Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why We're Contraception-Free, Part 3: No Longer Afraid

Ready to head out for a date (did not intend to match; and yes, Krista
did continue to date me even though my shirt was not ironed)
Accepting that the use of contraception is immoral in the abstract is one thing; seeing what it actually means in the real world is another. What would our life be like? What would this mean for our marriage? Would it make things too hard?

When we first concluded that the use of contraception was immoral, Krista and I were not immediately aware of anyone else who believed likewise, much less anyone who lived accordingly. Granted, contraception habits hadn't exactly been a common conversation topic among the few married couples we knew. But was anyone else out there thinking the way we were?

I was acquainted with a communications professor who I knew had seven kids (eight kids now) and was known for giving good marriage counseling with his wife. They were at least open to a big family, so they seemed like a good place to start. Since Krista was still in France, I headed over to their house for dinner by myself to start getting advice.

I learned they had also married and conceived their first child while still in college. But the child was an accident: she was conceived when they were in the process of changing contraceptive methods. Though surprised, they were still very excited and welcomed the news. They both finished their undergraduate degrees, and the woman received her diploma in one hand while holding her baby daughter in the other.

They continued to use contraception, and their contraception continued to fail (a real possibility that's important for couples who contracept to remember). After having five kids, the wife came across some literature explaining the Catholic view of sexuality and it resonated with her deeply. After she began to feel that using contraception went against her conscience, the man did more research and was eventually convinced as well. Though they were attending an Anglican church (pastored by someone who also accepted the Catholic view of sexuality) and had no desire to join the Catholic Church, they both explicitly championed Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae and Pope Bl John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

Krista visited Wheaton from France during her Spring break, and we got to meet with them together. Aside from the fact that both were smart and articulate - and that they were successfully living out what most people today assume to be oppressive, stupid, or, at best, impractical - what struck us the most was the nature of their home: it was such a positive place to be. Their house was full of people instead of just things (they did not have much), which was so refreshing. It's difficult to describe. It felt so radical - and yet eminently human.

They were open to us not only about their joys but also their difficulties, and wanted to ensure that we really understood what we were getting ourselves into. We became good friends and they were, and have remained, inspiring role models for us.

Available online for free or on Amazon for $3.95
And finding role models, we soon realized, would be important. The more we processed the implications of our moral conclusions, the more we came to see that following Humanae Vitae would require a big shift in our thinking about our whole life in general.

The traditional Christian ideas about marriage, sexuality, and the human person had excluded contraception. So the acceptance of contraception necessarily required, even implicitly, a drastic change in people's thinking about marriage, sexuality, and the human person to accommodate it. The result is often called the contraceptive mentality.

The contraceptive mentality views procreation as separate from sex (sex doesn't make babies, unprotected sex makes babies) and thus also from marriage. In contrast, the Catholic view understands marriage, as a natural institution and with sex as its expression, to be inherently ordered to procreation. Procreation, instead of being something that a couple might add on to their marriage, is one of the reasons we have marriage at all in the first place. (The word 'matrimony' literally means something like 'mother maker'.)

The Catholic Church does not hold that a couple is required to have as many children as physically possible, but instead that couples can indeed have just reasons for limiting their number or timing of children. Nonetheless, the Church does teach: "Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity." (CCC 2373) Since children are a good thing that flow naturally from marriage, large families are a good thing if possible. A large family is a privilege, not a curse (see Psalm 127.3-5). The contraceptive mentality, on the other hand, tends to view children as a burden to be avoided, an annoying possible side effect of sex that disrupts one's life, and encourages even couples with great means to intentionally restrict their families to 1 or 2 children, or even intentionally to have no children at all.

Some charge that natural family planning also engenders the contraceptive mentality since it is used to avoid children. The opposite is true: natural family planning maintains the connection between sex and procreation since the couple, if they wish to avoid a child, abstains from the procreative act. The connection is respected. Contraception, in contrast, disregards the connection and works against the human body to frustrate the natural purposes of the act.

I also quickly made the connection between contraception and other sexual perversions, such as masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, or homosexual acts. The traditional argument against contraception had been the same argument used against those acts. The theological/philosophical changes necessary to accept contraception thus also necessarily accepted those acts as well, even if only implicitly. Sure enough, not only have Protestants accepted contraception in contradiction to the historic Christian teaching, many have also quietly (or not so quietly) accepted the practices of masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex - practices that also had been previously universally condemned among Christians. Thus, it is no surprise that many are beginning to accept homosexual acts as well, since Protestants gave up the argument against it years ago when they accepted contraception.

Blanchard Hall, home of Wheaton College's Philosophy department
(yes, we were located in an ivory tower)
It is via the contraceptive mentality that contraception is also linked to abortion. In addition to the fact that many forms of birth control that are called contraception are, in reality, either partially or exclusively abortifacient (or suspected of being so), and that legally there is a straight line between Griswold and Roe, contraception encourages people to have sex even if they have no intention whatsoever of welcoming a child. What happens when, due to the failure or misuse of contraception, the procreative act (surprise) procreates anyway? Abortion is the fail-safe. Full, unrestricted access to abortion is what ensures that one's contracepted sex will remain baby-free. (For more, see Evangelium Vitae, 13.)

As we realized that Humanae Vitae wasn't ultimately just about contraception but was an entirely different way of approaching the world, and that, as such, we were going to be swimming upstream against major cultural forces, it became clear that finding as many role models as possible was going to be immensely helpful. So I continued to seek out like-minded people.

There was another professor, this one from the Bible department, who I came to hear was against the use of contraception. He and his wife had come to the conviction that the use of contraception was immoral in the last few years via Catholic moral arguments. They also became our friends and a helpful support.

I found additional support from a philosophy professor (I was a philosophy major) who was Episcopalian. She said she found the Catholic Church's arguments against contraception based on the teleology of the human body very persuasive.

I also got some push-back. When I started to explain the history of Christian thinking on contraception to a philosophy professor who specialized in ethics, he quietly pulled a big book off his shelf and started reading aloud. It was the article on birth control from the New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology and it was recounting the same history I was telling him. He looked up and informed me he had written the article.

He acknowledged the historical arguments for the Christian sexual ethic which excluded contraception and acknowledged that without the traditional arguments he wasn't aware of a good argument against homosexual acts (even though he still wanted to hold that they were immoral). Nonetheless, he said he supported the use of contraception because he thought it was necessary for women's progress, and he supported women's progress. I also support women's progress, but, as with anything, only as it is achieved through moral means. Needless to say, I found his utilitarianism unconvincing.

A few evangelical theology professors with whom I spoke said they agreed that marriage, with sex as its expression, had the dual purpose of uniting the couple and procreating children. But they disputed that every sex act had to be open to both as long as a couple was in general open to children. One even argued that a couple's fruitful service in their community could replace the procreative fruitfulness intentionally frustrated by using contraception. This made no sense to me. First off, as I explained in Part 1, it's not possible to disrupt the procreative aspect without also disrupting the unitive aspect since they are two aspects of the same act. Second, would it ever be morally acceptable to embrace the procreative aspect of sex but reject the unitive aspect? Of course not. Third, one's "sex life" is not an item; each sex act is its own act. Which is why, fourth, doing one sex act correctly doesn't make up for doing another sex act wrongly. Obviously, I wasn't convinced by them either.

My family when I was a baby, with my parents Lloyd and Karen,
and four of my siblings (from left) Colleen, Lisa, Eric, and Jeffrey
(my younger brother Patrick wasn't born yet)
And, of course, we talked to our parents. Krista's parents had practical concerns, many of them valid. Would Krista's education be cut short? Would Krista be able to have a career? Would this mean that Krista would be always pregnant or that we would have way too many kids? How would we support all these kids? Would having a child right away negatively effect our marriage? What about overpopulation? You can probably guess that the moral and historical arguments we tried to explain didn't mean much to them; they were concerned about the practical ramifications.

When I talked to my parents about it I learned that, though my parents were protestant and were never taught to have any reservations about contraception, my mother's conscience had told her early on in her marriage that using contraception wasn't right. My mother had tried the Pill for the first six months of their marriage but from then on felt compelled to be open to as many children as God gave her, and that happened to be six (I was number five). She has since told me, "I felt it was wrong to waste the Millegan seed." And my dad has said, "We never really talked about it. I just left it up to her. She would just let me know when another child was coming." So neither thought that contraception was necessary. Both wanted to be sure that we understood the practicalities of raising a child, but they were confident we could figure it out and were excited we were open to giving them another grandchild soon.

