Jan 28, 2009

Contraception, Legitimate Fear and the Church's Wisdom

The Obama story below on contraception brought out some comments from people who questioned the church's prohibition on contraception. I wanted to expound on that a bit as there is often misconceptions about the church's position--so I typed this as a comment in the thread but am also reposting here.

The thing that most people don't know is that the church isn't against the spacing of births. Rather, what it is against is doing it in an un-natural way. The second thing that many people don't know is that Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is the church's recommended use of spacing births is not the old-school rhythm method (less known as Vatican roulette).

Instead of playing a mere guessing game with regards to fertility (I think I'm fertile now because it's the 24th, honey so we shouldn't have sex tonight), it uses scientific signs of ovulation to more accurately predict a woman's fertility cycle and thus abstain during that period of time. I know of several couples who use it with great accuracy not only to avoid getting pregnant but more importantly to get pregnant! (Ex. I know I'm fertile right now so let's knock some boots!)

The main element here I think is fear on all sides. In the political world, Democrats fear that people who don't use birth control will have children that they can't care for--which in my mind is a legitimate fear. We all have a stake here as few people go out of their way for a pregnant teen.

Republicans fear that teens and others will have sex out of wedlock easier if birth control is made widely available and encouraged publicly, thus promoting sexual promiscuity. Also a legitimate fear in my mind. We don't talk about how this also makes prostitution more readily accessible and makes the porn industry more able to produce more of their "materials." AN ancillary result but one we should also concern ourselves with as they often prey on young runaways and other at-risk teens and individuals.

With regards to all of this...what if we all lived as if we had genuine respect for one another? If we valued sex because we valued not sex but rather a genuine commitment to another and to family. What if we didn't try to make deals all the time? Such as, "I'll have sex with you but only if I can be guaranteed that you won't get pregnant!" Maybe our mantra should be that sex should be simply reserved not for procreation but rather for people who can be responsibly committed to one another. In other words, I love you so much that I will deal with the consequences of what could happen if we have sex and will abstain from sex because I know what the consequences will be? What if we welcomed children unconditionally instead of considering them a burden on our good time?

I think that might not only welcome more children into the world but also foster better communication and conversation in marriage--thus leading to fewer divorces--which is something that neither the GOP nor the dems have much to say on.

Lastly, I don't know if most people are ready or think they can handle this kind of commitment. Indeed it is counter-cultural and goes against our very individualistic culture that values personal choice and comfort above all--especially amongst the young. So proclaiming the wisdom of church teaching often fails when it comes to practical implications for many Catholics. Some are just too scared to try something that they are unfamiliar with--and too afraid that it might not work. Women with strange menstrual cycles might feel uncomfortable with this and people for whom it might be dangerous for the wife to become pregnant also will probably choose to take fewer chances that they don't completely trust. Does this mean that they don't trust God to care for them in the midst of all of this is the large question--and the answer may be yes--which is really what is at the heart of this "sin." "I know better than God." "I can't handle my finances with a baby." Etc,. Again, all legitimate fears but our responses to those fears may be understandable but not necessarily the right call.

I'd like to see someone do a survey of 5000 married couples who have been married for over 30 years and see what they have to say about the communication aspects of this topic. How have they dealt with the things life has dealt them? I think we'd have a lot to learn.

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