Bad Logic from Bad Catholic

Marc of Bad Catholic has offered a “rebuttal” of my post of last week criticizing that simplistic dandelion rose illustration supposedly showing the bad fruits of contraception and the good fruits of chastity. I’m not going to bother with most of his rebuttal—feel free to go over and read and critique it yourself—but I do want to point out what horrid logic Catholics like Marc are reduced to in insisting that there’s this huge gulf of a divide between “unnatural” contraception like the pill or IUDs and “natural” contraception a la Natural Family Planning (which I have addressed in the past, by the way).

Here is how Marc talks about Natural Family Planning:

From Libby Anne:

“For one thing, the idea that contraception is rooted in selfishness as opposed to generosity is wrong. One reason people plan their pregnancies today is so that they can give the children they choose to have more attention and care.”

She’s right. That people “plan their pregnancies” is hardly selfish. But “planning a pregnancy” is not the same thing as using contraception. Catholic women are free to plan their pregnancies, and through the use of effective methods of organic family planning, they do so with 98.2% typical-use effectiveness using the Sympto-Thermal method (1) or 96.8-98.0% typical-use effectiveness using the Creighton Model (2)(3) (to do a little name-dropping up in this blergh). Planning the time of a pregnancy is entirely fitting with the gift of marriage.

(I’m not getting into the numbers of the studies he cites here except to say that they have methodological problems. One study, for instance, explicitly discounted essentially every couple who got pregnant while using the method, assuming that they did so on purpose because they broke the rules of the method and had sex when they weren’t supposed to. That’s simply not how effectiveness statistics work. But again, that’s neither here nor there and not the purpose of this post.)

Here’s how Marc talks about other forms of contraception:

From Libby Anne:

Additionally, there is literally no reason that contraception would give flower to divorce.

I can think of a pretty simple reason why an increase in contraception would lead to an increase in divorce. It is a well-discussed fact that childless couples are more likely to divorce than couples with children, and, according to the study “Marital Dissolution: Divorce, Separation, Annulment and Widowhood,“ published in the Handbook of Marriage and the Family, “The likelihood of a divorce decreases as the number of children in a family increases.” I am reminded of a study of Qatari women showing precisely the same phenomenon: “For every child in a family, the likelihood that couple will divorce goes down.”

Given that contraception is an effort not have children, it’s a smidgebit optimistic to trumpet the impossibility of a link between contraception and divorce.

So let me get this straight. Catholic couples following the Church’s prohibition on birth control can still use Natural Family Planning to plan when and if to have children. But contraception (as opposed to couples following Natural Family Planning) causes higher divorce rates because it allows couples to plan when and if to have children, and couples with fewer children have higher divorce rates. In what universe does this make any sense?

Look, if you think that not having kids causes higher divorce rates, then say that! But don’t say that NFP allows you to control when and if to have kids just as much as artificial contraception does—nay, more—and then claim that artificial contraception (and not NFP) leads to higher divorce rates because couples who use it to choose to have fewer or no kids have higher divorce rates. Because that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

(To be honest, one of the things that led to my becoming disillusioned with the Catholic Church was a similar sort of double standard. Contraception left the marital act without procreative value, and was therefore morally wrong, but it was totally fine and morally good to use Natural Family Planning to render the marital act non-procreative.)

Marc needs to explain how contraception leads to higher risk of divorce by allowing couples to choose to have fewer children, while Natural Family Planning, which he claims allows couples to do the same thing, does not.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.