Happy Birthday The Pill

Monday, May 10, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

Ironically, this Sunday was not only Mother’s Day but the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the first modern birth control pill, now granted proper noun status at The Pill.  Tributes and analyses have been written ad naseum over the weekend, but for a Catholic blog it is important to take a step back and realize that, despite our intense moral objections to this form of birth control, it more than any other person or thing may have been the most influential part of Catholicism in the last fifty years.

The Pill was “invented” by a then-Catholic doctor whose goal in creating the birth control option was to find a way to regulate women’s menstrual cycles that mirrored the traditional Catholic rhythm method.  As Church and American Catholic historians well know, Pope Pius VI created a committee to offer an advisory opinion, then allegedly went against the committee’s recommendation in Humana Vitae and lumped The Pill in with other forms of artificial contraception.

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A Few Thoughts on NFP

Friday, July 10, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Sometimes you run across an argument which strikes you as wrong in such a way as to crystallize and clarify your thinking on a topic. Such a case, for me, was running into this debate from last week at InsideCatholic on the topic, “Is NFP Misogynous?”

The “yes it is” argument contained the following key elements:

Assuming any methodized sexual intercourse devised to avoid pregnancy by an otherwise open-to-life-marital-couple can actually “work,” who bears responsibility for the method? I seriously question whether NFP, for many, isn’t a misogynous practice — imposing upon women an undue share of the physical and emotional burden of the theologically questionable quest of planning pregnancy.

First, we must be real. Modern NFP practices demand daily bodily measurements of women, not men…. A woman most desires sexual intimacy when she is at her most fertile…. This is also the moment when we are most likely to conceive a child. It’s the moment NFP-practicing women measure and chart and predict as “fertility awareness,” a “maybe-child” zone. For NFP-practicing women avoiding pregnancy, it is the moment they must say “no” to both themselves and their spouses….

I don’t buy it. It sounds like a scheme to impose on women who wish to time pregnancies an almost penal practice of self-measurement, self-control, and self-denial, while requiring, at a minimum, a sort of suffering acquiescence from a spouse whose interest in the chart becomes rather strategic….

NFP needs to go the same way as the rhythm method — which did not “work” and was, more importantly, female unfriendly. In its place, perhaps we all need to suck it up and admit what the theology asks of us: Have sex whenever you both want to… and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don’t copulate. That’s a fair burden on both spouses.

The woman presenting the “no it isn’t” view did a perfectly decent job of presenting the standard arguments for NFP, but I’d like to dig into one aspect in particular, especially given that by the sixth comment on the article we already see a theology student trying to argue that the “planning” involved in Natural Family Planning is really no different than the use of barrier methods of contraception since it involves “the intention of having sex without baby” and is thus “using one’s intellect to create a tool which limits the possibility of procreation”.
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Contraception: Why Not?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

One of the richest gifts we have received by the graces of the Holy Spirit as we embark into the third Christian millennium is what Pope John Paul II coined the “theology of the body.” Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body and Apostolic Exhortation on the Family articulated how the use of contraception is against the sacrament of marriage and more fundamentally contra-human nature. This reiterates what Pope Paul VI expressed in Humanae Vitae in the 1960s in the wake of the sexual revolution that was followed by shock and dismay that the Catholic Church had no intention of embracing the forward-moving sexual “liberation.”

The issue of contraception is one of the most difficult to argue with non-Catholic Christians and those of other faiths, or even no faith at all. However, it seems that it is an issue that we’re called to debate with other Catholics unsure of the Church’s teaching. In reading Peter Kreeft, I have found a way of talking about this issue – for Catholics – that is both helpful and very insightful. I have seen it change the mind of three people in my life. Therefore, I feel compelled by my conscience to share it, so that it may help any poor sinner that may need it.

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Is “Planned” a Dirty Word for Catholics?

Monday, December 1, 2008 \PM\.\Mon\.

Taking a quiet Saturday morning to catch up on reading the newspaper, I was perusing a WSJ article on the lost virtue of prudence in our modern American society when I came across this jarring note:

The puzzling thing is that, under normal circumstances, our Americanus prudens should be flourishing. By looking ahead and exercising self-control, these unassuming homebodies tend to do well in school, form solid families and make lots of money — which they compulsively save, tucking it away in banks or mutual funds (once-sturdy institutions recently found by scientists to be hollow). The prudent have only the children they can afford — prudential parenthood is inevitably planned — but these offspring tend to thrive thanks to a stable home environment in which education is emphasized.

This threw me because the most financially prudent people I know at work are those with single incomes and large families

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