It all begins with contraception: David Opderbeck on DOMA decisions

SMcK: I made a mistake and posted this too soon. David: Friends – it seems there was a mix up with my most recent post on gay marriage and contraception.  I intended to hold that until I finished talking about the cases, and I planned to revise it from the version that was posted.  I’m away on vacation and can’t respond to comments or explain what I meant to get at this week.  Sorry for any confusion.

Evangelicals, Catholics, and Gay Marriage, By David W. Opderbeck.  David Opderbeck is Professor of Law at Seton Hall University Law School and is a doctoral candidate in Philosophical Theology at the University of Nottingham.  He blogs at Through a Glass Darkly.

As everyone knows, the Supreme Court decided the “gay marriage” cases this week.  I hope to write about some of the legal machinery in those cases over the next few weeks.  In this post, however, I want to focus on what I think is a difficult, painful, and generally hidden divide between Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic Christians who believe in “traditional” marriage:  the question of contraception.

Can evangelicals speak with moral authority about marriage if they permit / endorse artificial contraception for married heterosexual Christians?  Is there a way past this divide between evangelicals and Catholics who want to support “traditional” marriage?  Does the significance of this divide relativize any consensus on what “traditional” marriage means?

Official Roman Catholic social teaching holds that any use of artificial contraception, even for married heterosexual couples, is a grave sin, while “natural” family planning is acceptable.  Of course, there are Catholic ethicists who argue that the official teaching is mitigated or not always binding for various reasons, and apparently the laity frequently ignore the teaching.  The hierarchical authorities, however,  have held the line, and many thoughtful Catholic ethicists elegantly defend the teaching on natural law grounds

Eastern Orthodox teaching generally permits the use of artificial birth control in marriage, but tends to view it as a sort of concession.  The Orthodox Church in America’s web page on this issue, for example, states

The voluntary control of birth in marriage is only permissible, according to the essence of a spiritual life, when the birth of a child will bring danger and hardship. Those who are living the spiritual life will come to the decision not to bear children only with sorrow, and will do so before God, with prayers for guidance and mercy. It will not be a decision taken lightly or for self-indulgent reasons.

According to the common teaching in the Orthodox Church, when such a decision is taken before God, the means of its implementation are arbitrary. There are, in the Orthodox opinion, no means of controlling birth in marriage which are better or more acceptable than others. All means are equally sad and distressing for those who truly love. For the Christian marriage is the one that abounds with as many new children as possible.

Evangelical and other Protestant ethicists generally do not view non-abortive birth control within marriage as inherently improper or sinful, although most Evangelical ethicists agree that marriages usually should be oriented towards bearing and raising children (see, e.g., the discussion of this issue in Glen Stassen and David Gushee’s Kingdom Ethics).  Some Evangelicals even endorse non-abortive artificial contraception as a social good.  The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, for example, states that “[w]e do here wish to affirm that contraceptive methods offer legitimate and morally acceptable means to exert greater control over the number and timing of births and will enhance the overall health of women and children.”

This issue is significant for the gay marriage debate because many Catholics view gay marriage as a symptom of the breakdown of traditional families, and the use of artificial contraception as an important cause of the breakdown of traditional families.  This argument was made, for example, by Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe in 1972:

And if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse, and if it could become general practice everywhere when there is intercourse but ought to be no begetting, then it’s very difficult to see the objection to this morality, for the ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them. If you can turn intercourse into something other than the reproductive type of act (I don’t mean of course that every act is reproductive any more than every acorn leads to an oak-tree but it’s the reproductive type of act) then why, if you can change it, should it be restricted to the married?

….

If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here – not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can’t be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example.

A similar argument was made more recently in a blog maintained by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

I’m not going to try to offer answers to this divide, because I’m not sure I have any.  Here are some questions:

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Jon Altman

    I’m the product of a “traditional” Southern Baptist marriage of the very late (1959) 50s. There was never any question anywhere in my “tribe” about the morality of contraception. As has been noted frequently, even W.A. Criswell implicitly endorsed legal abortion as late as 1973.

  • Phil Miller

    I’m going to come right out and say it – this sounds like a big ol’ bunch of gobbledygook to me…

    A human male can produce something like 100 million sperm in 24 hours and something like 400 billion in a lifetime. There’s a whole lot of redundancy biologically built into the human reproductive system. I just don’t see any Scriptural support for idea that every sexual union between a husband and life has to leave contraception as a possibility. Granted, the options for contraception at the time the NT was written were very limited, but they exactly unheard of.

    Also, in the last paragraph is the author really saying something like mutual masturbation should be frowned upon simply because normal intercourse is possible? That’s just plain ridiculous.

  • mark

    Scot, thanks for this post–it raises urgent questions that we all need to ponder.

    Here’s an added resource to your other links–a link to Paul VI’s encyclical letter re artificial contraception Humane Vitae, “On the transmission of human life.” And here are the first two paragraphs:

    The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

    The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com/ jeff stewart

    Interesting angle. Contraception…. hmmm…. No fertile eggs in the colon; nor in the esophagus. Okay… let me think on this challenge and get back.

  • AHH

    The post ends with “Here are some questions:”
    But then there’s nothing — looks like questions have been truncated.

    I think much of the underlying issue is the question of the central purpose of marriage.
    Is procreation the central purpose of marriage? If so, then I can see how one might end up near a Catholic position. [This view of the purpose of marriage also tends to tell those of us who are married and childless that we are failures, but that's another discussion.]
    Or is the main purpose of marriage “It is not good for a man to be alone” and to be a model of God’s love and the relationship of Christ and the church? If one starts from that position, which I would argue is more in line with the Biblical witness, then I think the whole track of reasoning here becomes very different.

  • http://mikeblyth.blogspot.com/ Mike Blyth

    If I understand correctly, this line of argument relies on the assumption that procreative considerations are the only ones that apply as bases for sexual morality and marriage. At least, I see no other way in which one could argue that removing those will lead to an erosion of all restrictions on (consensual) sexual behavior. Do any Protestant theologians really believe that marriage as viewed in the Bible is founded solely on procreation?

  • mark

    Mike Blyth, AHH:

    this line of argument relies on the assumption that procreative considerations are the only ones that apply as bases for sexual morality and marriage.

    Is procreation the central purpose of marriage? If so, then I can see how one might end up near a Catholic position.

    I recommend to you a reading of Humane Vitae. Paul VI explicitly recognizes both “unitive” and “procreative” aspects of married love but maintains that sexual morality is not an either/or choice: both aspects must be embraced to be true to God’s plan of creation. “Procreation” means that God has made us, in a sense, co-creators, and we need to take this seriously.

  • Brent White

    I remember my wife, years ago, getting into an argument with newlywed Catholic friends who practiced “natural family planning.” Our friends took classes in which they received detailed instructions, basically, on how to use the “rhythm method” in the most effective way possible—and the church enthusiastically promoted this.

    I’m sorry… How is this not hypocritical? By Catholic logic, any effort to have non-procreative sex should be against the rules.

    This reminds me of why I’m Protestant. Let’s stick with the Bible, please. I like AHH’s words: “Or is the main purpose of marriage “It is not good for a man to be alone” and to be a model of God’s love and the relationship of Christ and the church? If one starts from that position, which I would argue is more in line with the Biblical witness, then I think the whole track of reasoning here becomes very different.”

  • Brent White

    Then the RCC should come down against “natural family planning.” At least the Orthodox position—assuming it’s been fairly represented—is consistent.

  • mark

    Hi Brent,

    The Church (“RCC”) did not issue a blanket endorsement of NFP as a means of preventing conception, so there is not really an opposition between the Eastern and Western views–which is true of most theological/moral issues. NFP is a legitimate means of regulating conception, but is not for simply avoiding conception/parenthood. It is legitimately used as a responsible way of co-operating with God’s plan for human nature in procreation. Again, I recommend a reading of Humanae Vitae, “On the transmission of human life.” It’s not that long and it’s not convoluted. It will provide a few of the nuanced nature of the Church’s teaching.

  • Phil Miller

    The position put forth on the OCA’s page seems very unrealistic to me. This line makes it sound as if a marriage is only truly Christian if it produces as many children as possible:

    For the Christian marriage is the one that abounds with as many new children as possible.

    First of all, what does that even mean? As many as biologically possible? As many as you can afford. It’s ambiguous enough that it’s nearly meaningless.

  • mark

    Brent, I obviously have no idea on how effectively and accurately your newlywed friends presented Catholic teaching “years ago.” However, I can tell you that neither you nor your wife understand Catholic teaching in this regard. As below, I urge you to read Humanae Vitae. NFP is about cooperating with human nature as created by God; it is NOT about thwarting that God created human nature. To abuse NFP for that purpose has always been regarded as sinful in Catholic teaching. This is not a simple area of human life. Cartoonish misrepresentations are not helpful.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    The purpose(s) of a thing or activity are always foundational and provide guidance on the ethics for that thing or act. Ms. Anscombe seems to be following this principle, as does the Catholic Church teaching she defends. However, because she is overly narrow in defining the purpose of intercourse and likewise in the objections to adultery, etc., she has no way to justify sexual activity, even for a married couple, apart from procreation.

    I think the error will be more obvious if we work in reverse. She says, “the ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them.” Do you see that? THE ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sex was only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them. Now, I bet that most married couples and even most single people can think of other very good grounds for moral objection to adultery that have nothing to do with what children may or may not come from it. Indeed, the fundamental moral critique of adultery is not (at all!) that it slights the child that might come from it. No, the core of the moral case against adultery is in its betrayal of the exclusive marital relationship. Therefore, if the core of the objection to adultery does not lie primarily in its effects on procreation, then we can deduce that marriage (and even sex within it?) has another purpose, perhaps even a greater purpose, than mere procreation. That purpose must lie in area of living in deep, devoted communion b/n male and female, just as Christ seeks to do with his Church.

    More could be said, but I think the error of limiting the purpose of marital sex to procreation is evident in the skewed and weak critique of adultery that it produces. Marriage, and sex with in it, is more than just for multiplication of the species. Couples that can’t have children are not non-married, nor should they stop enjoying sex with each other because the days of reproducing are over. Exclusive male and female union goes deeper in its God-given purpose than reproduction.

