Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Natural" Contraception

I spoke at the Colorado School of Mines last night on Green Sex, and had the smartest most engaged audience thus far. The questions were great, the students were really receptive and willing to discuss, and these kids were smart. I mean, most of them are engineers and probably even took calculus in high school. That kind of smart. (Luckily, I didn't let on to them that I have to use my cell phone's calculator function before I check out at Target to get a decent idea of the total damage. Or that I once - or maybe twice - got lost on my way to work. 9 months into a familiar commute which involves 4 left turns.)

So, they were awesome, and it was awesome to be there speaking to the target demographic for contraceptive manufacturers... and to disabuse them of some commonly-held misconceptions about their bodies, their girlfriend's bodies, the Church's funny holdout against technology, and the fact that there is no such thing as "Catholic" birth control.

But the idea is deeply, deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness. The notion that conception=bad and "protection"= good has made it necessary to explain the natural good of pregnancy, of the creation of a new person, of our very existence. There just isn't much of a concept of the goodness of life in a culture where our young people have come of age always knowing that they - and everyone else around them - were disposable.

The pro-abortion side of the aisle has done a great job advancing the notion of pregnancy as a "disease" and a "traumatic event." My current favorite lovetohateit advertising campaign is a sign in bubbly pink letters proclaiming (on a bus terminal) "Freaked you'll get pregnant?! Call today for cheap (or free!) birth control!"

Classy.

So I'm talking to these young men and women, loving their questions and level of participation and inherent desire to discover the truth... but I have to keep refuting a term frequently misspoken in their questions: the idea of "natural" contraception.

It was unfathomable to some of them that the Church's teachings on family life and sexual love do not leave room for some kind of "loophole" whereby, if you play by the rules, you can somehow contracept "naturally," in a way that is neither harmful to the body or to the environment, and would therefore be acceptable by the Church's standards.

Contraception has so long been sold as an ultimate good, an incredible blessing which has freed us from the slavery of fertility. This is all we've known, my reality tv generation, and to suggest otherwise is to venture into totally unfamiliar territory for most of us.

We scratch our heads, wondering what the big deal about the Pill is ... and then once we discover the consequences, we logically look for a safer alternative... not stopping to think that the method and means are as disordered as the concept itself.

To want to "contra-cept" (which roughly translates to "against" "the beginning") is to desire to prevent life. It is the opposite of love, which is always seeking to expand and to fill.

It is the desire to divorce the unitive from the procreative element of the sexual act... and it is all the rage in our culture of selfish, pleasure-oriented gratification.

Pleasure is not bad, don't get me wrong. But it's not a complete "end" in itself. Pleasure is actually attached as a sort of "motivator" to things we were designed to do: eat, sleep, make babies... among a host of other items.

When something is pleasurable, it makes sense that we might mistakenly begin pursuing the pleasure as an end in itself, but our desire for satisfaction does not alter reality. Just because our reasons for seeking sex have become self-centered does not change the fact that sex is fundamentally "other-centered."

The Church teaches against contraception because it is contrary to love, not because the Church is contrary to love. Contraception is the means by which a couple makes of one another an object to be used, a means to gratification.

Yes, sex should be pleasurable. Yes, it's bonding and satisfying... but why? Sex is designed to be both the means and the result by which families are built. Our desire draws us together, unites us... and expands us, creating (if the timing is right) an "other" who wasn't there before.

What if someone were promoting the concept of sex without bonding? Of sterile, passion-less copulation between couples seeking only the physical fruit of their union: a child?

Well... ever heard of IVF?

The point is, when you attempt to redefine reality, you're going to get burned. Pope Paul IV predicted it in 1968, and we're still reaping the fruits.

