I am engaging in a very interesting discussion on John's blog
about contraception, and have responded to a very long comment by making my own very long comment. I am posting it here mainly for purposes of copying and pasting in case Haloscan cuts me off again:
Dan, some of the things I found very difficult to address regarding your comments comes from the fact that you have a much more Protestant-minded way of looking at issues of Scripture, tradition, faith, and morals. I personally don’t believe that most of us faithful people have the knowledge, understanding, and especially the authority to interpret Scripture in such a way as to make decisions as to what doctrines are to or not to be followed in present-day Chrisitanity, and it seemed to me that you would disagree with me on that. All your arguments about the spirit of the law, changing with the times, exploring other opinions of those outside the faith, etc. are all fine arguments to make, but to me as a Catholic, it still doesn’t matter because I cannot go against the authority of the Church which was given to them by Christ. Until the Church, in a Council, encyclical, Catechism revisal, or in the form of a Papal ex-cathedra statement, changes the teaching on contraception, I and no other Catholic has the authority or right to disobey it. Period."Christ went against many of the “rules” of the time, and it became clear that the spirit of the law was what was important. The rules themselves might even have to change to maintain the spirit of the law relative to the times."
Christ had the authority to do whatever He pleased. The Church’s authority to change anything was only given to them by Christ. If the Church does not change something, we as the faithful, trusting in the authority Christ gave to the church, have no right to make our own changes.“ Matthew 16:18-19 says “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”"And we have to explore the teachings – not just of the Catholic Church but other Christian faiths as well, and understand why they decided to make the decisions that have been made."
Explore teaching of those who left the faith or who are outside the faith making decisions that go against doctrine and sound theology and authoritative teaching? Fine, explore. Agree with, hmmm, maybe for some. But to implement those as a part of our Catholic lives and commit an act of disobedience? No, not that.
You gave you own opinions as to what the Genesis passage regarding Onan meant. However, by what authority? Have you studied Old testament writings, languages, cultures, etc.? I know I haven’t. And so to hand over my trust to you or anyone else in regards to what that scripture means would be ridiculous on my part. Personally, as a Catholic, I trust more in the Magisterium of the Church, which is filled with Biblical scholars who have devoted their lives to the study of not only the Scriptures, but to upholding the truth and teachings of Jesus. I trust more in their authority, which has been given to them by Christ Himself. And in Catholic teaching resulting form this authority, they have interpreted that passage to be a reference in the condemnation of contraception."...and therefore basing one’s entire reproductive philosophy on this passage may not wise."
No one, not even the Church bases their entire reproductive philosophy on that passage. There are many other passages, including some in the New Testament, that reinforce the Church’s teachings on contraception. I’ve mentioned this subject in previous comments.
You pointed out that Humane Vitae says: (emphasis mine) “Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, propose, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible”
It also then later says:
“If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier”
Then it clarifies by saying:
“In reality, there are essential differences between the two cases; in the former, the married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the latter, they impede the development of natural processes.”
As John has stated in his blog it does appear that the first two statements are in conflict. The first makes a blanket statement, the second makes an exception.”
The first does not make a blanket statement against preventing conception. I emphasized the word “action” in the first statement because it is saying we must not take any “actions” to interfere with the sexual act. It is not a blanket statement about never preventing coneption…with an exception later stated. There is no inconsistency in Humane Vitae. "The last and a large part of humane vitae on this subject seem to place the emphasis on that fact that NFP is OK because it does not interfere with the natural order. This seems to be largely based on tradition and not on scripture."
For one thing, as I have said before, the teachings on contraception do have root in Scripture. However, Tradition with a capital “T” and tradition with a small “t” are different. Traditions such as the ones on contraception, Mary the Mother of God, the Mass, etc. are not minor things which can be disregarded. This is where I see things from a primarily Catholic point of view. You seem to minimize the role Tradition plays in the Catholic faith. It is essential to our faith."Some argue that the allowance for birth control is a slippery slope, but in reality that has not been the case in protestant faiths… The slippery slope of contraception has been experienced not so much by active people of faith as by those that are not actively involved in faith institutions."
That is a whole other topic, but I strongly disagree that the introduction of the widespread use of contraception in our society has not caused a slippery slope. We certainly cannot separate the “secular” people from the “active people of faith” when it comes to issues of divorce, abortion, sexual sins and the like. The statistics show that these problems range equally among Christians as well as non-believers."Whether something is natural or not, as Humane Vitae discusses, does not seem to me to be an argument for whether it is moral."
