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Catholics and NFP - Page 3

post #41 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilyka View Post
snip

Which brought me to a question....In the past, way past, when the Catholic church was way more serious about fasting and such, what were the fasting practices? Did they include fasting from sex? How would these effect a womans ability to get pregnant (or refrain from it)?
Technically, there are many parts of the Catholic Church that have never stopped being "serious" about fasting. Many Catholics have the mistaken idea that Vatican II effectively put an end to weekly fasting. That's actually not the whole story. Vatican II actually just gave Catholics a choice of fasting, or doing some sort of other penance every week. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the "or" part disappeared and everyone took the "choice" to be "fasting or non?"

As a Byzantine Catholic, we are still encouraged to fast on Sundays before Divine Liturgy, Wednesdays and Fridays all year long. During Great Lent, we're encouraged to fast Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. That's if we can't manage to go all of Great Lent without fasting. During Advent, (which is 6 weeks for Byzantine Catholics), we get the same encouragement of fasting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Fasting generally means abstinence from meat as well as sex, and sometimes also includes dairy products, as well, depending on which fast. Sundays are generally fast from anything except water until attending Divine Liturgy, and then you can eat whatever you want for the rest of the day. Generally, one is encouraged to abstain from sex on Sundays as well, but that one isn't enforced/talked about too much.

As for a woman's ability to get pregnant... I don't guess that it interferes TOO much, since the fasting is generally only about twice/three times a week, and never on consecutive days, unless one is fasting for all of Great Lent.
post #42 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shami View Post
Nope, didn't expect that! I think the threefold purpose of sex is really beautiful. It's what I have felt all along, but I didn't know it was part of Catholic doctrine. Gonna go back and read your two links.
I can see how nfp would cause you to be more one with your husband. Also, the spiritual part of the three fold purpose would be strengthened. Husband and wife would have to pray about it and then come to a oneness about how to proceed with nfp.
OTOH I know couples who pray about using 'the pill' and come to a oneness in their decision. Are you saying that these couples, were performing lust instead of a loving marital intercourse simply because they used the pill rather than nfp? Just trying to get clear...very interesting to me.

I suppose I still see all these forms of birth control as medical technology that each individual couple can pray and come to oneness in how to proceed.
You've prob. figured out that I am not Catholic so you can take my comments with a 'grain of salt', but I do try to follow the Bible.
I realize that not all medical technology is appropriate in the Lord's eyes. This is where prayer and following the Lord comes in to play, along with fellowship with other believers, or your priest/elders in order to have confirmation that you are really following the Lord.
In answer to your bolded question, yes. The reason being that the couple on birth control is deliberately creating an extended infertile period of time, in opposition to God's law, for the express purpose of having sex without possibility of procreation.

If a couple is unaware of the threefold purpose of sex, it's not a grave sin, though it is still a fulfillment of lust rather than a fulfillment of sacramental marital sex. This is especially the case in many Christian churches where couples are routinely told that birth control is up to the couple. They generally don't have any idea, just like many couples do not know that birth control pills and IUD's have the potential to terminate a potentially viable pregnancy.
post #43 of 146
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Lust would be defined as having sex with a deliberate attempt to exclude one or more of the threefold purposes of sex. Sex for pleasure alone would be lust. Sex for the purpose of TTC alone would be lust.
What is the basis for this definition? It certainly seems to run counter to the common definition of lust to say that having sex without physical desire is lust! Biblically, I'd say lust is wrongful, deliberate sexual desire.

Nevertheless, if sex for the purpose of pleasure alone is lust, then how is all non-fertile-period NFP sex not lustful? The couple aren't trying to create a pregnancy; they're doing it for pleasure (and possibly spiritual reasons, if you like, but that still leaves one of the three out of the picture).

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The fact remains that birth control is not postponing pregnancy, an individual intends to postpone pregnancy, and thus disallows the natural consequences of sex via the medical technology of birth control.
Well, by those semantics, NFP doesn't postpone pregnancy either, an individual does. And thus disallows the consequences of a natural sexual relationship - ie, couples having sex when they want to, with a high chance that pregnancy will eventually result - by the medical technology of fertility charting. (And it is medical technology, at least for those who don't rely on CF alone. I use a software program and a thermometer, which is at least as artificial and technological as latex condoms!)

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The reason that I (and the Catholic Church) consider barrier methods of prophylaxis prevention of the completed act of sex, is that barrier methods by their very nature prevent the semen/sperm from reaching its final destination. Thus, the completion of the sex act is not there.
Who says the sex act "has" to be completed with sperm entering the vagina (or cervix, if you prefer)? Perhaps more to the point, why?
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While you may not consider each and every sex act important, we as Catholics do.
That is absolutely NOT what I said. What I said is that Catholics fudge the issue by saying that each individual deliberately non-fertile sex act is OK because it's "completed", while ignoring the bigger picture, of a pattern of sex acts that will never result in conception because they are deliberately timed to be infertile. Which is fine, if it's necessary: but it's absolutely birth control.