22 comments:

  1. another great blog! i'm loving the frequent updates :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I totally disagree. The only opposition to the pill is from those with religious reservations. It is no different than any other medication. Resistance is not coming from those in the field, doctors, medical groups, women's groups. Nothing but 3rd world vatican bullshit. . .that teaches plop to you drop

    ReplyDelete
  3. IronDog,

    There is overwhelming medical research indicative of the deleterious side effects of hormonal contraception on the female body. Anyone in denial of this simple fact is lacking either the ability or the inclination to conduct a simple Google search

    As for 3rd world Vatican bullsh*t, I'm assuming you're ignorant of Bl. Mother Teresa's work with impoverished women in the slums of Kolkata. Having neither the funds nor the desire to supply these women with chemical contraceptives or prophylactics, her Sisters of Charity successfully instructed hundreds of women on a very basic form of NFP, helping them to achieve a birthrate of virtual zero. Rather than further subjugating these women to the status of beasts or second class citizens, they were instead given back a small piece of their human dignity and actually educated on the integrated systems and workings of their own bodies.

    Rather than spouting off ignorant slurs against one of the only forces working for authentic women's rights - especially in the Third World - do some research of your own.

    I'm going to take a wild guess that you're not yourself a member of the "fairer sex:" those of us who are expected to ingest without question have somewhat of a vested interest into what goes into our bodies.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would suggest that saying there is no "'Catholic' birth control" adds to people's confusion on Church teaching. The Church does teach prudence in family planning and encourages limiting or spacing children when conditions require it. The only acceptable form of Catholic birth control or "family planning" is NFP. It is not contraceptive since it does not destroy or act against intimacy.

    To the prior poster who says contraceptives are no different than other drugs should re-evaluate or rediscover what the "medications" do. As Jenny points out, as a "contra-ceptive" it is working against a women's natural cycle. It is purposely harming a women's body to act differently than what it was designed to. In medication, chemicals used to harm one's body used to be called "poison". Today, it is sold to make money and relegate responsibility to someone else (another great topic).

    Unfortunately, it is this brain washing that Jenny discusses that many people have lost context of what these "medications" do.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Cool. No I am a 40 year old guidance counselor and a very happily married guy. Sounds like you and I agree on the fundamental part, that fertility control is needed so women are not, as you say yourself, rendered as "beasts or second class citizens." The only disagreement is the methodology. And like any medicine, some work well and others do not. How about vasectomies? I did that, and was nearly as painful as a root canal. Indeed, some longitudial studies indicate real health benefits for men who undergo that procedure. I have some harsh opinions of M.Teresa, and you can point to a hell of a lot more examples of women's liberation in the 3rd world from other forms of contraception than the crotch smelling method.
    Most of my family is in Mexico, where the plop to you drop Catholic mentality has put us at near social chaos. Poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, lack of educational attainment, etc can all be traced to the Catholic church.

    ReplyDelete
  6. IronDog...I have a few thoughts. One, medicine is taken to CURE a disorder, and pregnancy is not a disorder (which was the heart of this whole post- not seeing new life as intrinsically a negative, a disorder). Two, the Catholic Church doesn't teach "plop till you drop"...it teaches "prudence" and "generosity." Which means avoid children if there is a REAL reason to not have kids...and love life and have enough self-sacrifice to DESIRE to bring new life into the world when there is no serious obstacles. Third, I would STRONGLY argue that sacramental marriages leading to children is the problem in mexico. I doubt too many is the problem at all...but it really isn't children being born in the context that the church desires: in a sacramental marriage between man and wife. I would say lust, greed, hate, intemperence, sloth, and such things cause ALL of mexico's problems. They all are- in the end- rooted in sin...not in virtue! Finally, I think it is time to examine the log in your eye when your blindness has lead you to have "harsh" opinions of someone like Mother Teresa.

    ReplyDelete
  7. But it is a disorder, so to speak, when you do not want any more kids or none at all. My wife and I only had one, and that is all we want. We will not have, nor accept any more belly fruit. The whole thing on sacramental marriage, not sure what you mean. Even if the church does not teach plop to you drop, it certainly is the consequence of church teachings. Have you been to MExico? Go in the Cathedral and see. It is as if Hernan Cortez never left. You have "madrinas" with kids running around all over the place. Women are breast feeding as they take communion. Gross!!!! And their bellies are out to here, knocked up yet again.
    Avoid having children if there is a REAL reason? Who makes that determination as to what a REAL reason is? Nobody seems to have a problem I guess with vasectomies. I will post later my diatribe on M. Teresa.

