Theology and NFP (Natural Family Planning)

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TheMouse

Quick note

Postby TheMouse » Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:35 am

Snuggle Muffin wrote:I totally understand (and empathize!). Take all the time you need. I don't plan on not being around TMB any time soon.


I just wanted to say that I haven't forgotten this thread! I think it is probably time to "agree to disagree" and let it drop, but I did want to at least acknowledge some of your points (even though I may not have adequate responses for them). I also had some grandiose plan of presenting some sort of "summary" or list of key points where we differ, in case that would be of use to anyone. (Does anyone else even read this thread?)

This post is mostly here to beg any pruners not to prune the thread just yet. ;-) I do plan on responding! And I will use lots of exclamation points! Like this! Or not!

Oh, and I wanted to put in a plug for a book that I wish I had read earlier: Christopher West's _Theology of the Body Explained_. I haven't finished it yet --okay, okay, I haven't even read 100 pages of it yet-- but it looks like a good analysis/simplification of the body of papal addresses that constitutes _The Theology of the Body_. It's MUCH more understandable than _The Theology of the Body_ or _Love and Responsibility_, but it's still written at a fairly academic level. It is written for a Catholic audience, so there will be lots of assumptions that Protestant readers wouldn't agree with which West doesn't take time to defend (precisely because he assumes the audience already shares them), but I would otherwise recommend it for anyone interested in understanding the theology of the body, where it's coming from, what it was meant to do, etc.

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Re: Quick note

Postby Snuggle Muffin » Mon Jan 17, 2005 10:31 am

TheMouse wrote:
Snuggle Muffin wrote:I totally understand (and empathize!). Take all the time you need. I don't plan on not being around TMB any time soon.
I just wanted to say that I haven't forgotten this thread! I think it is probably time to "agree to disagree" and let it drop, but I did want to at least acknowledge some of your points (even though I may not have adequate responses for them). I also had some grandiose plan of presenting some sort of "summary" or list of key points where we differ, in case that would be of use to anyone. (Does anyone else even read this thread?)
First and foremost: I want to emphasize that I really do appreciate your willingness to patiently articulate your views a guy who is (a) by default unsympathetic to Roman Catholicism in general, and (b) largely uniformed about Roman Catholic theology in general (no doubt this contributes to (a) :roll: !) Guys like me won't ever grow to develop whatever degree of appreciation is due the Catholic perspetive without people like you willing to sacrifice the time and energy that you have - so thanks!

What shall it be? I know I'd benefit from you giving a critique of my discussion so far - like where you see potential blind spots and bias, and areas where my sheer ignorance of [fillinthebank] is hindering my understanding. And maybe each of us giving a (short) summary of were we've ended up and identitfying (though i guess not unpacking) our points of objection?
This post is mostly here to beg any pruners not to prune the thread just yet. ;-) I do plan on responding! And I will use lots of exclamation points! Like this! Or not!
ha! I've been every-so-often shooting the mods a quick note begging them not to prune it, hoping that you would one day re-appear.
Oh, and I wanted to put in a plug for a book that I wish I had read earlier: Christopher West's _Theology of the Body Explained_. I haven't finished it yet --okay, okay, I haven't even read 100 pages of it yet-- but it looks like a good analysis/simplification of the body of papal addresses that constitutes _The Theology of the Body_...
I've had several Catholic and/or NFP folks recommend that. As I'm sure you understand, the list of "things I'd really like to read" list is quite long and get's prioritized sometimes by factors I can't control. Once our thread is done (i guess we're down to one summarizing post each?), I'll probably read that before seeking out any more NFP discussion (sometimes they happen anyway). My objections as they are now are I think more rooted in underlying scriptural/biological/historical/theological reasons/suspicions, rather than merely having issues with NFP/RC/TOB itself (though of course those are also big factors). All that to say, until the underlying issues are addressed, the consistency/attractiveness of the RCC's TOB will remain basically superfluous to me. For me, engaging the RCC perspecitve on sexuality is part of a larger attempt to develop my own Christian theology/spirituality of sexuality.

[unprovoked rant]
I'll add this, just b/c I think the non-Catholics need to hear it coming from another non-Catholic. I have general objections to RCC, and specific objections to various aspects/practices. I can't honestly imagine myself 'converting' to the RCC. But if truth be told, I probably have equally as many objections to 'protestant' Christianity, especially what happened during the Reformation. Objections to the Reformation/protestantism made by Catholics are often dismissed due to the assumed bias of their source, regardless of how true they might be. Personally, I don't see much superior behaviour or motivation on the part of the Reformers. Yes, issues needed to be addressed, but we threw out much baby with the bathwater, imo, including basic Christian spirituality. That is being addressed (and now even some Catholics are using 'protestant' Christian spirituality authors), but in my ideal little world we'd all admit we're drastically short of the mark, engage the issues as bretheren, and quit with the turf wars.
[/unprovoked rant]
"Rejoice in the wife of your youth... may you be forever captivated by her love!"
Prov 5.15-20
"I wanna be rich in memories not money / Our love is our inheritance, honey"
Jon Foreman, "Inheritance"

TheMouse

Re: Quick note

Postby TheMouse » Tue Jan 18, 2005 8:25 pm

Snuggle Muffin wrote: Guys like me won't ever grow to develop whatever degree of appreciation is due the Catholic perspetive without people like you willing to sacrifice the time and energy that you have - so thanks!


