The catholic Dialogs Continued: Birth Control

The participants in these threads do not represent all of those who share our respective Christian traditions, but we are speaking from our own experiences, convictions and understandings on a host of issues. At present, this entry is devoted to the issue of birth control among married Christians.

My Catholic friend, Mandy P., suggested the topic as it has risen to fever-pitch in some segments of our society recently, especially as it pertains to everyone’s favorite (or most hated) political candidate and perspective. I can go the political/ healthcare route if we must, but I am far more interested in living as a Jesus-follower. By necessity, this means that I am against abortion in most cases, but possibly understanding it when the mother’s life is at stake (as long as it is her choice) and maybe in cases of rape, but by no means does this render me as an ardent supporter of any particular political party or candidate.

That being said, however, I see no problem whatsoever with a husband and wife practicing so-called “birth control” which prevents conception. In that sense, “conception control” is the more accurate descriptor by far. I suspect that this is the axis for the conversation between Catholics and Protestants, for as far as I know, the Catholic Church requires that all of its married people who choose to have sex must do so without any effort at preventing conception, much less destroying what has already been conceived.

If Christians (of any persuasion) find such top-down rigidity helpful in their faith journey, then I would not dare suggest that they should not engage in the practice. The problem (at least as it seems to me) is that the Catholic Church’s injunction against all of its married folks’ practice of contraception control is inconsistent (at best), oppressive (at worst) and completely unsupported by Scripture in the first place (a mystery to me). I recognize that these are potentially inflammatory words, so I apologize for that in advance. I just do not know how else I might state my initial thoughts on the issue. In short, I do not “get” Catholic doctrine on the issue of conception control in marriage, and I need some Catholic sisters and brothers to help me understand it/ challenge my perspective. If I’ve missed something important in the Bible, then I want to know what it is so that I might live better for Christ.

For new posters, please keep in mind that this is not an “interfaith” discussion, but rather an in-house conversation among Christians, and the purpose here is threefold:

1) To understand our friends’ respective Christian traditions better.

2) To promote unity among believers despite differences in those traditions, and

3) To respect those differences without trying to harmonize them or trying to get participants to proclaim unity in all beliefs.

Join us in the journey!

-C. Lambeth

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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32 Responses to The catholic Dialogs Continued: Birth Control

  1. Yeah the Church’s position makes no sense and next to nobody actually listens to them. Here in Catholic Ireland contraceptives are as common as elsewhere. I always had the feeling that even some of the priests found the stance a bit daft and were almost embarrassed about it.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Thanks for your comment, Robert, but I wouldn’t state it quite so harshly. There are many Catholics who take this very seriously and believe they understand it very well. It is a mystery to me, and I too have often wondered how many priests actually tote the line on this. I am also curious as to why the Catholic church imposes celibacy on its priests and forbids women priests. That will have to wait for another installment of “The Dialogs,” but I thought you brought up an interesting point about the common use of contraceptives among Catholics despite what the Pope says about the issue:

      In a recent issue of Mother Jones, the article stated that “28% of U.S. women who obtained abortions in 2008 were Catholic, the same rate as among all U.S. women.” I don’t know if what you stated above is your perception or a well-established fact, but it seems that perhaps this isn’t much different in Ireland either.

      -CL

      • From personal experience I know few if any who do. In fact the reputation of the Church is so low in Ireland that they are rarely obeyed on any issue. There is large opposition to church control of education (big issue at the moment) female priests, gay marriage (in contrast to America, civil partnerships were legalised without much protest). Abortion is the last stronghold (its still illegal), but even still I say the split is near 50-50

  2. Mandy P says:

    Thanks for pointing out that I asked to discuss this;) Ok, so here is my first entry for you, Corbs. I have to respond to first comment regarding abortion. I’m with your friend, Don. Its not ok. I would much rather give up my life for my children any day of the week. It’s not even a question for me. It seems what Jesus would do (and in fact did).

    The Catholic Church is not against birth control. They support the use of Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is a form of birth control. To my knowledge this is not biblical but rather based on Natural Law. Although man is commanded to “be fruitful and multiply”. The go to document on this topic is Humane Vitae (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html). I honestly haven’t finished reading it yet but I have studied this topic a great deal. The gist of it is not that Catholics are to have huge families. It instead allows for couples to make mindful decisions about family size and spacing between children. The suggested route to do this is NFP. No this is not Vatican Roulette of last century. This is a very effective form of family planning (I can give websites if needed).

    Why would the Church expect their members to live life like this? Or to use your words why would a church expect such “top-down rigidity helpful in their faith journey”? Well because sex is a sacred act of love between two people. We Catholics believe that it is both a unitive and procreative act that most closely connects us God the creator. What else can we humans do to create a completely new living being on our “own” (obviously God is involved)? Artificial birth control (ABC) puts a barrier between the couple in an attempt to take the outcome out of God hands. It is contradictory to the moral order of God.

    So, that is all fine in theory. But it might be more helpful to tell you why I use NFP. I have never in my life used any other form of birth control and to be honest I haven’t even considered it. I learned about NFP in college from my campus ministers and have never looked back. I have a very supportive husband who is on board with using NFP. I don’t like the idea of treating my fertility as a disease by medicating it or using a barrier between my husband and I during our most intimate times. Wow, that sounds a little flowery….I don’t want either of us to suit up before having sex. NFP demands us to communicate with each other and to routinely discuss future children. It also requires abstinence. This is where most people get bent out of shape. “No priest is going to tell me when I can have sex!” I don’t see it that way at all. I think using birth control is being unrealistic and ignoring the fact that all babies are created in the same way. So when a pregnancy occurs it is seen as a breakdown in the system or a mistake. A mistake, really? Why is it so surprising that sex causes babies? NFP requires much more communication (Am I fertile today?) and therefore when a couple becomes pregnant it is much easier to view the baby as a blessing rather than a mistake. Using NFP is an act of faith. I trust that God will give me the number of children that I can “handle” and because of this trust I feel no fear about using NFP. Finally, NFP is a much greener option. I am not adding tons of extra hormones into the water supply or creating more trash from devices and their packaging. There are not side effects to me and in fact it helps me understand my own health much better.