As for myself and Krista, though we were set on not using contraception, we still weren't sure if we wanted to be open to conceiving a child right away. Having found other couples who were successfully living the life had been encouraging. Still, being in college with no firm idea of exactly how we'd support ourselves after graduation seemed to be a legitimate reason to intentionally avoid conception through natural family planning. But did we really want to abstain for the first bit of our marriage? It was an option, even if not an attractive option to a couple excited to be getting married.

I reconsidered the timeline I had worked out previously. Our wedding was now scheduled for August 15th. If we conceived right away, nine months later was May 15th, though an online due date calculator put the due date more exactly at May 8th. Graduation was May 9th. It was close, but it was far from being a sure bet that Krista would be going into labor while taking a final. And besides, if there was ever a good excuse for postponing a test, imminent childbirth was one of them. We also had to remind ourselves that it was very possible that we would not conceive right away. We could even be infertile - you don't know until you actually try and a child is never a given.

What about the pregnancy itself? Would it make it hard for Krista to do her school work even if the baby was born after graduation? We figured out that Krista could take a lighter course load in the Spring and still finish her degree on time. Combined with the fact that her mother's pregnancies had not been unusually difficult, Krista wasn't too worried.

Another question was how I would support Krista and the child. I would be just finishing my own undergraduate degree - and I was majoring in philosophy. It was hard to plan so far out how we'd get by, but I figured that we would need to have a way to live anyway. And though it wasn't something either of us wanted to do, we both knew we would always be welcome to stay with any of our parents as a last resort.

Me and Krista enjoying croissants in downtown
Aix-en-Provence, France, where she was studying
What had previously made us fearful started to seem, in a new light, more manageable - certainly a lot less scary. Being open to conceiving a child from the start of our marriage appeared more and more like an option.

The more time we gave to it, the more it seemed like a good idea to be open to a child right from the beginning. The prospect of a child shouldn't worry us, we thought, it should excite us. And indeed, the prospect of having a child started to seem exciting.

Even with the planning we had done, we knew we couldn't anticipate everything. Did we really know how we'd manage everything? No. But does a couple ever really know? Obviously, raising a child is a big job. But we weren't facing it alone: we were in it together and had the sure support of our families.

We started to feel that we wanted our love to go beyond us to create a new human life. And, by golly, we'd be married - so why not? Together, we decided we wouldn't try to prevent anything and instead just be open to receiving whomever came our way.

After making that decision, it was as though a huge burden had been lifted from our shoulders. We both felt we were finally allowed to let our marriage do what we naturally wanted our marriage to do: be fruitful. We didn't have to be bothered with trying to control anything or be worried about what would happen if it failed. We could just enjoy ourselves and look forward to the prospect of receiving the supreme gift of marriage: another person.

Our wedding date took on a whole new layer of excitement and anticipation. It was not just the date of when we would be getting married; it was the date we would begin trying to start a family. It all seemed so wonderful! We couldn't believe we had ever wanted to do anything different. We were no longer afraid; we were pumped.

Keep reading: Part 4: Hey Baby
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This is Part 3 of a six-part series:

Part 1: Asking the Question
Part 2: Flipping the Switch
Part 3: No Longer Afraid
Part 4: Hey Baby
Part 5: Tested Twice
Part 6: No Regrets
Post Script

Resources:
Humanae Vitae
Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
Children of the Reformation: A Short and Surprising History of Protestantism and Contraception
Sanger's Victory: How Planned Parenthood’s Founder Played the Christians—and Won
Birth control is moral (but not all methods)
Organic Sex, Organic Farming
The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution
iUseNFP.com
Find an NFP class

45 comments:

  1. It is a good thing that you have come to a better understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage; but I think you have gone too far in you linkages.

    Contraceptives are an object and one that has no control over the actions, thoughts, and behaviour of those that use it. It is not contraceptives that leads to free love or other ills, the ideology that leads to such things exists independently of contraception. Contraception merely changes the expected price for those actions, just as it makes family planning within a family that desires and welcomes children easier. Changing the price does make it more likely that people will behave in a certain way, but with a proper understanding of family, sex, and ones body then behaviour becomes price insensitive.

    I note that while the Catholic Church preaches contraception and large families they are exceedingly bad at obtaining results (with a negative population growth rate in many very highly Catholic countries (and a negative population growth rate among American Catholics as well)). Since Catholic means Universal and the beliefs are determined by the universal practice of the believers then I wouldn't be too sure that the Catholic church will continue its ban on contraception indefinitely contrary to the (very near) universal practice of Catholics.

    In contrast the LDS Church has very little to say on the topic of contraception (which is widely used among married couples) but has one of the highest birth rates, lowest teen pregnancy rate, lowest sex outside of marriage rates, lowest unwed mother rates, and lowest abortion rates out of all measured populations. It is the most common of occurrences for couples to get married and have children while still undergrads among Latter Day Saints. A very interesting tidbit, abstinence within marriage is precisely that method of contraception which LDS are told to avoid, as the unitive nature of the sexual act is not as tightly linked as you think because sex while pregnant, breastfeeding, and after menopause are all very good things (even for Catholics). Clearly, it is not the usage of contraceptives that determines behaviour and action.

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    1. Hello JohnH,

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate people taking the time to read what I've written and engage me seriously.

      I'd first like to respond to a sentence in your second paragraph: "Contraception merely changes the expected price for those actions." I disagree with you here.

      First, perhaps this is just mincing words but you used the word "price" to describe the conception of a child. Thinking of children that way in relation to sex is precisely one result of the contraceptive mentality that I described above. Children are not a price of sex, they are what sex is intrinsically ordered to, and the supreme gift of marriage. I may be reading more into your words there, but I think this is an important point to make.

      Secondly, contraception does not merely change the outcomes of sex, it changes the meaning of the sex act itself, and that's much more important. The larger question is the integrity and meaning of the sex act itself. I'd recommend going back to part 1 and reading the quote I gave from Bl John Paul II. Marriage is the one flesh union, and sex is the expression of marriage. Contraception works by preventing one or both of the spouses from giving of themselves fully to the other. In other words, contraception makes it so sex is no longer the total gift of self to the other, and that's the objective, material facts of the situation, regardless of what may be going on in their minds. We are physical creatures, and our bodies have meaning and what we do with them matters.

      You're absolute right that while the Catholic magisterium has miraculously maintained its teaching on sexuality despite massive pressure to capitulate from within and from without, she has done a horrible job of imparting it to her members (and in the case of many clergy, either intentionally not discussing it or even actively teaching contrary to the official Church teaching). It's a grave scandal, and we need to do better, no doubt about it. You are wrong though that the Church will somehow change her whole theology of the human person to accommodate contraception because many of her members use it - that's not how the Church works. The point of the Magisterium is protect and pass on the truth and to guide people's consciences, not to remold itself according to prevailing trends. The Church would have to reformulate her entire theology of the human person, and that's not possible.

      I know nothing about LDS culture, so I'll have to take your word on it there. It may be that LDS culture is has been able to largely avoid many of bad results of the contraceptive mindset (though I am very skeptical of this), but it doesn't effect its immorality because the use of contraception is itself contrary to nature and therefore immoral.

      Anyway, thanks again for your comment. Feel free to respond and continue the discussion or not. God bless!

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    2. "Children are not a price of sex"

      Children are a consequence of sex, if one sees that as a burden or blessing depends entirely on the point of view of the person. If one wishes to have free love then children are indeed one of the major physical prices of that action. (Others include Venereal problems (meaning antibiotics may also be responsible for societal changes in this regards))

      "Contraception works by preventing one or both of the spouses from giving of themselves fully to the other"

      Unsubstantiated claim, taking a hormonal contraceptive no more changes the act or prevents giving of one another then being past menopause, nursing, or being pregnant does.

      "that's not how the Church works."

      I assume you are familiar with previous counsels and papal encyclicals. From such topics as whether democracy is a legitimate thing, whether individual people are able to choose which religion to be part of, whether the common people can read the bible independent of the priest, whether there should be freedom of speech, whether there should be freedom of the press, whether protestants and heretics have a right to life and property, whether Jews have a right to life, property, and the grace of God, whether one needs to be baptised to be saved (as Jesus says) or whether there is extraordinary grace for the invincibly ignorant, to whether God is or is not the same "substance" as Jesus, to whether images and/or statues which are prayed to and incense burned at are or are not legitimate practices, to if the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, the Son, or both, to the ability of priests to be married, to the worship of the Queen of Heaven I have plenty of examples of the Catholic Church changing according to the time and place in which She finds Herself.