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You cannot look at the pattern without also noticing what the pattern is made up of. If 80 or 90% of the acts of sex that a couple's sex life is made up of is closed to the possibility of procreation, that couple's sex life is made up of only a presumed 2/3 of the threefold purpose of sex.
Yes... as in NFP, where 100% of the sex acts are closed to the possibility of procreation by being deliberately timed so sperm and egg will never meet. (Unless they do it wrong, of course, but sloppy charting isn't being open to life, any more than using w/d incorrectly is.)

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All one can do when using periodic abstinence is abstain from sex. Thus, a couple really is postponing pregnancy, because they are postponing sex. Abstinence isn't a sin.
It can be. Wives and husbands are told in the Bible not to deprive each other except for a time, for the purposes of prayer, that they might not be tempted to sin. There are ways by which wives and husbands can sexually satisfy each other in cases when pregnancy is not advisable, but the Catholic Church does not allow them. Therefore, it encourages couples to routinely deprive each other sexually for purposes other than prayer.

Also, they are both postponing and preventing pregnancy. The words mean the same thing in this context. Prevention by abstinence is an accepted concept - look at the ABC AIDS prevention campaign.

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First, they are working in conjunction with God's natural plan. They do not create infertile periods of time the way a couple using birth control does.
So? Why is it wrong to create infertile periods of time? And God's natural plan involves a woman becoming more desirous of sex during her fertile period; so a couple certainly subverts that by depriving her of sex every month. I disagree strongly that it's "natural" for a married couple to abstain from sex when they want to have it, however admirable it may or may not be.
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Second, they're stuck with however much time God gives them. For some women, that might be only as many as 4 days. For others, it might be weeks.
Again, so? Hardship doesn't equal holiness. And from my own experience, being able to have sex "on tap" theologically speaking doesn't equate to being able to indulge in passion whenever one wants to. We have a cosleeping two year old. We have plenty of opportunities to practice patience and sacrificing our carnal desires, believe me!

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As long as that couple remains open to the remote possibility of procreation from each act of sex, using NFP to have sex only during the infertile period is not an expression of lust if the components of unity and sacrament are also there.
Plenty of BC-using Christians are open to the remote possibility of procreation when they use condoms, too. No BC method is perfect, other than hysterectomy, but NFP doesn't gain spiritual points because it might fail - if it's done right, it's no more likely to fail than most popular forms of BC.

The fundamental disagreement here comes down, as always, to Scripture vs Tradition. I do not see any indication in the Bible that sex must be, exclusively or even normatively, procreative as well as unifying as well as spiritually meaningful. It is good if it can be all those things, certainly; but from what logic does the Church derive the tenet that it must? And further, if it must, how can the Church say that NFP is not being anti-procreative when its whole purpose (when used for CTA purposes) is to prevent pregnancy?
post #44 of 146
On the "not birth control" thing: here's the definition of birth control from Medicine.net:

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Birth control: Birth control is the use of any practices, methods, or devices to prevent pregnancy from occurring in a sexually active woman. Also referred to as family planning, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, or contraception; birth control methods are designed either to prevent fertilization of an egg or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Meriam-Webster:
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: control of the number of children born especially by preventing or lessening the frequency of conception : contraception
2
: contraceptive devices or preparations
and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
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1. Voluntary limitation or control of the number of children conceived, especially by planned use of contraceptive techniques.
2. A contraceptive technique.
Contraception, according to the M-W:
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: deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation
and the World English Dictionary:
Quote:
— n
birth control Compare family planning the intentional prevention of conception by artificial or natural means. Artificial methods in common use include preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum (using condoms, diaphragms, etc), inhibiting ovulation (using oral contraceptive pills), preventing implantation (using intrauterine devices), killing the sperm (using spermicides), and preventing the sperm from entering the seminal fluid (by vasectomy). Natural methods include the rhythm method and coitus interruptus
In other words, to the English-speaking world outside of the Catholic Church, it is true by definition that NFP is birth control. If Catholics use the term "birth control" as a specific theological term, meaning "every kind of birth control as other people define it except NFP", isn't that needlessly confusing and misleading? I've heard some people use the term "artificial birth control", while admitting that NFP is birth control, in order to maintain the distinction; but I'd quibble with the accuracy of that too, as (as I've argued upthread) NFP is not natural.

Certainly I don't think it can be argued that NFP is not birth control as the term is commonly used. It is a contraceptive technique designed to voluntarily limit the number of children, by preventing fertilisation of an egg, etc.

Do we agree thus far? (Certainly some Catholics do, as I've read many cheerfully referring to NFP as contraception or birth control.)
post #45 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
What is the basis for this definition? It certainly seems to run counter to the common definition of lust to say that having sex without physical desire is lust! Biblically, I'd say lust is wrongful, deliberate sexual desire.

Nevertheless, if sex for the purpose of pleasure alone is lust, then how is all non-fertile-period NFP sex not lustful? The couple aren't trying to create a pregnancy; they're doing it for pleasure (and possibly spiritual reasons, if you like, but that still leaves one of the three out of the picture).


Well, by those semantics, NFP doesn't postpone pregnancy either, an individual does. And thus disallows the consequences of a natural sexual relationship - ie, couples having sex when they want to, with a high chance that pregnancy will eventually result - by the medical technology of fertility charting. (And it is medical technology, at least for those who don't rely on CF alone. I use a software program and a thermometer, which is at least as artificial and technological as latex condoms!)