    My last point it that it doesn’t matter if “most Catholics” don’t use NFP. The Catholic Church isn’t a democratic organization nor are its decrees based on popular thought. Most Catholics can’t tell you why the Church tells them not to use artificial birth control so they are voicing their disagreement on a “ruling” that they haven’t actually researched or in fact truly understand. Or they don’t seek understanding because their way of acting is easier.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mandy P.
      I think I know what you mean, but just so I’m clear, the issue isn’t whether you would sacrifice yourself for your already born children but rather an unborn child on the way. I wonder how your husband would feel about it, or if the tables were turned and somehow it was he who was pregnant, how you would feel about losing him to save his unborn baby. Either way, I commend those who would give up their life for an unborn child. It is absolutely admirable and morally praiseworthy, but not morally obligatory. While I’ll never have to make that choice in the same way, I’d still rather have my wife and try for kids again later or adopt if a viable pregnancy was not an option. But that’s me.

      Thank you for making the distinction that the Catholic church is not against birth control. Choosing not to have sex is conception-control indeed! I am glad that you find NFP helpful and favorable in your relationship with your husband and God. I say more power to you in this form of birth control. For my own situation, we use birth control to the same ends that you listed, namely, to “make mindful decisions about family size and spacing.” Our method is also a “very effective form of family planning.” Yes, even for us wacky Protestants, “sex is a sacred act of love between two people” and requires a lot of patience and communication as you (and Mark P.) well noted. But contrary to your assertion, we do not treat fertility as a disease at all, but rather as something with powerful consequences which must be carefully considered and managed. Also against your allegation, we do not view pregnancy as “mistake” in the least. When we become pregnant, it will be very intentional. And finally, even if Jesus himself spoke about not having a “barrier” between spouses when they make love (which he didn’t), there are other means of conception control that involve no physical barriers. So, since you and I both practice birth control in our respective marriages for the same reasons, it would seem that all we have to disagree on is the methods that we use.

      I am glad that some Catholics have found NFP helpful, but to appeal to the “moral order of God” in support of the practice is questionable to say the least. “Says who?” is the first question that comes to mind (with a smile). Does God address this particular issue in the biblical text, or is it the popes and the Magisterium in general that has imposed this on Catholics? I talk about this more with my friend Russell Wicke below, but the suggestion that alternate means of conception-control is an attempt to co-opt God and his moral order overstates the case. Significantly. Could we not make the same argument for physical ailments in our bodies? Why would we fight things like cancer or even something as benign as an ingrown toenail? Why do we use make-up or deodorant? As long as we’re on the subject, why do we use machines to travel instead of our own two legs? Are not each one of these things small efforts at asserting control over the biological order of our bodies and physical contexts? Is having any kind of input over biological processes and circumstances an effort at “taking the outcome out of God’s hands”? I don’t think so.

      You might be tempted to counter that fighting cancer is ok because cancer only destroys whereas pregnancy creates life, but not only does this call into question your earlier stated position on pregnancies that are terminal for the mother, it also points out an inconsistency in your argument. If you make the case for fighting disease, you implicitly acknowledge that it IS acceptable for humans to resist the natural order of the world and “take control” for themselves (and kill lots of parasites, viruses and bacteria in the process), rather than just hoping God will wave a magic wand and solve all the issues and complexities for them. Maybe you don’t wear make-up or deodorant, and maybe you don’t take yourself or your kids to the doctor when they get sick (there are some Christians who feel passionately about this), but I suspect you are just asking for an exemption for a very specialized issue you are passionate about.

      Secondly, I have to ask where this kind of thinking stops? We both agree that abortion is not a good option, but the Catholic church has gone one better and forbid any kind of efforts at conception-control unless it’s the house brand of abstinence or body rhythm timing. But why stop there? Why not go one or two steps more in reverse? Women ovulate every month, and men produce sperm daily. I think it merits asking why you are wasting what God has given you and clearly designed for procreation? And why is your husband not “using” his own sperm on a daily basis in an appropriate context? Surely these are biological gifts designed for unitive and procreative activities between spouses. Your timing and efforts at Natural Family Planning are clearly Satanic plots designed to overthrow the will of God! Of course we can all recognize that not all sperm and eggs can be put to good use, so lest these gifts from God be wasted, the solution is simple: castrate all boys and spay all girls as they are born. In a single generation, no one will ever use birth control or conception control ever again. Problem solved! Or maybe emasculation and female circumcision would suit you better? I am being extreme and ridiculous to make a point, but at the bottom of it all is this question: How convincing would it be for someone to suggest that your not “using” such gifts (all eggs and sperm) “is contradictory to the moral order of God”? I am guessing that you would find the argument unconvincing, and that is exactly how I feel about the argument you made above.

      As for Catholic non-compliance with what the popes say, my admittedly ignorant suspicion is that they also understand that the doctrine (?) has its roots in a fallible human and equally fallible church traditions rather than in Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Father or the Bible. Could it be that you discount them too easily?

      Finally, I think you have a good point about the “greener option” that NFP provides. You know I’m an enviro-nut (or at least a wannabe), and that is perhaps the argument that garners the most attention for me. Is it enough to change my mind? Probably not, but I do appreciate it nonetheless.