You're welcome! As I may have mentioned before, I've gotten increasingly cynical about how little Protestants and Catholics actually know about each other's beliefs on all sorts of issues, so if I can in some way help people understand Catholicism better, even if it doesn't seem convincing to them, I still feel like I've accomplished something. I realize that I have quite a bit to learn about the many different shades of Protestantism. . . .

Snuggle Muffin wrote: What shall it be? I know I'd benefit from you giving a critique of my discussion so far - like where you see potential blind spots and bias, and areas where my sheer ignorance of [fillinthebank] is hindering my understanding. And maybe each of us giving a (short) summary of were we've ended up and identitfying (though i guess not unpacking) our points of objection?


That sounds like a good idea. It may take me awhile, though-- and even if it's just one summarizing post, it might be a long one. ;-)

Snuggle Muffin wrote: As I'm sure you understand, the list of "things I'd really like to read" list is quite long and get's prioritized sometimes by factors I can't control.


Yes, I do understand about that "things I'd really like to read" list. Just keeps growing, doesn't it? And in my case, there is a fairly long list of "books I started to read but may never finish" or "books I bought intending to read but when will I?"

One quick comment: earlier, one of my criticisms was that I couldn't see a coherent Protestant "framework" or theology or philosophy (not sure what term I used) of sexuality into which the issue of birth control fit. In retrospect, I realize that to some extent it's unreasonable for me to expect such a framework: not all Christians think or work systematically. But I also wanted to clarify that part of the reason I kept mentioning that was so that you could say "Oh, but you have to read X by Y." If you do know of works that present the Protestant position on birth control in more detail, let me know, though I can't promise to read them soon.

Snuggle Muffin wrote: For me, engaging the RCC perspecitve on sexuality is part of a larger attempt to develop my own Christian theology/spirituality of sexuality.


For that reason, I think you'd find the Christopher West _Theology of the Body Explained_ book interesting. Even if you didn't agree with some of its basic assumptions or conclusions --and you probably wouldn't-- I think you might find some of the concepts useful, or at the very least, interesting.

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Postby Snuggle Muffin » Tue Jan 18, 2005 11:21 pm

No rush on the reply, I'm not going anywhere that I know of.

A note on this:
If you do know of works that present the Protestant position on birth control in more detail, let me know, though I can't promise to read them soon.
I have two responses to this. First, we in the west, including the RCC, are far from producing a decent theology/spirituality of sexuality, which would result in a position on birth control. Neo-platonic developments like apatheia (Clement of Alexandria, Origen) are simply too deeply ingrained in western culture in general, not to mention western theology. Our understandings of sexuality, femininity, etc., are retarded (for a decent article that touches more on our cultural sexual retardation, click this. Haven't formed much of an opinion on this yet, but interesting food for thought). Second, there is no such thing as "the Protestant position" on anything save this: refusing the authoritative claims of the RCC. That is the only single thing representative of non-Catholic Christianity and distinct from the RCC.

I've heard the criticism from Catholics before about the lack of "a protestant theology" on [fillintheblank], and on the general "lack of unity" among 'Protestants' in theology and practice. These are unfair and unrealistic expectations, imo. Kind of sneaky jab at the 'Protestants' that says, "Look at those Protestants, they don't have their act together! At least us Catholics are on the ball enough to produce some representative, coherent theology!" Comparing the RCC to the "Protestant church" is useless, because that term is meaningless. And - the lack of unity in Christianity is something that includes the Catholic church every bit as much as it includes any one else. THe fact that there is more disunity in what is labeled "Protestant" is meaningless, because that label is meaningless. In the shattered mirror that is the church, the RCC is one of many splinters (albeit a big one). What value is comparing the unity of one shard with a pile of other shards? It's a false comparison.

You may have noticed that throughout our discussion, I almost always used the term 'non-Catholic' instead of "Protestant." That's because from my perspective, "Protestant" is a completely useless term unless you're talking about specifics in Reformation history or simply meaning "not Catholic" and nothing more. I avoid the term when discussing contemporary non-Catholic Christianity because I feel it conveys false connotations. It gives a false impression of non-Catholic Christianity, as if all Christianity that is not Catholic can be lumped into the same category and represented by a single term. No term, save 'non-Catholic' has any descriptive value. The various streams of non-Catholic Christianity are too varied in character and development. We shouldn't expect any one theology, or theologian, or institution to represent the "Protestant" world. We shouldn't be viewing non-Catholic Christianity as one single anything, even in the vaguest terms. It makes more sense to use categories like high/low, liturgical/non-liturgical, western/non-western - at least these have some descriptive value. I know we usually chop up Christianity into Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant for convenience sake, but only 'Catholic' and 'Eastern Orthodox' really carry any descriptive value (except for specific historical purposes).