      "contraceptive mindset "
      And what I am trying to say is that we don't have a contraceptive mindset. Utah is not a perfect proxy for the LDS generally, but it is a proxy. It has one of the lowest abortion rates, highest fertility rates, highest marriage rates, lowest rates of unwed mothers out of all the states (I believe some of the outlying territories may have higher fertility rates), these statistics are readily available from the government. Furthermore the church universities have an honor code which prohibits sex outside of marriage, which all the students agree to in order to attend the university and which if broken usually results in expulsion from the university. To go on a mission one can not be sexually active, the church sends out ~30,000 missionaries annually (technical changes have it much higher at the moment). Here is our beliefs as to families: https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation Here is what is given to every teenager as to standards https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?lang=eng

      "use of contraception is itself contrary to nature and therefore immoral."

      Contraceptives use the natural processes of the body which are in place for pregnancy, for menopause, and for breastfeeding; meaning it is as natural as taking any other drug.

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    3. A child is a person and is therefore a good. Viewing them as a burdensome result of sex comes only from a false view of the person and of what sex is.

      "Unsubstantiated claim, taking a hormonal contraceptive no more changes the act or prevents giving of one another then being past menopause, nursing, or being pregnant does."

      Yes it does because the cases you've listed are natural, whereas if a woman is using hormonal contraception she is intentionally withholding herself from the man. Both spouses should openly give themselves to the other. Using any form of contraception is one or both of the spouses saying they won't give that part of themselves.

      You gave a list there of various beliefs and practices. I am very familiar with how the Church functions and how she has functioned throughout history. I'm not sure what your list is meant to mean or how it is meant to substantiate your claim that if enough Catholics commit a certain sin the Church will stop calling it a sin and will reconfigure its entire view of the human person to do so. Humanae Vitae is arguably dogmatic, if not from an extraordinary act of the Magisterium, then from the ordinary and universal teaching authority of the Magisterium. Regarding the things you've listed, you've listed things that have been taught in different ways at varying degrees of authority, some of which have changed over time, developed, or remained the same. It's not clear to me that you understand how the Church works.

      Your example of Mormons not seeming to have some of the same pitfalls from the broader culture is interesting to say the least. Obviously, since contraception is not the only factor that affects these things, other factors may be strong enough to cover over some of the problems otherwise encouraged by contraception. I wouldn't say that contraception necessarily leads to abortion, but it certainly encourages a culture for that. In any case, if a couple is using contraception, they necessarily must view their sex differently from a person who believes contraception is contrary to the nature of our bodies and sex and so necessarily must have the contraceptive mindset, which I would find it hard to believe wouldn't change some aspects of their relationship, marriage, etc. I'm not involved in any Mormon communities, so it's hard for me to say.

      "Contraceptives use the natural processes of the body which are in place for pregnancy, for menopause, and for breastfeeding; meaning it is as natural as taking any other drug. "

      I'm assuming you're talking about hormonal contraception here. Ordinarily drugs are taken as medicine to heal the body, to bring it back its ordinary function, not to make it function as though it is diseased. If a woman was not ovulating without being pregnant, nursing, etc, it would be considered a very bad ailment. Hormonal contraceptives work by giving the woman hormones in unnatural ways and at unnatural times to make her body not function properly. And it is done with the explicit intention of withholding herself from her husband, preventing both procreation and full unity.

      God bless!

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    4. "a false view of the person and of what sex is."

      I believed we were both working under the assumption that it was an false view, I said as much in my first comment ("proper understanding")

      You haven't clearly defined "full unity" but appear to be using it in a tautological sense; circular reasoning is circular. In what way is it withholding oneself? And how is it possibly more withholding oneself then withholding the unitive act at precisely those times with the wife most desires that act? In most cases ovulation occurs, and one can still get pregnant on contraceptives, so the functioning is not that of one that is ill.

      "I would find it hard to believe wouldn't change some aspects of their relationship, marriage, etc."


      You mean like having a lower divorce rate then the Catholics, or living longer, or being measured as happier? (or even paradoxically having more children? And a lower abortion rate.) As in this assertion is made not only with no evidence but with evidence to the contrary. As I said, you have taken the linkage too far, the ideologies exist independent of contraceptives.

      "some of which have changed over time, developed, or remained the same."

      I know that there have been a wide range of "ecumenical" councils which were later determined to not have been "ecumenical" because the common practice and belief was contrary to what was decided at the council. Who is to say that those from the past would not have considered that the things changed from past ecumenical councils to have been the most important part of the council? I am fairly certain that all the injunctions against heresy and "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" were considered by Augustine and St. Thomas (and others) as being the most vitally important things of the Catholic faith. Heresy was considered a greater crime above all else, death to the heretics more important than for any other crime and the invincibly ignorant were condemned along with the unbaptised infant such that some chose to be damned with their ancestors rather than join Christianity, too bad they were not taught of "extraordinary grace" for the invincibly ignorant (which teaching would certainly have been deemed a heresy (at least as recently as 1870)). I realize that I am speaking from my understanding of the Catholic Church as not being the true Church of Christ protected from error by the Holy Spirit, which is to say that when I see such changes and contradictions I am free to recognize them as such rather then be forced to say that such things don't really mean what they say because the Church is protected from error therefore no error occurred (despite all evidence to the contrary).

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    5. "You haven't clearly defined "full unity" but appear to be using it in a tautological sense; circular reasoning is circular. In what way is it withholding oneself?"

      Actually I explained all of this in Part 1. What I mean by full unity is when the spouses each give of themselves fully to the other according to their gender. Part of the woman's femininity is her fertility which comes & goes naturally. Part of the way the woman gives of herself is opening her fertility entirely to her husband in the sex act. If the woman takes unnecessary hormones for the purpose of shutting down her system & make her body unnaturally infertile so she can have sex with her spouse with a low chance of conceiving of a child, that is holding back a part of herself. The same is true for the man in using a condom, "pulling out", etc. If you disagree that unity is the spouses giving of themselves fully according to their genders is part of the expression of unity between the spouses in sex, then please describe what you think unity in sex means.

      "And how is it possibly more withholding oneself then withholding the unitive act at precisely those times with the wife most desires that act?"

      You aren't perverting the sex act if you aren't engaging in it. A couple is never morally obligated to have sex on any given day, regardless of the desires of either of the spouses.

      "In most cases ovulation occurs, and one can still get pregnant on contraceptives, so the functioning is not that of one that is ill."

      Are you referring to contraception failing? But in any case, it's immoral because the intention was to have the contraception work obviously & pervert the meaning & purpose of the sexual act, which are the dual purposes of procreation & unity.

      cont.

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    6. cont. from above

      "As in this assertion is made not only with no evidence but with evidence to the contrary. As I said, you have taken the linkage too far, the ideologies exist independent of contraceptives."

      I admit again (as I did before) to having no evidence or experience in the Mormon community.

      I haven't argued that abortion, fornication, adultery, etc, can't or don't exist apart from contraception (it's obvious that they do), & I haven't argued that contraception necessarily leads to any of those things either. If a couple uses contraception, it does not mean they will definitely get an abortion (again, obviously not the case, & not what I was arguing). I've argued in my post that contraception encourages these behaviors & tends to form a culture that leads to them. And I'm also not arguing that contraception is wrong simply because it encourages these things, but instead have argued that contraception is contrary to nature (see part 1) & so is inherently wrong. Using contraception is an inherently disordered act (contrary to the order of nature). Disorder tends to breed further disorder. That's what makes me skeptical that contraception has changed nothing in the Mormon community, even if they have managed to guard against the larger ills I listed above.

      You seem to want to maintain that sex expresses the unity always, but seem fine blocking the procreative aspect on occasion. This was the argument given by the evangelical theology professors I mention above, & I offer the same argument I gave them (see above in the post).

      Regarding your paragraph on councils, etc: First, this is going off topic. Second, you don't understand what an ecumenical council is or the nature of their authority. You seem to be confused as to the nature of the teaching Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, it's current status, what invincibly ignorant means, the status of the unbaptized, or the history of the teaching, et al. There's much you have wrong here, but just to point to one e.g.: baptism of desire was taught as dogma at the Council of Trent in the 16th c. (& had been taught in the Church explicitly for centuries, dating back to the early Church), not a made up doctrine of the 19th/20th centuries as you seem to think. EENS is dogma, & in fact must be true because the Church is the Body of Christ & Christ is the unique way of salvation.

      God bless

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    7. JohnH,
      I know I've already written a lot since your last comment, but I have a question. So far you've focused on hormonal contraception. It seems from what I can tell that LDS is fine with all forms of contraception, including barrier methods. Barrier methods obviously disrupt any unity of the spouses in the sex act (they are called "barrier" methods afterall), as well as the procreative aspect. Would you argue otherwise? And if it's ok to unnaturally disregard both the procreative aspect and the unitive aspect, what is the purpose of sex?