      I hope our friendship can continue even in the aftermath of my absurd, hyperbolic argument.

      your brother,
      -Corbin

  3. Mark P. says:

    God’s creation is not ours to do with what we please. Our own bodies, made in the image and likeness of God, included. God is a creator, nurturer, provider, sustainer, a God of generosity. God is not a deceiver, a blocker, a barrier-builder, or a selfish God. We must use our bodies as God would have us use them, and be good stewards of all creation, including our sexuality.
    God endowed us with desires, emotions, and an inclination to connect with other humans (sexually or otherwise). However, he also gave us logic and wisdom unlike any other creature. To deny the logic and wisdom of the Spirit is to embrace the more animalistic aspects of our being, and move away from our humanness, and thus our imago dei.
    There are social scientists who might argue that we need sex for our fulfillment. I think they just made that up to get laid. But seriously, if fulfillment lies in our crotches, we’re all in big trouble. My sexual relationship with my wife is not about MY fulfillment, it is about OUR fulfillment in a relationship that is given as a divine gift intended to replicate the relationship between Jesus and the church (small or big “C”, you choose). It is about OUR fulfillment of our human potential. On my own, I cannot create life. Neither can my spouse. It takes a man and woman to create life, and in so doing come closer to knowing the fullness of the Creator’s being. (Please don’t misread that last bit as anti-gay. That’s a different conversation.)
    As far as a scriptural back, as far as I know the Bible also does not mention orthotrycyclin. God does not tell Abraham to wear a rubber. This is a matter of Moral and Natural law, not necessarily scripture. Not everything that is right and just is mentioned in scripture. But Jesus did have a staunchly pro-life agenda.
    Regarding “top down rigidity” (“that’s what she said”???), we can’t do this alone. We don’t have all the answers. Nobody I know has had dinner with God and been able to ask all the questions. Following a doctrine is also a matter of faith, but that faith does not end at the organizational level. The church is a conduit of God, and faith in the church must refer back to faith in God. It is easy to view all hierarchical entities that “tell us what to do” as limiting to us. However, those same entities also embody the wisdom of the Creator, and are the torchbearers of traditions that hopefully lead back to scripture, and other forms of enlightened thought. As long as God is at the top, I don’t have too much problem with the “rigidity”.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mark P.,
      I agree with almost everything that you wrote in this post. The problem is that I don’t see how it intersects with the argument against non-NFP conception-control. Just about everything you said is a fair description of healthy sexuality in marriage, and it is not exclusive of people who use alternate means of conception-control. I am pro-life as well, and in all its aspects. Preach on!

      The two exceptions I take with your entry are your appeal to “Natural Law” to make your case and with your mixing the word of the Pope with the word of God. Regarding Natural Law, I need you to describe what you mean by the phrase, for it can include a lot of very different things. As for the Pope, how do you know that what he says actually came “from the top” and isn’t just what seems right to him? Can you see how a human who claims to speak authoritatively for God might lead to some abuses here or there? Where does the Catholic individual’s own capacity for reason and questioning come into play with the Magisterium?

      Thanks for your participation, Mark!
      -CL

  4. Good Day Corbin,

    I hope you are well.

    If I may attempt to put this matter into better perspective: I noticed you mentioned you could find nothing in Scripture to support the Catholic Doctrine on birth control, and with this comment I perceive you are looking at Catholic theology through a Protestant lens. You see, Catholics recognize three pillars of authority: Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. Protestants got rid of two during the reformation retaining only Scripture (i.e. Solo Scriptura) – and this begs a the question of a different issue: if Scripture is our only authority, why did the authority of the Holy Spirit cease working through men with the penning and canonization of Holy Writ? But I digress.

    Understanding that Catholics also heed Tradition and Magisterium as authoritative, isn’t quite fair to ask Catholics to explain the reasoning of their doctrine using Scripture alone. This is what keeps Protestants and Catholics from resolving debates, or at least having level debates, because although we share some established authority (Scripture), we don’t agree on fundamentals in other authorities.

    The best way I can think to explain it is to ask a Protestant to explain one of their positions without using Scripture as their source. And related to birth control, I might ask a Protestant to explain, without using Scripture, why homosexual behavior is considered immoral. Since I highly respect your reasoning Corbin, I wonder if you had any reasoning to offer outside Scripture on this point.

    Considering the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout times and places have considered birth control contrary to God’s purpose, perhaps the burden of proof is not on Catholics. Though the Bible is silent, Christian majority (that is throughout time) is worth at least a pause when dealing with these questions. And as G. K. Chesterton so cleverly put it, “[Tradition] is the democracy of the dead. [It] refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” In other words, if we are to consider the position of every saint (lowercase “s”) throughout time, those who consider birth control benign are overwhelmingly outnumbered. So although Tradition is not an authority for Protestants, it must be worth something, right?

    It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the term was coined and the idea became popularly accepted among Christians in America, and much of this was influenced through Margaret Sanger, who is accused of having racial motives.

    The Bible is silent on the matter, but so it is on heroine and tobacco. Does silence mean endorsement?

    Thank you for the opportunity to have a voice. I look forward to any replies.

    Russ

  5. C_Lambeth says:

    Russ,
    Good to read you again. Thank you for the reply.

    Let me first address your last few paragraphs’ arguments concerning the so-called majority of Christian practice regarding conception control since the dawn of the church. What sources are you citing regarding this issue? Other than abstinence, what other conception control options did these previous generations of Christians have access to? And finally, are you really making the argument that whatsoever the majority of people did and believed throughout history is a good measure of how we ought to act and believe in contemporary times? Where does this stop, or do you only intend it to be used to defend the Catholic church’s stance on this particular issue? I’m not trying to be unfriendly, but I think the question is valid.

    Now, to answer your own question regarding the silence of the Bible, my answer is: “No, silence does not necessarily mean endorsement.” Perhaps it means that Christians should decide for themselves in accordance with the full weight of the rest of Scripture. For me, that rules out abortion, but not conception control. In that sense, we are not even arguing about IF conception control is acceptable, but rather on HOW it should be done, for as Mandy P. pointed out, Catholics do indeed practice conception-control.