You are correct in this, hence why the reason the Church condemns contraception is NOT BECAUSE IT IS ARTIFICIAL, because it also condemns natural forms of contraception like pulling-out. Once again, the Church approves the use of artificial devices such as glasses, braces, prosthetics, etc. and so to claim it is the unnaturalness of contraception that is the issue is inaccurate. The Church condemns contraception because it interferes with the sexual act in a perverted way."Furthermore I do not see how scientifically determining when you are not fertile and only engaging in sex during infertile times is any more “open to life” than using a barrier."
Once again I agree with this in a sense, because one could easily experience failure in the use of contraception and say, “well, if it fails, we will accept the child that comes and therefore we are open to life”. However, once again the issue is misunderstood. The Church does not condemn not wanting children at different points in a marriage or preventing conception at particular times, but condemns interfering in the act of sex in order to do so."I love the concepts and backgrounds of NFP. If it worked for us we would probably still be using it. But there are people for whom this method CANNOT and WILL NOT work. This leaves us and those people in a moral quandary."
Based on information I have received, what you have said is probably true. There are some people out there who just can’t find success using the typical methods of NFP. However, this does not mean that there are no alternatives in family planning for these couples that also fall within the boundaries of Church teaching. Here is some of what my friend, a certified NFP teacher with an extensive background in medicine, said was an option for these situations:
“…there are morally acceptable means of avoiding pregnancy.
One is a fertility monitoring device sold in Canada and Europe called Persona which is a pee-on-a-stick type thingy with a little monitor that measures the levels of reproductive hormones in the woman's urine. It is respectably effective (96% I think - better than barrier contraceptives), but is not designed for women with VERY long cycles.
Women with very long cycles would do better with a different fertility monitoring device called the Ovarian Monitor (manufactured and sold in Australia) which is more complicated to use, but also measures hormones via the woman's urine and is EXTREMELY accurate and reliable.
If you go here http://www.catholicmom.com/pdf/method%20comparison.pdf and look near the bottom there are desciptions and contact/purchasing info for both devices.
Probably this will just open up a debate about why fertility monitoring devices are any different than contraception because they are technology and the answer (as I think you already know) is that contraception is wrong not because it is artifical or technological (after all a thermometer is technology too), but because it alters intercourse (or the parts of the body intended to be involved in intercourse) falsifies the 'language' of the marital act.”
This friend of mine writes numerous articles on almost every aspect of NFP and the teachings against contraception. They can be found on http://CatholicMom.com/ and here is also a link to an article written for Envoy Magazine
that addresses some of the things you brought up: http://www.envoymagazine.com/familyplanning.htm
Some additional comments made after the one above:As far as disagreeing versus disobeying. All of your examples do not lead to a moral conflict of conscience to go ahead and obey even though you disagree. It is a different story if obeying goes against your conscience. In the end when you stand before God, it is you, God, and your conscience, and "the Church said so" will not cut it.
The Catechism of the Catholic church has a great section talking about the moral teaching authority of the Church and its infallibility in "elements of doctrine, including morals..." in sections 2032-2040. The above quote was from 2035. But in section 2039 it specifically says "As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church."
More on obedience of conscience in 1790-1794.
"A human being must always obey the certain judgement of his conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it, he would condemn himself. yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgements about acts to be performed or already committed. (1791) This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits...(1792) ...assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors in judgment in moral conduct."
And finally, in regards to teaching by the Magisterium, it says in section 891: "...the faithful are to adhere to it with religious assent..."
Off topic issues brought up:"I would even go so far as to say that perhaps Paul’s view on women was so colored by the understanding of women in the time that some of his teachings on women are flat out wrong. Or at least wrong in today’s world where women are now educated."
Which teachings of Paul on women are you referring to, because he really upholds the dignity of women in his Epistles, particularly regarding marriage?"It took the Protestant reformation to bring the church to the realization that Vatican 1 and 2 were necessary"
Where did you hear this, out of curiosity… I’ve never heard of the Protestant Reformation as being the “inspiration” for anything regarding Catholic teaching."and I would argue that the Church places an overemphasis on tradition sometimes to the detriment of quickly changing teachings that are obviously incorrect - for example Indulgences, The Inquisition, and the Crusades."
As I’ve said, the Crusades and Inquisition and such are not “teachings”, doctrines, disciplines, etc. of the Church whatsoever. And the teachings on Indulgences have remained the same. The problem was that the corrupt priests of the time where abusing and taking advantage of the parishioners who lacked knowledge in knowing that Indulgences should have nothing to do with money. It was a wrong in the actions of the priests, not a teaching that had to be remedied.