At the start of my last message, I should probably have put an qualification that if at times I seem overly aggressive or critical of arguments, it shouldn't be taken personally. Like many analytical people, I probably often work from a hermeneutic of suspicion and assume the worst possible meaning. That's part of why I try to ask a lot of questions.
Snuggle Muffin wrote:
TheMouse wrote: If you look to _Humanae Vitae_ (or to JPII's reflections on HV) the core of the document is the statment that the unitive and procreative functions of sexuality cannot be separated.
Snuggle Muffin wrote:The CtoCleague guys was big on that point, and our conversation ended before I got an indepth reply to my objection. I have a logical problem with this, which is perhaps simply the result of my lack of information regarding this teaching. If the unitive and procreative elements cannot be separated then why the fertility cycle, and how can NFP allow couple to deliberately avoid procreation?
Here's how _Humanae Vitae_ puts it:
"11. These acts, by which husband and wife are united in chaste intimacy, and by means of which human life is transmitted, are, as the Council recalled, "noble and worthy", and they do not cease to be lawful if, for causes independent of the will of the husband and wife, they are foreseen to be infecund, since they always remain ordained towards expressing and consolidating their union. In fact, as experience bears witness, not every conjugal act is followed by new life. God has wisely disposed natural laws and rhythms of fecundity which, of themselves, cause a separation in the succession of births. Nonetheless the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life.
12. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. "
(The whole encyclical is available here: http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pa06hv.htm
On the subject of NFP, the encyclical starts by pointing out that God himself has designed fertility such that a woman is not always capable of conceiving, and that a couple doesn't sin in having intercourse at such times. For instance, a woman is infertile after menopause, and it wouldn't be a sin for a couple to have intercourse, knowing that they are not likely to conceive, barring a miracle. Likewise, women who breastfeed heavily are often infertile for six months, or in some cases longer. A couple may know from experience that, because the wife is still the primary nourisher of their baby, she is unlikely to be ovulating, but they are not sinning in having intercourse then: the anovulation caused by lactation is probably MEANT by God to prevent women from having one baby after another in quick succession. (Of course, it doesn't work for every woman, and doesn't work well at all if babies are supplemented with formula or other food.)
As far as I know, no Christians today would argue that a woman who is breastfeeding ecologocially shouldn't have sex, or that a couple shouldn't have sex after menopause. (I am aware that there were people in the past who thought it better for couples to give up sex once a woman is past child-bearing.) The theology of NFP merely says that if it is permissable for couples to have sex during those natural times of infertility, then it is permissable for them to have sex during times of the cylce when they know that the wife is infertile. Doing so doesn't violate the unitive-procreative unity of sex which is "willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative" because in this case, the wife's infertility at discernable times of the month is also willed by God.
Snuggle Muffin wrote:The CtoCLeague guys' initial reply was more in line with what I've accused the Torodes of - that using NFP as a means to not get pregnant is bascially as abuse of NFP and a misunderstanding of its purpose.
First of all, it isn't abusing NFP to try to avoid pregnancy as long as the couple have valid reasons for avoiding pregnancy. If that is indeed what the CCL guy was saying, I would disagree with him. _Humanae Vitae_ makes it very clear that with regard to family planning, there are real reasons for limiting family size. (In some cases, there might be valid reasons for never having children-- but I would argue that that is much rarer and a more complicated issue; I'd rather put that aside for now.)
Snuggle Muffin wrote: At the same time he conceded that each sex act doesn't have to include the procreative aspect, though they cannot be separated. I expect you'll be able to enlighten me on this one!
I think the problem is that when we say "the unitive and procreative aspects of sex can't be separated" we mean that WE aren't allowed to separate them. God does sometimes remove fertility --either temporarily, as in the case of women who are breastfeeding or who are infertile for 2/3rds or more of the their cycle-- or permanently, as in the case of menopause and permanant infertility. However, sexuality and procreation as a whole are intimitely bound together. The sexual act is biologically designed for conception. Interfering with that act, therefore, is interefering with God's design. Interfering with a woman's body so that it doesn't ovulate is also interfering with that design. Learning about the fertility cycle, however, is cooperating with that design.