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    8. You didn't explain it in part one, merely asserted it. The unitive and procreative both use the same act but for the vast majority of cases of the unitive act it is not also a procreative act, and at certain cases is never even possibly the procreative act (menopause, sterile couples, and etc.). If you truly believed they were the same then you would follow the orthodox Jewish position of only having sex during the period of time when conception was possible, the women being unclean while menstruating and for the rest of the time in which NFP is used, but would also go further and avoid sex during pregnancy, while nursing, and after menopause. You don't argue for that though, but for NFP which is designed as much as contraception to avoid the procreative end of sex by having sex during infertile times, meaning you recognize time periods in which the two ends are not possibly compatible but yet claim they are still linked, despite all evidence to the contrary and acting in such a way as to have recognized the lack of linkage (and with the express intent of them not being linked). The intent of NFP, whether it works or not, is expressly the same as a married couple using contraceptive which is to divide the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act, recognizing that the unitive nature of the sexual act is a good in marriage largely independent of the procreative nature of the sexual act.

      Applying nearly anything from Evangelicals to Mormons is to utterly misunderstand both. The Mormon position on homosexuality has absolutely nothing to do with contraception, though it does have to do with procreation. It appears that since you didn't manage to pick up enough from "The Family" which I provided the link to that I need to explain some basics of Mormon doctrine which are utterly different from Evangelical and Catholic theology.

      First, we are children of God created in his image, likeness, and form, He is the Father of our spirits and we have the potential to become like Him, joint-heirs with Christ and etc. Gender is a part of our inherent nature, our spirits were gendered before we came to this earth. In order to become like God, male and female must be eternally united (sealed) in matrimony for the purpose of becoming joint creators with God. Therefore homosexuality is entirely inconsistent with what God has revealed, while the command to cleave unto ones wife and be one flesh is independent of the final end of reproduction, which command is perverted by abstinence within marriage.

      Regarding whether it is morally acceptable to have the procreative aspect without the unitive aspect, I have no problem with IVF but that comes from a different understanding of when and what the beginning of life is. Under your understanding of what is the beginning of life and when it begins then clearly IVF is problematic.

      Barrier methods do not disrupt the unitive nature of the sexual act, though I am aware of how under your understanding of such things that would be the case (which is why I wasn't going to bring it up unless and until it was established that contraceptive was not per se evil). A couple is able to counsel with the Lord on the subject and receive revelation for them and for that time. Barrier methods are less popular among married couples as illness is not usually an issue and there are physical disadvantages to barriers over other forms of contraception. However, illness is sometimes an issue, other forms of contraception may not be tolerated or be advisable and the couple is free to make their own decision in this regard, as always, with the counsel of the Lord.

      I stand by what I said in regards to the councils. You believe Christ is the only way to salvation, which is good, though Christ also said a man must be born again of water and the Spirit, which extraordinary grace and baptism of desire denies.

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    9. "The unitive and procreative both use the same act but for the vast majority of cases of the unitive act it is not also a procreative act, and at certain cases is never even possibly the procreative act (menopause, sterile couples, and etc.)."

      You are thinking outcomes, not the act. The sex act is exactly the same whether conception results from it or not.

      Yes, abstaining from sex has at least the same end as contraception of trying to not conceive a child. But they are different in method. One respects the natural order by abstaining appropriately when one doesn't want to conceive a child, whereas the other perverts the act or changes one's body so one can still have the experience of sex but without either of the purposes.

      "Applying nearly anything from Evangelicals to Mormons is to utterly misunderstand both."
      I'm not sure to what you are referring here. I was referring my conversation with evangelical theology professors where they tried to argue that sex can be contracepted but is still unitive, and that it's ok to block the procreative aspect. It seems you are arguing the same position, and it seemed my points in the post would apply. My point is that it's not possible to block the procreative aspect and not also block the unitive aspect, as I explain in the post.

      "In order to become like God, male and female must be eternally united (sealed) in matrimony for the purpose of becoming joint creators with God. Therefore homosexuality is entirely inconsistent with what God has revealed, while the command to cleave unto ones wife and be one flesh is independent of the final end of reproduction, which command is perverted by abstinence within marriage."

      Yes, cleaving to one's spouse is broader than what happens in sex. But in the sex act, the unity is expressed by doing the exact same thing as you would to procreate.

      Contraception denies the very sexual difference you are saying is important. The way contraception works is for one of the spouses to deny the gift of part of their gender. Either the woman closes off her fertility intentionally or the man doesn't give her himself, etc.

      I'm not sure how abstinence in marriage is a perversion seeing as one is not having sex all the time and one is not required to have sex on any given day. I'm not even sure how long would end up counting as abstinence exactly. How often does one have to have sex to not be acting in a perverse way?

      "Barrier methods do not disrupt the unitive nature of the sexual act, though I am aware of how under your understanding of such things that would be the case (which is why I wasn't going to bring it up unless and until it was established that contraceptive was not per se evil). A couple is able to counsel with the Lord on the subject and receive revelation for them and for that time. "

      It's not clear to me then how barrier methods don't disrupt the unitive aspect. You didn't explain how, but said that God can tell people to use it and that therefore the unity isn't disrupted? As I asked before, can you describe what you think the unitive aspect is then, if it's not the full gift of self according to one's gender in the sex act?

      Re councils, I agree baptism is necessary, but the question is in what sense. Anyway, we've really gone off the topic, and there's a lot here, so I'll leave this here.

      God bless

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    10. You assert two things: First, that the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act are linked completely. Second, that sex which does not lead to procreation is not disordered (NFP) and that sex in case of pregnancy, menopause, etc is also not disordered. These are completely contradictory assertions: either the two aspects are completely linked and therefore all sex which doesn't lead to the explicit possibility of procreation is disordered or the two are not linked completely. Since the denial of each directly implies the other then the assertion of each leads to the contradiction of the other: the aspects not being linked directly leads to non-procreative sex being valid. The denial of non-procreative sex being valid directly implies that the aspects are linked.

      You have focused on abstaining, but it is not the abstaining which shows the problem but the acting which shows the problem. Having sex during the infertile times is what is the same as contraception, not the abstaining during fertile times (which is disordered). Having sex when the wife is infertile, for whatever reason, clearly doesn't lead to a denial of the unitive purpose of sex as otherwise you wouldn't do it.

      If the infertility is due to a barrier, chemicals (whether produced by the body due to a baby or in a pill), age, or for whatever reason is irrelevant, the act and the nature of the act and the purpose of the act is the same. The unitive aspect is that the couple act as one and become as one via physical changes within each body and a joining of spirits in unity for a single purpose and action which employs the sacred power which God has given to each person and gender for the express purpose of unity. That same sacred power is also used for procreation, but one usage of the power does not detract from the other purpose of the power, both are valid and necessary usages within a marriage. Since the power is given us from God and is for the couple then it is up to the couple and God to determine how often each aspect is to be used,

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    11. John,

      Perhaps many Catholics do not follow Catholic teaching about contraception. But a couple of things to keep in mind. The universal belief of the Church is not determined by the universal actions of the faithful. That is not Catholic ecclesiology .. as much as supporters of this or that popular deviation from Catholic teaching may proclaim. Catholic belief is determined by the magisterium acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There were times when the majority of the faithful rejected Catholic teaching yet Catholic teaching did not change. That's why Catholicism doesn't hold to Arianism now. And even if we look at all the faithful, Catholics talk about *all* the faithful .. not just those walking about in their skins. Tradition is the democracy of the dead against the tyranny of the living (to butcher a quote). The majority of the living can never compose the majority of the faithful.

      As to LDS culture, I have a lot of experience with it. There's a significant cultural reason for those numbers. There is tremendous cultural and social pressure placed on individuals to conform to LDS mores. And those that don't often find themselves "removed from the sample" of the LDS population. When I was growing up, Mormon girls who got pregnant either got married to the daddy (or a dupe) before it was obvious or were pretty much cut out.

      And there may be no official condemnation of contraception, but the extreme pressure put on couples to have as many children as absolutely possible in order to bring the spiritual children into good LDS families - even if it kills the mother as it did a neighbor of mine growing up - fairly well excludes the use of contraception.

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    12. Regarding getting "cut out", that is not the doctrine of the church; I imagine Catholics though are familiar with how disconnected the doctrine can be from the culture within the church. As for this being an issue, in this case the state of Utah makes a better proxy, which is primarily what I was using.

      "absolutely possible"
      "even if it kills the mother as it did a neighbor of mine growing up "

      I will believe both these claims; as they are talked about in the marriage manuals that the church provides couples that are getting married, the death of the mother explicitly. Neither is consistent with the doctrine of the church, per the manual; especially not the death of the mother. However, babies are emphasized in the manual and pretty much everywhere else which explains the high birth rate, contraceptives though are used within LDS couples, I believe that statistic from BYU is that ~90% of married couples at BYU use contraceptions, even with a large percentage of them having their first child while still at BYU.