  • attytjj466

    I have a tendency to basically ignore and dismiss the Catholic Church teaching on contraception out of an assumption that it is no longer a serious teaching that is taken seriously by hardly any Catholics themselves. But then I read an actual serious articulation and defense of the teaching like this by a serious person, and I am almost stunned and bemused by the sheer spectacle of it.

  • Levi

    Please explain how this is a cartoonish misrepresentation.

    Contraception exists so that a man and woman can have sex without getting pregnant. Natural family planning exists so that a man and woman can have sex without getting pregnant. One is technological in nature (the pill, condoms, etc) and the other is process-oriented (only having sex at specific times within the monthly cycle, etc.)

    It sounds to me that the only real difference to me is that contraception tends to be more reliable and allows for more frequent sex.

  • mark

    T. Freeman, it’s pretty clear that you didn’t want to understand what Anscombe was saying. If you had, you would have included more of what she said and would have included her emphases, which happen to be important. You erroneously claim that Anscombe–and by extension the Church–”limit[] the purpose of marital sex to procreation.” Let’s examine that.

    First, in addition to Anscombe, Scot links a blog from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, in which we read:

    1. The fundamental flaw in modern thinking about human sexuality, the “Ur” (root) problem, is the (sinful) declaration that there is “no necessary connection” between human sexual activity and procreation. Here is the real taproot of modern confusion about human sexuality and all the disorders that flow from it. Such notions began as early as 1930 in the Lambeth Conference where the Church of England was the first Christian Denomination to serious brook this sinful notion. The thinking gained steam through the 1950s, via Margaret Sanger et al. and came to full (and ugly) flower in 1960s with the pill and the sexual revolution.

    Please note: the author is NOT limiting the purpose of marital sex to procreation–but he IS maintaining that marital sex cannot be properly understood absent the “necessary connection” between human sexuality and procreation. To deny that “necessary connection” is to succumb to the West’s besetting sin of dualism: denying that human nature is a unity of body and soul and must be addressed in terms of that unity.

    Second, I note that whereas Anscombe addresses fornication and adultery, you choose only to address adultery and present no moral objection to fornication. I submit that you would have difficulty doing so on your premises.

    Third, let’s take a closer look at Anscombe’s words and thought in a bit more context–including her emphases. In what follows bold type will be mine, but italics will indicate Anscombe’s emphases:

    Christianity was at odds with the heathen world, not only about fornication, infanticide and idolatry; but also about marriage. Christians were taught that husband and wife had equal rights in one another’s bodies; a wife is wronged by her husband’s adultery as well as a husband by his wife’s. And Christianity involved non-acceptance of the contemptible role of the female partner in fornication, calling the prostitute to repentance and repudiating respectable concubinage. And finally for Christians divorce was excluded. These differences were the measure, great enough, of the separation between Christianity and the pagan world in these matters. By now, Christian teaching is, of course, known all over the world; and it goes without saying for those in the West that what they call “accepting traditional morals” means counting fornication as wrong – it’s just not a respectable thing. But we ought to be conscious that, like the objection to infanticide, this is a Jewish Christian inheritance. And we should realize that heathen humanity tends to have a different attitude towards both. In Christian teaching a value is set on every human life and on men’s chastity as well as on women’s and this as part of the ordinary calling of a Christian, not just in connexion with the austerity of monks. Faithfulness, by which a man turned only to his spouse, forswearing all other women, was counted as one of the great goods of marriage.

    And if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse, and if it could become general practice everywhere when there is intercourse but ought to be no begetting, then it’s very difficult to see the objection to this morality, for the ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them. If you can turn intercourse into something other than the reproductive type of act (I don’t mean of course that every act is reproductive any more than every acorn leads to an oak-tree but it’s the reproductive type of act) then why, if you can change it, should it be restricted to the married? Restricted, that is, to partners bound in a formal, legal, union whose fundamental purpose is the bringing up of children? For if that is not its fundamental purpose there is no reason why for example “marriage” should have to be between people of opposite sexes. But then, of course, it becomes unclear why you should have a ceremony, why you should have a formality at all. And so we must grant that children are in this general way the main point of the existence of such an arrangement. But if sexual union can be deliberately and totally divorced from fertility, then we may wonder why sexual union has got to be married union. If the expression of love between the partners is the point, then it shouldn’t be so narrowly confined.

    Note: Anscombe is placing the whole discussion in a somewhat larger context: that of the nature of marriage itself within the overall scheme of human sexuality. That’s part of the Catholic way of looking at things–we insist on the big picture perspective.

    Note, too, that she emphasizes “sort” and “type”: “sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set-up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them;” “the reproductive type of act.” She then goes on to explicitly recognize that not all acts of marital sexuality are procreative–that they are not is, of course, part of the divine plan for human nature and human sexuality. The whole question, then, that is addressed by Humanae Vitae–which you should all read–is the difference between cooperating with the divine plan as revealed by the nature of human sexuality and changing the very nature of the sexual act through artificial, interventional means, which usually involve having perfectly healthy women take powerful, potentially very dangerous drugs.

    Anscombe also warns of the slippery slope involved, and I think she’s been proven correct.

    I strongly urge one and all to read the rest of her fine article.

  • mark

    Sorry, I’ve already explained the difference and won’t respond to comments that fail to address that explanation, or address the explanations presented in Humanae Vitae or Anscombe’s explanation.

  • Levi

    If procreation is the primary function of marital sex, then consistency demands that married couples not have sex if it cannot lead to children. If the Catholic Church is to follow through on its own convictions, it will refuse marriage to couples (or preach that the already-married abstain from sex) wherein he’s survived testicular or prostate cancer, she’s had a hysterectomy, and once she’s gone through menopause.

    To me, this sounds like a compelling reason to find some other primary function of marital sex.

  • mark

    I assume that Scot wrote this post not out of a desire to hold the Church’s teaching up to ridicule but, rather, because he thinks that it raises serious issues to be discussed in a serious way. If I’m wrong, Scot can correct me.

  • mark

    OK, by popular demand I’ll quote Anscombe’s explanation of the difference between NFP and contraception. It also includes a reference to the slippery slope argument that Scot referred to:

    People quite alienated from this tradition are likely to see that my argument holds: that if contraceptive intercourse is all right then so are all forms of sexual activity. To them that is no argument against contraception, to their minds anything is permitted, so long as that’s what people want to do. Well, Catholics, I think, are likely to know, or feel, that these other things are bad. Only, in the confusion of our time, they may fail to see that contraceptive intercourse, though much less of a deviation, and though it may not at all involve physical deviant acts, yet does fall under the same condemnation. For in contraceptive intercourse you intend to perform a sexual act which, if it has a chance of being fertile, you render infertile. Qua your intentional action, then, what you do is something intrinsically unapt for generation and, that is why it does fall under that condemnation. There’s all the world of difference between this and the use of the “rhythm” method. For you use the rhythm method not just by having intercourse now, but by not having it next week, say; and not having it next week isn’t something that does something to today’s intercourse to turn it into an infertile act; today’s intercourse is an ordinary act of intercourse, an ordinary marriage act. It’s only if, in getting married, you proposed (like the Manichaeans) to confine intercourse to infertile periods, that you’d be falsifying marriage and entering a mere concubinage. Or if for mere love of ease and hatred of burdens you determined by this means never to have another child, you would then be dishonouring your marriage.

    This makes excellent sense, should be clear to anyone. But I once again urge everyone to read the entire article. It’s not just about sex–it’s about human sexuality in the big picture.

  • Brent White

    Oh, sure… “As possible”? Then married couples should be having sex all the time. I’m tired just thinking about it!

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    I’m glad you brought more of Anscombe’s words here; I was only interacting with what had been quoted in the post. That said, while she (and you) point to the larger picture, which is good, the fine point of the argument that I critiqued still hinges on, as you put it, the “necessary connection” b/n marital sex and procreation. The arguments that are quoted (and the larger argument against contraceptives generally) isn’t merely arguing that marital sex cannot be properly understood without a necessary connection to procreation, that would be fine as a big picture. The arguments that I critiqued are saying that marital sex cannot be defended morally without the necessary connection to procreation. If the rest of her arguments don’t make that assertion, great! But the ones quoted do rely on that assertion. I think marriage, b/n a man and woman, has noble purposes that can stand on their own, even when procreation isn’t an option.

    In any event, the question seems to be, on contraception in the Catholic Church, how much is too much, and what kinds are okay. So called “natural” infertility or contraception, whether chemical or methodological is okay, but “artificial, interventional” means are or could be bad. I agree that there are dangers in divorcing sex entirely from procreation and/or marriage. That duality, if truly embraced, would be harmful. In the same way, it seems like the R. Church is also playing with a harmful duality or two. The first is drawing too hard a line b/n so called “natural” periods of infertility which are part of the divine plan and not often chosen by people, and so-called “artificial” ones which have more of people’s choices involved. Just because people now have a power which they did not formerly have, at all or to the same degree, does not make the newly possible choices a sin or contrary to the divine plan. The second, relatedly, comes in the separation of the priesthood from human sexuality and marriage. These seem related, as they should be I suppose, and seem flawed in similar ways. Both seem to be more appropriate as things to encourage rather than things to require. They belong in the moralities of aspiration rather than moralities of duty.

  • Phil Miller

    If it is sinful to have the intention to prevent birth in the sex act, than the logic follows that should be sinful to abstain from sex at during the time when a woman is most fertile, which is exactly what the rhythm method does. In Anscombe’s words, the act of abstaining from intercourse is “intrinsically unapt for generation”.

  • Scott C

    If I assert that sex belongs within the covenant of marriage between a male and female, then how to I support that claim? Never with one idea. In doing so the argument gets truncated and off point. The starting point is the sacredness of m/f marriage, not marital sex. While procreation powerfully demonstrates the sacredness of male/female marital sex, it is nowhere near sufficient to fully describe the sacredness of such a union. For example, God made sex pleasurable, not merely to bribe couples into making babies, but b/c of how his glory is reflected in the many pleasures of marriage including sex.. But that doesn’t mean that any and all forms of sexual pleasure are sacred. Let’s work to describe the many facets of God’s glory found only in a Christ-centered (remember that part) m/f marriage.