I just realized that I was dealing with your posts out of order, and some of your points from the first one were certainly applicable here, so I'll try to combine a response to both posts in one:
Snuggle Muffin wrote: So if I understand you correctly, what you're saying (in light of my above quote) is that these negative meanings are inherent in the act of using 'contraception,' regardless of what meanings the couple might attribute to that act? From God's perspective, the act speaks these meanings regardless of the understanding of the couple? (ftr - In principle I believe this is possible.)
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. A couple who are using condoms and a couple who are using NFP to avoid pregnancy may both have valid reasons for avoiding childrent at that time. They may both love and respect each other. And as you point out below, in both cases the couple's behavior is changed in some way to prevent pregnancy. But the actions themselves are different. A woman who takes the pill may intend no disrespect to her fertility cyle, but the action itself conveys the implication that there is something wrong with her ability to conceive: what she is doign is taking a drug that will change her natural ability to conceive. A woman who uses NFP, on the other hand, learns more about how her body work and uses that knowledge to plan or avoid pregnancy. Many women report a higher degree of respect for the way they were created once they learn to chart and see how predictable their bodies are-- but my point is that even if an NFP couple doesn't subjectively experience such greater respect, what they are doing is respecting the body's fertility. Likewise, even if a contracepting couple using the pill doesn't subjectively experience disrespect, the action itself is more respectful of human fertility.
Snuggle Muffin wrote: Well, I see plenty of difference, I just think that the difference is ultimately superficial in the sense that they are both inherently deliberate contraceptive acts (in that they deliberately avoid conception). . . . The way in which NFP uses the term 'articifical' I think applies to this, in that we "make use." The desire to avoid pregnancy changes our sexual behaviour - changes our sexual relationship. From the NFP perspective, wouldn't this in itself 'speak' something negative, regardless of the means? Perhaps it doesn't render that specific sexual act sterile (b/c it already is by God's design), but does it not deliberately render a couple's entire sexual relationship sterile? Wouldn't having sex only on non-fertile days be fundamentally committing the same wrong (contraception)? To me, it would seem that this 'speaks' the same thing as rendering a specific sexual act sterile. In this sense, bc and contraception (your distincion) both render the sexual relationship sterile.
I think the key to this point is right here:
Snuggle Muffin wrote: Wouldn't having sex only on non-fertile days be fundamentally committing the same wrong (contraception)?
This question seems to assume that it is always wrong to act in such a way as to avoid conception. That is not what the Catholic Church says. Rather, NFP-only theolgoy says that given the close bond between the unitive and procreative aspects of sex, it is wrong to act in certain ways to prevent conception: specifically, that it is wrong to impose a barrier between the two aspects, but it is not wrong to make use of times when the procreative potential is naturally absent. In other words, the wrong here is NOT "behaving in such a way as to avoid contraception."
To give an analogy: If someone who believes he would be a terrible father makes the decision never to marry, his behavior is preventing conception, because he's abstaining from sex all of his life. He wouldn't be said to be doing anything wrong (unless it is God's will that he marry!): he isn't separating the unitive and procreative aspects of sex because all he is doing is avoiding sex. But I think that in the same sense that you say NFP is a contraceptive behavior, a man's decision not to marry is contraceptive behavior: he's deciding not to do the actions involved in starting a family. However, what he's doing doesn't alter the sexual act or alter his own reproductive system, or anyone else. It simply means he recognizes that, since having sex naturally leads to children in healthy adults of reproductive age, one can avoid children by avoiding sex altogether. NFP extends this to say that even married couples who need to avoid conception can do so by recognizing that having sex naturally leads to children only at certain times, and that one can avoid children by avoiding sex at specific times in the cycle.
NFP, like "artificial" methods of birth control (I don't know how to refer to it in such a way that it won't offend) does make use of human reason and understanding of the human body so that a couple can behave in such a way that they will not conceive. But in doing so, it doesn't interfer with the one-flesh union of sex, and it doesn't interfere with the reproductive processes of the body. In that it cooperates with the system of fertility that God designed, rather than subverting it, we say that it "speaks of respect for fertility" in a way that artificial birth control doesn't. (See some of my earlier points; I'm starting to repeat myself.) In this sense, it seems to me that even when taken as a whole, NFP speaks of acceptance of fertility, not rejection. It says "yes, this cyle you made is wonderful, and it works well. I will not do anything to damage my ability to conceive."