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    13. I have a problem of focusing in on small pieces that interest me with minimal recognition in my comments of what I agree with. Or as my wife says I am way too blunt and lack tact. I can't apologize for saying what I have said, but I would like to apologize for being tactless and blunt about it. I actually do agree with nearly everything that you have said in your posts and Humanae Vitae is one of the more inspired documents produced by the Catholic Church. It is my belief (informed by my beliefs and the recommendation of the commission) that had the combined recommendation of the commission been listened to over the objection of a few priests that our positions on the subject of contraception would be completely the same, instead of deviating on the singular point of its proper use in marriage.

      As in, in your wifes comments my primary disagreement with what she says is over the interpretation of a scripture as to the authority of the Catholic Church. The understanding that marriage is about children is one of the most important things, and without that understanding then using contraceptives in marriage is nearly as bad as what people generally use contraceptives for outside of marriage. So while I do stand by my comments, I think it is absolutely a good thing that you have come to that understanding of marriage and I do not mean to suggest or imply otherwise, and if rejecting contraceptives within marriage was necessary to come to that understanding for you then that rejection is largely a good thing.

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    14. JohnH,

      Just for context, I grew up in a town that was over 85% LDS. It was more LDS that Utah, much more LDS than SLC, and more LDS than most of the cities in Utah.

      Now, when you look at those rates within the LDS church, I think they have as much to do with LDS culture as they do with LDS doctrine. LDS doctrine does not proscribe shunning, yet shunning was was always a very real danger for my LDS friends contemplating contradicting LDS doctrine or culture. LDS doctrine values the life of the mother, yet women still frequently found themselves pressured to have children even when their doctors told them it wasn't wise. My friends who went to BYU usually started their marriages with the intention of delaying kids until the wife finished her degree (contracepting), but most found that societal pressure (combined with the own values and priorities of their upbringing) to start having kids won out. I think that if you removed these societal and cultural factors, the statistics for for the LDS would change dramatically.

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    15. The values and priorities of the faith is exactly what I am referring to though. The focus on children is the absolute most doctrinal thing about marriage among the LDS that there is and is explicitly part of the temple sealing for live couples. So yes, if you changed the LDS doctrinal understanding of marriage, gender, eternal families, eternal destiny and progression then absolutely the statistics would change: the LDS would be the same as the Community of Christ.

      I think the best thing I have seen recently on the subject is this article, which very rightly points out the absolute uniqueness of the LDS position, especially as compared to the Roman Catholic position (her previous religion): http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHudsonAppeal.html

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    16. JohnH,

      I also wanted to address some of the things that you said about Catholic teaching changing. You admitted that this was based on your understanding of Catholic teaching, and I would challenge that understanding. In your list of teachings of the Catholic Church, I cannot see a single one where the Church actually changed her authoritative teaching. For example, I can think of only one council that claimed to be Ecumenical that was later renounced (the "robber council" of Ephesus). One council that did not meet any of the traditional standards for an Ecumenical Council is certainly not a "wide range." I suspect for these other issues, you also may not have a complete grasp of Catholic teaching on the issue, or may not discern when a teaching is authoritative (and thus unable to be later contradicted), or may not see the way development actually remains in accord with what was previously taught.

      So, for example, "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" is still as vitally important today as it was to Augustine and Aquinas. The Catholic Church still teaches this, it has not changed. However, many people misunderstand this teaching. It is not about drawing a line excluding people from salvation, it is about the salvific mission of Jesus. It doesn't mean that people who aren't on some parish roster somewhere can't be saved. It means that the Grace won by the sacrifice of Jesus is the only path to salvation. It means that that all who are saved are saved by the Grace of Jesus, are joined to His body. Since His body is the Church, all who are saved are bound to the Church and within the Church .. regardless of the affiliation on their surveys. The hard, exclusionary version of "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" is a heresy, and people (like Fr. Leonard Feeney who was excommunicated for obstinately persisting in the heresy which is now often called Feeneyism) who hold it do not hold the Catholic faith as taught by the Church.

      So, what actual changes are you thinking about?

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    17. Wine in Water,

      Brantly has, as I see it, expressed the desire not to have that particular discussion as it is off topic to the post. I would be happy to respond on your own blog, which could certainly use a new post. In regards to councils though there is also the other Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Council of Trullo, Council of Hieria, the Council of 815 at Constantinople, Council of Sirmium (I-IV), council of Rimini, Council of Seleucia, and a council in Constantinople in 361; All of which were proclaimed at the time of their holding to be Ecumenical.

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    18. Re: LDS, is it possible that because the community retained such a strong culture of its own they are not as susceptible to the homogenizing culture in most of the other continental states, whereas American Catholics are hardly distinguishable at all in their practices, values, priorities, etc. from the general public? Cardinal George of Chicago often stresses the "formative value" of the surrounding culture--one of the reasons he is so concerned about laws that redefine marriage itself. I strongly suspect that it is this cultural quality that goes a long way in explaining why the LDS have retained a culture of life even while many practice contraception, while Catholics who are immersed in the secular culture are fairly strongly "conformed to the spirit of the age."

      BTW found this link on the Theology of the Body Google+ Community https://plus.google.com/communities/101158741555774174752

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    19. Sr Anne Flanagan,

      A majority of LDS do not live in Utah, Utah just has the highest percentage concentration of LDS. I actually grew up in Maryland and was the singular member of my church in my school. Even more so, the majority of members are actually converts. It wasn't because those around me were expressing a good culture that I acted the way I did (and do).

      Great emphasis is placed in the church on knowing for oneself, that one can ask God and receive answers to prayers and come to a knowledge of the truth for oneself, and not because ones parents say so, or because the culture says so, or a pastor or priest says so. In fact I don't see how it would be possible to be LDS for very long if one didn't have a knowledge of God for oneself and didn't rely on the Holy Ghost for guidance. It is this combined with the unique understanding from revelation (especially in the Bible...) of what it means to be child of God, what our bodies are, what gender is, and what our destiny is that allowed me to act contrary to the culture around me and stand up for my beliefs despite quite a lot of ridicule and social pressure and do so completely alone.

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  2. (Part 1 of 2)
    Hi Brantly,
    There aren't many women chiming in so I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts. First, as someone who knew you and Krista at Wheaton, I am so happy to read about your joy in starting a family and the purposeful, prayerful path you took to form your worldview. I can't help but speak up, however, because universal statements like "contraception is immoral" are powerful and don't seem to be anchored in any understanding of other contextual immoralities.

    Two of your main arguments don't have any weight with me. It seems very important to you that history was on the side of the church's teaching on contraception. You say, “there was no way I could honestly hold that all Christians were fundamentally wrong in their understanding of marriage and sexuality for two thousand years.” Why is it hard to believe that Christian men leading the church in a sexist society may have been wrong about sexuality? As a woman, it is actually a terrifying idea that because an idea was held historically it should be held today. I can see how, as a man, the beliefs coming from a time in history when men were in absolute power politically, spiritually, and socially have a large draw; I do not suggest that you prefer the beliefs from this time because you want to be in power, but because your privilege is unaffected by ideas of the time and you have nothing to be afraid of or to lose. But as a woman, that time period is very scary. I am grateful for the changes that history has brought for women in the church- I would not feel safe in the society of the early Catholic church and I certainly would not want my marriage to look the way that marriages looked during that time. Although I may respect many of the men leading the church during this time period, and what they have to say, history itself is not enough to give their words validity. You seem to think differently.

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  3. (Part 2 of 2)
    I have also seen you mention that the pill is degrading to women because it assumes that a woman's body is inherently broken. This made me laugh, because I take the pill for that precise reason- I don't take it for contraceptive purposes, but because my body is "broken." It is not degrading for me to have to take medicine in order to better my quality of life. I realize that you are not arguing against the use of the pill for medicinal purposes, but here's the thing- I am not the only woman, or person, whose body is "broken." Because of the fall, all of our bodies are broken! The very first woman's body was cursed by God! Eve was told that there would be pain through childbearing, and to me this curse encompasses all of the hurt and pain we see surrounding this issue. To act as though a woman bearing a child is always a happy thing to be celebrated is extremely naive and ignores large populations of women who are in abusive marriages, who are too young to bear children, who are in a cycle of poverty, or who have other circumstances that show us the pain, both physical and spiritual, that can come with childbearing. As an aside- the fact that my body is broken only makes me more grateful to Jesus for choosing to take on bodily form, entering and experiencing that brokenness with us.
    It is also a huge leap to bring contraception from a correlation to a cause of every societal ill. I do not see contraception as the cause for sex outside of marriage, corrupt government (like the 1 child policy in China), systemic racism (i.e. eugenics), or "broken" families (a term that, again, seems to assume that there are any families that are not broken by sin). In fact, I believe that if contraception disappeared tomorrow each and every one of those things would still exist.
    I also think it is important to be careful about using the term "abortifacient" loosely, taking into account recent studies (that you mentioned briefly but did not include in your argument).
    I hope that you appreciate a female voice on the matter- not that I am speaking for all women, but perhaps many women who are a little afraid to reply.
    Farrell

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    1. Hey Farrell! I responded to you below (I didn't know I could do it as a reply until after I already did it) God bless

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    2. belovedone, have you investigated NaPro Technology's approach to women's health? Despite the "technology" in the name, it is focused on the most natural possible approach and has an incredible track record of restoring reproductive health (in the fullest sense of the term) without harsh interventions or unnecessarily large doses of hormones (the minimum dose in conventional medicine is 10X higher than many women need). See naprotechnology.com

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    3. Just because you, Farrell, don't see the connections between contraceptives and societal ills does not mean they are not there. It may just be harder for some to see facts than others due to individual circumstances.