Who says the sex act "has" to be completed with sperm entering the vagina (or cervix, if you prefer)? Perhaps more to the point, why?

That is absolutely NOT what I said. What I said is that Catholics fudge the issue by saying that each individual deliberately non-fertile sex act is OK because it's "completed", while ignoring the bigger picture, of a pattern of sex acts that will never result in conception because they are deliberately timed to be infertile. Which is fine, if it's necessary: but it's absolutely birth control.


Yes... as in NFP, where 100% of the sex acts are closed to the possibility of procreation by being deliberately timed so sperm and egg will never meet. (Unless they do it wrong, of course, but sloppy charting isn't being open to life, any more than using w/d incorrectly is.)


It can be. Wives and husbands are told in the Bible not to deprive each other except for a time, for the purposes of prayer, that they might not be tempted to sin. There are ways by which wives and husbands can sexually satisfy each other in cases when pregnancy is not advisable, but the Catholic Church does not allow them. Therefore, it encourages couples to routinely deprive each other sexually for purposes other than prayer.

Also, they are both postponing and preventing pregnancy. The words mean the same thing in this context. Prevention by abstinence is an accepted concept - look at the ABC AIDS prevention campaign.


So? Why is it wrong to create infertile periods of time? And God's natural plan involves a woman becoming more desirous of sex during her fertile period; so a couple certainly subverts that by depriving her of sex every month. I disagree strongly that it's "natural" for a married couple to abstain from sex when they want to have it, however admirable it may or may not be.

Again, so? Hardship doesn't equal holiness. And from my own experience, being able to have sex "on tap" theologically speaking doesn't equate to being able to indulge in passion whenever one wants to. We have a cosleeping two year old. We have plenty of opportunities to practice patience and sacrificing our carnal desires, believe me!


Plenty of BC-using Christians are open to the remote possibility of procreation when they use condoms, too. No BC method is perfect, other than hysterectomy, but NFP doesn't gain spiritual points because it might fail - if it's done right, it's no more likely to fail than most popular forms of BC.

The fundamental disagreement here comes down, as always, to Scripture vs Tradition. I do not see any indication in the Bible that sex must be, exclusively or even normatively, procreative as well as unifying as well as spiritually meaningful. It is good if it can be all those things, certainly; but from what logic does the Church derive the tenet that it must? And further, if it must, how can the Church say that NFP is not being anti-procreative when its whole purpose (when used for CTA purposes) is to prevent pregnancy?
You're right, I probably should specify "artificial" birth control for the sake of clarity, but since we're talking about the Catholic Church and NFP, I kind of figured that it was implicit. The thing is that when you say "birth control" 99 people out of 100 interpret that to mean "the pill" or some other contraceptive device or medicine. NFP is neither of those things. Its true purpose is not to divorce sex from procreation.

The Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality, sodomy, and the withdrawal method, which the Church calls Onanism. God condemned Onan to death because he had sex with his brothers' widow, and instead of finishing inside her, he deliberately pulled out and "spilled his seed upon the ground". So it's pretty clear, to me, at least, and to the Catholic Church, that anything that deliberately interrupts sex to prevent conception is a great big biblical no-no.

The reason it's wrong to create extended infertile periods of time is that the bible says, "What God has put together, let no one take apart". God created sex with multiple purposes in mind. "Making love" and "making babies" is the same act. Contraceptive devices, artificial birth control, etc, are man pulling apart the many purposes of sex. Specifically, the statement is often interpreted to mean that divorce is always immoral, and marriage is permanent, but it also can be read that the purpose of marriage cannot be separated apart. We are to become one with our spouse, spiritually, and as physically as possible. We are to be fruitful and multiply, and raise our children in the way that God has commanded us.

NFP, periodic abstinence, does nothing to pull apart anything. God put infertile times into our cycles, sometimes extended infertile times, as in when ecological breastfeeding naturally suppresses ovulation. Those times are a gift to us so that we might give ourselves to each other fully, without reservation, without getting pregnant each and every time we have sex. God knows we need a break-- so he built one in. It isn't a sin to use that break temporarily.

For extended periods of time without sufficient reason? Yeah, that's a sin.

Now, as to your assertion that it's unnatural to abstain from sex when a woman wants it: Why is it any more unnatural than to abstain from sex when a man wants it? Self-control and moderation are extolled everywhere in the bible. If a couple has sufficiently serious reasons that they really shouldn't get pregnant, it's really NOT that hard to have the self-control necessary to abstain. If the couple's reasons are not serious enough that they have the self control? Then they are not serious enough to prevent a pregnancy.

Again, this whole conversation is predicated on the fact that using NFP to avoid pregnancy is only morally permissible if they have serious justification for not getting pregnant. There's four criteria that must be met for this to be the case, it's called the double-effect principle:

1. The action to be done must be good in itself or at least be morally indifferent.

2. The good effect must not be obtained by means of the evil effect. That is, the bad effect must be only an incidental by-product and not an actual factor in the accomplishment of the good effect.