  • mark

    For the record:

    The Church doesn’t adopt the OCA position, although some rigorists admittedly talk in such terms. Rather, as Anscombe explains, NFP cooperates with the God given rhythms of human sexuality, by which women are only fertile for a few days out of any month. This fact of human sexuality–as instituted by God–is also a sign that, while sex is of course about children, there is more to it than simple reproduction. It’s also about a loving, unitive relationship in which children are raised. Sex is part not only of procreating those children but of establishing that healthy loving environment in which they are raised to be loving and responsible adults.

  • Guest

    Forgive me, Mark. As a happy member of an “ecclesial community,” I have no qualms referring to the, ahem, Church as if it were just another denomination. My friends are cradle Catholics (unlike you, I’m guessing?). And like the 99.99% of Catholics who haven’t read the “Humanae Vitae,” they don’t share your very nuanced understanding of NFP. NFP, as far as they’re concerned, is A-OK—and, good heavens, they’re already among the small number of Catholics in America who don’t practice artificial family planning. Even they’re not doing it right?

    In my experience dialoging with my Catholic brothers and sisters, I find that so much Catholic teaching becomes very, very slippery when you try to actually pin it down. Why bother with a Magisterium when it’s unhelpful?

  • Brent White

    Forgive me, Mark. As a happy member of an “ecclesial community,” I have no qualms referring to the, ahem, Church as if it were just another denomination. My friends are cradle Catholics (unlike you, I’m guessing?). And like the 99.99% of Catholics who haven’t read the “Humanae Vitae,” they don’t share your very nuanced understanding of NFP. In other words, NFP, as far as they’re concerned, is A-OK—and, good heavens, they’re already among the small number of Catholics in America who don’t practice artificial family planning. So even they’re doing it wrong?

    In my experience dialoging with my Catholic brothers and sisters, I find that so much Catholic teaching becomes very, very slippery when you try to pin down what Catholics actually believe (teaching which differs from what most Protestants believe, I mean). Yet I keep hearing how critically important this RCC’s Magisterium is.

  • mark

    For those who are biblically inclined, here’s some food for thought.

    Some people–actually, many–think that the Church’s teaching re artificial contraception is “unbiblical.” Actually, however the likelihood is that it IS biblical. In the Revelation to John we find the repeated use of the word pharmakeia, which is usually translated “sorcery” but is obviously related to our English word “pharmacy.” The stock in trade of ancient sorcerers often included potions that purported to be or actually were contraceptive or abortifacient. Thus, the repeated condemnations of pharmakeia are condemnations of those ancient practices.

  • mark

    “My friends are cradle Catholics (unlike you, I’m guessing?). ”

    Heh–you think I’m exhibiting the fervor of a convert? No, I’m a cradle Catholic. I can’t address the alleged “slipperiness” of Catholic teaching. I don’t find it that way. The way I see Catholic teaching, which is typically natural law teaching, is that its principles can be extended to cover essentially every situation. To me, that’s nuancing in a good sense, not a negative sense. If you have examples of real slipperiness, I’d be interested to hear about it.

    Actually, re NFP, my experience is that it’s highly unlikely to be abused, just from the nature of things, i.e., human beings, M&F.

  • mark

    I think marriage, b/n a man and woman, has noble purposes that can stand on their own, even when procreation isn’t an option.

    As is often the case, people who THINK they disagree with the Church often don’t. The Church does not forbid marriage between people who may, for example, be infertile, nor does it require that they take heroic measures to remedy that condition or forbid them to engage in sexual relations. This is entirely consistent with its position that sex, while NECESSARILY ABOUT procreation, has more dimensions than the merely biological–just as human nature is more than merely biological. The Church objects to the artificial separation of these various dimensions.

    “Just because people now have a power which they did not formerly have, at all or to the same degree, does not make the newly possible choices a sin or contrary to the divine plan.”

    That isn’t the argument that Anscombe makes–see above. Anscombe was a highly respected philosopher (just ask C. S. Lewis about that), not an obscurantist.

  • Scott C

    The author’s point is that if you “ok” contraceptive devices, then you have no business arguing against gay marriage. Who agrees with his assertion? For those who believe in fighting for m/f marriage, do we really want to invalidate each other just b/c some of our presuppositions are different? The author seems to push people out of his own camp, just b/c they do not share his very narrow pathway toward the same conclusion.

  • Jeremy B.

    That seems a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? It would make all of modern medicine a sin.

  • mark

    You’re misunderstanding Anscombe. Anscombe is saying that taking an “intentional act” extrinsic to the sexual act, which “intentional act” renders the sexual act infertile, is sinful. It changes the nature of the sexual act. That is not what happens in NFP. NFP doesn’t involve an “intentional act” extrinsic to the sexual act. It involves normal sexual activity that simply cooperates with the normal cycles of human sexuality and fertility. The caveat is that NFP should not be used for trivial reasons. What non-trivial reasons are is a subject, perhaps, for another discussion.

  • mark

    “That seems a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?”

    No.

    “It would make all of modern medicine a sin.”

    Huh?

  • Tom F.

    I think perhaps the blog post ended early, it looked like you were going to add questions?

    I think the contraceptive issue is key: I think Catholics are able to build a considerably more consistent argument against gay marriage than most Protestants. Their arguments make much, much more sense. (I still find that I am not quite persuaded, but their framework is definitely superior.) So basically, yes, I agree with what is posted here about the consistency being much improved by ruling against contraception.

    That prohibition, however, is not just against contraception, but against any sexual contact other than reproductive. For example, under Catholic teaching, a woman who has had reproductive organ cancer and who can no longer under take full vaginal intercourse can not marry. This is rare, but if you search the web, you can find a few cases of this. Before Viagra, a man who was impotent would not have been able to relate to his wife in any other sexual way.

    So you can’t buy consistency by just prohibiting contraception, it turns out that you have to pay an *even* higher price. Still, I definitely agree that that the Catholic teaching gets considerably more consistency points than the standard Protestant one.

  • mark

    Anscombe is making a serious point–call it, as I do, a prophetic witness. Here it is:

    That is how a Christian will understand his duty in relation to this small, but very important, part of married life. It’s so important in marriage, and quite generally, simply because there just is no such thing as a casual, non-significant, sexual act. This in turn arises from the fact that sex concerns the transmission of human life. (Hence the picture that some have formed and even welcomed, of intercourse now, in this contraceptive day, losing its deep significance: becoming no more than a sort of extreme kiss, which it might be rather rude to refuse. But they forget, I think, the rewardless trouble of spirit associated with the sort of sexual activity which from its type is guaranteed sterile: the solitary or again the homosexual sort.)

  • attytjj466

    Some teaching merits the response it gets, ie the fault lies not in the response but in the teaching itself.

  • Tom F.

    Presumably, pharmaceutical “sorcery” included some potions that had health benefits? Are we prohibited from using that class of potions too? This is an awful stretch.

  • mark

    attytjj466:

    I have a tendency to basically ignore and dismiss the Catholic Church teaching on contraception

    Scot McKnight

    Official Roman Catholic social teaching holds that any use of artificial contraception, even for married heterosexual couples, is a grave sin, while “natural” family planning is acceptable. … The hierarchical authorities, however, have held the line, and many thoughtful Catholic ethicists elegantly defend the teaching on natural law grounds.

    Let’s see. Which attitude is more worth taking seriously?

  • mark

    “Sorcery” is a pejorative term–at least for the author of the Revelation to John. The use of healthful drugs would presumably be classed as medical practice, along the lines of Galen’s “first, do no harm.” Sorcery and medical practice are to be distinguished. “Presumably” the author was objecting to immoral use of drugs, not to healthful uses. I think your reasoning is an awful stretch.

  • Scott C

    Thanks Mark. And I am deeply moved and confronted by this line of thinking. I like it, I’ll ponder it. It seems very important. But, again, the author should make his point and then let others ponder it without thumping them as being “morally invalid”. Goodness, those of us who oppose gay marriage need to validate what is good in each other and then encourage each other in our blind spots.

  • mark

    Hi, Scott. To put Anscombe’s article in context, you have to remember that it was written in 1972–four years after Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae and during a time that the Church was taking a relentless “thumping” for its position. That, I think, accounts for much of Anscombe’s tone. OTOH, perhaps that was just her personality–as C. S. Lewis found out (btw, if I understand That Hideous Strength, Lewis may have agreed with her on this particular issue). Also recall that Scot linked the Anscombe article for a purpose–as an example of “elegant” natural law thinking. The actual occasion for his post was an article by an Evangelical thinker–and I have to admit that I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But I will. As I understand Scot’s initial comment, that Evangelical author’s concern in raising this issue was to find a way to get Catholics and Evangelicals working better together.

  • Tom F.

    I think the trick that natural law reasoning often does, is to take advantage of the way our brains simplify ethical dilemmas, turning difficult questions into easy ones. So, for example, while there is no difference in outcome, it takes advantage of a strong bias we have towards seeing inaction and action as morally different things.

    A classic ethical dilemma used in research today involves “train track” problems, where you have to make decision about who to save and who will die.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

    In fact, a large portion of people will, through inaction, let 5 people die rather than divert a train so that it kills 1 person. Many people reading this here will also not divert the train, because it implicates them in an intentional death.

    But ask yourself, if you had to program a computer to make the same decision, how would you program it to act? My guess is that people will program the computer to pick the 1 over the 5 every time.

    Hard distinctions between omission and commission are likely psychological artifacts of social living: in omission, the moral evil is likely to fall on others or the situation, rather than being directed towards the original agent. Its not irrational on one level: if you kill one person to save five, that one person’s family is still going to be very angry at you and may come and try to kill you. So it may really be self-interest that motivates a difference between omission and commission.

    Edit: original percentage of people allowing people to die by omission was overstated and misred by me.