    As for Martin Luther’s dictum “sola scriptura” (the Latin requires agreement in gender), I can understand why you are quick to point it out, but I think it might be helpful to note that while all Protestants incorporate some Luther here and there, he does not speak for us in toto. As a Wesleyan, the sources of authority over my life are Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. This is called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and as the normative measure for the other three the biblical text comes first in my life (or at least I hope it does). As such, to say that Protestants “got rid” of tradition is incorrect, and your digression about the Holy Spirit and Holy Writ is against an argument I did not make. Similarly, your suggestion that I defend a Christian doctrine without appealing to Scripture is not just a little muddled, for not only do I also appeal to reason, tradition and experience, but without the biblical narratives, I would not be able to make any case for a “Christian” doctrine in the first place. Stated another way, without the Christian narratives (which have now been incorporated into a single tome we call the Bible) there would be no Christianity.

    When it comes to the Magisterium however, you get closer to the mark. Christians are not required to give the Roman Catholic Magisterium (or its popes) any authority whatsoever. They can willingly do so if they chose, and perhaps this is the biggest difference between what it means to be a “Christian” and what it means to be a “Catholic Christian.” As I understand it, the Pope is just another flawed and sinful human in need of a savior, nothing more except for his influential office. Even within that office, he has no authority except what people give him, and I feel no special compulsion to accord him any. Perhaps we could argue the same thing about Christ himself. Certainly there are people who disavow his authority over their lives, and on a short enough timeline that would be correct. The difference however, is that at some point Christ’s authority will be undeniable and people will be judged by that authority. The same cannot be said of any pope or church hierarchies. None of us will be judged according to what a mere human (pope) has taught unless it accords with what God himself has said.

    I understand that this is the very argument that Catholics might make for the pope, but the problem is that without holding that office accountable to Scripture, there is no way to tell if Mr. Pope is actually speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit or for himself and his personal, subjective feelings on a given issue. Surely I do not need to provide many examples (in Catholicism & beyond) where this situation has gone catastrophically wrong.

    I am certain that the special status Catholics give to priests and popes will be another entry into the “catholic Dialogs” in the future, but for now let me agree with you when you say that the differences in the recognized authorities between Catholics and Protestants is the reason that we don’t agree on the particular issue of conception control. While my friend, Mandy P, offers some other defenses for NFP, the essential difference (as I see it) is that the Catholic Magisterium has made pronouncements on the issue. If Catholics find this helpful and want to allow a human such authority in their lives, then that’s ok. I pass no judgment on them other than to say it’s not for me. For the sake of unity amongst Christians, however, I merely ask that my Catholic friends and family afford us Protestants the same amount of acceptance. Protestants and Catholics alike should not presume that their beliefs and adherence to various authorities should be pushed onto everyone else, especially those who don’t sign up for the same system.

    With peace and sincerity,
    -Corbin

  6. Mandy P says:

    I would like to get into the Pope stuff again but I feel that perhaps the original issue is being skirted…

  7. Carrie says:

    “without holding that office accountable to Scripture, there is no way to tell if Mr. Pope is actually speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit” I thought you just got done saying a few paragraphs before that you do NOT hold to sola scriptura? If not, then why are you again using a phrasology here that implies that Scripture is above the Magisterium in authority?

    Please also remember, as I do not think has been mentioned yet, that there are different ways in which the pope speaks. He can speak ex cathedra, in which case we do belive that he is protected against error on matters of faith and morals, or he can speak otherwise, or on politics, diplomacy, history, etc. in which case he is not infallible.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Carrie,
      Thank you for your reply! You are correct; I do not hold to sola scriptura. I also let reason, experience and tradition help guide me, but the senior partner here is the biblical text. I apologize for not making that more clear above. The “reason” for this is that when it comes to inerrancy, the Bible gets a lot closer to it than any of the other three sources for authority that I mentioned. Human reason can falter, so can church tradition and personal experiences. We make logical mistakes and exercise poor judgment. Church traditions are no more perfect than the faulty humans who started them in the first place, and personal experience can easily be manipulated, confused or even fabricated. The Bible, while not perfect, is far less subject to the vagaries of human self-delusion than the other sources of authority, so I place far more confidence in it than I do any mere human and the Magisterium(s) they have constructed.

      I hope that helps. Thanks again for your comments!
      -CL

      • Carrie says:

        See, that’s where we still disagree. As I said, when ex cathedra, we do belive he speaks without error, but you are implying that ex cathedra can still be wrong. We believe that the Magisterium was not man-made, as you state, but was set up by Jesus in the Apostles to lead the community of believers. (Whatever you lose on earth will be losed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. This is Petrus, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Again, paraphrasing I am sure. 🙂 ) There is a sort of paradox that there are things that members of the Magisterium can be wrong about or act immorally in some way, but as a whole, as THE Magisterium, we have a guarantee that they will not teach something wrong. That is, when they come together, and proclaim teaching with the pope, on faith and morals, they cannot be wrong.

        I also kind of look at it this way: Does what they are teaching CONTRADICT the scriptures? The teaching on contraception (which is different than spacing births) certainly does not contradict anything in scripture. It is about keeping holy the marriage act and preserving life. It is about surrendering our will to God’s. If the Scriptures are silent, and the Magisterium teaches something with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, why on earth would I discard what the Magisterium teaches for my own personal opinion? I trust the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, even transmitted through men, more than my own wisdom, which I know all too well can be influenced by my selfishness.

  8. C_Lambeth says:

    There was never any doubt in my mind upon where we disagree, Carrie. I appreciate your input, but like the earlier discussion on Mary, the entirety of this conversation can be summarized by citing the difference between Protestants and Catholics on the issue of church doctrine and the sources thereof. As it seems to me, Catholics make it an issue because their church hierarchy makes it an issue. Since Scripture is silent on the issue, Protestants are under no such obligations. This doesn’t make them better or worse, but certainly different. We are free to let reason, our experiences and our own church traditions guide us on the issue as a community (or collection of communities).