3. The evil effect must not be intended for itself but only permitted. All bad will must be excluded from the act.

4. There must be a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect. At least the good and evil effects should be nearly equivalent.


So, in the case of CTA using NFP, for a sufficiently serious reason, let's say, the wife/mother in the equation is currently mentally unstable and requires Lithium to be mentally stable enough take care of her children

1) abstinence is good in most circumstances;
2) the "bad effect" of avoiding conception is not accomplished through an evil means (abstinence). It's actually a side effect of the need to avoid causing harm to a developing fetus, since Lithium is extremely dangerous for the unborn child.
3) The "evil effect" of preventing a pregnancy is not because the couple is not open to new life, but because they do not want to cause harm to a child.
4) the mother needs to be able to function, be mentally stable, and able to care for her children. The good effect of being able to care for her children, at least equals the effect of delaying the entrance of new life into the family.

Using artificial birth control for the same reason, however, these same criteria cannot be met because the first condition cannot be met: "birth control pills or condoms are not good or morally neutral" and this stops the analysis cold.
The bible is clear that onanism is condemned (therefore, logically, condoms would also be condemned). Birth control pills always have the potential to cause the termination of a pregnancy-- and that is not morally neutral. Then you add in the whole "let no man take apart" principle, and you arrive at the conclusion that, morally, using birth control and NFP are worlds apart from this perspective.

If a couple can genuinely not be open at all to the possibility of new life from sex, they really ought to be abstaining completely rather than using only the infertile periods in the cycle, because then they do run the risk of fulfilling lust rather than the whole threefold purpose of sex. There are many couples that can remain open to the possibility while trusting in God's plan that it will not be very likely.

And at this point, I need to go to bed. I'll try checking in tomorrow.
post #46 of 146
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Originally Posted by lilyka View Post
But the Catholic church, as mentioned in this earlier thread, is more keen on being willing to evolve.
I'm guessing that only an Orthodox would think that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
The fundamental disagreement here comes down, as always, to Scripture vs Tradition. I do not see any indication in the Bible that sex must be, exclusively or even normatively, procreative as well as unifying as well as spiritually meaningful. It is good if it can be all those things, certainly; but from what logic does the Church derive the tenet that it must? And further, if it must, how can the Church say that NFP is not being anti-procreative when its whole purpose (when used for CTA purposes) is to prevent pregnancy?
IMO there is no real logic in a lot of Catholic Tradition. Tradition has largely been based on cultural norms, political agenda, and an apparent need to answer questions that might better remain a mystery of faith (What happens to babies who die without baptism?).
post #47 of 146
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Human sexuality is the core of the whole Catholic upheaval that the Pope and the Vatican still refuse to face and discuss realistically.
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A chronic problem with church pronouncements about sex is their use of the idea of natural law as they define and apply it. The Vatican represents their interpretation of sexual human nature as an absolute determination. They isolate the idea and impose it as an instrument of control. The approach fails to acknowledge that natural law is also the inherent practical and reasonable guide to conscience independent of revelation.
http://ncronline.org/blogs/examining...nce-disclosure
post #48 of 146
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Using responsible contraception puts us in mature partnership with, not opposition to, our God when it comes to procreation. Suggesting that responsible birth control demonstrates disrespect for life is also bad theology. The Church should make a clear moral distinction between proactive and reactive birth control (i.e. abortion).
http://wednesdayjournalonline.com/ma...00&TM=46072.61
post #49 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by saimeiyu View Post

The reason it's wrong to create extended infertile periods of time is that the bible says, "What God has put together, let no one take apart". God created sex with multiple purposes in mind. "Making love" and "making babies" is the same act. Contraceptive devices, artificial birth control, etc, are man pulling apart the many purposes of sex. Specifically, the statement is often interpreted to mean that divorce is always immoral, and marriage is permanent, but it also can be read that the purpose of marriage cannot be separated apart. We are to become one with our spouse, spiritually, and as physically as possible. We are to be fruitful and multiply, and raise our children in the way that God has commanded us.

NFP, periodic abstinence, does nothing to pull apart anything. God put infertile times into our cycles, sometimes extended infertile times, as in when ecological breastfeeding naturally suppresses ovulation. Those times are a gift to us so that we might give ourselves to each other fully, without reservation, without getting pregnant each and every time we have sex. God knows we need a break-- so he built one in. It isn't a sin to use that break temporarily.
So you're saying the difference is working within God's paradigm (nfp) vs. creating our own paradigm (artificial birth control)?


Of course, using NFP, there's always the chance of misinterpreting your signs or whatever, and getting pregnant. I have a friend who was using it and ovulated twice that month, unexpectedly, and now has a child because of it... but then I know lots of people who had babies on the pill or the condom broke or whatever...

really interesting discussion.
post #50 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
I mean, leukemia used to kill children routinely. Now many cases of childhood leukemia are curable. But I can't imagine a Catholic would say that leukemia treatment clearly goes against the will of God, who must have ordained that child to die, the way all those kids did in the past. I'm not trying to debate anything; this isn't a topic I know much about. I just don't understand how using new medical knowledge in one instance is ok, but a woman using medical knowledge of her cycle to determine whether/when we have kids is not, especially since it doesn't involve invasive or artificial reproductive technology, or any technology, really, other than the knowledge people have gained about human reproduction.
I have never heard an explanation of why Catholics (or any number of other religions) are allowed to pick what medical technologies they allow and don't allow. If god is in control and we aren't supposed to interfere, why should we take any life-saving measures. I have heard the question asked many times, and never really addressed.
post #51 of 146
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Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post
So you're saying the difference is working within God's paradigm (nfp) vs. creating our own paradigm (artificial birth control)?