  • Levi

    Well, that was most unhelpful. I’ve read your other comments below as well as Anscombe’s quote above (and no, I’m not going to spend my time reading a 31-point Catholic encyclical). Neither one of them answered my question. What real difference is there between two methods of having sex without getting pregnant? is it the mere fact that one is technological and the other not? Something else?

  • Tom F.

    Look, I’m not arguing for the use of abortifactants, okay. But your introduction of Galen shows that Revelation alone is not enough to provide a moral rule in this situation, instead you have to introduce a rule such as “first, do no harm”. That rule is not appealed to in Revelation, and your distinction between “immoral use of drugs” and “healthful uses” is not either.

    Just because your argument reaches a good conclusion (ancient abortifactants were bad) doesn’t mean its a good argument through and through.

  • Tom F.

    Mark, I think the problem lies in how to define “intentional” and “normal” and “natural”.

    “Intentional”- see my discussion above.

    “normal”: the rythyms of fertility and infertility that naturally occur in the human body are presumed here to be good, but how can you support that idea? Naturally, almost 2/3 of fertilized eggs fail to come to birth. If one believes life begins strictly at conception, than this is a grievous wrong. So, since at least one part of fallen human reproductive system is badly askew, why would it be okay to trust in the “natural” state of another part for moral guidance about what is okay?

    “Natural”- Additionally, these “natural” early (first week or two) miscarriages are easily assisted by humans through “natural” means. Things like hormone levels and pH are likely easily influenced by “natural” human foods, natural human exercise, and natural human sex. If a couple is allowed to use NFP to prevent pregnancy, are they allowed to use “natural” means to discourage these fertilized eggs from making it to term?

  • Jeremy B.

    You’re asserting that sorcery included contraceptive/abortificant potions, therefore Scripture as revealed by John supports the claim that birth control is a sin. The problem is that sorcery was by no means limited to that, but also claimed to be able to cure disease, extend life and virtually everything modern medicine does with pharmaceutical drugs.

    By that same line of reasoning, ANY effect sorcery claimed to cover is also a sin.

  • mark

    I understood that you weren’t arguing for the use of abortifacients. My introduction of Galen was simply to give a name to the distinction between medicine and sorcery, between doctors and sorcerers. That distinction was well known in the ancient world the argument doesn’t actually rely on Galen’s principle per se. You can look at the rest of the NT and see that–the positive light in which we see “Luke the physician,” for example.

    To the author of the Revelation to John “sorcery” is very clearly a very bad thing. The question becomes: what is this bad stuff that he feels so strongly about? The answer that historical researchers have come up with is: abortifacient potions.

    Now, here’s something that may interest you. When Paul VI decided to write the encyclical that became Humanae Vitae he appointed a commission to study the question. That commission included Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II. The commission rather famously recommended that Paul change the teaching–Wojtyla was part of the minority that opposed change, and is said to have had a strong influence on the resulting encyclical. Another member of the commission, part of the majority that recommended change, was John Noonan–the very eminent American jurist who had written a book on the issue which was published in 1965, before Humanae Vitae. Noonan explicitly acknowledges the strength of the argument that I have cited re “sorcery” (no, it’s not my own invention) while still arguing for change. IOW, he acknowledged that the Church teaching against contraception probably goes back to apostolic times and can be found in the NT.

  • mark

    I just addressed that, in reply to Tom F. Just above.

  • mark

    Tom, I saw your discussion above, but didn’t consider that it usefully addresses “intentional.”

    Naturally, almost 2/3 of fertilized eggs fail to come to birth. If one believes life begins strictly at conception, than this is a grievous wrong. So, since at least one part of fallen human reproductive system is badly askew, why would it be okay to trust in the “natural” state of another part for moral guidance about what is okay?

    I’m not a biologist so I can’t address the reason for the well known fact that you cite, re fertilized eggs. But the point is simply that this is the way the female body works–it works that way in all perfectly healthy women. There are also conditions that can prevent any implantation–in fact, that’s the way many (most?) “contraceptives” work, i.e., by causing a very early abortion. A condition that prevents any implantation is a defect that can be addressed by medical science, but the normal situation in which 2/3 of fertilized eggs don’t proceed to term is a problem that you’ll have to address with the Almighty. All I can say is that it’s normal in all healthy women. The fact that humans readily reproduce and have populated the earth is evidence that the human reproductive system is NOT “badly askew.”

    Re your final quoted remark about seeking moral guidance–I’m sorry, I can’t follow your reasoning. Perhaps you can explain your point.

    As for your remarks about hormone levels and the like.

    Early miscarriages are not “assisted by humans” through hormone levels–not in the normal, accepted use of such terms. For humans to “assist” would normally mean an active, intentional, causal involvement, which isn’t what happens with such spontaneous early miscarriages.

    OTOH, “the pill” does (I believe) operate in that fashion–hormone levels are artificially, intentionally raised for the express purpose of causing an early “miscarriage”–really an abortion. That is precisely what Church teaching holds to be immoral. It is NOT a part of the normal functioning of a healthy human (female) body. On the contrary, it is a direct interference with the healthy functioning.

  • Tom F.

    Okay, thanks for the lengthy interaction. I think what you may consider next time is citing a source. The way you presented your original comment made it sound like a prooftext gone very wrong.

    What you have to overcome, then, is the translation decision that seems to be consistently made with “pharmakeia”, it seems to be translated almost always as “witchcraft” or “sorcery”. This implies that there is a spiritual, not a natural origin for the power of these potions. The question that naturally arises then, is whether what is being condemned is the effect of the potions (which is clearly mixed between good and bad uses), or the origin of their power (which is implied to be demons or spirits). It could be either or it could be both, but what I’m saying is that the ambiguity makes these verses a poor candidate to speak on the issue of contraceptives/abortifactants, especially given that these passages where “pharmakeia” appears are clearly not about laying out a detailed sexual ethic.

  • Phil Miller

    It’s my understanding that ancient, drugs, potions, etc. were considered to be very closely tied to the spiritual realm. Indeed, in many cultures the medicine man or witch doctor is also seen as a soothsayer. Also, why you think we refer to alcohol as “spirits”? Mind altering chemicals have always been associated with meddling with the spiritual realm.

  • Tom F.

    “A condition that prevents any implantation is a defect that can be addressed by medical science, but the normal situation in which 2/3 of fertilized eggs don’t proceed to term is a problem that you’ll have to
    address with the Almighty. All I can say is that it’s normal in all healthy women. The fact that humans readily reproduce and have populated the earth is evidence that the human reproductive system is
    NOT “badly askew.”

    But this is the heart of the matter: does “normal/healthy” = “moral”? I think a strong case can be made that if fertilized eggs are human beings, and if 2/3 of them die, that the “normal” state of affairs is manifestly not “moral”. How can you say that’s not badly askew? And therefore, it seems to me that you can’t rely on “normal” or “healthy” reliably for moral guidance. It’s a helpful part, but not the last word.

    Additionally, this is where the “intentional” discussion above really kicks in, because there are all sort of activities that likely affect early miscarriages that are entirely natural, such as food. Is a woman who eats some food that makes it more likely that she will miscarry in the first week fine as long as she doesn’t “intend” for that food to cause a miscarriage? Would a woman who intentionally ate a lot of that food be moral culpable? If so, why? Everything was “natural” there, no?

  • mark

    I think a strong case can be made that if fertilized eggs are human beings, and if 2/3 of them die, that the “normal” state of affairs is manifestly not “moral”.

    By the same argumentation we could say that, since 100% of all human beings do die, then that state of affairs is manifestly not moral.

    All I can tell you is to take it up with God, but I can’t pretend to consider it serious argumentation.

    Is a woman who eats some food that makes it more likely that she will miscarry in the first week fine as long as she doesn’t “intend” for that food to cause a miscarriage?

    Yes, because we are only morally liable for the intended or reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions.

    Would a woman who intentionally ate a lot of that food be moral culpable?

    Yes, because we are morally liable for the intended or reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions.

    These are total no-brainer questions. You will find the same reasoning applied in any tort/personal injury case in any court in our land.

    The problem with so many of you Protestants–and my apologies to those like Scot who understand all this–is that you have no understanding of what natural law reasoning is actually all about. Do yourselves a favor and read up on natural law–it’s part of your heritage as Americans and members of the Western tradition of civilization.

  • Tom F.

    Well, of course, we bio/psycho/social/spiritual unities, so what happens in one dimension always affects the others. Do you think that John is condemning all drugs because they may affect spiritual realities? I’m actually unsure of exactly where you are going, maybe you could elaborate a bit more.

    I think John is condemning the manipulation of self or others through “magical” means (i.e., by appealing to spirits or demons). Given that modern drugs very explicitly do *not* claim to work by appeals to demons or spirits, its hard for me to think that what John is talking about is relevant here. (It would be *very* relevant in many non-Western cultures, where sorcery is still very much alive and practiced. Not everything has to be relevant from a Western perspective.)

  • Phil Miller

    All I’m saying is that I think “sorcery” is probably a good translation (I’m by know means an expert in the original languages – I’m just basing on the context of what I’ve read elsewhere). I don’t think John’s intent was to condemn the use of medicine in general. I think his intent was to condemn those involved in spiritualism. It just so happened that spiritualism often involved the use of chemicals to induce altered states of consciousness.

    I do think, by the way, this is why drunkenness is condemned by Paul and others early Christians. Personally I don’t think they were thinking primarily about physical act of being intoxicated. They were most likely concerned with the spiritual aspect in the sense that drunkeness could be seen almost as a form of opening yourself to some sort of impure interaction with the spiritual realm.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Mark,

    I appreciate you working so hard to be sure that the RCC is properly understood by a clearly Protestant crowd. Seriously, thanks.

    I have two lingering thoughts as I’ve gone through most of the comments. The first is that the RCC position seems to want it both ways in that it wants to affirm that there are other God-given purposes for marital sex beyond procreation, but it also wants to claim “that taking an ‘intentional act’ extrinsic to the sexual act, [if the] intentional act renders the sexual act infertile, is sinful. [Because] [i]t changes the nature of the sexual act.” This is at the core of our disagreement. Given how some couples will have sex and never get pregnant, or many more never get pregnant again due to some illness or injury or age or random chance, I can’t see how it would be per se wrong for a couple to make a decision to be in the same state, temporarily or permanently, based on a host of factors, while continuing to fulfill all the other God-ordained purposes of marital sex, which we all acknowledge.