    As for the Pope, I make no distinction between ex cathedra or anything else the man says. He is irrelevant to my faith in Christ. Whatever credibility or authority Catholics give the Pope is their business, but it is completely inapplicable to the rest of us. Citing Jesus’ use of Peter as the cornerstone of the church is fine (and not unique to Roman Catholicism), but in no way does that imply that either he or subsequent human church leaders were/are immune to abuses, false teachings and mistakes in general. History has borne this out. In fact, we see Peter making serious mistakes before the New Testament even wraps up. While I affirm that there will always be at least a remnant of true believers until the parousia, this does not mean that the churches (Catholic or otherwise) won’t lose their way in various ways, times and places.

    Similarly, you are free to accord special privilege to what the Catholic hierarchies and traditions teach and presume that they are not man-made, but rather the arm of God. Once again this has more to do with church tradition (self-preservation, anyone?) than it does with anything we see in the New Testament, and I have no idea how you can say the institution can be “wrong and act immorally,” while at the same time saying that it is divine and unable to “teach something wrong” and “cannot be wrong.” This is too inconsistent for me to place faith in.

    That being said, I CAN understand your rationale in balancing Scripture with Catholic church doctrine: If one does not contradict the other, then where’s the problem? Well said, but for Protestants, the issue is still about the Catholic Magisterium. Like the popes, it simply holds no authority over us. I also trust in the Holy Spirit, and as I continue to study, pray and read the text, maybe he will stretch me in new and dynamic ways on the subject, but that will be because of his authority, not that of the Catholic church.

    Where did you hear about the blog?

    Thanks for typing!
    -C. Lambeth

    • Carrie says:

      Someone posted this thread elsewhere. To be honest, I feel like I was mistaken about what the purpose of this was supposed to be. From your original post, it sounded like you were open to understanding where Catholics are coming from, but in your responses you seem to just be restating that you differ from us. I know that. I was just trying to explain it from a Catholic perspective. It is very frustrating for faithful Catholics of some intelligence to be constantly misunderstood by our Protestant brothers. I tried to explain, clearly, that there is a difference between the actions and statements that bishops make on their own versus teaching they transmit as a whole, unified with Rome. For a Catholic, this is significant. It also seems reasonably easy to understand to me. You do not trust a doctor to be right about politics, but you do trust him to be right about medicine, when he is consistent with the rest of the medical community, right? Likewise, we do not trust individual bishops to always be moral or say what is right. We do trust them when what they speak as a group, consistent with reason and Scripture.

      Thanks anyway for letting me hear your point of view, and responding to my posts. I hope that someday you will at least be able to understand our perspective even if you do not agree.

      • C_Lambeth says:

        Carrie,
        I am curious as to where else this thread was posted. Would you mind posting the web address or URL? That would be great, and I am glad that you decided to participate. It’s way too easy for me to spit my own thoughts back to me without conversation partners. I DO value your input.

        But on with the show:
        The more my Catholic friends and acquaintances (like you) engage on the topic, the more I feel like I understand your perspective. Indeed, I think I have come to a fairly solid grasp of your position on conception-control: It is because of the Catholic Magisterium. Have I misunderstood this still?

        As for the distinction you are making between what a single Catholic leader says and what a collection of them say, I can appreciate this, but I still have to ask how you “know” that they are not all leading in the wrong direction together? I don’t think we have to look too long at the historical record to see where the Roman Catholic church has gone sideways en masse. The various Inquisitions come to mind, as do the Crusades, the 30 and 100 years’ war, the entire Magisterium in the late 15th and early 16th Century, and its wholesale approval of subjugation and tacit genocide in the so-called “New World” during the era of Christopher Columbus and his fellow Catholic “Explorers.” Make no mistake, Protestants are not immune to going south either, but because of the diffusion of authority when one congregation or denomination goes awry, they don’t all go wrong together. We can talk more about Protestants’ hang-ups if you like, but I’d like to hear more about the Catholic Magisterium before we switch subjects yet again. Maybe I should start another thread in the “catholic Dialogs”?

        Thanks again,
        -Corbin

  9. C_Lambeth says:

    Carrie,
    Thank you for your gentle push-back on my posts in this thread. Clearly tone and body language are absent from such communicative efforts, and it is easy to “sound” gruff and grumpy in type-written contexts. So please allow me to apologize if I have rubbed you wrong, hurt feelings, and/or been perceived as inconsiderate and rude. None of that is my intention. Maybe it just occurs naturally with me, and clearly that is something I should work on! Perhaps another part of the problem is that you and I have never met and we do not know each other’s heart. Maybe that’s a sappy way of saying it, but I don’t know a better one. For contrast, I know and deeply respect Mandy P’s (and Mark P’s) friendship(s), and love them like a sister and brother. I know that whatever criticisms they might launch against my own Christian tradition, they still love me and consider me a friend at the end of the day (or thread). I hope they will say that they are equally confident of my affection for them despite my criticisms of Catholicism. It’s fairly easy for me to compartmentalize and put on my theological game face at one moment, and then shift gears and go have an easy conversation and friendly drink with my “angry” debate partner. You and I can be friends despite our preferred Christian traditions, yes?

    That being said, the purpose of the “catholic Dialogs” is not JUST to learn about differences between Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians etc. but also to challenge (and be challenged) on those differences. I am indeed “open” to what I might learn or even incorporate from the larger Christian communities that extend beyond my own Protestant subculture, but this does not mean that I can uncritically accept any and all beliefs or convictions espoused by them. I had wondered if the Catholic position on Mary and conception-control extended beyond mere hierarchical doctrine of the Catholic church. To be fair, Mandy, Russ and Mark have each employed several arguments in addition to what the Catholic Magisterium says/ has said on the issue of conception-control. Thus far, I have found their reasoning to be insufficient (or at least not the only way to see the situation), but at least they are engaging beyond the logic of “because the Magisterium says so.” In my last post addressed to you, my point was/is that merely citing popes or teachings unique to the Catholic church is an exercise in futility for me. On a very superficial level, it might help me understand why Catholics act and believe a certain way, but it will be no more convincing to me than if someone else told me what the Qur’an or Bhagavad Gita says about a particular issue: they simply have no authority over my life or faith.

