch for Lightwave’s sincere desire to understand this matter better. Perhaps he has not sought such understanding eloquently or been the best listener. Still, I think it should be noted with some charity that he does indeed wish to learn something and is neither playing a game nor being deliberately obtuse. That said, do not thik that I am dismissing the criticisms given. Valid points have been raised (such as the lack of attention paid to the lengthy articles) and they ought to be addressed. I just want to make sure everyone remembers that we’re all on the same team. Let’s not devour each other (c.f. Galatians 5).

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 3:41 pm
  120. Funky Dung wrote:

    “the latest issue of Ethics and Medics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center has an article titled ‘Dualism and Contraception.’ I believe a couple of their previous issues also had articles about NFP that you might find interesting.”

    I almost missed this comment in the crossfire. Thanks. :)

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 3:46 pm
  121. emily t wrote:

    I’m not intending to devour anyone and apologize if it has come across that way. What got me going was criticism for someone bowing out of the discussion when attempts to discuss seem to have been futile. I do believe that it is on the person posting to be more open than others to changing their position since they are the one who brought up the issue, because that is indeed what they have invited by posting.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 3:53 pm
  122. Lightwave wrote:

    Emily T: You “believe that it is on the person posting to be more open than others to changing their position.” I don’t see why such an assertion should be assumed to be the case, but I think in this case it is true. While I would not bring it up, except in defense, I believe I was the first (and I believe only) individual to state on several occasions I was not an authority on the subject but was seeking the answer. I don’t think that I have yet to find something compelling enough to sway me makes for a closed mind.

    That said, I think this is tangential to the issues of NFP and Contraception. I invite you to have the last word (or as many words as you like) on this subject, as I hope to focus on the issue of NFP and contraception.

    To all: While I don’t think my position has substantially changed yet, I believe I have learned a lot from this conversation. My thanks go out to all those who commented. I invite anyone who has further insights or comments on the subject to continue commenting, lest I threaten to post an article about what I’ve learned 😉

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 7:20 pm
  123. Roz wrote:

    Crawling out from under my rock…. :)

    Having followed this post and comments, I think at this point it’s prudent to recommend some outside reading in order to facilitate understanding of the NFP issue, and then revisit this discussion. My recommendations:

    Humanae Vitae (very easily found by googling and downloading off of the Vatican Web site), Love and Responsibility, Theology of the Body (or Theology of the Body Explained or An Introduction of Theology of the Body).

    I would also recommend discussing your concerns with a trusted priest if you truly want to address your understanding of the church’s teachings on NFP.

    While there have been many attempts to discuss and explain NFP on this thread, it appears that we are all reaching at straws at this point to make each other understand, and becoming very frustrated in the process.

    …Crawling back under my rock….

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 7:48 pm
  124. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    “BV: I’m sorry my logic is a bit confusing. I realized that when I posted it but didn’t have a good idea of how to relieve the confusion. You are now making the point I made earlier, which is: the definition of a moral/immoral act then lies in where the philosophers (or theologens) draw the line.” [Lightwave comment 108]

    My focus is not so much where philsophers/theologians draw the line, but trying to understand your approach to moral evaluation. As you mentioned, your explanation has been a bit confusing, and if I am to offer any arguments that you would find persuasive I need to understand your perspective on what makes something immoral. I think the easiest way to do this is by looking at an immoral act that we agree on–fornication. This is why I asked two times for you to explain why fornication is immoral. I have read where you discuss and describe fornication [comment 96 & 108], but cannot see where you have said something along the lines of, “Fornication is immoral because _____”.

    “…I can’t say that contraception is immoral or moral objectively, since it can be either (for example, in the eyes of the Church, immoral when used with a condom, moral when used properly with NFP).” [Lightwave comment 108]

    You seem to be using the term “contraception” different than common conversation (which typically refers to drugs and barriers).

    So I ask two questions which I think will help us: 1) why is fornication immoral?, and 2) what constitutes contraception?.

    [Roz: Point taken.]

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 10:13 pm
  125. Lightwave wrote:

    BV: Okay, now I understand what you’re looking for (sometimes you have to hit me over the head with a rock, because I miss the subtitles).

    To answer your question “why is fornication immoral?”, I’m not really sure why it’s immoral. Having not done any research to understand it, I blindly accept it for the moment (until I decide to research it, as I have with NFP, at which time I may or may not accept what I find). For now, I could simply state that the church teaches that sex is to be between husband and wife. I can unspecific recall several parts of the bible that seem to speak pretty specifically to this. (I know this is a lousy answer, but perhaps its enough for you to continue where you’re taking me).

    In response to “what constitutes contraception?”, for me, contraception is anything that prevents conception while still allowing the sexual act It doesn’t matter to me if one is preventing conception in perpetuity or for a time. The other caveats of intent, respect, etc., don’t matter to me. Let’s call a spade a “spade”. Barrier, drugs, timing, its all contraception because its all intended to prevent conception while allowing sex. That’s why I call NFP, condoms, and the Pill contraception.

    I’m curious as to where you’re going with these questions, but I’ll wait it out, in the hopes of one of those “Oh, now I get it!” moments. :)

    Posted 01 Mar 2006 at 10:14 am
  126. BV wrote:

    Lightwave,

    Wow. It seems even the morality of fornication is questionable.

    I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on here: is the whole moral order in question? Do we have any common starting point from which to launch our discussion? It seems not even basic propositions are being granted. It seems you’re asking to build the immorality of contraceptive drugs/barriers from a state of nothingness.