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  4. abelovedone - I'm not Brantly, but I thought I would take the opportunity, as a woman who was once duped by the false good of contraception, too, and respond to some of what you wrote. You packed a LOT into two comments, so forgive if I go all over the place.

    I think it takes a lot for someone to put their testimony of conversion of mind and heart out there - bearing that in mind, I am thankful for men like Brantly to openly share his story when we live in a world that is quick to applaud those who put their own rights ahead of the child...or ahead of the mentality that supports children.

    To address your point that contraception is immoral. Well, it is. Scripture clearly states that Jesus said for all the children to come to Him. Scripture also says that what God has joined let NO man put asunder. The Catholic Church has over 2000 years of interpreting Sacred Scripture, with the protection of Sacred Tradition which kept Sacred Scripture untarnished. Dogma and Doctrine are not man-made results run by some archaic sexist institution. In fact, to say something like that, is to ignore some of the most beautiful and edifying writings that celebrate our womanhood. No other institution in the world has writings that celebrate and uphold our femininity.

    Birth control is immoral because it prevents the procreative aspect of marital union. There are two aspects to the conjugal act - and, I hope I'm not offending if you are already aware of this. Marriage has both a procreative and a unitive component. When a couple purposely chooses to use something that creates a barrier to life, they have removed God from the equation, and instead replaced their own - broken and fallen - nature. The result can be quite disastrous - contraception is like telling God there is a party and purposely sending Him a disinvite. Pretty rude, huh? Another way of looking at it can be using barrier methods and justifying contraception because it doesn't "kill" anything, simply disallows the act from being totally unitive. Nothing says love like "hey, honey, I love you, but not your fertility." Totally sets the mood, right? Not.

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    1. See my comment June 3, 2013 at 1:50 PM it applies directly to your last paragraph of this comment.

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    2. You said,

      "…for the vast majority of cases, the unitive act is not also a procreative act…"

      Not true for the believing Catholic.

      It is always both unitive and procreative for the believing Catholic. The Church teaches us to be open to life and to accept that the marital union (sexual act) naturally results in the conception of children. Thus, for the believing Catholic, the unitive and procreative act are one and the same.

      Whether children are conceived in our procreative act is in God's hands, not ours. He is the one who opens and closes the womb. God decides when a woman conceives (and He doesn't consult with orthodox Jews on the matter.)

      Sincerely,

      De Maria





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  5. {more}
    As for the pill fixing anything, I would urge you to contact a NaPro doctor to discuss whatever condition your doctor has dx and given the pill. The pill does NOT fix anything. It is simply a slap of a bandaid over a much bigger problem. It masks the problem and there is much evidence to suggest that it actually compounds the problem of endometriosis or PCOS.

    If someone has told you the pill "fixes" anything, ignore them and RUN. AWAY. Find your nearest NaPro doctor and visit with a specialist who is interested in treating your whole body, as a woman. Don't settle for the "slap the bandaid" pill script doctors. Seriously, woman to woman, that is the best advice I can give you.

    I have to conclude that your thoughts are fairly common among women...especially those who used to be the way I was. Uneducated in simple biology when it came to the feminine body. i.e. *my* body. I've walked those same shoes that used to balk at the idea that doctors knew best, that the Church was outdated, etc. I attended the most wildly liberal university around. I know of which I speak. Then, one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't everyone around me who was wrong...it was me who was foolish enough to think I had all the answers. Then humility set in, God got to work on my heart, and I haven't looked back. It takes a lot to let go of the misconceptions we have about the Church, about those wicked bad stereotypes of the men in Rome who have a much bigger job and responsibility on our shoulders than you or I could ever hope to have. Rather than sitting in judgement of them, we should focus on praying for them with a sincere heart, while praying that God works in ours.

    I pray that you will find that moment where reading a beautiful testimony like this does nothing but allow you to applaud their decision to walk away from something that is not just spiritually detrimental to self and marital vocation, but is terrible for the environment as well. The thoughts you have put out there are the primary reason why I started my own blog filled with over 50+ women, many who used to think as you do.

    I believe in empowering women. Truly empowering women...with knowledge of the beauty of our bodies.

    God bless!

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    1. Hi Martina,

      I would just like to start by saying that only after a second read was I able to see any of your genuine love or concern for me. Although you cite humility as the main impetus of your conversion it unfortunately did not come through here.

      That said, I agree with you that the pill can often be used as a band aid, both for spiritual problems and for physical ones, simply treating symptoms and smothering the main issue. I assure you that for me that is not the case, and I will not be accepting any medical advice from you at this time. I also agree that it is very brave of Brantly and Krista to share their story, and I have truly enjoyed reading it and learned quite a bit in the process. But since this blog is more than an anecdotal story and makes universal claims, I think that Brantly has opened it up for discussion, and not just applause.

      Farrell

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  6. Contraception is responsible for some of the greatest evils in the world today. It paved the way for the Sexual Revolution by divorcing the unitive from the procreative aspect of sex, making it (apparently--only apparently) consequence-free, thus resulting in skyrocketing promiscuity, rates of abortion, cohabitation, adultery, illegitimacy, broken homes and single-parent families, not to mention the world-wide demographic winter looming before us. Before contraception arrived, there were only 12 known STDs; now, with the promiscuity that contraception encouraged, there are over 50 and counting.

    By 2025, every single country on earth (save a few tiny African nations) will fall below replacement fertility rate, which means the population will not make up in births what it will experience in deaths. This means catastrophe for the economy, which will see a rise in the elderly and a decrease in young people working, contributing to the economy, paying taxes, paying into Social Security, etc. It essentially means economic collapse. Already, countries like France, Russia, Germany, and others are offering tax breaks and incentives to families to have MORE children because of the disastrous effects that birth control and declining fertility rates have had on their economies. In fact, Russia held a national stay-home-and-make-babies day, while Singapore (whose population control program was SO successful that the declining fertility rates almost ruined the economy) has reversed course and has a gov't ministry devoted entirely to fostering romance and marriage and multiple children.

    In 1968, Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae that contraception would turn women into men's playthings, to be used for their physical gratification. How very true that is today, with the pervasive hook-up culture on campuses everywhere, the long-term cohabitation without the promise of marriage--and how sad that women have succumbed to such indignities by allowing themselves to be used.

    There is so much more to say on this, but I wanted to encourage you, Mr. & Mrs. Millegan, to continue in your openness to life by rejection of contraception. God will surely bless your efforts.

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  7. Beautiful series, Brantly...thorough and compelling. You cast your net to a wide audience and I applaud your success. My husband and I, he a poorly formed Catholic, and myself on the way into the church with profoundly poor RCIA formation, found the truth through, of all suprises....a baptist minister. It was this man who first pointed us to purity, we were truly seeking the truth and not finding it easily. Twenty three years and seven children later, we are so, so grateful for the circuitous route God has revealed His beautiful plan to us...

    blessings to you both, PM

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  8. Hey Farrell,

    It’s been awhile. Hope you are well. Thanks for your kind words at the beginning of your comments. Thanks also for choosing to engage what we have put out there.

    There are three main things that stood out to me from your reply.

    The first was the thought that seemed to influence your writing that sex without contraceptives, or the idea that contraceptives are immoral, is a form of patriarchical opression of women. (Just to be clear, we are not arguing against the possibility to regulate briths, just methods of doing so that employ artifical contracpetion). I don’t know enough about the marital/sexual practices of various groups of people over time to know when/ how women were oppressed sexually, but I don’t consider avoiding artificial contraception to be one of those ways.