    ReplyDelete
  8. IronDog,

    Again...you have your perception of reality totally mistaken. Natural human sexuality is not a disorder. Medicine, by definition, is meant to help the body heal and function the way it WAS SUPPOSED TO. Contraception (and vasectomy) is not a healing of the body, but a mutilation. Obviously, you (and many others) feel free enough with your bodies to mutilate it in order to avoid the GREAT EVIL of healthy sexuality. Sadly, you prefer your sick and mutilated sexuality...and it stems from a sick and selfish estimation of human life. You have lost your wonder and awe for human life...which means in the final analysis that you have lost God...Life and the source of all life.
    Also, again- the problems in mexico DO NOT stem from married couples having babies...it stems from PERSONAL SIN...the reduction of which is one of the main tasks of the Church! The Church (Christ) is actually the only hope Mexico has...with a return of charity, honesty, chastity, hard work, generosity, etc... If every person in Mexico became a Mother Teresa overnight (had her holiness)...you would see an IMMEDIATE turnaround. Holiness is ALWAYS the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. just as i said your opposition is only religious my experience when i talk to to folks like you all it only takes a few moments for you all to invoke all that dillusional god talk and drop the science/medicine your opposition is only religious and not founded in any kind of best practices of modern medicine vasectomies are no more a mutilation than a boob job, body piercings, nose or lip jobs, brazilian butt lifts, you mention no medical pitfalls of vasectomies, only 3rd world vatican crap that is like reading the entrails of a dead chicken
    btw/ doesn't NFP involve a woman grabbing a handful of her vaginal mucus and testing its texture to check for where she is on the fertility cycle? gross!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Irondog,

    Science and medicine is a great tool for helping people live longer, healthier, lives. But, science cannot make a person a better person, a more loving person, a more joyful person, a person with meaning and purpose in their lives...God CAN (plus Eternal Life).

    Again, I doubt you could deny my point that if all the people in any country you wish to chose (whether religious but superstitious or scientifically advanced but rejecting of God, or simply hedonistic and agnostic) and raise all the people to have the holiness of a Mother Teresa (or any other holy person)...that country would overnight have a huge reduction in poverty, violence, broken marriages, orphans, emotionally wounded people coming from unloving and uncaring households, schools, peers, etc...

    Finally, the evidence is overwhelming that couples who practice NFP have more fulfilling and long-lasting marriages. Our societies disregard and disrespect for sex and the body is destroying hearts and marriages.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gentlemen,

    A little decorum, please.

    Irondog: there is nothing "gross" about cervical mucus, no grosser than you saliva or your semen. What is gross is your ignorance and your vitriol against the human person.

    Your use of the terms "plop till you drop," "knocked up," "belly fruit," etc. indicate a deep, painful reluctance to accept the dignity of the human person, sexuality included.

    There is nothing disgusting about breastfeeding. There is, however, something deeply disturbing about a culture which has so hyper-sexualized the female body through pornography, the sight of a woman's breast is enough to send someone into a sexually frustrated rage.

    Our bodies are good. Children (otherwise known as small people) are good. Sex is good.

    The world tells us otherwise, loudly at times, shouting that sex is somehow "dirty" or that children are somehow "parasites." None of these lies are founded in reality, and all of them have been uniformly refuted by the Church and by Christianity for thousands of years.

    Please, feel free to engage in intelligent and thoughtful debate on this forum - even heated debate is welcome.

    What is not welcome is hatred, vulgarity, or a misogynistic view of the human female. Keep that poison to yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Not sure about all this religious stuff, do not really care too either. Your reference to M.Teresa. . .Mexico is full of people who claim to see the virgin guadalupe, mary, fatima, (fill in the blank any other name) in a grease spill in the parking lot or claim to have seen statues crying. . .hell, there is a whole group of folks in Ixtapalapa who get themselves crucified, literally, each good friday. . .yes cervical mucus is yucky. You compared it to my semen or salivia, well i have no intention of playing with those things precisely. Nothing wrong with breastfeeding, just when done in public, where people eat, gather ,etc. Never said sex was dirty (where did I ever say that?) or that kids were parasites. Only that each couple has to make its own decisions about birth control, #s of kids,etc without religious impediments. And those who decide to have no kids are no less "holy" than those who pump them out like a factory line. IOW, rightousness, rightness, does not correlate to family size.