    If so, I’m going to suggest reading the beginning of Part III of the Catechism. This will help define a common moral framework that we can work from. The rest of that section might also be helpful, because it shows that framework being applied to reality (murder and fornication among them). I have found it personally helpful.

    We don’t seem to have a common framework, common vocabulary, or seemingly at times even common sense. Until we do, we are missing the very basic of pieces necessary for fruitful dialogue.

    If you’re agreed on some of the basics, let me know. If not, I don’t think I’m your man to reconstruct the rudimentary tenets of the moral law. My advice would be to just keep trusting the Church. She is the sacrament of salvation for the world, and if you remain close to her heart, she will guide you to God.

    Peace,

    Posted 01 Mar 2006 at 9:56 pm
  127. Funky Dung wrote:

    BV, I indebted to you for your abundant patience in dealing with Lightwave’s thick head. 😉 Seriously, though, I really appreciate your willingness to take him at his word that he wishes to learn and to continue the conversation in the spirit in which it was intended. I just hope Lightwave writes a new post soon so the conversation doesn’t have to continue here for much longer. 😉

    Posted 02 Mar 2006 at 6:05 am
  128. Lightwave wrote:

    BV: I think I can pretty safely say that I think the morality (er immorality, that is) of fornication is pretty concrete, and if I spent a some serious time reseraching it, I’d expect to find what I need to back-up that statement. So I’m pretty confident we can agree on that moral issue.

    I followed your link, and think I pulled out the moral basics you were talking about:

    1713 Man is obliged to follow the moral law, which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (cf GS 16). This law makes itself heard in his conscience.

    1714 Man, having been wounded in his nature by original sin, is subject to error and inclined to evil in exercising his freedom.

    Even better, here’s what I’ve been saying all along…I was trying to find this earlier. Did I mention the catechism rocks when you know where to look?

    1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.

    Other important parts are:

    1759 The end does not justify the means.

    1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

    That is to say, 1758 looks important, but I can read it two different ways, so perhaps someone can explain it to me.

    By the way, I think part of our disparity of language amongst us can be seen in 1757. I’ll do my best to conform so as to prevent confusion.

    That being said, I think we agree on the basics now. What’s next?

    Posted 02 Mar 2006 at 9:58 am
  129. Stuff wrote:

    I feel very out-of-the-loop by now – sorry about the delay. I would like to thank Edey and any others who have flattered me by finding interest and use in my comments.

    Lightwave, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t know how much more I will post as I don’t think we speak the same language. Maybe it’s a Mars vs. Venus thing, but when I wrote that I needed a break because of overwhelming nausea and fatigue, you took it as being “too busy.” I don’t quite know how the misunderstanding took place, but my immediate reaction is to believe that you must, at best, only read about 50% of my comments. This point is actually something you admitted previously, stating:

    “The second half of your comment essentially analyzes methods of BC in relation to the theories you propose. I won’t take on the analysis, since I don’t agree with the theories they’re based on…”

    which I take to mean, “I’m ignoring the entire second half of this comment.”

    I’m going to try again anyway. Ignore what you will.

    Going way, way back to your previous comment to me, I admit I may have phrased my first point poorly: what I meant to say was that while the Church accepts NFP as a means for responsible child spacing, it in no way teaches that the practice of NFP is intended to be the norm for Catholic marriages. Responsible parenthood must be delicately balanced with generosity in participating with God’s life-giving love. Agreed?

    The next point you made was the, “if I practice NFP the right way, can I still use a condom?” remark. If you had not ignored the second half of my comment, you may have notice why I theorized this would not be acceptable in the eyes of the Church. It opposes Jesus’ own words that the two become one *flesh*, and places undue responsibility on one partner, and opens another door to deception and mistrust, as discussed previously. Also, I think an important component to the equality between partners in NFP is the requirement of mutual *sacrifice*. An honest sacrifice with good intent is pleasing to God. In my humble opinion, a condom is a “get out of suffering free” card that can only do harm.

    Your next comment about drugs vs. nature sounded like you think I’m anti-drug in general. Would I still be a pharmacist if that were true? 😉

    I don’t feel your comparison between drugs used to contracept and drugs used to treat disease is a fair one. Chemical contraceptives work directly against *fertility* – if you consider fertility a disease state, you and I are both among the vast majority of humans ever born to suffer from it. This point also speaks to the Church’s acceptance of drugs to enhance fertility – fertility is considered the normal, healthy state of the human body.

    At the risk of getting lengthy yet again, let me paint a few examples of this difference. My dad takes Lipitor, which is an awesome, life-saving drug. He uses it to keep his cholesterol in check since his bypass surgery 5 years ago (which he needed mainly because his arteries were clogged due to high cholesterol!). My cholesterol is just fine. If I take Lipitor, I am unnecessarily putting myself at risk for liver damage as well as life-threatening muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis). Is it moral for me to do so?

    Maybe I can do better than that example. Say my husband has a prescription for Oxycontin for his chronic knee pain. I have no pain, but I notice how sleepy it makes him. I decide I want to get to sleep really early for a long flight or whatever and take one just to make sure I fall asleep when I want to. With this drug, I put myself at risk for nausea/vomiting (yeah, I need more of that like I need a hole in the head), impaired cognition, constipation, and even (depending on the dose) life-threatening respiratory depression. Aside from the legal issues involved with taking someone else’s prescription drug, is it moral for me to do so?