Of course, using NFP, there's always the chance of misinterpreting your signs or whatever, and getting pregnant. I have a friend who was using it and ovulated twice that month, unexpectedly, and now has a child because of it... but then I know lots of people who had babies on the pill or the condom broke or whatever...

really interesting discussion.
Yes.
post #52 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolip View Post
I have never heard an explanation of why Catholics (or any number of other religions) are allowed to pick what medical technologies they allow and don't allow. If god is in control and we aren't supposed to interfere, why should we take any life-saving measures. I have heard the question asked many times, and never really addressed.
The question is what the aim of the medical technology is. Treatment to fix a defect, (such as in leukemia or treating infertility with Clomid) or cure an illness is not an attempt to take anything apart or create our own reality. We're just setting it right again, like setting a broken leg.

Treatment to change the fundamental purpose of a body system or organ(such as voluntary sterilization for birth control purposes, or to suppress the fertility cycle) is not OK.
post #53 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by saimeiyu View Post
The question is what the aim of the medical technology is. Treatment to fix a defect, (such as in leukemia or treating infertility with Clomid) or cure an illness is not an attempt to take anything apart or create our own reality. We're just setting it right again, like setting a broken leg.

Treatment to change the fundamental purpose of a body system or organ(such as voluntary sterilization for birth control purposes, or to suppress the fertility cycle) is not OK.
but if it was God's will for something to happen (broken leg, cancer, whatever...) why should we assume that is should be fixed. How can it be a defect if God planned it?
post #54 of 146
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Originally Posted by Toolip View Post
but if it was God's will for something to happen (broken leg, cancer, whatever...) why should we assume that is should be fixed. How can it be a defect if God planned it?
I think you're confusing Catholics with some kind of fundamentalist. OTOH, if you can't see the difference between abortion and cough medicine, then I really don't know what to tell you.

saimeiyu, thanks for your great responses.
post #55 of 146
Quote:
Originally Posted by saimeiyu View Post
The question is what the aim of the medical technology is. Treatment to fix a defect, (such as in leukemia or treating infertility with Clomid) or cure an illness is not an attempt to take anything apart or create our own reality. We're just setting it right again, like setting a broken leg.

Treatment to change the fundamental purpose of a body system or organ(such as voluntary sterilization for birth control purposes, or to suppress the fertility cycle) is not OK.
So - using this logic - where do you suppose elective plastic surgery fits in? I'm not talking facelifts and Barbie breast implants here, I mean stuff like reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy (or a breast reduction for severe back pain), cosmetic surgery for someone disfigured in an accident, etc.

The gall bladder, spleen, tonsils, adenoids, and appendix are examples of organs that have a fundamental purpose, but there are times when their presence causes serious health problems (even life-threatening). Do we just let them be, and trust that God will provide?

Personally, I think that God gave us some common sense, and medical science, for a reason.
post #56 of 146
saimeiyu ~ Thank you. That answered my question. I know my Trad. Catholic friend still keeps the traditional fasts but I generally consider her super awesome and don't expect other people to live up to her awesomeness in area of their lives She is my role model

And how do I keep all the fasts (at least the sex part) well, I am as single as a girl can get so not doing the deed comes easy for me. If that were not the case I think the daily fasts would be easy for me but things like Lent (which totals like 8 or 9 weeks for us) would totally suck. And I would most likely be confessing often that I did not keep the fast very well.
post #57 of 146
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You're right, I probably should specify "artificial" birth control for the sake of clarity, but since we're talking about the Catholic Church and NFP, I kind of figured that it was implicit. The thing is that when you say "birth control" 99 people out of 100 interpret that to mean "the pill" or some other contraceptive device or medicine. NFP is neither of those things. Its true purpose is not to divorce sex from procreation.
On MDC at least, I think people are intelligent enough to realise contraceptive techniques exist as well as devices and medicines. Most people have heard of withdrawal, and a significant percentage have heard of NFP/FAM/the rhythm method/Creighton's.

And the purpose of NFP when used to avoid pregnancy is to divorce sex from procreation, by timing the sex so it occurs during non-fertile times.

It's also artificial, so would be included under the term "artificial birth control". In fact, I'd say birth control is artificial by definition - even using ecological breastfeeding is artificial to an extent.

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The Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality, sodomy, and the withdrawal method, which the Church calls Onanism. God condemned Onan to death because he had sex with his brothers' widow, and instead of finishing inside her, he deliberately pulled out and "spilled his seed upon the ground". So it's pretty clear, to me, at least, and to the Catholic Church, that anything that deliberately interrupts sex to prevent conception is a great big biblical no-no.
I don't believe people generally practice sodomy for reasons of birth control...