    I think this because, ideologially, contraception is mysogenistic at its very core. By treating a woman’s fertility as if it were a medical problem that needs solving, contraception says of woman, “The normal, healthy way your body functions is actually a problem. In order for you to be living a full womanly life, you need to be able turn off that problematic fertility”. I guess I’m not ok with something that says my normal, healthy, functioning of my body is a problem, and that I have to be at war with one of the greatest womanly gifts, my fertility. (In contrast, regulating births through periodic abstience that respects the cycle of a woman’s fertility treats her fertility as a sacred God given gift - a force to be reckoned with - not smothered.) Okay, so don’t worry, I’m not in a fertility cult or anything. :) I just don’t think a woman’s unique dignity is respected when something at the very heart of her being and femininity is so undervalued and more than that, made out, most of the time, to be a villan. Women should be respected as they naturally are, not just in an altered state.

    Since coming through this conversion regarding contraception, I’ve really come to view feminism in a different light. There are many strains of feminism, most of which I am largely unfamiliar with. I am very much in support of the enableing of women, but women cannot be truly enabled and truly liberated until thier female nature is respected. Women’s progress, therefore, must move forward within a framework that values a woman’s unique purpose, capabilities, and dignity. Anything that contradicts her dignity or claims that she is only equal to man when she is like a man does not uphold true love and respect for women, but rather makes her second-class. Contraception, through its attack on a woman’s body and fertility, is again here guilty.

    Moving forward from here, there has to be a way for women to be treated equally in society where their feminine nature is respected. We are so far from valuing woman as woman, that it is hard to say what that would look like and what it would take for us to get there. Such a vision does not have to disclude women’s education, or the ability to work outside the home. But it should disclude something that, again, is anti-woman at its very core... contraception.

    cont...

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    Replies
    1. cont. from above

      Next, in your first comment, you said you are afraid of the sentiment that assumes any practice that has historical precedent is good and true and should therefore be continued. Depending on the nature of the thing, I could totally agree with you. There are many practices in history, including those that regard women, from which we have wisely disassociated ourselves. The reason that Brantly and I took the history of contraception so seriously however, is that its use constitues an important moral question that through the ages (that is not isolated but connects to what is sexuality, marriage, the human person, etc), Christ’s Church has taken a definitive stance on. To say that this stance was actually in error for the first 1900 years of the Church would be to disagree with Christ when he said that the gates of Hades will not prevail over His Church, and to say that the Holy Spirit had failed to safeguard the Church and in leading it in all truth. Also, to recant on contraception would affect and corrupt all the other issues to which it is connected. In feeling the historical weight of the teaching against contraception, we are not taking peicemeal the things we like from history, but submitting ourselves to God’s continual and unbroken guidence of His Church.

      (Also, just wanted to point out that you seem to take the perspective that Brantly would be attracted to the decision not to contracept because he is a man. If you remember, actually in the story he tells of his initial struggle to accept the idea of being contraception-free. If anything, as the man, he struggled with the idea because he knew it meant that we would be taking on the responsibility of providing for any children that would come, something that we had decided would be mainly his responsiblity so as to allow me to take care of the child.)

      Lastly, I think there is some confusion in the way you use and apply the term broken. First, Brantly didn’t say that the pill assumes a woman’s body is inherently broken. He was saything that it treats a woman’s body as such, which is a different issue. And yes, you are right that we are all broken from the fall, but that is a seperate issue from contraception. I’m not sure how the fact that there is increased pain in childbearing because of the fall is an argument for contraceptive use. We never claimed that the situations surrounding having children would always be good, happy or perfect. (Also, remember we are also not saying that people may not regulate births when there is a just cause). The social problems that you cite (abuse, too young, poverty, etc) are indeed sad problems in this world, and ones, that we as Christians should work to heal. But that is not what contraception does. It is a best a band-aid for the real problems at hand, the ones that should truly be dealt with (get the women out of the abusive situation, we should do all we can to create a culture of self-control, respect, and chastity where people only enage in the childmaking act when they are ready for a child, and addressing wage issues, etc). It’s more loving to address and stop the real issues and not cover them up, right?

      With regard to the other behaviors you list at the end of your comment (sex outside of marriage, corrupt government, etc...) Brantly was not saying that contraception caused these things. You are right - they are a result of sin and have been with us since the beginning. What he was saying is that contraception enables or encourages these things in a way that wouldn’t exist if contraception were not in use.

      Whew. That was long and probably not said the best it possibly could be. I don’t intend what I have said to come at you personally, but rather to facilitate discussion and the exchange of ideas. Thanks again for engaging us here, and feel free to reply.

      Grace and peace,
      Krista

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    2. Hi Krista,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and thorough reply to my very dense comments, I appreciate it. I mentioned this to Martina above, but I want to repeat that I have learned a lot from this blog series that I did not know before, so thank you to you and Brantly . I also wanted to say that I am sorry that if by mentioning the fact that he is a man, I made Brantly not want to respond.
      After reading your comments, I still do not agree that contraceptives are misogynist or that tradition is a valid argument concerning this subject. I do think I understand your viewpoint a bit better, though. I also want to make sure I say that I do not think you are oppressed because you do not use contraceptives (or because we disagree). Instead, I am glad that you have that option available to you, and that other women have contraceptives available to them. I also think that perhaps one of our main disagreements is a larger difference stemming back to our Protestant and Catholic beliefs.
      I 100% agree that we must get to the root of the problem for women all over the world. However, I do not believe that because someone is hemorrhaging on the inside that we should refuse to use bandaids for the bleeding on the outside. I think that both are necessary. I have nothing but respect for you, Krista (as I always have). I appreciate your thoughts on this matter, and I have no doubt that your life will be used to be empower women (including your own daughter) in many important ways.
      Best,
      Farrell

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  9. Hello everyone! Lots of comments in the last few days. I've been trying to follow most of it.

    JohnH and Farrell, thank you so much for your comments in particular and for seriously engaging what I've put out here - that's exactly what I've been hoping for. I haven't forgotten about you and do plan to respond to both of you soon - I've simply been very busy the last few days. Hopefully I'll respond soon, so please do check back in the next few days if you are still interested.

    In any case, part 4 is about to go up. God bless!

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  10. Farrell,

    I finally got a good time here to reply to you. Since you had such a thoughtful comment, I wanted to give you a thoughtful reply.

    First off, the purpose of me putting this seris out there is to try to convince others that contraception is immoral and should not be used, and to try to show that another way is possible - or at least to try to start getting people thinking about it. You are right that I am being quite bold in what I’m putting forward. So, yes, pushing back on everything is obviously fair game. I'm honored that you and anyone else is reading what I've written, let alone that you are seriously engaging it. Please, pull no punches! That's exactly what I wanted, so thank you! You also help us to better refine our thinking, argumentation, etc.

    I’d also like to say I’m sorry if some of the responses from others have seemed brusk – I don’t think that’s people’s intentions. Regarding medical advice, people have good intentions, but don’t worry, I’m not a doctor and I have no intention to give you medical advice lol.

    You've brought up some good points and I'd just like to offer some thoughts in response.

    I think you've misunderstood my argument from history. This actually doesn't have to do with a difference between Protestants and Catholics in understanding tradition and, in fact, I was Protestant when the historical argument was convincing to me (though I am now Catholic). You correctly point out that, as is the case now, there were sinful people and sinful structures in the past. My point was not that people in, e.g., the 13th century were necessarily holier or smarter than we are today and that so we should listen to them because of that.

    My point rather is based on the nature of revelation and the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Jesus fully revealed God and the human person in his life, founded a Church, gave His Church the Holy Spirit, said he would be with us always, and said the gates of hell would not overcome the Church because he founded it on a rock. For 1900 years, all Christians, Protestants and Catholics, had a theology, based on Scripture and reason, of what the human person is, the meaning of the world, the meaning and purpose of our sexuality and marriage in general that had as a logical consequence the fact that contraception is immoral. This is an important point: one’s stance on contraception is not a standalone issue but is really just a result of what we think about these more foundational issues. To accept contraception, a person logically must also give up the historic Christian view of all these things (and in fact, most Protestants have in recent decades), with huge implications. Because of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the role of the Church, I find it extremely hard to believe that all Christians right after Christ immediately fell into grave error into something so basic about human life, maintained that error basically without question for 1900 years, only for Protestants to cave to secular pressure to accept contraception, in most cases doing so naively not realizing that this required them to change their view of sexuality in general, etc. Meaning, I see this as a deeper question about the role of revelation and the Holy Spirit in the history of the Church. Perhaps you see these things differently, but I offer this because this was highly convincing to me and I think could be convincing to others.

    cont.

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  11. cont. from above:

    In addition, giving up the traditional view means that one needs to replace it with something. As I point out, I'm not aware of a theology of sexuality that allows contraception but then excludes, e.g., homosexual acts, while still being consistent. Accepting contraception, I argue, requires, even implicitly, for a person, at least in their theology, to accept all sorts of other sexual perversions. Indeed, I've told many of my evangelical friends that evangelicals must either return to their historic opposition to contraception or else accept homosexuality (and unfortunately, it seems more Protestants are opting for the latter option, though some are starting to see the light with the former, which I show in part 6, coming on Tuesday).