    Medicine in general constantly practices from the viewpoint that nature is better. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended *not* treating ear infections with antibiotics right away, but rather letting children fight them on their own first. Any time a person comes into the hospital with some issue not allowing them to eat, the most basic rule of thumb is, if the gut works, use it – that is, use any sort of feeding tube to allow the body to work for its own nutrition before giving nutrition intravenously.

    So after all those lengthy examples (no wonder i get ignored :) ), I think it makes perfect sense that working with God’s own design for the human reproductive process is always better than chemically altering it when it ain’t broke.

    Posted 02 Mar 2006 at 6:04 pm
  130. Funky Dung wrote:

    Welcome back to the conversation, Stuff. :)

    By no means do I wish to be contrary for its own sake, but I do see a potential opposition to your comments. Actually, it’d be a response to hidden assumptions in them. All of the arguments I’ve heard thus far clearly make NFP a more moral contraceptive. However, I have not seen a good argument for why it is objectively moral, that is, morally licit under all circumstances in which it is not abused. So, let’s grant that NFP does not violate the fertile sex act because the act is not performed. My question is whether it violates the sex act in toto. I do not yet understand why engaging in the sex act only when it’s unlikely to produce offspring is not an abuse of the procreative aspect of matrimony.

    In order to correct this lack of understanding, I am reading Casti Connubii (Pius XI), Address to Midwives and Address to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families (Pius XII), Humanae Vitae (Paul VI), and Familiaris Consortio (John Paul II). I’m in the midst of writing a post about what I learn (I’ve just finished CC). I hope and believe that it will clarify matters for all of us. If folks can just hold their wad for a while (pun intended), we can resume the conversation when that post is finished.

    Posted 02 Mar 2006 at 7:07 pm
  131. Lightwave wrote:

    Stuff: Your chiding aside, I don’t think it’s fair to accuse me of ignoring you. For me, the logic of my choice not to rebut every individual line of your comment is simple. If a logical statement entails “X AND Y” and one can evaluate “X” as false, then there is no purpose in evaluating “Y” since the entire statement is false regardless (Logic 101). In the same way, there is no sense in addressing an analysis based on a theory if the theory is not accepted.

    In any case, I genuinely read every comment to my posts, though I find it appropriate to limit my comments. In an effort not to be accused of ignorance again, I will respond to every paragraph in your comment:

    Furthermore, I don’t see how it matters for this topic if “NFP is [not] intended to be the norm”. The fact is that it is intended to be used at all, still raises the question, why is NFP okay and not a condom? Can I use a condom, as long as it is not intended to be the norm? You then make the “one flesh” argument. Essentially this is why a married couple must consummate the marriage for it to be valid. To read “one flesh” any other way, abstinence and NFP would seem to violate this rule as well, by avoiding becoming “one flesh” from one time to another.

    In response to the moral argument for/against drugs, I do not consider fertility to be a disease, as you suggest, but I also do not consider normal fatigue to be a disease either, yet there is no moral teaching I can find that states its bad to take a mild stimulant (like caffeine). For this aspect, I still reject the “no drugs = more moral” argument. (speaking of ignorance, note here that everyone seemed to ignore my comment about the abortificant effects of caffeine). (By the way, I genuinely read your oxycotten and lipitor paragraphs too!)

    Beyond that, I don’t see why one should be particularly concerned that modern medicine suggests nature is better, since the topic is morality. This is to say, my point is that while nature may be better, there seems to be no moral argument that seems to apply against all “unnatural” medicines (caffeine, Tylenol, etc.) in all cases. Unless we can say there is a general argument against medicines, I can’t agree with the “if it ain’t broke” argument.

    Funky: Hey, I get a chance not to be contrary here :) Indeed one of my questions is that, if one can makes the “violation of the act” argument, then why is NFP not a violation too?

    Posted 03 Mar 2006 at 3:07 pm
  132. magistra6 wrote:

    I don’t know if another voice will just add to the confusion at this point but a few thoughts occurred to me that might help.
    Lightwave: A lot of really good things have been said to answer your question about whether NFP is contraception (and on related questions) but you’re still not satisfied. I think it comes down to definition. What is contraception? Perhaps your definition (in post 127) seems to allow a lot more than you intend. What about infertile couples and older couples? Are they contracepting because their condition “prevents conception while still allowing the sexual act”?
    I think you are confusing the intention and the “moral act.” The intention and the act are two different things as we acknowledge when we say, “He did a bad thing for a good reason” (e.g. many abortion cases) or “He did a good thing for a bad reason” (e.g. praying to show off) The intention is in the one who acts, but the action is something outside of him, the objective thing done. And the moral act is good or evil, apart from the intention. (See CCC #1750-1753)
    The Church defines a contraceptive act as engaging in intercourse while using means to prevent conception. So regardless of intention, NFP is not contraception and is permitted by the Church, while using physical or chemical contraceptives is and is forbidden. It is true that NFP can be used for selfish reasons and would therefore be sinful, but the sin committed would be a sin of ommission (not being willing to accept God’s gift of a child), not the sin of engaging in a contraceptive act.
    Why are contraceptive acts wrong? They violate both purposes of the marital act, namely procreation and loving union. The first is obvious but the second is no less real. With their bodies, each person says, “I offer you a total gift of myself…except for my fertility. I accept your total gift of self…but I don’t want your capacity for fruitfulness.” There’s a contradiction here — a lie. And our fertility is not just a peripheral ability, but rather an essential component of who we are as men and women. Every person is called to give himself or herself to another and to bear fruit–to become a father or mother–spiritually if not physically. Conjugal love is thus an image of Christ and His Church and of the self-giving, fruitful love of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. You might want to study Pope John Paul II’s talks on the Theology of the Body which explain all this.