You may be familiar with the name Urban T. Holmes, III, a 'lite Catholic' (Anglican/Episcopal :wink: ). He has this to say about Christianity (all of us) and the spirituality of sexuality in A History of Christian Spirituality: An Analytical Introduction in his overview of contemporary Christian spirituality (149)...
... Not so developed is the realization that the body is involved. A satisfying spirituality of sexuality, which is not tinged by simplistic apatheia, is yet to be written. Perhaps it will emerge in the next generation. Certainly the presence of genital arousal in spiritual experience is common and needs to be acknowledged as a positive element -- rather than repressed and made subject to embarrassment. A spirituality of sexuality, including genitality, may not come from a northern European male. We are culturally retarded in regard to our sexuality. Martin Luther King could have written a sex-positive spirituality. Possibly there are other non-white males or women who can transcend the controversies of the moment and can gain sufficient distance in the presence of God to speak to our androgyny before God.
So when you ask for "the Protestant position on birth control," which requires a theology of sexuality, my initial response is, "Whoa, you'll have to be patient and give us (and by 'us' I include the RCC) a chance to first untangle ourselves from the sexually negative neo-platonic influences that over 2000 years have become a defining characteristic of western culture in general, let alone the western church's theology! I'd be surprised if it happened in this generation, but we can at least be part of the beginnings...
"Rejoice in the wife of your youth... may you be forever captivated by her love!"
Prov 5.15-20
"I wanna be rich in memories not money / Our love is our inheritance, honey"
Jon Foreman, "Inheritance"

TheMouse

Postby TheMouse » Wed Jan 19, 2005 5:40 pm

Snuggle Muffin wrote:Second, there is no such thing as "the Protestant position" on anything save this: refusing the authoritative claims of the RCC. That is the only single thing representative of non-Catholic Christianity and distinct from the RCC.


Okay, you got me on this. I do actually know better than to say "the" Protestant position-- I just slipped up. My bad. I do realize how wide a range of beliefs there is within Christianity; I just couldn't think of a way to re-word it that would work. My apologies for slopping writing that lead to generalizations. What I really meant by "the Protestant position on birth control" is something more like "an extensive non-Catholic theology of sexuality that serves as a context for an argument in favor of contraception." Obviously, there may be multiple such theologies-- or perhaps no adequate ones, given, as you point out, the general backwardness of Christian understandings of sexuality. In this case, since I'm talking to you, if there were a work that particularly matched your own views, you could recommend that.


Snuggle Muffin wrote: So when you ask for "the Protestant position on birth control," which requires a theology of sexuality, my initial response is, "Whoa, you'll have to be patient and give us (and by 'us' I include the RCC) a chance to first untangle ourselves from the sexually negative neo-platonic influences that over 2000 years have become a defining characteristic of western culture in general, let alone the western church's theology! I'd be surprised if it happened in this generation, but we can at least be part of the beginnings...



What you say makes sense, but from a Catholic perspective, it presents a problem. Theology takes time ("the Church thinks in centuries") but the problem is, how do you act in the meantime?

A Catholic looking at the birth control issue might say: "Okay, so for centuries the Christian Church, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, has, for the most part, tended to condemn contraception is wrong. Now we have cause to re-evaluate our Christian view of sexuality; that's why our Pope has developed the Theology of the Body. You ask for years to do this-- that's fine. But in the meantime, why do you assume that the traditional opposition to contraception is part of the flawed teaching on sexuality? If you don't have a framework in which to place your belief that the pill is a licit means of planning families, how do you know that it is permissible? If you don't have an established framwork in which to answer the question, wouldn't it be better to be conservative about the issue and not reject this particular traditional teaching until you have a philosophy that support such a rejection? The fact that some non-Catholic Christians seem to have accepted contraception BEFORE developing a Christian theology of sexuality suggests that their acceptance of artificial contraception is a result of giving in to secular acceptance of it, rather than being a thoughtful Christian response to traditional teachings on sexuality."

I'm not saying that that is a fair summary of the situation-- but that is why Catholics keep asking for "a theology of sexuality" with which to explain the acceptance of artificial means of contraception. Admittedly, practice often precedes systematic theology throughout Christian history, but one would think we'd want to be particularly careful about changing established practices.

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Postby Paul B » Wed Jan 19, 2005 10:10 pm

TheMouse wrote:A Catholic looking at the birth control issue might say: "Okay, so for centuries the Christian Church, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, has, for the most part, tended to condemn contraception is wrong.

[smiley poster=peeve][peeve] [/smiley]
Yes they do - I've been told that often. Problem is it's not accurate. For most of the centuries contraception was so poor that it was a non-issue (no pun intended :mrgreen: ). Granted the RCC was opposed to any sex that did not deposit semen in vagina, and as such was opposed to what passed as birth control in those days. But modern contraception is something more, it is about putting the penis in the vagina, ejaculating, and not getting pregnant.