    Despite what an institutional church and its extra-biblical traditions say about an issue, I want to know WHY they say it and what the source is for the teaching/ tradition/ dogma etc. My remaining suspicion is that much of Catholic doctrine has its origins in flawed human individuals and councils rather than Christ and the normative New Testament itself. That is a suspicion that most all of my fellow Protestants share, but I would like nothing better than to have this subtle thesis corrected and thrown out whenever possible. The differences between Catholics and Protestants need not be hateful or divisive, but neither does it mean that we can (or should) casually affirm everything that the alternative traditions teach their flocks. I would encourage any Christians who have grown dissatisfied with Catholicism and its Magisterium, but still desire a vibrant relationship with God, to see if Protestantism, Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy suits them better. Similarly, I would say the same to a Protestant who wanted a little more uniformity amongst churches and/or a clear authoritative and doctrinal hierarchy. She or he might very well feel more settled in an Anglican or Roman Catholic setting. More power to them! The way I see it, we are all merely beggars trying to show other beggars where to find food.

    May we find the Bread of Life in whatever way seems best to him!

    your friend,
    -Corbin

    • Good Day Corbin,

      Thanks for helping clarify your intent. If I may I would like to respond concerning something you wrote in your last reply. You mentioned that someone citing the Quran on an issue wouldn’t be sufficient to convince you of the position, because it would take more than that; it would take reason, experience, etc. Earlier you told me that the Bible is sufficient for you when you take certain positions (i.e. homosexual acts). In your earlier reply to me when I asked for an explanation outside the Bible (say from reason or experience etc) it seemed you needed nothing more than the Bible on that point. But you said above you want to know WHY a text says what it does. I know you give the Bible authority, and not the Quran, but doesn’t much of that have to do with your other pillars of authority (reason, tradition, experience, etc.) supporting the Bible? If not, how did you conclude to give supreme authority to the Bible and not the Quran? I think you might say that when you decided to give the Bible authority, you still did not understand all its meanings or reasons for some decrees, and that a certain amount of trust is absolutely necessary because of our fallibility, biases, self-deceptions etc. Individuals must recognize their fallibility and humbly submit to authority. My point is, the same reasoning is used for the Elders of the Church, and incidentally, this has its origin in Scripture. Many Catholics, who give the Magisterium (elders) authority, submit to their teachings because the Bible obliges us to submit to our “Elders” (i.e. Bishops in Catholics talk) [1Peter 5:5].

      Naturally, you do not give the Catholic Magisterium authority, and no one here is trying to convince you to. But, you do give authority to other things. And although we arrive at different authorities, I submit we get there through similar reasoning, much found in the Bible. One thing I think we all agree on is that we should never make ourselves our own supreme authority.

      Thanks again for an opportunity to have a voice.

      Peace be with you my friend,
      Russ

      • C_Lambeth says:

        Russ,
        I appreciate your pressing on this issue. Let me clarify as best I can. I do make use of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, reason, tradition & experience). Admittedly, I should also make mention of the Christian communities I belong to (even cyber ones like the present blog). They all have their influence, but as I stated elsewhere, the biblical text has primacy. Even so, and as you rightly point out, it cannot be isolated from reason or even the other components of mentioned authority. They often blend together and support one another… but not always, and when they don’t, I TRY to let the Bible be my guide, hence my position on those who actively pursue a homosexual lifestyle. It is sufficient for me on the issue because I give it greater credence than my own feelings on the matter. Even then, it is not the Bible in isolation that forms my position, but all the personal, cultural, linguistic, socio-economic and historical baggage that I necessarily bring along with me. I can overcome it when I am conscious of this bias, but I am often blind to it. The fact is that none of us approach the Bible as Locke’s tabula rasa, and if anything, that seems to be one of the mistakes that Protestants consistently make.

        This really IS about who and what we give authority to, and oftentimes, we do indeed make ourselves and our judgment the center of our own universes. Honestly, I do not know anyway around this. It certainly isn’t ideal, but there is no way I can fully circumvent my own volition. What is perplexing to me about Catholics though, is their consistent recognition that they (as individuals) should not be their own “supreme authorities” on faith and practice, so they surrender their own judgment to a group of equally fallible and flawed individuals to be the supreme authority for them on faith and practice. I just don’t see how this solves the problem. For my part, if the Bible was completely senseless to me, then I would not give it or the God who stands behind it authority over me in the present. That is not to say that I have it all figured out, but it IS to say that Christianity makes a lot more sense and is far more internally and intellectually consistent and satisfying than the alternatives, especially Mormonism, Islam and Hinduism etc.

        Trust is still involved, but only inso far as the evidence lends credibility to it. I trust in the Bible’s testimony about God BECAUSE of the evidence, not in spite of it. Yet I am not so committed to my faith in Christ that I will believe despite facts and proof to the contrary. I have yet to discover any, but if it could be proven, for example, that Jesus did not in fact rise from the dead, then I am not so obtuse or delusional to persist in an irrational claim to the contrary. If I might slightly modify what you said, individuals SHOULD recognize their own fallibility and submit to God, but A) they do not have to (on a short enough timeline), and B) the Magisterium (as created or -at least perpetuated- by men) is not the same thing as God. One is perfect, the other is not. Personally, I would rather make the gravest of mistakes on my own than surrender my judgment to a human institution that has repeatedly made some of the most egregious mistakes known to humankind. For all its claims to being ontologically different, the Catholic priesthood has proven to be little different than any other powerful and flawed human institution. I humbly submit that it just might not be the best thing to submit oneself to. Ecclesiastically, I Protest the idea that some human (or collection of humans) has to intercede and tell me what God wants based on the premise that I am incapable of figuring a few things out on my own, even with the Holy Spirit. I can (and should) learn from others, but ultimately they are not my authority.