    The position says that only “God” or illness or injury or age or chance (or anything but the choice of the married couple!) can, morally, prevent marital sex from being procreative. This “no-contraception” strikes me as a classic religious over-reach (no dancing, no drinking, etc.). The bible says “don’t get drunk” and we say “don’t drink.” Or the bible says, “Be fruitful and multiply” and we say “Never use contraception.” They seem like their almost the same, but they never are.

    Typically, in order to justify a religious over-reach (I think Scot has called it too much “zeal”), the proponents point to the growing moral decline and claim that only those who buy into the over-reach have been or will be saved from sliding down the slippery slope. It seems the same is going on here, and just as with the KJ-only crew, or the no-drinking crew, or the no-dancing crew, I just don’t buy it. Just because some abuse alcohol with terrible effects, it doesn’t mean that everyone who drinks sins. Similarly, if some use contraception out of selfishness or hatred of life or the worship of pleasure, it doesn’t mean that all who use it sin.

  • mark

    I can’t see how it would be per se wrong for a couple to make a decision to be in the same state, temporarily or permanently, based on a host of factors, while continuing to fulfill all the other God-ordained purposes of marital sex, which we all acknowledge.

    In this situation the married couple is deliberately thwarting or frustrating the nature of the marital act and acting against the very purpose of marriage as an institution. Unless you think that sex has nothing necessarily to do with babies. In which case there’s nothing wrong with homosexual acts, either. QED.

    I will read the Evangelical’s article when I get a few minutes to see what his conclusion is. This is a serious issue and natural law reasoning is serious reasoning. God created human nature for us to fulfill its purposes, not to frustrate its purposes. Natural law is about living in harmony with God’s purposes and valuing those purposes as goods in themselves.

    Just because some abuse alcohol with terrible effects, it doesn’t mean that everyone who drinks sins. Similarly, if some use contraception out of selfishness or hatred of life or the worship of pleasure, it doesn’t mean that all who use it sin.

    The difference is that drinking alcoholic beverages does not per se frustrate God’s purpose for our human nature, doesn’t lower are nature per se–that occurs when we use alcohol to blunt our God given powers of reason and make ourselves as low as or lower than animals.

    Contraception, OTOH, deliberately seeks to frustrate the purposes of marriage and changes the nature of the sexual act as a part of God’s creation of human nature.

  • attytjj466

    Which do American Catholics themselves take more seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I am not Catholic and in that sense.I have no dog in the fight. They can teach what they feel compelled to teach. But as an argument to the wider culture regarding the morality or “rightness/wrongness of gay marriage? It is a total nonstarter. That is just reality.

  • mark

    But as an argument to the wider culture regarding the morality or “rightness/wrongness of gay marriage? It is a total nonstarter. That is just reality.

    I see the force of what you’re saying. I’m fully aware that this morality is honored in the breach, speaking statistically, by most Catholics–even though large numbers of those same Catholics don’t want a change in the teaching. Nevertheless, the notion that God revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth was also a non-starter–foolishness to the Goys and a scandal to Jews. Our task is to recover the culture for Christ, not complain about the world that God made. It’s always an uphill struggle, but not a non-starter. Hanging on a cross wasn’t easy either, so we shouldn’t expect converting the culture to be some sort of cakewalk.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    so . . . condoms would be okay, then? I don’t think you want to travel down that road for your biblical foundations.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Mark,

    But the entirety of your argument, for which there is no biblical basis, assumes that we can never “multiply” enough, and, further, that by intentionally removing that purpose from a given marital act of sex, that all of the other purposes are impossible to fulfill; it’s “pursue all these purposes all the time, or none.” I see no basis in scripture, reason or experience for these assumptions/conclusions. I realize that you (and others) say that contraception per se frustrates God’s purposes and/or the nature of the marital act, but you have nothing but the naked assertion. Further, the assertion is weakened by, to note a few: (i) the reality and even primacy of other Godly purposes for marriage, (ii) the reality that so much of marital sex isn’t procreative, even without intentional contraception.

  • mark

    I’m not a fundamentalist in that sense. Like all Christians I base my morality on natural law reasoning, the scriptural mandate for which is classically found in Romans 2:

    All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

    I hasten to add that when Paul refers to the “heart,” the heart was considered in ancient times to be the seat of reasoning.

  • mark

    One thing that is so striking in all this commenting is the lack of concern for female sexuality–it all seems to be about men getting as much sex as they want. So what’s the solution? Why, feed hormones to women as if they were so many cattle, so men can satisfy themselves. Feeding hormones to healthy people, in any other context, would not only be medically contra indicated–it would be gross malpractice. In fact, there’s a lot of concern about the practice of feeding hormones to animals. Few if any drugs are as powerful and have such a multitude of effects, but, hey, so what? Right?

    But that’s one of the beauties of NFP–it respects our sexuality and our bodies.

    So when are all the Evangelical chicks gonna start commenting?

  • Tom F.

    Mark, you have gotten snarky. I don’t appreciate that at all.

    “By the same argumentation we could say that, since 100% of all human beings do die, then that state of affairs is manifestly not moral.”

    Yes, and I thought it was *church teaching* that our deaths are not moral, that they are the result of the fall. That is, they are not the natural end of what humans were meant to be. That is precisely why you can not reason from what is “natural” to what is “right”, because what is “natural” is at least partially obscured right now by fall.

    “Yes, because we are only morally liable for the intended or reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions. (In reference to miscarriage)”

    So people who exercise vigorously and who are also sexually active morally culpable then? What about women in the military? They exercise “in the extreme”, are they prohibited from sex?

    ” Researchers also add that extreme exercise could affect implantation, a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the inside of the uterus.” -http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/06/06/trouble-trying-to-conceive-this-may-be-why

    They are no brainer-questions until you try and be consistent with them, which is to say, you are not allowed to exercise vigorously and be sexually active. Another part of the article looked at flight attendants, whose circadian rythyms make pregnancy more difficult. Does your reasoning require that women in jobs that have odd hours refrain from sexual activity because of increased risk to the foetus?

    In any case, if you answer snarky again, then I’m out.

  • Susan_G1

    This is such a loaded question, and that boggles my mind.

    One of the reasons it is so loaded is that Evangelicals seized upon marriage to debate the validity of homosexual unions, backing Christians into a corner never meant to be so entered (and so centered).

    God said, be fruitful and multiply. We did. The earth is full of fruit; in fact, soon it will be unable to sustain the fruit it has. Can we stop now?

    God made us the caretakers of His creation. Can we recognize that having numerous children now, today, especially in an industrialized nation, is not good caretaking of His creation?

    God gave us all brains to think. Can we stop blindly following individuals who have set themselves as the morally superior thinker, and ask ourselves prayerfully what we ourselves must do to fulfill God’s Greatest Commandment of Love?

    Onanism (also known as masturbation in the Catholic Church) was never by itself
    a sin in the OT. We know what Onan’s sin was. Leviticus 15:18 states any time semen was spilled, there was ritual uncleanliness, and since this described male-female intercourse, it has nothing to do with masturbation. So Lev. 15: 16 – 17 doesn’t say it’s wrong, just that one must be ritually cleansed afterwards.

    Please let us stop looking to add to the LAW because there are many who believe homosexuality sinful.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “Why, feed hormones to women as if they were so many cattle, so men can satisfy themselves.”

    Please find one women on birth control who would say she uses contraception so “men can satisfy themselves.” :)

    Mark, I grew up Catholic (and still am Catholic although no longer go to Mass). There is a reason practically all Catholics beyond a very very small minority ignore this teaching, and it’s not because they are so tempted by Satan. It’s because engaging in responsible family planning and enjoying a fruitful sex life is good of marriage and good for families. When do societies really start progressing? When the women get educated. When do women get educated? When they start having control over their ability to reproduce. You end up, and this backed by tons of research, with less abortion, less poverty, less unwanted children (whereas the policy is doing real harm, I’d say sinful harm, inovercrowded countries like the Phillippines where the Church doesn’t even allow access to contraception). The language of Humane Vitae is beautiful poetic language, but it’s poetry wrapped around nonsense. The majority of Catholic theologians prior to it being published agreed.

  • mark

    I thought it was *church teaching* that our deaths are not moral, that they are the result of the fall. That is, they are not the natural end of what humans were meant to be. That is precisely why you can not reason from what is “natural” to what is “right”, because what is “natural” is at least partially obscured right now by fall.

    That raises a lot of issues about fundamentalism, perhaps better addressed at Pete Enns’ blog. The idea that we all die because a mythical Adam and Eve “fell” certainly raises questions about the justice of God. It also raises questions about just what “the Bible” purports to reveal. And if “nature” is obscured by “the fall,” how is it that human actions can change the nature of what God created?

  • mark

    Please find one women [sic, but very difficult] on birth control who would say she uses contraception so “men can satisfy themselves.”

    I’m not a pollster, but I’m quite sure that many, many women use the pill because they think it’s the easiest way to keep their husbands happy, or because they’ve been told that NFP doesn’t “work,” or–what amounts to pretty much the same–they’ve been told that their husbands won’t go along with NFP.

    When do societies really start progressing? When the women get educated. When do women get educated? When they start having control over their ability to reproduce.

    Recent article: Is Catholic Birth Control Based on Science?

    Quote:

    But beyond its mere use as a tool to stymie “artificial” contraception in the First World, natural family planning has potential humanitarian applications in the Third World. In the 1990s, the World Health Organization worked with 869 women from a multitude of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and found that 93% of them could be trained to identify the symptoms distinguishing fertile and infertile periods of the menstrual cycle. In 1993, R.E.J. Ryder commented in the British Medical Journal, “It might be argued that natural family planning, being cheap, effective, without side effects, and potentially particularly effective and acceptable in areas of poverty, may be the family planning method of choice for the Third World.”

    NFP is a powerful defender of basic human dignity.

  • Tom F.

    Thanks for changing the tone. I would be interested in hearing what you think about the second half of my original post as well.