I can see why the RCC would say that it's ban on condoms et. al. is just an extension of it's "only in the vagina" policy. To me it's not that simple, but I can accept it. What really bothers me is that the vast majority (all but one actually) of protestant denominations never had any official stand on birth control or contraception. In other words, the Protestants have not "tended to condemn contraception" for centuries.
[smiley poster=peeve][/peeve] [/smiley]
<>< Paul

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Postby Snuggle Muffin » Wed Jan 19, 2005 10:43 pm

TheMouse wrote: I do actually know better than to say "the" Protestant position-- I just slipped up. My bad. I do realize how wide a range of beliefs there is within Christianity; I just couldn't think of a way to re-word it that would work. My apologies for slopping writing that lead to generalizations.
I figured you knew better... it's not that it's offensive to me as a 'protestant' - it's just that it leaves me at a complete loss as to how to anser such a question. What you really want is
"an extensive non-Catholic theology of sexuality that serves as a context for an argument in favor of contraception."
I'm glad you asked this - this is a good question and it will provide an opportunitty to clarify some important bits of perspective - but ultimately this is neslted in an appeal to the superiority of 1700 years of theological tradition and development over something cooked up in one generation. Normally, this would be a considerable appeal, but when it comes to theology and spirituality of sexuality, I think this appeal actually works against the RCC position. That tradition of theology as it concerns sexuality provides the primary reasons for rejecting it in the first place. It's not that I'm necessarily saying, "I've got a better position" so much as I'm saying, "The RCC position is simply inadequate." I don't mean this meanly or as a 'low blow' at all, but I think it is relevant: a church who's past tradition (and present) is full of sexually dysfunctional and abusive teaching and behaviour simply ought not to appeal to that long a glorious tenure of its sexual doctrines, especially in this case because the sexually tainted influences are foundational building blocks of our theological tradition as it regards sexuality. Screwed up teachings and practices are not historical-traditional tangents; they are fundamental to the development of our sexual tradition. These doctrines are products of that very sexually dysfucntional history and tradition. I am not throwing RCC clergy misconduct in your face; every church faces this present-day problem (we share a sexually dyfunctional heritage). But, not every church appeals to Christianity's tradition of corrupted sexual doctrine to back up their current conclusions regarding bc. Simply put: appealing to the long-standing prohibitions against bc does not help the contemporary cause, b/c those prohibtions were the results of an extremely sexually misdirected tradition. And those mis-directing influences are foreign to Christianity.
What you say makes sense, but from a Catholic perspective, it presents a problem. Theology takes time ("the Church thinks in centuries") but the problem is, how do you act in the meantime?
I act from what I have, a theology-in-progress. While unavoidably under-developed, it is (imo) a 'safer' road than going with the traditional perspective until something better comes along - because the traditional perspective in itself is so inadequate (regarding sexuality) that it does not deserve our provisional adherence. The prevailing theological/spiritual tradition as it concerns sexuality (which really is shared by all of us and just developed, formalized and articulated better by the RCC) is in itself so deficient that I would hardly call it 'playing safe' to abide by it. In this situation length of tenure is basically irrelevant and the lack of another theological perspective on sexuality that was 1700-years in the making is no stroke in favour the RCC's current position.
A Catholic looking at the birth control issue might say: "Okay, so for centuries the Christian Church, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, has, for the most part, tended to condemn contraception is wrong. Now we have cause to re-evaluate our Christian view of sexuality; that's why our Pope has developed the Theology of the Body. You ask for years to do this-- that's fine. But in the meantime, why do you assume that the traditional opposition to contraception is part of the flawed teaching on sexuality?
The traditional opposition to birth control first arose from a tradition of sexual teaching that was/is obviously drastically mis-directed; that prohibition is the product of an extremely dysfunctional sexual tradition. Are we to assume that the opposition to bc somehow transcended the corrupted state of traditional sexual teaching from which it was spawned? Opposition to bc is a logical conclusion of the most [edit] sexual teachings in Christian tradition: simplistically, that procreation is the only aspect of sex that is not inherently sinful (or at best detrimental to spirituality/holiness), procreation is the means to legitimize (necessary) sexual activity, though even procreation itself is tainted by the fact that it requires sex in the first place. Original Sin is passed on to every new human being since they are conceived through sex, even though Original Sin was a development of Augustine's Pelagian controversy. And yet, we are supposed to believe that the one Church that adheres and reveres this tradition more than any other has produced a corrective theology of sexuality untainted by the apatheic, neo-platonic, dualistic, anti-feminine, unChristian teaching that is fundamental to the long tradition of Christian sexual theology... and just happens to conclude along compatible lines in regards to birth control? I'm afraid I have little reason to give the RCC, and its appeal to longstanding church tradition, the benefit of the doubt when it comes to sexuality. I'm not out to chuck tradition - but this specific tradition carries no legitimate weight of authority.
If you don't have a framework in which to place your belief that the pill is a licit means of planning families, how do you know that it is permissible?
This is a good question, but it is basically the old 'appeal to a better developed/unified/articulated theology.' I have an emerging framework, a theology-in-development, and my emerging understanding finds no good reason yet in 2000 years of theological tradition to suggest that hormonal/barrier methods aren't permissible.
If you don't have an established framwork in which to answer the question, wouldn't it be better to be conservative about the issue and not reject this particular traditional teaching until you have a philosophy that support such a rejection?
No, b/c in this case 'being conservative' means adopting way too much fundamentally infected teaching. Why would I take such a tradition as the provisional or default mode?
The fact that some non-Catholic Christians seem to have accepted contraception BEFORE developing a Christian theology of sexuality suggests that their acceptance of artificial contraception is a result of giving in to secular acceptance of it, rather than being a thoughtful Christian response to traditional teachings on sexuality.
No doubt many people use bc w/o reflecting theologically about it first, but what does it matter? Will it serve our discussion to start comparing 'non-theologically-reflective' non-Catholics with 'non-theologically-reflective Catholics? When the reasons supporting the condemnation of bc are found to be inadequate, why would one assume that using bc is a morally dangerous proposal? Lack of condemnation doesn't justify anything, of course. But why the bias in favour of our fundamentally skewed tradition of sexual doctrine?
I'm not saying that that is a fair summary of the situation-- but that is why Catholics keep asking for "a theology of sexuality" with which to explain the acceptance of artificial means of contraception.
The absence of an equally-developed replacment in no way legitimizes the faults of the present. I won't adhere to what I see as obviously flawed teaching for lack of a developed alternative; I'll reject what I see as flawed and find my way as best I can with what I've got. And what I've got provides no reason to reject barriers/bcps on moral/theological grounds, and some rationale for employing them on stewardship grounds.
Admittedly, practice often precedes systematic theology throughout Christian history, but one would think we'd want to be particularly careful about changing established practices.
Absolutely - bucking tradition should never be done flippantly, but in regards to Christian sexuality we are long overdue.
"Rejoice in the wife of your youth... may you be forever captivated by her love!"
Prov 5.15-20
"I wanna be rich in memories not money / Our love is our inheritance, honey"
Jon Foreman, "Inheritance"