    Posted 03 Mar 2006 at 7:14 pm
  133. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’d just like folks to know that in my reading of popes Pius XI and XII it became abundantly clear to me that they most certainly regarded NFP as contraception (though they generally used the phrase “birth control”). However, they saw it as a moral means of contraception (under the right circumstances). Lightwave isn’t off his nut about the Church’s dodgy use of language in her teachings about NFP (at least as those teachings are popularly presented).

    Posted 03 Mar 2006 at 8:13 pm
  134. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    “That being said, I think we agree on the basics now. What’s next?” [Lightwave comment 130]

    I think our next step is to apply the moral framework of “intents”, “objects”, and “circumstances”. I suggest we simplify things at the outset by comparing contraceptive drugs/barriers versus abstinence. Later, we can relate abstinence to the larger pattern of periodic abstinence known as NFP.

    First, though, it sounds like it would be helpful to clarify what is meant by “objects”. A few paragraphs earlier in the Catechism from where you quoted, there is a more complete description:

    “1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.”

    In other words, the object is what you choose to carry out your intent. Further, reason and conscience can indicate for us that certain objects conform to the good and others to evil.

    Hope that helps–let me know if not.

    Okay, first “intents”. Again, to simplify things, I suggest we begin by assuming a good intention for avoiding a pregnancy for both contraceptive drugs/barriers and abstinence. Let us say that the intent is to avoid pregnancy because it would seriously threaten the life of the would-be mother.

    It might be good to stop here for a moment. Are we agreed that there can be a good intent to avoid pregnancy (the one suggested being an example we can use)?

    Posted 03 Mar 2006 at 10:09 pm
  135. Stuff wrote:

    Lightwave,
    I am no expert in philosophy/theology/morality. I will let BV take on that aspect of the discussion. My point, which I think Funky picked up on, is that while you would like to claim there is “no substantive difference” between NFP and artificial contraception, I have found that there are numerous differences on many levels – physical, practical, moral. And my point with the drug examples is that while there are ways to use them judiciously and morally, there are ways to use the same drugs unwisely and immorally. Using caffeine (not only a mild stimulant, but a mild bronchodilator and diuretic to boot – and I don’t mean the book by L Ron Hubbard 😉 ) to carry you through a rough day at work after your toddler has been up with a fever all night is one thing. Getting plenty of rest and proper nutrition, then drinking several cups of coffee to get a buzz is quite different.

    For a single woman to take the pill to alleviate the excruciating symptoms of endometriosis is one thing. For a married woman to take the pill for any reason is quite a different story.

    And my point of trying to emphasize ANY difference between the methods, intents, etc. is to hopefully show that there are so many subtle nuances to this and many other moral discussions that I don’t think it’s possible to categorize things in as simple a black-and-white format as you would like.

    But I’ll leave that part up to BV. :)

    Posted 04 Mar 2006 at 11:19 am
  136. emily t wrote:

    I have to ask, and certainly feel free to correct me, isn’t becoming “one flesh” violated by the barrier of a condom which would not be violated by the use of NFP as Lightwave suggests?? He suggests that a couple does not become “one flesh” if they periodically abstain, but that doesn’t seem clear to me if every other instance of sex is not disrupted by a barrier, the couple becomes “one flesh.”

    Perhaps I don’t have a clear understanding of this as somone who is not married, but it would seem to me that the suggestion is there that a couple has to be “one flesh” all the time, which something tells me doesn’t happen for more reasons than periodic abstinence.

    Posted 04 Mar 2006 at 2:28 pm
  137. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Gah… I can’t believe this conversation is still going on… Well… what the heck.

    Lightwave says:
    The fact is that it is intended to be used at all, still raises the question, why is NFP okay and not a condom?

    No one said NFP is “okay”. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. NFP is not per se immoral, but it can be and often is.

    Also:
    Indeed one of my questions is that, if one can makes the “violation of the act” argument, then why is NFP not a violation too?

    Again, no one should be arguing that NFP is not a violation of the act. It is not per se such a violation, but it can be an often is.

    I think this discussion would’ve been a whole lot clearer if the term NFP didn’t appear, and the term “abstinence” was substituted instead. Abstinence is what we’re talking about here. Is abstinence ALWAYS, in EVERY CASE, moral? No. It can be engaged for the wrong reason(s). But it is not per se immoral. Contraceptive sex is per se immoral, i.e., immoral regardless of intention. Which is what I said about 500 comments ago.

    Back to my banishment.

    Posted 05 Mar 2006 at 4:52 pm
  138. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    I don’t know if this applies to any of you young married Catholics out there, but if one (and I’m not saying anyone necessarily fits this description) approaches NFP as a choice (however well-informed or well-intentioned) from among many modern options for “limiting and spacing births”, then it really is no wonder one cannot tell the moral difference between NFP and a condom. The problem is that such a one has already acquiesced to the Culture of Choice. And it is the Culture of Choice, not contraception nor NFP nor for that matter axe-murdering, that is the real demon that must be exorcised.

    Oh, and in even less happy news, we have NOW marching in our St. Patty’s Day parade next Sat…

    Posted 05 Mar 2006 at 5:08 pm
  139. Lightwave wrote:

    magistra6: I know a lot has gone on here, but I’d be the last to discourage participation to reduce confusion, so, welcome to the discussion.