    Even if death is part of our physical nature, I doubt that Enns or anyone else would argue that it is God’s intended plan for human beings as human beings. There are just too many scriptural themes against death. Since our telos is therefore revealed by reference to eschatology (i.e., human beings are most fully human as resurrected, immortal, spiritual-bodies) , and not simply by reference to what our physical bodies currently seem to do, then we have to be especially careful in equating what even “healthy” bodies seem to do with what is “right”. Some variant of this argument has been part of the Protestant rejection of natural law since Luther. I’m no expert, but I have read a little bit.

    ” And if “nature” is obscured by “the fall,” how is it that human actions can change the nature of what God created?”

    The way you have phrased this suggests that it is an important part of your argument, but I am having trouble understanding it. Can you put it differently? Are you saying that human beings couldn’t possibly change nature under this account of the fall? Help me out a bit.

  • AHH

    This is entirely circular reasoning.

    Even if you accept the premise that John was referring to “immoral” pharmaceuticals, you have to decide which ones were immoral, and you are just assuming the immoral ones in view were the ones you already decided are immoral (on nonbiblical grounds that others might dispute, at least in the case of contraception).

    This is no different from my deciding that pain medicine is an immoral violation of God’s law (say, based on Gen. 3:16) and then asserting that Revelation condemned pain medication as immoral.

  • mark

    Human nature as we know it is mortal. There is no reason to think otherwise. The notion of a literal “fall” isn’t attested in earliest Christianity, and never has been in Judaism–it came in with the Fathers and is usually clearly patterned on gnostic style myth/ideology. You can read in the OT and find that even the notion of an afterlife is no essential element of Judaism–more common is the theme that all grass is as flesh, that man is born to die.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying: man cannot change his own nature by his own actions. I may act like a chimp, but I remain by nature a man. We have to deal with our nature as God created it.

  • mark

    “you are just assuming”

    Not so. This is based on solid historical and linguistic research, as you can read here:

    4. The New Testament condemns contraception, which it calls pharmakeia. As I detail in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, Saint Paul condemns contraception by the name of “pharmakeia,” the word from which we derive our term “pharmacy.”

    Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery {pharmakeia}, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).

    Surely, Paul does not mean to condemn those who prescribe herbs for those suffering from gout. Looking back to Saint Paul’s list, we see that the sin of pharamakeia follows sexual sins and the sin of idolatry [which was closely associated in Judaism with sexual immorality]. These ancient witchdoctors or pharmacists were especially popular in idolatrous cultures, since pagan fertility rites often involved sexual orgies. Obviously, the women involved in these depraved rituals would not wish to bear children to strangers, and so they sought to become sterile or sought to relieve themselves of the responsibility of a child through abortion. The ancient Greek pharmacists could provide drugs to meet these goals.

    The book of Revelation also condemns those who practice pharmakeia along with those who practice idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality (Rev 9:20-21). The grouping of pharmakeia with the three sins of idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality further confirms that pharmakeia is sin relating to killing and sexual impurity. The second-century physician Soranos of Ephesus, in his book Gynecology, uses the Greek term pharmakeia to refer to potions used for both contraception and abortion. In a similar manner, the third-century theologian Hippolytus condemned certain Christian women who employed “drugs {pharmakois} for producing sterility.”

  • mark

    Here’s a handy reference. It’s too long to simply paste in, but not so long as to be bothersome to consult quickly: WHAT DOES THE CHURCH TEACH ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL? It provides references at the end.

  • Todd Moore

    Off topic and a minor point, but what if St. Paul is not talking about some universal natural law in Romans 2. What if he is referring to his Gentile Christian converts who are led by the Spirit and who thus fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law (per Romans 8:4)?

  • Phil Miller

    One thing I’d add is that the church fathers’ views on the issue of abortion and/or contraception are all colored by the popular view of how human reproduction actually worked. The discovery of human egg and sperm cells is actually relatively recent. It wasn’t until the 17th century that scientists that discovered them, and it took another 170 years or so for them to have an understanding of how it worked. Prior to that, people generally thought that women had relatively little to do with reproduction. Much of the child’s identity was seen to be inherent in the seed. The woman’s womb was seen as something like an incubator.

    So it’s kind of easy to see how spilling this seed through masturbation or withdrawal would be seen as disregarding something precious. It’s hard to see, though, knowing what we know about human reproduction how we can still maintain such a view.

  • mark

    Todd, I agree that that’s a possible interpretation of the passage I quoted, if taken in isolation. However, if you take it along with Romans 1, in which Paul, after cataloging any amount of human sinfulness on the part of Gentiles, concludes:

    They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.

    I think the implication is clear. How do they know God’s decree? Just as:

    what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse

    so too law of morality is “written on their hearts.” They are able by reason to know what’s right and wrong and so “are without excuse,” even though they haven’t heard the Law. Read the two chapters together.

  • mark

    While they may not have understood reproduction in line with modern science, that was not germane to their condemnation of contraception. Their reasoning is based on human nature and the nature of marriage. From the Taylor Marshall blog that I quoted before:

    5. The Church Fathers condemned contraception. This could be a post on its own. I’ll just provide three quotes from the Church Fathers on this subject. The first is from the eminent Saint John Chrysostom (in AD 391):

    “[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 28:5 (A.D. 391).

    The second is from Saint Jerome (in AD 393) and draws on the sin of Onan:

    “But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” Jerome, Against Jovinian 1:19 (A.D. 393).

    And then third from Saint Augustine (in AD 419):

    I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility…Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife.” Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 (A.D. 419).

    In this last quote, we see that Saint Augustine’s concern that contraceptive acts turn a wife into a harlot since she is merely satisfying the lusts of her husband and not for the sake of matrimony – a word which means in Latin duty or gift of motherhood from matris (of a mother) and munus (gift, duty, office). This objectification of women brings us to our last reason…

  • Phil Miller

    Actually, I read those in that link you put up earlier, and that’s what prompted to write what I wrote above. How all these men thought of the human reproductive process is very different than what we’ve learned to actually be true. It’s why so many times they seem to make no difference between abortion and contraception. In their minds, both were doing the same thing – destroying life. However, because of what we know about human biology, there’s not really any argument I’ve heard that justifies equating the destruction of sperm with the destruction of human life.

  • AHH

    If Rube Goldberg did moral theology, I think this is what it would look like.

  • Todd Moore

    I won’t disagree that the two chapters should be read together or that St. Paul holds to the idea of what men can and should understand naturally via the created order. However, I just think that that his next point reflects his pervasive perspective on the Spirit without actually “going there.” The only reason for the difference between mankind’s evil past and any present righteousness in St. Paul’s mind, is the Spirit of Christ. (I suspect that neither he nor we are universalists;>) His perspective on the Spirit is only hinted at in Romans 2 because he plans to develop the thought further later. That he did plan to do so is apparent since the letter is highly structured. Verses 8-17 are in fact St. Paul’s shorthand plan for the entire letter (minus the moral section). Verses 8-17 are the first half of a letter long chiasm. I have some more notes on the structure of Romans on my (admittedly rudimentary) website if you are interested in that topic. Not sure if it is appropriate to give the url here though.

  • mark

    Well, I’ll defer to others who may be more knowledgeable, but I’m pretty sure that at least some versions of “the pill” are in fact abortifacient–they cause a very early abortion by preventing implantation.

    However, I think you’re wrong about the effect their understanding had on their moral views. For example, when Chrysostom refers to “acting to prevent their beginning to live” I think he’s referring to what we would call contraception, not the destruction of sperm. I think the same goes, perhaps even more clearly, for Augustine’s reference to “obstructing their procreation.”

  • Scott C

    I agree. This issue begins with the question; “What is the purpose of marriage”? And if our beginning answer is, “To glorify God”, then we can ask further, “And what are the ways in which marriage uniquely glorifies God”?
    What writers are starting here? I like, “Intimate Allies” by Allender and Longman. It is a solid theology of the purpose of marriage, uniquely fulfilled by a man and a woman.
    We are trapped in circularity when we try to fit marriage into sexual intercourse. We need to understand marriage first, then see how sexual intercourse is a part of it.

  • mark

    I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be appropriate.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say: “I suspect that neither he nor we are universalists.” I would assume that Paul subscribed to some version of the Judaic doctrine of the Noahide law–a version of natural law–but I certainly agree re the primacy of life in the Spirit: in Christ.

  • Susan_G1

    “Evangelical chicks?” “gonna”? First, you don’t know your medicine, esp. when you talk about about hormones being contra (lacking hyphen) indicated. More women die of pregnancy or perinatal complications than from taking BCPs by a long shot, and that includes pregnancies while using NFP. Second, NFP may well be the best option where no other option except ignorance exists, but in first world countries, other forms of birth control are much, much more reliable. If you disagree, cite medical, not catholic, sources. Third, you’re not a woman, so stop opining with such sublime certainty as to why women don’t want to use NFP or why they do use other means.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    Mark, I, for one, never assumed we were only talking about the pill. Condoms, vasectomies are very common as well. But your other assumption is even worse, that contraception is something only men want, and that the reason is purely getting sex. This just isn’t reality, nor is it charitable.

  • Susan_G1

    Destroying the sperm IS contraception: spermicidal jelly, spermicidal cream, spermicidal foam, diaphragm + spermicidal jelly, condom, vasectomy, withdrawal.

    Do you know anything about contraception that is scientifically accurate?

  • Phil Miller

    It’s interesting to me that reading up on the Catholic churches position on this issue, it seems to take the position that women don’t have sexual desire. Hence getting back to seeing them as something like incubators like I mentioned before. It may surprise you, but there are Christian women who enjoy sex as well, and they don’t want to be tied to a calendar or depend on less reliable forms of birth control. It doesn’t always have to do with keeping men happy.

  • Tom F.

    Well, Mark, I hadn’t expected this: you do know that what you are saying is well outside the natural law tradition as exists in the Catholic church, right? You are now on the other side of most (all?) those people you quoted as authorities earlier. Certainly, the Catholic church is quite wedded to the idea of a literal “fall”, as their doctrine of original sin highly depends on it.