TheMouse

Postby TheMouse » Thu Jan 20, 2005 9:12 am



Quick comment on this article: I found a number of the author's statements unsettling (I don't think spirituality is primarily emotional, I don't think that premarital sex can be holy, I don't think that reverencing the heterosexual marital act in exclusion to homosexual or premarital sexuality is bad or a result of too much focus on the penis!) so I have to admit that my tendency is to ask how the author's own biases may have shaped his description of the history of sexuality.

(As you might guess, I did like his description of sex as "natural liturgy" and symbol, in part because it lends itself to part of an explanation of why sex is seen as literally, not just metaphorically sacramental in Catholicism.)

TheMouse

Summary

Postby TheMouse » Thu Jan 20, 2005 10:57 am

At long last, I'm going to try to summarize some of the differences that remain. As I say at the end of this post, I think there are really two major differences here which I don't think we are going to reconcile between the two of us. However, I broke down my response into three somewhat interlapping categories. Go figure.

1. Philosophy/theology of sexuality

First, as I think our recent exchange shows, you and I have a different approach to the Christian tradition. I do not agree that the ban on contraception is necessarily corrupt just because much of the theology behind sexuality was corrupt. I suppose another way to put is that I don't believe that the theology of sexuality was completely corrupt; thus, I don't believe that all of its ethical consequences can be rejected out of hand. It initially seemed that what you were saying was "Augustine and co. warped Christian sexuality, the prohibition on artificial contraception is a remnant of that old warped Christian sexuality, so we can assume it's wrong." This seems to me to be a form of the genetic fallacy: a belief is not inherently corrupt because its origins are faulty.

However, even your position is nuanced as it has been in the recent discussion about the lack of /current development of non-Catholic theologies of sexuality (which I appreciated, by the way), we still differ on how much caution is necessary in forging out into new territory. You may feel comfortable accepting the use of the pill, condoms, etc. based on your own working theology. I, obviously, am more comfortable in taking a conservative approach. Some of our differences on the authority of the church probably enter into this point as well, but I don't think that that's the sole difference: there are other Christians who are not Catholic who, though not bound by the authority of the Catholic Church, feel called to follow classical sexual teaching in this matter.

It's probably also the case that I don't see artificial contraception as a NEED. Those who need to limit their families can do so through using NFP to avoid conception. As a result, I don't see that people would be deeply harmed by taking the attitude: "well, we have some reliable means of birth control now, but no one seems to have worked out a thorough theology behind the acceptability of condom use/hormonal contraceptives/etc., so why don't we play it conservatively and not use them." This too is probably something we fundamentally disagree about.

2. NFP: invitation analogies

I think that part of our disagreement here is that I see a greater moral distinction between passive and active avoidance of conception than you do. I do see a real difference between the couple who refrains from sex when they know that conception is likely and a couple who takes action, rather than refraining from action, to make their sexual acts sterile. So, I disagree with your assessment of the invitation analogy:

Snuggle Muffin wrote:Sending out invitations to an event that has virtually no chance of happening ? that one has tried to make sure doesn't happen ? is not very nice. Neither is sending invitations to God asking Him for new life when one has taken extremely effective steps (sterilized the sexual relationship) to make sure He won't ? talk about sending mixed messages. It's like facing someone who is standing there ready to hand you a present and saying to them, "Thank you! I'd love to receive your gift" while refusing to bring your hands and arms our from behind your back. That's what NFP is doing according to these analogies.