    If I haven’t already addressed the question “are perpetually infertile couples using contraception by definition?”, I had intended to. My answer is a qualified “no”. Perpetually infertile couples who are unintentionally infertile (perhaps due to a medical condition) are not using contraception. They have no intention of intervening in the conception process, nor are they intervening. NFP does intervene in the conception process. Again, I’ll say though, that it doesn’t matter that the intervention happens at a different time then the sexual act.

    You say “The Church defines a contraceptive act as engaging in intercourse while using means to prevent conception. So regardless of intention, NFP is not contraception.” However, I make the point that NFP is a “means to prevent conception” while allowing one to “engage in intercourse. As Funky pointed out, the Church does define NFP as contraception. I have, however, pointed out that many other forms of contraception are forbidden by the Church, so I don’t think we disagree there. My original premise, however, is that I don’t see how these can be so bad, while NFP is okay.

    I can’t respond to comments like “why are contraceptive acts wrong,” other to say than the Church condones contraception in at least one form that it defines, so it seems to me the Church states that contraception itself is not objectively wrong. Furthermore when you say in regard to other forms of contraception

    With their bodies, each person says, “I offer you a total gift of myself…except for my fertility. I accept your total gift of self…but I don’t want your capacity for fruitfulness.” There’s a contradiction here — a lie.

    I find that NFP fits this, in that it can be used for the same purposes: “except for […] fertility” and “I don’t want your capacity for fruitfulness.”

    BV: Thanks for the explanation. I think I’m with you so far. I think I can agree with your “intents” statement. Beyond that, might I suggest that the intent with abstinence is to avoid pregnancy and avoid sexual pleasure, while the intent with contraception is to avoid pregnancy while allowing sexual pleasure? If you think I’m going a bit too far for keeping things simple, you can ignore my suggestion and continue down the path you were on.

    Stuff: I think I agree with you that *anything* can be abused. NFP, caffeine, condoms, etc. But when you say there are substantive differences with NFP and artificial contraception (by the way, I still consider NFP artificial), I can’t see the pertinent difference. Okay, I’ll say every one is substantially different from any other one, but I don’t see what makes an “artificial” method different from NFP that should make the “artificial” method prohibited, and NFP not.

    By the way, I like things black and white :) Indeed that is what the rules give me. But I like to understand why the line between black and white is where it is.

    Emily T: I’m sorry if my comment wasn’t clear, but I think your comment helps me to illustrate my point. You say

    it would seem to me that the suggestion is there that a couple has to be “one flesh” all the time.

    In so saying, wouldn’t that mean that a couple would have to be literally joined at the hips at all times to be one flesh at all times? I don’t think this was the intention of the teaching. If they’re one flesh even when not having sex, essentially perpetually “one flesh”, then how does a barrier or a chemical, but not a chart and a stopwatch, break that perpetuity?

    Steve: I think the Church has made it pretty clear NFP is okay. If so, then I doubt the Church is in the position of saying that NFP is a “violation of the act”. Let me clearly state, though, that I don’t see NFP and abstinence as the same. NFP when used to space births is sex + (hopefully) no pregnancy. Contraception is sex + (hopefully) no pregnancy. Abstinence is “no sex” + “no pregnancy”, except in one special case 2000 years ago. Again, as Funky pointed out, the Church defines NFP as contraception, but promotes NFP as acceptable, if so, when you say “Contraceptive sex is per se immoral,” do you intend to say that the Church is defining an immoral act as acceptable?

    I think in your second post, you’re getting closer to what I’m saying. Indeed, if used improperly, NFP is immoral (just as other forms of contraception are defined as immoral). I think, however, the things we can do to practice NFP “properly” we may also do with other forms of contraception, so why can they not be moral too?

    Posted 05 Mar 2006 at 9:25 pm
  140. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    I have no idea where you’re getting this “Church has made it pretty clear NFP is okay.” Or worse, the “Church considers NFP a type of contraception.” And I’m thoroughly unaware of the church “promoting” NFP. The church permits “periodic abstinence” for limiting and spacing births if there are grave reasons to do so. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Contraception is not in the Church’s parlance equivalent to abstinence, nor is it equivalent to limiting and spacing of births. It is a moot point, because the Church has made it even more abundantly clear (aside from whatever else it may or may not have made clear) that contraception is per se immoral. Abstinence **COULD BE** immoral if practiced with specific intent of limiting family size for unjust reasons. But the sin in that case would not be abstinence but faithlessness or greed. But I refuse to conflate two different moral questions.

    Lightwave, if this hasn’t been made abundantly clear, the DIFFERENCE between having sex and abstinence is that in one case you’re having sex and in the other you’re not. Obvious? Right. But the corollary is that what is different is what we do with our bodies. And this is important why? Because we believe in the Resurrection of the Body–the point I was making 349 pages above up there, i.e., we are not gnostics, we are not manicheists. Our bodies matter and what we do with them matters. We are spiritual creatures, i.e., we are more than physical, but we are also at least that. Consider the deeds of the risen Lord. He was no ghost. He ate fish, was able to be touched. He was not “less solid” than us mortals. He was more. He walked through locked doors not because he was noncorporeal or vapory but because locked doors were noncorporeal or vapory relative to him. And for this Christ died and rose again: To guarantee for the faithful the resurrection of our bodies. So I say philosophizing has long ago run its course. There is a difference between having sex and not having sex and if your philosophy cannot recognize such a difference, then there’s something wrong with the philosophy, not with the sex. 😉

    With that, I’ll keep my body from the http protocol for the next 144 hours. See you next Sun. Hope you all will have solved something by then.