    ReplyDelete
  13. IronDog,

    I guess it comes down to whether God exists or not. You obviously don't believe God exists. Sure there are plenty of people who are silly about religious things (St. Padre Pio used to make fun of them) but they are not the people the church canonizes...because that is not what God or the Church considers holiness. I just encourage you to look into God more (actually read the Churches teaching- read the Catechism of the Catholic Church...and some good writers like C.S. Lewis or Peter Kreeft for example) because the risk is too great not too. It is much better to be wrong about God by believing in him than it is to be wrong about God by not believing in him. If I'm wrong...I still have lived a good life and then go out of existence...if you are wrong-even if you manage to fairly enjoy life- you are in great danger of eternal suffering apart from God. You can mock and scoff all you want...but sooner or later you will have to face your Master...either as a merciful Savior in this life or a Just Judge later. You are choosing your eternity everyday...and right now you are choosing to be away from God...and that is choosing hell. I will sincerely pray for you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Pretty revealing stuff here ya'll. I am a counselor, and it never fails when I have these kinds of chats with folks with your religious rigity, that the religous jibberish comes out after a few exchanges, the science/mecical end of the pill and other contraception is dropped. Just look at your posts, almost of which center on relgious stuff. You could not care less about any "link" to cancer with the pill. Far more documentation that your cell phone causes cancer than the pill, but that does not tie your vatican dander in knots. Oh hell, just saw jesus appear in a tortilla (my hispanic heritage getting the best of me).

    ReplyDelete
  15. IronDog,

    Seems to me that your myopic vision of Christianity is the prejudicial disdain and ridicule you have for your hispanic forebears.

    Also, I don't know what being a counselor has to do with this conversation, conversation is not built upon initials after your name (I happen to be a Licensed Professional Counselor).

    Of course I have a philosophical and theological opposition to artificial contraception...it just so happens that the research is showing support of my theologically based position.

    In my life, I accepted the truths of sexuality and how it should be used from the Teachings of the Church, which Jesus left to guide us along the correct path of his Revelation and Sanctification. But now, I not only adhere to this line of thought and practice out of Faith...but out of experience and knowledge. Without guidance, I certainly would have given myself over to having lots of sex with lots of people (and pornagraphy)...and once I had realized that didn't bring long-lasting contentment (and that I was being selfish and using people, and allowing myself to be used) I would have sought marriage. Then, I would surely have been all for birth control, because having trained my "me-first" egoism even more I would naturally not want kids, or more than the 1 or two kids that wouldn't impose too much of a strain or hampering on my life. I would be trying my best to have my cake and it it too. Eventually, probably long after I could have any more children, I would start to realize that the most satisfying actions in my life have been when I was sacrificing myself and my wants for others. I would realize that I could have done SO MUCH more of that for so many people...but too late.
    Thank you Jesus for revealing to us how to use our sexuality and not waiting for us to figure out through hard experience, and conflicting scientific studies, how to live out our sexuality in a way that is compatible with our hearts deepest desires and truths.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Really not following the jesus jibberish. Did see the comment on "the one or two kids that would not impose too much of a strain." Are you suggesitng that small families are just selfish and narcissistic? WE have only one child by choice and got fixed so as to have no more. We love the lifestyle that the small brood of one allows us, to say nothing of what we can provide her. We just got back from Spain and I am taking her back with me in June. Hell, her voice coach hits me for $70/hour and her other activities are not cheap. Could not afford that with more kids. Birth control (such as my vasectomy) is a god send, a miracle of modern medicine. Every sperm is not precious.

    ReplyDelete
  17. IronDog,

    Yes, it sounds like you and your wife are exactly the type of couple that is being selfish with your marriage and fertility (not all low-number of children families are such examples...there are GOOD reasons). One of the most valuable and precious gifts parents can give their child is siblings.

    Seeing other cultures, developing one's talents, etc...are all good things...but without the formation of living one's life in authentic love to others...your daughter is in great danger of spiritual and emotional poverty. Relationship are what provide Joy in life, and in the next (not that you care about that at this moment...). I hope that the learning curve for you, your wife, and daughter does not have to be too painful before you learn this. But I will pray that God does whatever it takes (starting with the least painful) to open your eyes...and to bring healing to you all; especially your poor daughter.