Where I differ from you is that I think that the fact that the steps you take are passive or negative rather than positive does play a large difference in the morality of the action. May I substitute a different analogy for the "invitation" one? Perhaps it's not like a wedding, but more like someone offering: "If you come to my place on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I'll be handing out presents and I'll have one for you, but if you come on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, we'll just be having coffee and dessert. Come whenever you want! " If my apartment is already overflowing with knickcknacks and I don't have room for more gifts, I may choose not to go to my friend's place at the right time to pick up said gift, though I go there other times for the coffee and brandy. If the gift-giver really wanted to give me the gift, he could show up at my door with it --or bring it out unexpectedly at an hour when he normally offers only dessert-- and, because of our friendship, I'd take it even if I weren't expecting it. In this case, I know that it is not the usual nature of the gift-giver to do that if I don't seek him out at a specific place and specific time; therefore as long as I don't want the gift, I avoid seeking him out at the designated gift-giving times. This, to me, seems different from going to his house at the designated gift-giving time and saying: "I want some of your chocolate delight, but please don't give me the gift that you normally give out at this time." The issue isn't just that you're having your cake without the responsibility of taking the gift that goes with it-- after all, the gift-give already sets up times that are for cake only! The issue is that you are taking the cake and actively REFUSING the gift offered at that time. Of course, I could simply never visit the gift-giver at all (total abstinence, which chaste unmarried people practice). But if I want the cake, given that the gift-giver has already appointed times when he passes out the gifts, and given that it is his nature and his desire to give gifts to those who visit at those times, it seems more polite to refrain from approaching him during his gift-giving times unless I'm willing to accept the gift.

Analogies aside, I'd sum up my point this way: you may be right that the line between abstinence during the fertile period and use of barriers to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg is a fine one, but I would maintain that it is still a clear line with moral implications. The importance we give to this line is one of the fundamental differences between us, I think.

3. Openness to Life

Snuggle Muffin wrote: And regardless, sexual intercourse is 'naturally' oriented to conception less than half the time? the idea that the act of intercourse is intended to include the possibility of procreation 100% is foreign (I think) to God's design. I realize that here is where 'open to life' gets differentiated from procreation (or its possibility), but ultimately, it seems like a word game.


First of all, I think the problem is that it seems "openness to life" should refer to statistical likelyhood of pregnancy, or to a couple having a consciously-accepted reasonable chance of getting pregnant, and it does not. This issue, for those who use NFP to avoid pregnancy, is not whether a method is 80% accurate vs. 99.5% successful. The issue is with HOW the method works to prevent pregnancy. Since NFP'ers see a difference between refraining from an action that is likely to cause conception and changing an action to prevent it (see above), they perceive NFP to be open to life in that it doesn't openly reject the possibility of conception in the same way that artificial contraceptives do. You may reject that distinction and feel that the term "openness to life" is out of place in the discussion. But even if we were to jettison the term openness to life on the grounds that it isn't helpful and may just be confusing --and those may be good reasons for leaving it out of the debate-- I think the basic arguments for NFP would remain the same. Still, you may be highlighting a real need for better/less vague terminology. NFP proponants may just be confusing matters when they fling the phrase "openness to life" around.

Snuggle Muffin wrote: I think the marriage relationship should be open to having kids, but not every sexual act, and I think the NFP method agrees with me. NFP violates this RC prescription for what the sex act should speak just as BCPs and FAM does.


I think that some of the discussion about the theology of the body applies here. I think that as you define "open to having kids", you are right NFP does not mean that every sexual act is open to having children. But the way NFP'ers use openness, the question really is: has the couple altered the sexual act so that it -- the individual sexual act-- overtly REJECTS the possibility of having children? If one's body has been sterilized chemically, the answer is yes. If one is using a condom to prevent the egg from meeting sperm, the answer is yes. If one is using NFP, the answer is no: the sexual act is not oriented towards having children not because the couple has altered it itself, but because it occurs at a time that is naturally unsuitable for conception. If this act is sterile it is God (or nature) who makes this individual act sterile, not the couple.

What I'm saying here is not new, of course, and you've already addressed it. In a previous post, yout say that though we agree that it might be all right for the marraige relationship as a whole to be sterile, the couple is still acting to ensure that the relationship is sterile through charting, but as you say
Snuggle Muffin wrote:. . . I can't accept "by using God's patches" as a morally relevant distinction.

As I've reiterated above, I do see this as a relevant moral distinction. Given that this issue keeps coming up, this may be THE largest basic difference between our positions.

One final note on terminology. In an earlier post, you said:

Snuggle Muffin wrote:If NFP dropped the lines of argument like "more open to life," "renewing the marriage covenant," the invitation analogies, etc., and just stuck with "respect the body/don't mess with people's biology" it might have a potentially stronger case, albeit harder to sell to non-RC's with most of the profound/nice-sounding rhetoric removed.


Aside: I use the various invitation and gift-giving analogies not so much because they constitute "proof" as because sometimes it is the only way I personally can articulate what I see to be different. Other NFP'ers may argue quite well without using analogies at all: more power to them, but that's just not how I work. I guess I just like stories.

As you can see above, I am somewhat sympathetic to the idea of setting aside the language of being "more open to life." It is not so much that I disagree that NFP is open to life in a way ABC isn't as that I think the phrase is just too easy to misunderstand, and perhaps too vague in general. With regard to renewing the marriage covenant, I do disagree. I think that each sexual act is a repeated consummation of a couple's marriage; like the Passover meal or the Lord's Supper, it is an act that renews the covenant between two parties. I do not think that talking about in these terms is just fluff or mystical nonsense. Whether that means that a convincing argument against artificial contraception can be sustained ONLY on this view of sexuality is a different question. (And hard to answer because, as I think this discussion reveals, different people are convinced by different things! What is a convincing argument to one person may not be convincing to another.)