Onan was condemned for failing to fulfil his role in the levirite marriage. His brother's wife slept with him under the impression he would provide her with an heir, and he cheated and used her simply to satisfy his lust. There's no textual evidence that coitus interruptus in and of itself is wrong.
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The reason it's wrong to create extended infertile periods of time is that the bible says, "What God has put together, let no one take apart".
A verse you've taken totally out of context. It's referring to divorce: there's no textual evidence it has a broader application, otherwise one could argue it is unbiblical to amputate someone's diseased arm!

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God created sex with multiple purposes in mind. "Making love" and "making babies" is the same act.
Well, no, it's not. If God intended it to be, He failed rather spectacularly, given that most acts of sex do not result in making babies. That's a biological fact - they are not inseparable. Heck, after menopause a woman could make love for 20 or 30 years without making babies - it's still sex!

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Contraceptive devices, artificial birth control, etc, are man pulling apart the many purposes of sex.
If so, then so is NFP - sex without babies.

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Specifically, the statement is often interpreted to mean that divorce is always immoral, and marriage is permanent, but it also can be read that the purpose of marriage cannot be separated apart.
According to what textual principles?

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We are to become one with our spouse, spiritually, and as physically as possible. We are to be fruitful and multiply, and raise our children in the way that God has commanded us.
There I agree with you.
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NFP, periodic abstinence, does nothing to pull apart anything. God put infertile times into our cycles, sometimes extended infertile times, as in when ecological breastfeeding naturally suppresses ovulation. Those times are a gift to us so that we might give ourselves to each other fully, without reservation, without getting pregnant each and every time we have sex. God knows we need a break-- so he built one in. It isn't a sin to use that break temporarily.
So God didn't make sex and babies inseparable, in fact. He's OK with people having sex without getting pregnant. If you want to argue that God is only OK with using naturally-occurring periods of fertility, you need to explain why. It certainly isn't stated in the Bible, although there is a lot stated about manmade rules which put a heavy yoke on believers.

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Now, as to your assertion that it's unnatural to abstain from sex when a woman wants it: Why is it any more unnatural than to abstain from sex when a man wants it? Self-control and moderation are extolled everywhere in the bible. If a couple has sufficiently serious reasons that they really shouldn't get pregnant, it's really NOT that hard to have the self-control necessary to abstain. If the couple's reasons are not serious enough that they have the self control? Then they are not serious enough to prevent a pregnancy.
That's very offensive and dubious psychologising. Really, you can't imagine being in the state of mind where one wants to have sex without getting pregnant? A woman undergoing chemo will NEVER be tempted to seek comfort in her husband's arms for six months, because she knows she can't get pregnant so she'll just have to use self-control?

Self-control and moderation are indeed considered worthy of praise in the Bible - but not with regards to sex between married couples. The ONLY comments the Bible makes about sex between husbands and wives are positive comments - the "delight in the wife of your youth" kinds, and the injunction NOT to deprive each other. There is no commandment to moderation, and a specific command to have sex regularly. As I said in my previous post, most couples will find they can't have sex whenever they feel like it for practical reasons anyway - but there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says married people should have sex "in moderation". Marriage is in one passage regarded as a preventive for lust ("it is better to marry than burn") - this would be rather meaningless if a couple could only have sex 4 days out of every cycle, to use your example! The Bible does place strict limits on extra-marital sex, but I can't see any textual evidence that sex inside marriage is to be resisted whenever possible. The attitude is a rather enthusiastic "Go for it!".

Also, there's a biological difference between the sex drives of men and women, as I'm sure you know. In a sense it's unnatural for a couple not to have sense whenever they mutually desire it; just as it's unnatural for a person not to eat when she's hungry. But the point I'm making is that if NFP is so natural and in-tune with God's rhythms, it doesn't make sense that the peak period of sexual desire corresponds with enforced abstinence.

Will post this before my computer crashes or something, and then address the next half of your post.
post #58 of 146
I'm familiar with the principle of double-effect, but I take issue with 1): "Abstinence is good in most circumstances". How do you defend that Biblically, given the command that husbands and wives not deprive each other?

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Using artificial birth control for the same reason, however, these same criteria cannot be met because the first condition cannot be met: "birth control pills or condoms are not good or morally neutral" and this stops the analysis cold.
They're OBJECTS - of course they're morally neutral. An atomic bomb is as morally neutral as a Bible - they're things. It all depends on how they're used, which is of course the issue in question. Even birth control pills can be used in a morally acceptable way - say, to fix a gynaecological condition in a single woman.

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The bible is clear that onanism is condemned (therefore, logically, condoms would also be condemned).
Addressed already.

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Birth control pills always have the potential to cause the termination of a pregnancy-- and that is not morally neutral.
Which is why I'm opposed to HBC in most circumstances.

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Then you add in the whole "let no man take apart" principle
Addressed upthread...
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and you arrive at the conclusion that, morally, using birth control and NFP are worlds apart from this perspective.
Or not, as the case may be.