    Posted 05 Mar 2006 at 11:51 pm
  141. Funky Dung wrote:

    Once more with feeling:

    Birth control, done for the moral reasons (that is, with serious/grave motives), is permitted by the Church. NFP is a form of birth control. It is in fact the only form of birth control permitted by the Church. Why? Because it relies on the natural rhythms of the human body, created by God. Every pope since Pius XII has not only approved of NFP for use by the faithful, but she has also exhorted doctors and scientists to further our understanding of human sexuality and fertility so as to learn more about God’s creation and improve NFP. The difference that the Church sees between natural and artificial birth control is that the latter leaves God in control by using His creation the way He designed it and the latter presumes to usurp complete control of fertility to humanity. I say again, the distinction that NFP is allegedly not a form of contraception is a red herring. I find no such language in the writings of Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, or John Paul II. They do mention that NFP can be wrongly used with a “contraceptive mentality”, that is, hostility to fertility, but that’s different matter and speaks more to intent than means.

    I won’t say any more lest I should spoil the 6-part series I’m working on. 😉

    Posted 06 Mar 2006 at 6:21 am
  142. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    “I think I’m with you so far. […] might I suggest that the intent with abstinence is to avoid pregnancy and avoid sexual pleasure, while the intent with contraception is to avoid pregnancy while allowing sexual pleasure? If you think I’m going a bit too far for keeping things simple, you can ignore my suggestion and continue down the path you were on.” [Lightwave comment 141]

    I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s best to keep things simple for now by assuming pure intentions (we can branch out later). I’m glad we’re still together, and I’ll continue down our path:

    Having established a good “intent” (to avoid pregnancy because it would seriously threaten the life of the would-be mother), our next step is to evaluate the “objects”, or the ways we can carry out our “intent”. Let us say that the first “object” is the use of a condom during intercourse (this being an example of contraceptive drugs/barriers).

    Looking at the use of a condom during intercourse, we observe: a) the sexual act is performed, b) during the act, a device is used which prevents the act from functioning as designed (namely, the condom).

    So we ask, how does this “object” conform/not conform to the good? Well, we see that this “object” involves sex, and we know that the good of the sexual act is understood in terms of its two inseparable significances: that of unitive, and of procreative. We see that this “object” blatantly violates one of these significances–the procreative is stifled by the married couple. The very nature of this “object”, then, is to make the sexual act a contradiction against itself. In moral parlance, we say that it is intrinsically disordered.

    This is probably another good place to stop. Are we agreed that the use of a condom is an inherent contradiction of the sexual act and therefore bad?

    Posted 06 Mar 2006 at 11:30 pm
  143. Funky Dung wrote:

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the new NFP post?

    Posted 07 Mar 2006 at 11:46 am
  144. Lightwave wrote:

    Eeek. Well I had posted a comment back on the 7th (or at least I thought it was posted since I went through the spam catcher), but my comment doesn’t appear to have made it here! Mental note to save my comments so I don’t have to redo them. I was wondering why the thread got so quiet.

    Steve N: I believe Funky will make it pretty clear that the Church thinks NFP is okay in his series of posts if his last comment was not sufficent for you. To help you understand that the Church does indeed promote NFP, let me give you this example: when attending the mandatory matrimony classes taught by the Church prior to being married, there was an entire module taught on NFP and contraception. I have to say that it was well done, taking in to consideration the thoughts and feelings of both the devout catholics in the room, those who weren’t so devout, and those who were not Catholic, but getting a Catholic marriage. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has taken the classes has mentioned something similar to me. For those recently married in the Church, please chime in and tell me if you had a similar mentioning of NFP. This is not merely an endorsement of NFP, but promotion of it by the Church.

    In response to the rest of your post, I don’t think I ever claimed that “sex” = “no sex”. I’m not sure how you got to that, so its difficult for me to respond further.

    BV: In your step by step analysis, You are precicely at the position of my quandry. I cannot answer your question without first answering some of the questions I have raised before (to which I don’t know the answer). Allow me to relate my (il)logic.

    You ask is “a condom is an inherent contradiction of the sexual act and therefore bad?”. To answer this question, I must put the condom in some context. So, here, I would put the condom in the category of a contraceptive. I also must put NFP in the contraceptive category. If I do this, I can’t categorically say all contraceptives are bad. Here, I must figure out what is the specific difference that makes NFP not like a condom, and therefore makes NFP okay. I’ll begin listing some (I don’t remember them all) of the differences that folks have mentioned:

    1. NFP is natural. Response: I don’t find NFP particularly natural (i.e. charts, stopwatches, etc.), people in nature do not time their sexual acts based on a chart.

    2. NFP promotes all kinds of good virtues. Response: Okay, but if I promote those virtues and choose to use a condom in addition, is the condom then okay? Of course not, so the virtue promotion doesn’t seem to be what makes NFP okay.

    3. NFP only spaces births, it doesn’t prevent them. Response: This is a bit of mincing of words. How is spacing births not contraception? Again, if you use a condom to space births, most here would claim that is not okay.

    4. Using NFP means your open to life. *OR* With NFP you’re leaving it in God’s hands. Response: I find that hard to believe. NFP claims to be at least as effective or more effective than other contemporary methods. If that is the case, it seems to me that one could find it more closed to life than a condom could provide, and certainly seems to be a free-will effort to remove the choice further from God’s hands.