    ReplyDelete
  18. My daughter in spiritual or emotional poverty? How the hell do you know any such thing? I work with lots of families, mostly large plop to you drop 3rd world catholic families. Most live hand to mouth, are exasperated struggling to get resources, time, and emotional energy, and live in a lot more chaos than we ever would. Their homes are loud, sometimes smell, their cars are crap, and their kids go without. My neighbor has 9 kids, house smells like a daycare. Gross!!!

    I can have my nice ceramics out, my glassware from Tiffany's on display, and my good artwork w/out worrying about them breaking. Siblings are a guarentee of nothing!!

    And if you are a counselor, read your familiy therapy text again before you make some pronouced judgements like that. You are not client centered counselor. You say "authentic love" to others? Is that only authentic love to siblings? That authentic love can only happen with the fruit of your mom and dad's loins? What a load of crap. Praying for our healing? I do not feel broken or hurt. On the contrary, I have a very nice life, and other than being 10 pounds overweight, I feel great.

    My daughter is one of the top of her class, has lots of friends, and a room of her own which is getting a makeover (one that will match her new braces). She is always the teacher pet, gets great grades, and knocks her standardized tests out of the park. On par she fares better than most from most large families.

    ReplyDelete
  19. IronDog,

    If you and your daughter do not know God, then you are truly in poverty. Self-centered living (which is something we all must work to undo)is the greatest obstacle to authentic happiness.

    I don't condone out of hand large families...perhaps some should have abstained and that would have been much more loving...nor do I condemn all small families (and yes, one CAN get love outside of family- but that doesn't mean family and sibling relationships aren't priceless).

    Most of the people Jesus condemned most harshly were intelligent, got "good grades", were liked by those they hung out with, and appeared to be pretty good people. The Pharisees were the leading men of the Jewish community, the most respected and esteemed...and Jesus absolutely trashed them...because of their Pride. And it was obvious that the Pharisees did not think their lives were going very poorly...that is the damnable problem with Pride- it is so blinding to us all. Lust, anger, greed, envy, sloth, gluttony, etc...all those sins are so easy to spot...and I guess that was why many of the people who came to Jesus for forgiveness had these "obvious" sins. They knew they were sinners...the Pharisees did not.
    Being client-centered is only a positive thing when it means actually respecting and caring for the client...when it just means being nice and telling them they are fine (when they are not), it is a curse. I respect your dignity and care for your well-being, and I truly believe you are getting some things in life terribly wrong...and that by going against God you are cutting yourself off from your only hope.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Irondog,

    "I can have my nice ceramics out, my glassware from Tiffany's on display, and my good artwork w/out worrying about them breaking."

    Are you kidding me? Is THIS more valuable than another daughter...another son!? Glassware from Tiffany's versus another human being...you really do not value the beauty of human life. It does not profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul...but for nice ceramics and glassware? At least set your aims higher...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Iron dog,

    I had to delete your last comment due to profanity; young teens read my blog and I must insist you keep it clean.

    I would invite anyone who has been following this discussion thread to pray for all those involved, and particularly for you and for your family. There is hope for healing after abortion, and you have a little saint praying for your conversion now.

    For resources on healing after abortion, check out rachelsvineyard.org ... I'm sorry ... I'm at a loss.

    Clearly your life has been deeply impacted by your decision to end your child's life, but there is hope. Please don't associate whatever negative religious experiences you might have had with individual people or churches... the crux of the matter is a God who is Father, and who will never, ever refuse the return of one of his prodigal sons or daughters.

    David and I will be praying for you.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Healing?? But I am not hurting. My only angst is at how badly we were treated by your co-religionists. You assume that just because you see things via your religious filters that all of us see it that way. Not true.

    I am so relieved that we did not birth any more kids, particularly with such severe challenges, and I get that onlooker delay kind of pit in my stomach at the thought that in some countries we would have been forced to birth against our will. My conscience is clear as spring water, and the maltreatment has made me an activist. I went from being tacitly pro choice to actively engaged with Planned Parenthood (i give $$ when I can).

    ReplyDelete

No trolls allowed.