    I also note that you still haven’t addressed my points in the second half of my post from six hours ago. Would still really love to hear how you would think about those topics. I have some thoughts on what this “death is natural” thing will mean for natural law in other ethical dimensions, as well as “man cannot change his nature”, but I would like to hear you address the women in the military and flight attendants question first.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    I have a few simple questions.

    Your religious beliefs are clearly not the same as mine regarding a number of subjects. And you are fine to have your beliefs and decide what you want to do with your life in regards to them.

    But what do your beliefs have anything to do with me? You can feel free to not use contraception, birth control, any number of things, but you have no right to force your beliefs onto other people’s choices.

    Furthermore, my beliefs are that it is fine to use those things. Aren’t my religious beliefs just as important as yours?

    Even within Christians, this whole article seems to be assuming that only your version of events are correct and thus must apply to all Christians. That is clearly not true or accurate.

  • Susan_G1

    No one on the internet can reach out through the screen and detain/torture you until you believe the same thing he/she does. Believe what you believe. Your beliefs are more important to you than anyone else’s. This is a blog site, for goodness sake. You are one click away from freedom!

  • Sterling Ericsson

    I was referring to the various Christian groups that try to influence laws in various countries and force their beliefs onto other people and force them to have to obey them.

  • Susan_G1

    vote your conscience. run for office. support lobbyists. join an activist group. sign petitions. hang with people who share your beliefs. pray for righteousness in our country. do what the rest of us do to ensure your freedoms.

    you are free here. you can live with whomever you like, and in many states (more to come) marry whomever you like. i am also free, Sterling. and as a Christian, I have not done one single solitary thing to stop you from believing what you believe or behaving how you want to behave. i actually support your cause, because I’m not exactly sure what my God wants, regardless of other Christians who feel quite sure of what He wants. i know that i want to err, if i do err, on the side of love. I have two gay nephews, and a gay friend (maybe more, but because I am in a Christian community, they do not feel free to come out). I care deeply about them. I raised my kids as Christians and never once told them that homosexuality was wrong. Because I’m not sure it is. And because I knew it was possible that one of them might come out to me someday, and I would never want them to feel unloved by me or God. But I am conflicted about this, because I’m not sure I’m right. Do you think I’ve never suffered in my Christian community for my beliefs?

    I believe in free contraceptives, not because I believe that sex outside of marriage is a dandy idea, but because I want there to be fewer women who feel the need to choose abortion. I want abortion to remain legal and become safer, because I don’t want anyone to suffer or die from a botched abortion. I am trying to get others to understand this position. Should I not?

    I am an Evangelical Christian, though I’m sure many who read this will believe I am sinful and my ideas are twisted, maybe that I am not one at all. It probably comes down to how “evangelical” is defined.

    Now, perhaps you can tell me how I forced you to do anything against your beliefs today. I have been completely honest with you. Please do me the favor of being completely honest with me. Do you want me to ‘allow’ you all the freedoms you already have, or do you just want me and other Christians to shut up? Why, exactly, do you want to rob me of my freedom of speech? Have I robbed you of yours?

  • Sterling Ericsson

    I never once said that all Christians were the way I was describing. That’s why I said that even within different groups of Christians, people believe different things.

    I have plenty of friends that are Evangelical Christians (and they, just from what you’ve said here, have opinions that are very similar to your beliefs).

    My comment was neither referring to all Christians or Evangelical Christians, it was referring to the author of this article and also to the many religious groups that try to directly influence governmental law.

    Though, personally, any Christians that believe in allowing people the right to choose and not on forcing religious beliefs onto other people should be outspoken about their opposition to the religious groups that do try to force things,. Because, if they don’t oppose them, then it feels like they condone those groups’ activities.

  • Susan_G1

    So you have not answered my question. Instead you want people like me to suppress the freedom of speech of fellow believers. Way to engage.

    I think you just want those of us who oppose homosexual marriage to just shut up. You want to take away our free speech while maintaining yours.

    It doesn’t work that way.

  • mark

    Tom, for starters, nothing I said in the first paragraph re a “fall” has anything to do with natural law, so your statement that what I’m saying “is well outside the natural law tradition as exists in the Catholic church” is utter nonsense.

    Further, while you can certainly find people within and statements by the Church that would support the idea that “the Catholic church is quite wedded to the idea of a literal “fall”, as their doctrine of original sin highly depends on it,” the reality, as usual is far more complicated. I haven’t the time nor the space to go into this in depth, but to give a flavor of the current status of Catholic teaching, here are some links:

    Adam, Eve, and Original Sin

    Catholic Church has evolving answer on reality of Adam and Eve

    What do Catholics believe about Adam and Eve?

    This final link discusses a recent statement by Pope emeritus Ratzinger, made when he was still Benedict XVI:

    Benedict XVI on original sin, Adam, and the New Adam

    “As men and women of today we have to ask ourselves whether such a doctrine is still sustainable”, said the Holy Father. “Many people think that, in the light of the history of evolution, there is no place for … an original sin which extends through the history of humankind and that, consequently, the redemption and the Redeemer lose their foundation. Does, then, original sin exist or not?”

    The Pope explained the importance of distinguishing between two aspects of the theory of original sin, one “an empirical, tangible reality, the other relating to the mystery, the ontological foundation of the event. In effect, there is a contradiction in our being. On the one hand we know we must do good, and in our inner selves this is what we desire, yet at the same time we feel an impulse to do the opposite, to follow the path of egoism, of violence, … though we know that this means working against good, against God and against our fellow man”.

    So, thanks for your concern for my status as a Catholic, but I feel very comfortable in that regard. As for not addressing your other questions, I believe I did. If you’re convinced that I didn’t, rephrase them. Again, I believe a big part of the communication problem here is that you lack an adequate understanding of what nature and natural law mean. I provided a link to the Wikipedia article re natural law and I suggest that you use it.

  • Susan_G1

    I feel compelled to add to my comments, which have been plentiful but not precise.

    I do not hold with the child-centric view of marriage for a number of
    reasons. When God created an ‘ezer k’negdo’ (helper, also used to
    describe God), He does not include a command to procreate when He says,
    “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be
    joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (gen. 2:24) It was understood that their relationship would be fulfilling, making no mention of children. It was not until after the flood that we were commanded to be fruitful and multiply.

    I believe the Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception is based on Onan’s sin (or a misunderstanding of it). Perhaps the belief in the humunculus (a timy person contained in the head of the sperm) had a role in this, but that notion is too new. The biblical penalty for not giving your brother’s widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:7–10). But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply
    not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he spilled his seed. In A.D. 195, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine
    institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly
    ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted”. So it’s not contraception per se that is wrong; birth control which does not involve wasting seed is fine. That is why masturbation is wrong. Any thing that wastes seed is wrong. Make sense to you? No, not to me either. The rest that follows has evolved and been added to.

    The Orthodox Church’s approach is kinder and more understanding of the imposition of procreation-only sex.

    I believe that Evangelicals always had a high view of marriage, but (and I may be wrong) while it was between a man and a woman, it was not as focused as today on the why of marriage. When homosexuality began to become more accepted, the child-centric view rose to prominence, I believe in reaction to homosexuality and a justification to exclude homosexual unions, esp. marriage. The special blessings of marriage for the man and woman involved got lost in the peddling of the child-centric and complimentarian views.

    I believe if we had allowed civil unions with all the benefits of marriage to this group, we may well have avoided this awful situation involved in defending marriage and making contraception another issue to become polarized about.

    Leading to this: “If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here – not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can’t be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse.”

    Is it inappropriate to bring up Mark Driscoll’s peculiar… predilections here, that few of the good old boys speak out against? So it appears the answer is that “buggery” (your word, not mine) and other forms of “intimacy” are OK. Therefore there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, per your conclusion.

    Where has common sense gone to in this scenario? God created man and woman to be in special relationship, a mutually beneficial relationship which included sex as a blessing in and of itself. Can that be admitted to at all anymore without all the additions?

  • Tom F.

    Fine. Here it is in in syllogism form, so as to be unmistakenly clear.

    1.) The natural end of sex is procreation.

    2.) Anything that actively interferes with procreation, such as hormonal contraception or prophylactics, interferes with the natural end of sex, and is therefore wrong under a natural law understanding.

    3.) Fertilized eggs are in a very precarious condition during the first week or so, and environmental challenges (such as extreme exercise and odd hours) for women can affect whether fertilized eggs implant, or whether conception is likely. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/06/06/trouble-trying-to-conceive-this-may-be-why

    4.) Women who have to exercise vigorously or work odd hours actively interfere with procreation.

    Therefore:

    5.) Women should refrain from sex while exercising vigorously or working odd hours.
    5b.) Women should refrain from exercising vigorously or working odd hours while having sex.

    Corollary:

    6.) Even previous to this knowledge about fertility, Women who have been exercising vigorously or working odd hours have been interfering with the procreative nature of sex, and therefore have been morally wrong. Additionally, the fact that they interfered with implantation means that their activity lead to what would be called an abortion if it was accomplished through hormonal means.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    I’m not talking about freedom of speech. Everyone is free to freedom of speech (so long as we’re talking about the US). What i’m talking about isn’t freedom of speech. Trying to actively pass laws against another group because of your religious beliefs isn’t freedom of speech, it is oppression of choice.

    No one’s religious beliefs should ever be used to constrain another person’s freedom of choice.

  • mark

    First let me state some caveats. Your supposedly concise syllogistic format is actually imprecisely worded. In addition, you inject incorrect facts into your “syllogism.” As we’ll see, reference to factually correct information can make a remarkable difference. However, it’s not worth my time to engage in discussion with someone who regularly injects inaccurate information, so this will be my last comment on this topic.

    Examples: “vigorous” exercise is different from “extreme” exercise. I did some research and came up with NOTHING about “odd hours” preventing implantation.

    Here’s my conclusion, first: women who are in a sexual relationship should probably refrain from “extreme” exercise while ovulating. If a woman engages in “extreme” exercise on an regular basis, it’s more likely that she’ll interfere with ovulation than that she’ll interfere with implantation. If you want a better opinion, consult a theologian. Engaging in “extreme” exercise with the intent to prevent implantation would be immoral, without the intent would not be.