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If a couple can genuinely not be open at all to the possibility of new life from sex, they really ought to be abstaining completely rather than using only the infertile periods in the cycle, because then they do run the risk of fulfilling lust rather than the whole threefold purpose of sex. There are many couples that can remain open to the possibility while trusting in God's plan that it will not be very likely.
As there are many couples who use BC, remaining open to the possibility of new life while trusting in God's plan that it will not be very likely.
post #59 of 146
Thread Starter 
lilyka: Catholics used to fast from sex on all major feast days, during Lent (and Advent, I think), and three days before receiving communion.

In the time I have been away, I have reached a conclusion regarding NFP. Before I get to that, I want to say that Smokering makes a very good argument and I agree with her- NFP is birth control. Catholics like to give al kinds of reasons that it differs, but the purpose is the same. Let’s face it- I could use the same arguments NFP people use to justify NFP and apply them to using a condom. Condoms tear all the time and are actually less effective than NFP, so a couple could totally use a condom while being “open to life” in the same way NFP people are. I can even argue that condoms are MORE open to life because the couple is still having intercourse when the woman is fertile. God can create a baby if a couple is having sex- He cannot (well, He could, but won’t unless He intends another Mary to come about) if they are not having sex. So, He could will the condom to break, and the couple to have a baby. As for the whole “condoms create a barrier between the spouses” argument, so what? If you are wearing clothing during the marital act, you have a barrier between you. Using a condom would still require the couple to “talk” and discuss whether it was a good time to have another baby. The final argument for NFP is that periodic abstinence encourages couples to get to know each other and learn self-control. Once again, I have to go with pre-Vatican II practices. Periodic abstinence was a common practice in the Church, but not to avoid pregnancy. I fully support abstinence in a marriage- but for the right reasons, and avoiding pregnancy is not a right reason. Abstinence used to practiced during Lent and Advent, on major feast days, and for three days prior to receiving communion (this was before daily Mass was common or accepted). So, if a couple wants to practice abstinence in order to grow in holiness and offer a sacrifice, then go for it!

And ktgrok is right too- abstinence can also be birth control if used to avoid pregnancy.

A friend of mine made a comment and it made everything click for me- God doesn't merely "allow" a life to be created- He CAUSES a soul to be created through a direct act. Given that God is Love and is all-good, He can never do anything bad or neutral. If He causes a life to be created, it must be assumed that it is good for that life to come about, regardless of circumstances.

I wrote my thoughts down and I will share them here. It's kind of long. And it's UNEDITED, so if rough writing bothers you, you might want to skip it.

It’s funny that after all the reading and studying I have done, my conclusion comes from very basic, simple Catholic theology- stuff I learned in grade school. Not that all my reading was useless- it actually backs up my conclusion and confirms my belief. I learned a lot (hard not to when you are reading sources like the “Summa Theologica”) and that alone makes it worth it.

God is all- knowing. He knows everything- past, present, and future. He is the creator of everything and everyone. God is not only loving, He IS love. God loves every single person more than the human mind can comprehend. God has a plan for everyone, and that plan is the best thing for that person. Why? Because God loves that person and wills only good for that person. His will for the person is perfect.

Now, God gave all of us the ability to reason, and He expects us to use that ability when we make decisions. He expects us to use our reason to make prudent decisions. He also gave us a conscience and uses it to prompt us to make prudent decisions (although not everyone has a very well-formed conscience). These decisions can be on matters as small as “Should I buy a new dress for the wedding?” or as large as “Should we put Grandpa on life support, or let him go?” Obviously, when bigger decisions are required, we should pray earnestly and, if necessary, seek counsel from a spiritual advisor.

When it comes to NFP, the decision that “has” to be made is: “Can we have another baby right now?” The answer to that question dictates whether or not we engage in the marital act during the fertile period.

Supporters of NFP say that we are called to use our reasoning and prudence to be “responsible parents,” meaning we should evaluate our living situation and decide if it’s prudent to have another baby. They say that couples should pray and decide if God is calling them to avoid pregnancy (or achieve pregnancy).

I disagree. I think the question of whether or not to conceive a child is not something a couple should be worrying about. The reality is, no matter what they decide, they cannot conceive a child by themselves anyway. Why? Because sperm and egg do not make a human being- a man and woman alone are not capable of creating life. They are merely co-creators. I say “merely” because even though the ability to co-create life is awesome and amazing, the role they play is only possible because of God- He gave them that ability. Man and woman cannot create a baby without God- but God can create a life without man and woman if He so desired.

I think there is a big difference between having to make choices like buying a dress or putting someone on life support, and whether or not to have another baby. In most of our choices, the decision we make and the actions that result from the decision do not require a direct act from God. I do not need God to reach down and pull the plug from Grandpa. I do not need God to begin chemotherapy or refuse chemotherapy. In fact, if I make a decision, it requires me to act in one way or another. I can’t just sit back and expect God to do the action for me. Instead, I pray about these decisions and do my best to make a good choice, and then I follow through. I will be held responsible by God for the choices I make, but a direct action from Him is not required to make the choice. In fact, unless it’s a supernatural occurrence, direct action from Him does not happen.

Conceiving a child is a completely different story. God isn’t a passive participant in the creation of a new soul. In order for a baby to be conceived, God has to actively create the soul and instill it into the fertilized egg. Do you see how this differs from other situations? God is actively and directly involved in making babies, but not in other kinds of situations. If He wants a baby to be conceived, a baby is conceived (if the parents are open to life and having intercourse while the woman is fertile). If He doesn’t want one conceived, it will not be conceived, regardless of how hard the parents try and what methods they use. It’s that simple.