        I appreciate your voice, Russ. You are always welcome to post here!

        …and also with you,
        -Corbin

  10. Kate Kelso says:

    Corbin-

    A mutual friend of Mandy P. here! Here is an interesting blog discussing natural law if you are interested: http://catholiccanada.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/the-significance-of-natural-law-in-catholic-ethics/

    Also a(n oooold) video of Helen Alvare discussing some of the aspects of abortion which you and Mandy were discussing: http://youtu.be/jCtcETynGhQ

    I think your “catholic Dialogs” would very much benefit from a discussion on the Magisterium!

    God Bless!

  11. Mandy P says:

    Corbs,
    Now I am caught up. I had been waiting for you to say what you did in your last post (just because I know you:). You said: ” I would rather make the gravest of mistakes on my own than surrender my judgment to a human institution that has repeatedly made some of the most egregious mistakes known to humankind.” I won’t get into “the most egregious parts” but I think where we differ on this topic (and yes, we should start a new thread because you still haven’t commented on Mark and my posts) is that I don’t just see the Magisterium as a group of flawed individuals. This is a group that comes together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who makes it their vocation to learn the will of Christ (by studying his word). They devote their entire lives to this study. They don’t spend time rearing children or climbing 14ers (ok, so they do have a life but you know what I mean). They devote their very being to learning Christ’s will. Yes, I believe that all Christians should spend a great deal of time in prayer and reading of the scriptures but without guidance we can easily go astray. And, Corbin, you are not only leading yourself. You are a minister and a husband…you are leading lots of other people and that is a great responsibility. So if you just took it upon yourself to learn in a vacuum then you could really do some damage. Clearly, you seek the wisdom of others (seminary work, this blog, being curious) but you still have to rely on the wisdom of others. All good Christians do that. So that is what is comforting to me about the Catholic Magisterium: I am leaning on the wisdom of almost 2000 years! The Church is slow to change because it must look to its history and tradition to guide about 1.1 billion people. It is not always perfect in the execution of the Word but that doesn’t mean that the understanding of the Word itself if flawed. It just means that they ignored Spirit when they made the decision to act.

    And though we may have done some terrible things in the past, at least we invented beer…and pretzels…and champagne…Not to mention that they created the higher education system in this country and founded many hospitals and are the most active charity in the world. Just sayin’

    Now stop this jibber-jabber and get back to the sex stuff!

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Your last post is absolutely wonderful, Mandy. “Now stop this jibber-jabber and get back to the sex stuff!” If I were half as witty as your husband, this would be a field day. Oh the places we’ll go!

      Context is everything!

      I’ll own the fact that I went too far afield from the topic of conception control with the aspersions cast on the Catholic hierarchy. But since we’re kind of going there anway, please let me fully recognize (again) that I do not come to the text as a blank slate, and that I carry all the sermons and Bible expositions and historical and ecclesiological studies I have ever read and produced with me (some good and some not) when I approach my faith. None of us come to be Jesus followers without the testimonies, research and general input from others. Despite claims to the contrary, the Catholic Magisterium simply does not have a corner on the market of Bible study or church doctrine etc., much less attenuation to the Holy Spirit. It/ they are but one voice in the choir of Christianity.

      I am also fully aware that I am neither in a vacuum nor leading no one but myself. Nevertheless, I AM the only one who makes decisions about who gets to have authority in MY life at the moment (within the limits that God has given me of course) and the Catholic Magisterium has not earned that privilege. Like you, I also am in relationship with the wisdom, successes and failures of the past 2000 years (and beyond). As you have said, “[Christians] are not always perfect in the[ir] execution of the Word but that doesn’t mean that the understanding of the Word itself if flawed. It just means that they ignored the Spirit when they made the decision to act.” I agree with you (sort of), but I would also argue that oftentimes their “understanding of the Word” is flawed indeed. In fact, it is misunderstanding Jesus that quite literally led to his execution. That’s an equivocation fallacy on my part, but I think you get my drift, which remains that the Catholic hierarchy is not the only voice out there and not any more immune from screwing things up than any other church individual or organization. I remain astonished that you refuse to see/ admit this.

      But, back to the “sex stuff.” I have replied to both your post and Mark P’s. Where would you like to go from there/ here?

      your brother,
      -Corb

  12. Mandy P says:

    Well Corbs,
    You saw my initial long reaction to your post (the one that I had overlooked before). And this discussion has been on my mind regularly since we started this post. I have also seen our “discussion” greatly angering a dear friend of mine and this has opened my mind to some things. 1. We are both competitive. 2. We both care a lot about our beliefs. 3. We are going astray of the original intention of dialogue (the part about it being a discussion rather than a debate). We are just arguing back and forth, convinced of our own rightness and not really doing anything productive on this particular topic of birth control.

    So, in place of my “original” extra long argument I will instead state this. I think it is important for all people of faith to know why they follow certain practices. There is a place for blind faith to some extent but we all need to learn more about what we believe and practice and why. Since we both seem to understand why we do as we do and believe as we believe I see no reason to get into more of why I think NFP is a good thing. All that is happening is creating division and discord. If there ever comes a time when you are more curious about NFP I would be glad to talk about that but for now I think our time is up. I wish we lived near each other so that we could talk face to face about all of these topics we have discussed so far. I don’t like the format of the internet but that is where we are at in this world.

    Thanks for being willing to engage in dialogue with me. I will keep checking in on the blog but probably not comment on all the topics. I think it is your turn for a new topic whenever you feel up to it.