I think the "respect the body" concept is implicit in the teaching. The difficulty of using only that a defense is that one may ask why piercing the ears doesn't violate the need to respect the body-- and this opens up the issues of the theology fo the body, of sex as sacramental act, and so on. I don't mean to say "you need other defenses to shore that up." Rather, what I mean is that the reason respecting biology _is_ so important in this act as opposed to other acts like ear piercing or the application of cosmetics is that the marital act DOES have sacramental significance, that it is part of the language of the body, that is a renewal of the marriage covenant, that is an act capable of imaging the trinity, and so on. In other words, I don't see the "respect biology" argument as a distinct one from the "renewal of marriage covenant" so much as part of that understanding of sexuality.

And that's it. You raised many points that I didn't address. . . had I world enough and time! But I think we are both at the point where we are just trying to rephrase what we've already said. When I look at this post, I don't feel that I've added anything NEW: just maybe condensed and reiterated some key points which I already know you disagree about.

Basically, I think what our discussion has uncovered is that there are two main differences between us:

1) how we view the past teachings on sexuality: is the prohibition on contraception intrinsically bound up in the admitted errors of dualism? Or are there other issues at work? Do we know enough about Christian sexuality to chuck this doctrine by the wayside? This may be connected to, but is not (I argue) wholly dependant on differing views on teaching authority. In other words, you wouldn't have to be Catholic to take my side, but (given that the teaching on contraception is not necessarily infallible) you wouldn't have to be "non-Catholic" to be sympathetic to your side.

In this area I have to admit to not having enough knowledge about Church history to argue very competently.

2) The sexual act: is there a MORAL difference between postponing or avoiding pregnancy only by avoiding intercourse during the naturally fertile times so that the acts of intercourse that do occur won't lead to conception, as opposed to avoiding pregnancy by somehow changing the body or the sexual act itself so that the couple's acts of intercourse won't lead to conception? I see such a moral distinction; you don't. This is not something where additionally arguing will change either of our minds, I suspect.

You may see other fundamental areas of disagreement, of course, but these seem like the two big "we're not going to agree on this" issues.

TheMouse

Paul-- on opposition to contraception

Postby TheMouse » Fri Jan 21, 2005 8:46 am

Paul B wrote:
TheMouse wrote:A Catholic looking at the birth control issue might say: "Okay, so for centuries the Christian Church, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, has, for the most part, tended to condemn contraception is wrong.

[color=blue][smiley poster=peeve][peeve] [/smiley]
Yes they do - I've been told that often. Problem is it's not accurate.


Paul B wrote: What really bothers me is that the vast majority (all but one actually) of protestant denominations never had any official stand on birth control or contraception. In other words, the Protestants have not "tended to condemn contraception" for centuries.



Paul-- a few points here. First, please note that I did NOT repeat the line about all Protestant bodies being officially opposed to contraception prior to the Lambeth council. I tried to couch it in more general terms, since I realize there were dissenting opinions, etc. My concern here is not with whether Protestant churches had official doctrines banning contraception, but whether there was a general religious prohibition against it. Lawrence Stone's _The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800_ suggest that there was such religious prohibition after the Reformation, though people still used contraception. Stone also notes that in the 18th century people first began separating the "pleasure principle" of sex from the procreative priciniple, but at the time this was theological innovation-- and given that in many countries, methods of contraception were actually outlawed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this view doesn't seem to have given wide moral acceptance to contraception until the 20th century.

While you're right that much of this "contraception" was in reference to withdrawal or use of oral, manual sex, etc. rather than contraception as we know it today, some of the religious objections listed by Stone which were raised by Puritans and Anglicans in post-Reformation England are the same ones being offered by those opposed to ABC today. Do I cite a book about post-Reformation England because I think the English are characteristic of all cultures? No, I just happen to have this book on hand for dissertation research. ;-) If there's a text on the history of contraception which you recommend, let me know. I'm a grad student; I prefer to see it in print. . . though as before I have to admit that I can't promise to read everything recommended to me.

Paul B wrote:For most of the centuries contraception was so poor that it was a non-issue (no pun intended :mrgreen: ).


For most centuries, medical science was so poor that people were more likely to die if they were treated by a physician than if not, but that doesn't mean medical ethics wasn't an issue! Medical ethics began with the Greeks, who don't really appear to have had a good grasp of natural science. I'd think this suggests that the existence of moral codes surrounding a given technology is NOT dependant on how well that technology works! People have been trying to prevent birth through use of drugs for centuries. Even if they weren't very successful, the fact that they were trying to do it made it a moral issue! Not all primitive methods of contraception relied on preventing ejaculation in the vagina, either: Jane Oyler of the University of Chicago Hospitals records attempts by the ancient Greeks to use spermicides (oil), use of chemical spermicides in the 1500's, use of primitive IUDs by Arabic nomads to prevent getting pregnant, etc. Not all of these methods were ineffective, either: just not very well understood. See:
http://imr.bsd.uchicago.edu/chiefs/Hist ... cument.htm



Paul B wrote: Granted the RCC was opposed to any sex that did not deposit semen in vagina, and as such was opposed to what passed as birth control in those days. But modern contraception is something more, it is about putting the penis in the vagina, ejaculating, and not getting pregnant.