    5. NFP doesn’t impact the sexual act. Response: I think it does. NFP conspires to prevent a fertile sexual act or preempts the sexual act from even beginning during fertile periods. I don’t think one can interfere more with an act than to prevent its occurrence.

    6. NFP doesn’t violate the unitive and procreative acts. Response: Huh? If you’re preempting sex, you’re preempting the unitive act. Sounds like a violation for me. And the whole point of NFP is to prevent or delay procreation.

    Having gone through these issues, I can’t find how NFP is objectively different than using a condom. Unless I can, I have to think that using a condom and using NFP must be on equal moral ground. Therefore since NFP is declared “okay”, then a condom cannot be objectively wrong.

    Do you see where I am challenged by the morality of these issues? Perhaps you (or someone else) can shed some light on something I haven’t seen yet.

    Posted 09 Mar 2006 at 9:13 pm
  145. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    I think I see the challenge, and I agree with much of what you’ve said. I did want to suggest something:

    “I can’t find how NFP is objectively different than using a condom. Unless I can, I have to think that using a condom and using NFP must be on equal moral ground. Therefore since NFP is declared “okay”, then a condom cannot be objectively wrong.” [Lightwave comment 147]

    This looks to me a little like circular thinking: You’ve started with the premise that “A” and “B” are the same, and then end with the statement that they cannot therefore be different.

    I suggest that even if “A” and “B” are morally the same, we should still be able to look at each in isolation. Despite any other similarities they may have, using a condom and practicing abstinence are different “objects”. And even if they have the same moral character, that moral character should be able to be seen without reference to the other.

    Does this seem reasonable?

    Posted 13 Mar 2006 at 12:36 am
  146. Lightwave wrote:

    BV: I would say it is resonable to look at them independently for someone who is a lot smarter than me (maybe that’s you!). To evaluate morality, I need moral points of reference, hence my points on similarity. I’m not sure that I’d know how to evaluate one or the other in a vacume.

    Perhaps you would like to conduct the independent moral evaluation that you suggest? Maybe in seeing it, it would then make sense to me.

    Posted 14 Mar 2006 at 12:08 pm
  147. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    You’re right, we can’t evaluate in a vacuum and we need moral points of reference (we’d be adrift without them). But if you use the two “objects” we’re evaluating as the definitive points of reference for each other, then we simply reach foregone conclusions. We need to widen the lens, use other references and see if it works out to the same conclusions. Then we can be even more sure of our result.

    About conducting an “independent moral evaluation”, this is what I’ve taken a stab at in comment 145. I’ve attempted to simply look at the use of a condom at face value, and to see what it illustrates. Even at a superficial level, the use of a condom appears to contradict the sexual act. Does it not seem so to you?

    P.S. Thank you for the compliment, by the way, though I must say I’m definitely not smarter than you, so no worries. :-)

    Posted 15 Mar 2006 at 11:37 pm
  148. Lightwave wrote:

    BV: I bet you’re hoping for a short, to-the-point response from me. Alas, I find thigs a bit more complex. Looking back at your comment 145, I re-read what you mentioned:

    Looking at the use of a condom during intercourse, we observe: a) the sexual act is performed, b) during the act, a device is used which prevents the act from functioning as designed (namely, the condom).

    So we ask, how does this “object” conform/not conform to the good? Well, we see that this “object” involves sex, and we know that the good of the sexual act is understood in terms of its two inseparable significances: that of unitive, and of procreative. We see that this “object” blatantly violates one of these significances–the procreative is stifled by the married couple. The very nature of this “object”, then, is to make the sexual act a contradiction against itself. In moral parlance, we say that it is intrinsically disordered.

    Essentially you’re saying that use of a condom prevents the sex act from operating as designed. Again, here, I need a point of reference, specifically, I’d need to know that there was something moraly wrong with “preventing the act from functioning as designed”. Let’s assume for the moment that I accept that without justification (though I’m not sure I do). Then, I would also need an accepted definiton of “functioning as designed”. It seems to me, from your second paragraph, that you’re saying that “the sex act is intended to operate in a procreative manner (in addition to unitive)”.

    Now, if I were to accept all that at face value, then yes, the use of a condom is morally bad.

    However, if I apply those same rules to the use of NFP, I see that it also interferes with the procreative apsect of sex, so it also fails both of your propsed rules. Hence, NFP must also be morally bad. The Church has estabilished this is not the case, so there must be a problem with the ruleset or the application thereof.

    So, now, to backtrack for a moment, since this ruleset doesn’t appear to work, what ruleset might you justly apply to the morality of using a condom that could not be applied to NFP?

    Here are some rulesets we’ve already discussed:
    1. Onanism – I’d argue what some call Onanism could also simply be interpreted as a failure to follow any direct order.
    2. Nature is better – I don’t see why using unnatural methods should be sinful in one area, but not in most other areas of our lives. I also don’t see NFP as natural (contrary to the name, sex by a stopwatch, and all that).
    3. Openness to life – If one understands the proability of conception with a condom vs. NFP, one may find (as I have) that NFP has a lower proability of conception. If this is the case, the use of a condom would represent a greater openness to life than NFP.
    4. Interfering in the act of Sex – While a condom interupts but part of fertile sex, NFP prevents it from happing altogether. From my perspective, NFP thus interefers more.
    5. Husband and Wife are expected to be unitive as often as possible – I don’t see how this statement, per se, can be accurate even when not applied to contraception. I can’t see how it could possibly be the Churches position that husband and wife be joined at (or a little below) the hip perpetually, especially since abstinence is permissible in many cases.