    Now, let’s interject some facts, via references. But first of all, let’s note that most of the concern about implantation is associated with in vitro fertilization–an immoral methodology which is forbidden by the Church. In addition, all the sites I visited recommend a healthy amount of exercise for women who want to get pregnant–too little is as bad as too much, or worse. But these aren’t moral problems; they’re personal problems of health, to be handled between a woman and her doctor.

    When Is Too Much Exercise a Problem for Fertility?

    Some studies have shown that “too much” exercise may impede fertility.
    So, how much exercise is too much?
    more than seven hours per week of aerobic exercise has been associated with ovulatory infertility.

    Note: no mention of implantation problem; anyone doing more than seven hours of week of aerobic exercise for the sake of “fitness” may have a mental health problem. Anyone who is coerced into such extreme exercise on a regular basis isn’t morally responsible.

    DOES HEAVY EXERCISE AFFECT IMPLANTATION?

    Most medical professionals will tell you to include some level of regular exercise in your daily routine when you’re trying to conceive a child. Being physically fit prior to conception can contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Heavy exercise, on the other hand, can sometimes affect implantation, but its exclusion from workout routines is often determined on an individual basis. With such extreme differences in fitness level, health status and exercise experience, it’s not practical to establish a standard exercise guideline for women trying to conceive.

    Vigorous pursuits are more often linked to ovulation than implantation problems.

    Like women not trying to conceive, get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Talk to your doctor to determine what exercises are best for your health, level of fitness and exercise experience. You may find that your doctor advises against heavy exercise while trying to get pregnant, whereas another woman may get the go-ahead from her obstetrician.

    IS EXERCISE SAFE DURING THE IMPLANTATION STAGE OF PREGNANCY?

    Although you may worry the embryo will have trouble burrowing into the wall or could “fall out” during exercise, this is not the case.

    Implantation – What Can Prevent It From Happening?

    There are few things a woman can do wrong to prevent implantation.

    Strenuous exercises are unlikely to prevent implantation.

    Does Too Much Exercise Cause Infertility?

    While many factors can affect your ability to conceive, moderate exercise and healthy food choices seem to lead the pack, according to most reports. A recent article by USA Today cites a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health that lists eight steps to increase fertility. … The list included pointers like making healthy food choices, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising for 30 minutes each day.

    Here’s my personal opinion. Anyone who is exercising “too much” or at “extreme” levels may have a mental health problem. As such, if that amount of exercise is causing physical abnormalities–as detailed in the links above–that person should probably consult a mental health professional. The likelihood is that they will be considered, from a moral standpoint, to have diminished capacity.

  • Phil Miller

    The thing that’s amazing me to about this whole debate is the amount of energy put into something that ultimately even 82% of Catholics say is morally acceptable.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/154799/americans-including-catholics-say-birth-control-morally.aspx

    It’s like the Japanese soldiers they found still thinking the war was going on 30 years after Japan had surrendered.

  • Tom F.

    Mark, I cited a source in my post, which was a reasonably reputable news article that itself linked to an article in a peer reviewed journal. Maybe they were wrong, but it is uncharitable to criticize me for using that.

    Your own sources do say that exercise can prevent fertility, and I think women in the military is a definite class of women who likely exercise more than 7 hours a day who are not mentally ill. The news article I linked to clearly states that this may affect implantation. On your side, one website does not link to any other source or provide any link to a peer reviewed article. Both of the other articles specifically say that extreme exercise could lead to fertility problems, and one of them also says that implantation is likely to be affected. This would very much seem to be a moral problem if a fertilized embryo is a human being.

    You say this will be your last post because I “regularly inject false information”. Fine, this isn’t profitable any longer, clearly.

    I feel like you think I’m maliciously putting forth what I think and what I have understood in order to do something else. I’m not exactly sure what you think my motives are, but I am frustrated. I am trying to bring up an area of great inconsistency that I see in your approach. It really frustrates me when I see this sort of inconsistency in any ethical approach. It makes me feel like all ethics (maybe even my own) is just an intellectual exercise in justifying what we already believe.

    Let’s just leave it there then: you and I disagree about the dangers of implantation and exercise. Anyone who has been masochistic enough to follow our sprawling debate can read the sources and decide for themselves.

  • Holly

    Mark, I’ve been with you on the whole thing, but please don’t speak like that to evangelical women. It’s rude!

    I’m an Evangelical woman, a mother to nine children, ages 2-21. I live – as reality, with my very body and my very life, with all of the sacrifices which nine children bring – what you are writing about. (Never needed to use NFP, didn’t see any use for it. Bringing children into the world is a GOOD and sanctifying thing.) Even though I am not Catholic, I believe that the Catholic Church has the most coherent and consistent view of human sexuality and Imago Dei and men and women as co-creators with God. I think that Catholics are the only ones (consistently) with an argument to stand on in the debates over marriage and family. I notice that the ones (here) who deride you and the Theology of the Body are those who have never (by their own words) actually read it, nor any of the accompanying literature.

    But please – a little respect! :)

  • Susan_G1

    “No one’s religious beliefs should ever be used to constrain another person’s freedom of choice.”

    I think that’s unrealistic. Most of our laws are founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and unless you’ve grown up in the Far East, even if you are not a Christian, you hold, for the most part, religiously-based Judeo-Christian beliefs. If you became a devout Muslim, by your above statement, you would expect me to honor your freedom of choice to cut off a thief’s hand. You would expect me to put my religious beliefs aside to allow you to rape a woman you decided was provocatively dressed. Or to stone your wife for adultery, or to sell your daughter into marriage at 6 years of age, as long as the husband promised you he wouldn’t touch her until puberty.

    Freedom of choice only exists within the constraints of laws largely based on the religious beliefs of the majority. I posit that you are not legally oppressed in any significant way no matter what we say. Please tell me how I am wrong.

  • mark

    Thanks, Holly–you made my day. I guess I’ll have to watch the way I express myself in future. No disrespect was intended. At most an attempt to lighten things up. I was, I’ll repeat, puzzled at the lack of feminine input.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    That’s the thing. When I refer to freedom of choice, I am only referring to the choice over oneself and one’s body. Not in the freedom of choice to affect other people however you want. So I wouldn’t consider rape or stoning to be a part of freedom of choice, because you are negatively affecting others.

    While governmental laws were originally tied to religious beliefs, the countries of the Western world have worked hard to separate the two and only keep the laws that are of public benefit. And, in most cases, they only relate to the kind of freedom of choice I just stated, where actions that negatively affect others are illegal and things that only affect yourself are fine.

  • Holly

    It’s okay. :) “Chicks” like me (who might agree with you) are generally too busy raising the kids to comment on theologically oriented blogsites. It’s summer….I’ve got a little more time.

    So, thanks! I think you’re doing a fine job of articulating your thoughts, kudos to you for sticking with it and staying on point in a conversation largely stacked against you. You’re brave! I’m usually the odd person out arguing in favor of children or questioning conventional wisdom when it comes to birth control. Actually, I’m usually ignored and patted on the head and sent back to the kitchen. “Mothers” aren’t academic enough to talk with the important people, you know. Or maybe we just don’t say the right things.

    You made a great point about how women should be rejecting hormonal birth control, btw. We reject sugar, grains, pesticides and anything else we can think of – but hormonal birth control? Not giving that up! It’s too easy! Makes sex carefree and spontaneous! As you say, simpler for the guys. And if you read progressive evangelical mission blogs we want to export it with our missionary programs overseas (which seems quite colonial and first world to me…) Here, have some hormones. Don’t teach the men to be loving, compassionate and responsible, because that would be too hard. Just give the women birth control, and you can make their lives so much easier. Sigh.

    By and large, evangelicals have relegated sexuality to biology, and that is a problem when it comes to morality. If it’s only natural and not spiritual, if there is no creative potential (even if theoretical such as in old age,) if we don’t carry a type (one beautiful type of telling) of the Gospel within our physical bodies, then where is the argument? It’s gone, vanished, fallen flat. It’s biology baby, and no one should argue against biology. Evangelicals can’t generally have this conversation, because they have contracepted their arguments away.

  • mark

    I don’t generally interact with Evangelicals on this issue–usually on Scriptural/historical matters–so I was interested to see the reactions. I didn’t expect general agreement with the author’s suggestion, but I was a bit surprised at the close-minded nature of the general response and at the lack of feminine input. Your description of Evangelical attitudes does fit my general impression. Sadly, as several commenters have pointed out, the same attitude is common enough among Catholics as well.

    The other aspect of this discussion thread that disappointed me was the utter failure of most commenters to comprehend the nature of natural law reasoning. After all, this is the type of reasoning on which this country’s laws and institutions are based–this incomprehension bodes ill for the future. I understand why secularists are so adamantly opposed to natural law and the very notion of a human nature, but when people who call themselves ‘Christian’ share that attitude, well …

    Take care

  • erikagillian

    Because the rhythm method worked very very badly. Now, when we have technological help in using the rhythm method, which help it work much better, they’ll probably outlaw it too.

    And that encyclical? The pope appointment a commission to look into the subject and the majority report said that contraception was fine, but for some reason the pope, from what I understand under some political pressure, took the minority report.

    Marriage is about a lot of stuff, but it’s only been about procreation when a man needed a male heir he could be sure of. Otherwise there’s plenty of kids around to raise, and marriage is one of the units society arranges itself around. It can add to the stability of a community or state. Hence why we should encourage marriage equality. Marriage has been about money and land and business arrangements more than it’s ever been about procreation. And now we have dna tests the heir of his body isn’t a problem anymore.

  • jenny

    …it is interesting to see “Church Fathers” input on sex/contraception, etc..
    What is the “Church Mothers” input ? Aren’t the women carrying the children placed in their womb by men?
    Just try to imagine the opposite: men carrying the children in their bodies…

  • mark

    “women carrying the children placed in their womb by men”

    Sounds like some sort of conspiracy theory. Or are you suggesting–as I’ve heard some feminists say–that sexual intercourse is rape and marriage is prostitution?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X