    Regarding the female body, brokenness, and hormones: Bodies can be healthy or, because of the Fall, diseased, sick, etc. The purpose of medicine is to cure disease, to bring one’s body back to normal healthy functioning. Some diseases we acquire, others we can be born with. There is nothing wrong with a person taking hormones or any other kind of drug to treat a medical problem, to try to bring their bodies back to health, etc. But our bodies as male and female are not themselves fundamentally broken. The fact that sex can lead to children is not a disease to be treated. It is a wonderful fact of God’s creation to be respected. Giving healthy women hormones for the purpose of, not correcting a problem, but turning off a part of their femininity for the express purpose of being able to have sex anytime they want without the natural consequences - I’d go so far as to argue is an offense against the dignity of women. Something as deep a part of womanhood as fertility is not a problem that ruins the fun of sex or marriage that needs correcting, it is sacred gift that should be treated reverently. The same goes for men, by the way. The use of, e.g., a male condom is, in a sense, literally emasculating.

    You also said: “To act as though a woman bearing a child is always a happy thing to be celebrated is extremely naive and ignores large populations of women who are in abusive marriages, who are too young to bear children, who are in a cycle of poverty, or who have other circumstances that show us the pain, both physical and spiritual, that can come with childbearing.”

    I’m not sure how contraception prevents abusive marriages (in fact, I’d argue contraception encourages abuse in marriage by encouraging a man to view his wife as a means to sexual pleasure rather than as her whole person, which includes her feminine fertility and the responsibility he owes her). And those who are too young or too poor to have kids shouldn’t being having sex (or, in the case of poverty and if they are married, should at least be abstaining during the woman’s infertile periods). Contraception actually worsens these problems because it gives people the false idea that sex isn’t linked to procreation, that they somehow deserve the pleasure of sex apart from its natural purposes, and encourages people to engage in the procreative act when they are not in a position to procreate. I’d actually turn the accusation of naivete back: No contraception is 100%. If a person is in such a bad situation, what happens if their contraception fails and they conceive a child anyway? Contraception can’t help them anymore. Either they kill the child (the contraception-abortion link), or they are now in the hard situation that contraception was supposed to protect them from. We avoid these problems if the procreative aspect of sex is respected culture-wide (a goal we are far from, but a goal that is impeded by contraception). Further, even insofar as contraception acts in any way as a temporary bandaid in any of these situations, it is also contrary to our nature and thus our dignity, and so is not a valid moral option anyway. We can do better.

    cont. (long one!)

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  12. cont. from above (last one!)

    You wrote: “It is also a huge leap to bring contraception from a correlation to a cause of every societal ill. […] In fact, I believe that if contraception disappeared tomorrow each and every one of those things would still exist.”

    You are correct, and in fact this is not what I argued. I didn’t argue that contraception is the only cause of the problems I mentioned (as though, as you point out, if contraception disappeared, they wouldn’t exist). E.g., people are going to be fornicating whether we have contraception or not. Instead, what I did argue was that contraception greatly encourages, contributes to, and exacerbates these problems. I find it quite undeniable that, e.g., more people are fornicating today because of the widespread availability and acceptance of contraception.

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that the natural law and Scriptural arguments really are an important part of all of this. There’s a lot that could be said about natural law and Scripture, but I’ll just point out that St Paul himself employs a natural law argument in Scripture (Romans 1, he says that homosexual acts are “contrary to nature” – the same thing that contraception is).

    In any case, Farrell, thanks again for taking the time to read our series so far and engaging with us. I really do appreciate it. No pressure to continue the conversation here, but feel free to do so if you’d like. God bless you and your husband!

    In Christ,
    Brantly

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  13. JohnH,

    “You assert two things: First, that the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act are linked completely. Second, that sex which does not lead to procreation is not disordered (NFP) and that sex in case of pregnancy, menopause, etc is also not disordered. These are completely contradictory assertions: either the two aspects are completely linked and therefore all sex which doesn't lead to the explicit possibility of procreation is disordered or the two are not linked completely.”

    They are linked insofar as they are the same act. You cannot do the unitive act without also doing the act that can lead to procreation (given the right internal conditions of the woman and man, etc), and vice versa. I’d only be inconsistent if I was arguing that the actual result of a child is necessary for the act to be unitive, which is not what I’m arguing. I’m arguing that the unitive aspect is expressed only when the man and woman both give of themselves as male and female to each other without holding back. In happens to be the case that that is same exact act that can lead to children. This is why, to block to the procreative potential necessarily requires not giving totally to each other and thus also blocking the unitive aspect.

    “If the infertility is due to a barrier, chemicals (whether produced by the body due to a baby or in a pill), age, or for whatever reason is irrelevant, the act and the nature of the act and the purpose of the act is the same.”

    While the affect of diminishing the likelihood of actually conceiving a child is the same, the method is qualitatively different – and that’s the problem. Contraception acts *contrary* to nature, whereas NFP works *with* nature.

    “The unitive aspect is that the couple act as one and become as one via physical changes within each body and a joining of spirits in unity for a single purpose and action which employs the sacred power which God has given to each person and gender for the express purpose of unity. That same sacred power is also used for procreation, but one usage of the power does not detract from the other purpose of the power, both are valid and necessary usages within a marriage.”

    It’s not entirely clear to me what you are saying here, but if I’m understanding you correctly, I’d agree with you, and just point out that contraception disrupts that unity. Contraception prevents the fully physical union.

    “Since the power is given us from God and is for the couple then it is up to the couple and God to determine how often each aspect is to be used”

    I’d of course argue that you can’t block the procreative aspect without blocking the unitive aspect. Contraception works by having one of the spouses withhold part of their genderedness from the other, which means they are not fully giving of themselves, which means they are not expressing the fully unity of their marriage.

    God bless!

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    1. I feel we are going in circles and I fail to see a way to get you to understand that this: "the affect of diminishing the likelihood of actually conceiving a child is the same" is contradictory to :"In happens to be the case that that is same exact act that can lead to children. This is why, to block to the procreative potential necessarily requires not giving totally to each other and thus also blocking the unitive aspect" and wrapping it in continued assertions and obtuse language does not change that basic fact.

      Contraceptives no more disrupt full union than sleeping with ones wife during pregnancy, the infertile times of a month, or other times when the wife is infertile. You can not define disrupting the full union as using contraceptives and expect me to take you seriously, but that is exactly what you have done. The assertion is entirely circular and must be being held as a product of your other beliefs.

      Given both of the above, there is no point in continuing a discussion on contraception as to do so would necessitate going down rabbit holes in regards to belief. Logic then is utterly incapable of leading to a productive discussion, only life experience or the Spirit of God are capable of presenting convincing arguments at this point. I suggest we both continue to seek God for ourselves and leave further discussion on this topic to God for now.

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    2. "I feel we are going in circles and I fail to see a way to get you to understand that this: "the affect of diminishing the likelihood of actually conceiving a child is the same" is contradictory to :"In happens to be the case that that is same exact act that can lead to children. This is why, to block to the procreative potential necessarily requires not giving totally to each other and thus also blocking the unitive aspect" and wrapping it in continued assertions and obtuse language does not change that basic fact."

      Contraception is a perversion of the *act* not the outcome. That's the whole point. You are confusing ends and means. The ends may be similar, but the means matters. You seem to think that if the ends are the same, the means are then morally equally, which I reject.

      "Contraceptives no more disrupt full union than sleeping with ones wife during pregnancy, the infertile times of a month, or other times when the wife is infertile. You can not define disrupting the full union as using contraceptives and expect me to take you seriously, but that is exactly what you have done. The assertion is entirely circular and must be being held as a product of your other beliefs."

      I disagree. When a couple has sex when the woman is pregnant or otherwise infertile, they are not altering the act. No one is holding anything back that would otherwise naturally be there. When a couple contracepts, one of the spouses is holding back part of him or herself that would otherwise naturally be there, thereby not giving of themselves fully and thereby disrupting the unitive aspect.

      God bless

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    3. Sorry Brantly he just refuses to grasp the "ends and means" concept. You can not do more than you have if he can not agree with that simple piece of logic

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  14. >>>John H. "Contraceptives no more disrupt full union than sleeping with ones wife during pregnancy,"

    ? Contraception would have prevented the pregnancy.

    >>>" the infertile times of a month,"

    Are not absolute. We are open to life even in the periods of "relative" infertility.

    >>>"or other times when the wife is infertile. "

    Same as above.

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