    What am I missing?

    Posted 16 Mar 2006 at 4:53 pm
  149. BV wrote:

    I’d need to know that there was something moraly wrong with “preventing the act from functioning as designed”.

    This is one of those “basics” I referred to back in comment 128. It’s what makes us cringe when we think about someone’s arm being twisted in its socket for multiple rotations, and what leads us to gawk when someone pours sand into their engine oil spout. There’s this concept that when we contradict something’s purpose, we’ve inflicted damage which is bad. If this principle is in question, I don’t think we can really move any further. As I mentioned back in comment 128, I don’t think I’m your guy to reconstruct the basic tenets of the moral law.

    I would also need an accepted definiton of “functioning as designed”.

    Here again, one of those “basics” I referred to back in comment 128. Sexual morality is built on the understanding that sex has two inseparable significances: procreative and unitive. Similar to the above, if this principle is in question, I think we really can’t move any further.

    I’m not asking you to ‘grant the premise’, or to ‘agree for the sake of argument’, or ‘if we accept premises at face value, then yes condoms are bad’. Don’t let me force you into a position you don’t want to take. I’m just asking for your honest-to-goodness opinion as a person of goodwill with your own life experiences: Does the use of a condom seem to contradict the sexual act?

    About your other comments, I agree with much of what you’ve said, but don’t think it makes sense to perform comparisons until we’ve finished examining each “object”. (This following the approach we started at comment 136.)

    P.S.

    I bet you’re hoping for a short, to-the-point response from me. Alas, I find things a bit more complex.

    Whatever length seems appropriate; I don’t have any expected lengths in mind.

    Posted 16 Mar 2006 at 11:53 pm
  150. Lightwave wrote:

    BV:

    I’m just asking for your honest-to-goodness opinion as a person of goodwill with your own life experiences: Does the use of a condom seem to contradict the sexual act?

    I guess my answer is, no, it does not seem to objectively contradict the sexual act. Why? Because NFP does not objectively contradict the sexual act, and I cannot find a substansive diference. (I know, I just can’t give a reply without comparing the two, can I?).

    I don’t think we can really move any further. As I mentioned back in comment 128, I don’t think I’m your guy to reconstruct the basic tenets of the moral law.

    Indeed, I suspected this might end in a difference of personal philosophy, not in Church teaching. To some folks the answer is obviously implicit. To me, I just don’t see how all the dots are connected.

    I appreciate your tenacity in this exploration of the subject. After 150 comments, I feel a bit more enlightened on the subject, even if I haven’t yet found the cause I’m seeking to change my position in good concience. If you have any further thoughts for me, by all means continue. :)

    Posted 20 Mar 2006 at 8:37 am
  151. BV wrote:

    Dear Lightwave,

    I guess my answer is, no, it [the use of a condom] does not seem to objectively contradict the sexual act.

    Are you saying then that condoms can be used in a morally just manner?

    Would you say that condoms and abstinence are different in any way? If so, how?

    I suspected this might end in a difference of personal philosophy, not in Church teaching.

    I dunno, I think Church teaching is in question here.

    Posted 20 Mar 2006 at 11:15 pm
  152. BV wrote:

    Lightwave,

    You still there?

    Posted 28 Mar 2006 at 8:47 pm
  153. MammasBoy wrote:

    Onan had a brother Shelah who also did not fulfill his levirate duty to raise up kids for his brother. Why was Onan the only one killed? In addition, the levirate marriage command comes much later chronologically than this story. The idea that Onan was killed for simply violating the levirate marriage law doesn’t hold water.

    In addition there are several misrepresentations of Catholic teaching on contraception and NFP in this post. Please, before condemning something, study up on it.

    MB

    Posted 13 Apr 2007 at 2:45 pm
  154. Funky Dung wrote:

    In addition there are several misrepresentations of Catholic teaching on contraception and NFP in this post. Please, before condemning something, study up on it.

    Such as?

    Posted 13 Apr 2007 at 2:58 pm
  155. stuke wrote:

    Chemical contraception (like the pill) works in three way. It works against conception, against ovulation, and is abortive. (not to mention the side effects, from blood clots to cancer)NFP teaches both husband and wife how her body works.

    Posted 15 Mar 2011 at 6:13 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 5

  1. From Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » It’s All About Who You Know on 26 Feb 2006 at 4:59 pm

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    […] Investigating NFP: Preface By Funky Dung Recently, all hell broke loose (At least, that’s what I call 100+ comments on a small-time blog like mine!) when one of my contributors wrote a post questioning the Church’s position on NFP. Rather than taking the more common stance that NFP puts undue burden on couples and artificial contraception should be permitted, Lightwave seemed to be suggesting that NFP is on a moral plane with certain artificial methods of birth control. I found myself siding with Lightwave, if not with the same tone or delivery, at least with similar sentiment. Neither of us could not understand how NFP does not frustrate "the procreative potential of the marriage act". Furthermore, the arguments that NFP is somehow not a contraceptive because it is natural and involves the omission of an act, rather than the commission of one, seemed spurious. In order to alleviate my ignorance, I’ve decided to find out what the learned teachers and evangelizers of NFP had to say in defense of the practice. I began with Couple to Couple League International (CCLI). They seemed as competitent in this area as any organization I could find. They are well-known and well-respected. […]

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