Snuggle Muffin wrote: For now I'll let my previous paragraph speak to this, along with this more specific response: We are designed by God to get pregnant when we have sex on certain days of the cycle; our sexual relationship as a whole is designed by God to produce children. Wouldn't 'contraception' and NFP both render the sexual relationship sterile, thereby preventing the sexual relationship from doing what it is biologically supposed to be doing (and speaking) as intended by God?
Some of your own arguments against a Full Quiver view seem relevant here. Furthermore, I think it might help to word the question in a different way. Suppose we ask:" does God expect married couples to have intercourse?" I think we would both agree that the answer is yes. If we ask "Does God expect married couples to have children?" I would suggest that the answer is generally "yes" though there are exceptions. And as you suggest, normally, God expects that a couple's sexual life will lead to children. But if you ask:"does God expect that a couple have children whenever possible?" or "does God expect that every sexual act should lead to conception?" then the answer is less clear; again, the dialogue on "not using anything" raised a number of reasons why couples might not be supposed to have as many children as they could. In other words, there are reasons why God would will that a couple not have children, but there are also reasons why a couple would still be encouraged to/expected to sometimes engage in marital relations if they weren't intending to conceive. These reasons include a number of things you've already brought up, such as the fact that procreation isn't the only purpose for sex.
So if it is established that a couple might have valid reason to have sexual activity but they might also have reasons to need to avoid conception, then we've established that they might have need to control birth in some way. Then the question about birth control becomes: "Are some ways of preventing conception more moral than others?" The Catholic answer to this qusetion could be put different ways. It could be said: "yes, because some actions speak of respect for fertility while others reject it" or "yes, because some actions alter the sexual act or the human body to prevent conception, while others do not." In other words, we come back to my earlier point: NFP-only theology doesn't say that it is always wrong to alter one's behavior so that one doesn't conceive. If that were the case, then people who didn't marry because they didn't want families would be necessarily be sinning.
If we agree that married couples are both expected to have a sexual life but not necessarily expected to have children at all times of their life, then the issue of whether it is permissable for their sexual behavior as a whole to be "sterile" is answered. What determines the morality of the method of regulating family size or time of birth is not just the couple's intentions, though they are important, but also the specific action involved and what it speaks. This action matters precisely because of our body-soul unity; it is precisely because Christians are not dualists that they should not assume that any method of regulating birth is as permissable as another. What we do to our with our bodies communicates something about them; and as my previous post indicated, the use of NFP communicates something different from the use contraception EVEN IF THE COUPLE'S INTENTIONS ARE OTHERWISE GOOD.
To put one way, if we grant that Christians are allowed to delay or prevent the birth of children, that doesn't alter the fact that HOW you do something is just as important as WHAT you do. To go back to my previous analogy, a man who pulls the plug on a brain-dead wife my be acting in such a way that she dies, but he isn't doing the same thing as a man who injects his wife with a toxic drug. In one case, he allows her body to die naturally; in the other, he disrupts its function. For couples using NFP, whether they use it to conceive or to avoid, they allow the natural consequences of each sexual action to occur. What NFP speaks of is a desire not to USE the gift of fertility at a specific point in time, but it doesn't deny that gift by getting rid of fertility. When artificial methods are used, on the other hand, each action speaks not just a desire not to USE fertility but a physical or chemical rejection of it: "I don't want your/my body to ovulate as it is supopsed to" "I don't want my body to join yours entirely as it is designed to; I want a barrier of latex to separate us so we don't conceive" etc. There's a difference between choosing not to use something and rejecting it outright: if your Aunt Tilly gives you a vase that clashes with your living room, you might perfectly reasonably put it in the closet until you move to a house where it wouldn't clash, but it wouldn't be respectful for you to smash it.
And now I think I'm just repeating myself in different words, so I'm going to stop here.