This is a valid distinction, and this is why prior to _Humanae Vitae_ many Catholic theologians thought that the pill would be found acceptable, even though the condom was not: they could see how the condom involved a physical barrier to unitive intercourse that prevented the two fully becoming one flesh, but didn't see this objection with regard to hormonal means of birth control. (Given so much opposition by many Christians, not just Catholics, to the possible abortificient effects of hormonol contraception, it's a little odd to realize that it was once thought to be morally better than the use of barriers, isn't it?) But the principle of "one flesh unity" isn't the only one at play here, as you can tell from this thread, nor would it have been a factor for all the various methods of contraception in use prior to the invention of the pill, from what little I know.

TheMouse

Re: Quick note

Postby TheMouse » Fri Apr 01, 2005 10:36 pm

Snuggle Muffin wrote:
TheMouse wrote:Oh, and I wanted to put in a plug for a book that I wish I had read earlier: Christopher West's _Theology of the Body Explained_. I haven't finished it yet --okay, okay, I haven't even read 100 pages of it yet-- but it looks like a good analysis/simplification of the body of papal addresses that constitutes _The Theology of the Body_...
I've had several Catholic and/or NFP folks recommend that. As I'm sure you understand, the list of "things I'd really like to read" list is quite long and get's prioritized sometimes by factors I can't control. Once our thread is done (i guess we're down to one summarizing post each?), I'll probably read that before seeking out any more NFP discussion (sometimes they happen anyway).


I found this Books and Culture review and thought it might be of interest. It's talking specificially about Torode's work, but also discusses the Theology of the Body in general. I'm just citing the first paragraph as a "teaser."

http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2004/005/6.28.html

"Theology of the Body"
Pope John Paul II on the biblical foundations of marriage and sexuality.
By Laura Merzig Fabrycky


When George Weigel published Witness to Hope (1999), his bestselling biography of John Paul II, he made a plea for more accessible secondary literature that explored the pope's groundbreaking theological work on the human body and marital relations as "an icon of the interior life of God." Weigel anticipated correctly that this teaching would have explosive reverberations throughout the world: "These 130 catechetical addresses, taken together, constitute a kind of theological time bomb set to go off, with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the church."

TheMouse

Postby TheMouse » Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:15 am

Bumping this so it won't get pruned yet- although maybe it is time to let it go gently into that good night?

But, I wanted to recommend a book called _Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary and Defense_ by Lawler, Boyle, and May. As the title indicates, this book is defending traditional Catholic sexual ethics. What I thought was interesting was that they have a chapter that traces out the history of sexual thought, where they discuss the "limitations" of Augustine, other patristic writers (they claim Augustine was MORE positive about marriage than many of his contemporaries) and later medieval thought, while also trying tracing out a strand of "development" that eventually led to the personalist theories of Von Hildebrand and JPII. It's interesting in that it's an alternate view of past sexual teaching that attemps to correct some overly negative stereotypes while also admitting the actual flaws of some past theologians.

Unfortunately this is just one chapter, and the authors themselves admit that there ought to be a whole study on the subject; they don't feel that there has been adequate work, though that may just mean that there hasn't been a history of Christian sexuality by an author who agrees with them!
Last edited by TheMouse on Mon Jun 13, 2005 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

fiance09

Re: Theology and NFP (Natural Family Planning)

Postby fiance09 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:23 am

Paul wrote
Yes they do - I've been told that often. Problem is it's not accurate. For most of the centuries contraception was so poor that it was a non-issue (no pun intended :mrgreen: ). Granted the RCC was opposed to any sex that did not deposit semen in vagina, and as such was opposed to what passed as birth control in those days. But modern contraception is something more, it is about putting the penis in the vagina, ejaculating, and not getting pregnant.

I can see why the RCC would say that it's ban on condoms et. al. is just an extension of it's "only in the vagina" policy. To me it's not that simple, but I can accept it. What really bothers me is that the vast majority (all but one actually) of protestant denominations never had any official stand on birth control or contraception. In other words, the Protestants have not "tended to condemn contraception" for centuries.


This is not correct at all Paul, if you are willing to look at history the Judeo Christian culture has been very against B.C. - the early church was even more so than the modern Catholic church - the evidence is overwhelming - I have taken extensive biblical history courses and it is there with out a doubt - I could fill this page with info, the problem is that it is a very touchy subject and feelings get raw when discussing this, so I dont want to debate it at all, but if you want to look even at recent history, B.C. was illegal or hard to obtain even 60 years ago and countries and states had laws against contraception up until the sixties.
Most christian countries and states also had laws against Sodomy that fell just a few years ago, if we look at the definition of sodomy it is not about homosexuality but any unnatural act other than PIV intercourse - gay or straight. This was in countries and states that were pre-dominatly catholic or christian.

So, this is not really worth debating as nothing is going to change, but to say that this was not practiced,preached and accepted in the past is misleading.


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