When God creates a soul, He knows every single thought, word, and action that that soul will have, say, and commit. He knows every suffering that soul will endure. Ultimately, He knows whether that soul will be with Him in heaven or not. He always knew that that soul would be created. He has a purpose and will for that soul. His will is perfect and all good. He loves that soul more than even the best mother loves her child. He is, after all, the Father of that soul.

So I ask, can God make a mistake? Does He just toss souls out willy-nilly and randomly let them be placed into fertilized eggs? No, of course not! When we hear about aborted babies, or babies born into terrible situations, or babies born of drug addict mothers, we tend to think that it would have been better if that child had never been born. I think that’s wrong. God created that child knowing what would happen, and it must be assumed that the result was according to His will. Will the unmarried couple be punished for their sin? Yes. Will the drug addict mother be punished for the suffering she caused the baby? Yes. Will the abusive father be punished for abusing the children? Yes. But the situation does not dictate whether or not it was good for a child to be born.

Given all that I have just said, how can it ever be acceptable for a couple to decide to avoid pregnancy? How can a couple evaluate their situation better than God? How can they be more “responsible” than God? Remember, God will never do anything “bad” to a person. He allows bad things to happen, yes- but He never does the bad Himself. If it would be truly bad and against the good of the child and the good of the parents (and family), then is it not reasonable to think that no child will be conceived, even if the marital act is done at the most fertile time? Doesn’t God know the situation the family is in? Doesn’t He know the financial, social, mental, and physical situation? If a couple believes God is all-good and all-knowing and all-loving, they should not be afraid of Him sending them a child. A child is not a punishment, it’s a blessing. Would God send a baby to someone just to punish them? Would He send a baby and not give them the ability and grace to care for it? Would He abandon the child and the family?

Remember- conception requires a direct act of God, and every act of God is perfect and good and in accordance with His will, whether we understand that will or not. Who are we to question Him or His will? Read the book of Job and see what God says to people who question Him.

Does this mean I think the current teachings by the Church regarding NFP are wrong? Yes. It’s not unheard of for men in the Church to sometimes “get it wrong.” Church history is riddled with errors that were later condemned. Does this mean I think I am holier than Pope John Paul II? No. It means that I disagree with him and I agree with the first 1500 years of Church teaching. Yes, I know that NFP is not 1500 years old. However, we have always known that refraining from the sexual act makes it impossible to have a child, right? So, even though we didn’t always have NFP, we DID have abstinence. I have read and read and read, and nowhere have I seen it said that couples are allowed to purposely avoid having children by using abstinence. The Church could have said that. Women had it rough back then and I am sure there were many, many circumstances where a family really didn’t want another child for one reason or another. And they might have had some really good reasons (the plague, for example). If the Church didn’t mention this officially in the past, then I think its okay to assume that it was not common to advocate avoiding pregnancy. What DID the Church say? Up until Vatican II, it was consistently taught that the number one primary reason for marriage and the marital act was procreation (and education) of children. A secondary purpose was much less emphasized, and that was the union and companionship of the spouses. The writings up until the 50’s were usually very careful to emphasize that the secondary purpose could NEVER be placed above the first purpose- it was to always be subordinate. The sexual act was primarily for procreation and couples were to always be open to life. They were strictly advised that they could not do anything to frustrate conception. Not having intercourse during fertile times is doing something to frustrate conception.

Do I think I am holier than the Pope? Nope. However, I believe that God is holier than the Pope  I will play it safe and side with 1500 years of teaching, as opposed to 50 years of teaching (50 years that has resulted in complete confusion in the Church). As to how the pope could be so wrong about something so big, I don’t know. Pope Paul VI was not known for being a strong pope. He was faced with the craziness of the 60’s and the demand for permission to use birth control (meaning the Pill). He knew that if he just came out and said “No way, not ever!” there would be a huge problem. So I think he compromised in a moment of weakness and included the mention of NFP in “Humanae Vitae.” And I think it snowballed from there, to be honest.

The truth? Most Catholics do not use NFP, and the ones that do usually have “large” families. I think the reason NFP has failed to catch on despite the huge push for it is because people realize that it’s not really that different from other forms of birth control, and other forms of birth control are much easier to use.

So that’s that. I am really happy to have found a decision that I have peace with. This topic has haunted me for a long time! Like I said in the beginning, I have learned a lot and enjoyed all the reading, but I’m looking forward to NOT waking up at 4:30 am thinking about this whole thing!

You don’t have to agree with me. That’s fine. I’m not saying that everyone using NFP is sinning. After all, they believe they are doing the right thing- the thing that Church actively encourages and pushes. The only way I think it would become a sin is if God puts in on their conscience and on their hearts, and they refuse to listen. To whom much is given, much is required. The more you know, the more you are held responsible for.
post #60 of 146
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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

It's also artificial, so would be included under the term "artificial birth control". In fact, I'd say birth control is artificial by definition - even using ecological breastfeeding is artificial to an extent.

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