    Take care and peace to you,
    Mandy

  13. C_Lambeth says:

    Mandy,
    Your latest reply is a little disappointing for several reasons, not the least of which is that your friend (Carrie, I presume) has been hurt, which has never been my intention. Did you invite her to participate? I am sorry for the situation, but I make no apologies for anything that I have written thus far. In my own life, as well as my experiences with others, those who get hurt or angered when their beliefs are challenged are probably holding them too tightly and perhaps for the wrong reasons. I know this because it used to be me. When we are faced with such situations, we have several options: withdrawal, vilification of our conversation partner(s), or working through the issues/ coming to terms with our own beliefs’ weaknesses and maybe even changing what we believe (or at least why). Who knows? Maybe we’ll even be more confident of what we believe and why. Either way, can we not be confident in the core of our faith and let the periphery BE the periphery? Questions, even tough ones, are an essential part of our journey as Christians, are they not?

    Another part of my priceless experience as a Christ-follower is that when we are seriously challenged in what we believe (and yes, even a bit frustrated or angry -at least at first-), that is precisely when we are on the cusp of growing and deepening in profound ways that would not have otherwise presented themselves. This part of a fundamental, even if as-yet-unspoken purpose for my blog: to have the difficult conversations that don’t perpetuate infinite feedback loops which only tell us exactly what we already believe and think etc. Even for your own involvement, Mandy, when I press on the issue of Mary or the Catholic Magisterium and conception-control, your first tendency is to roll up your sleeves and have the conversation (which is awesome), but then you shut it down and withdraw just when we start to dial in on the real issues. I don’t understand this at all. Do you not know that I love you as a friend and sister? How can I convince you that I’m not out to get you? I have not been worried about hurting or being hurt because we have a relationship that extends beyond the blogosphere, and I have suffered no personal attacks. Neither have I made any that I am aware of, but I will sincerely apologize if I have and invite correction on the issue. I really don’t try to be an ass. Maybe it just occurs naturally? 🙂

    All that being said, I do not see any of this as a pointless debate, certainly not one that I am trying to “win.” However, I seem to have had my suspicions affirmed about the Catholic esteem for Mary, NFP and their Magisterium (at least thus far): they are part and parcel of the Roman Catholic tradition and grounded largely in personal and corporate feelings within that tradition but do not access or rely on any of the sources of authority in my own life as a Jesus-follower. Have I really been “right” about this all along? I have twice asked for an explanation of the “natural law” that has been cited in defense of NFP, but so far no-takers. Is that because it’s a bogus argument or because it’s not worth your time, or some other reason? I have no idea, but I have a few suspicions. I can’t figure it out if all I do is debate about Catholicism with a bunch of Protestants and Catholics-turned-atheists, but the more that sincere Catholics bow out, the more I am left to think whatever I want to about the issues. I need an intelligent Catholic (or two) to have the conversation and call me out on some misperceptions that have worked their ways in.

    So far, the only person who has consistently put up with me and challenged me (besides yourself) is a man I have never met (Russ Wicke). He is a tremendous blessing, and I deeply respect you both and am so thankful for your pushback. I hope I don’t so offend either of you that you withdraw completely, and even more so, I hope we can discuss and debate (and even rant or rave) without losing sight of the person who has brought us altogether in the first place (Jesus). If we can’t have difficult conversations with each other, how can we ever have them with the world? Surely we can, and without losing love for one another. That remains my hope for the blog.

    ever your friend,
    -Corb

  14. Pingback: One Catholic reconciles religion, sex and birth control | SEXed

  15. Mandy P says:

    Corbin,
    Carrie may have seen this blog from a Facebook group I am a part of but I don’t know her personally. The person in question is someone else entirely.
    I find myself stopping the debate when hyperbole becomes the direction of conversation. I don’t have much patience for it. I find that it takes things so far into the what ifs that we loose site of the discussion at hand. That is the other reason that I stopped my discussion.
    Finally, when you ask “where is it in the Bible” and I have to passage to give you I can’t really do anything. I can’t fabricate a passage nor is it necessary for me in my own faith. I rely also on Catholic tradition (liturgical and intellectual) and as we have already discussed, you don’t place a lot of stock in that. That’s why I didn’t re-post my long post. It relies a great deal on aspects form Catholic intellectual tradition. I figured that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to you, to be honest.
    So, against my better judgement I will post the long post. Seriously not eager to do this but as you seem eager to continue this conversation then I will oblige you.
    Hope your mission trip is going well,
    Mandy

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mandy,
      I am sorry that a person unknown to me found the conversation too painful. Not everyone is at a place where they can have their faith questioned, even by the loyal opposition (a Jesus-following Protestant in this case). Maybe he or she will come back when they are ready. Or maybe they won’t, but I hope they do.

      I am glad that you have recognized that Catholic tradition holds no authority for non-Catholics. I wish more of your Catholic fellows would follow suit. Please understand, however, that I don’t discount (most of) that tradition just to do it. On the contrary, I will gladly embrace any part of it (or any other tradition) that seems consistent with either the biblical text or with my own cultural setting (or both). I don’t condemn modern expressions of Catholic faith at all, but I do say that most of it isn’t for me. Would you be so charitable as to say the same of Protestant nuances foreign to your tradition?

      I am thankful for your input, your friendship and your toleration of me. I am blessed because of it.

      yer brotha,
      -Corbin

  16. Mandy P says:

    Part 1:

    Ok, I found your response…didn’t see it before:) and since there is a lot in it, this might take me some time. So brace yourself!
    First point: self sacrifice for the good of the child. I don’t know how Mark would behave in that situation. If the shoe was on the other foot as hard as my life would be without Mark, I would save the baby because of the guilt I would imagine on his part and because I think in his heart that is what he would want me to do. I follow a carpenter who sacrificed himself out of love for all of us so I truly believe that is what Jesus would do. He sacrificed and was the sacrifice.
    If you are using Birth Control and become pregnant how would that be intentional? I do not believe that someone as rational as you would simply say, “Yippee, we are having a baby” without also looking for ways to “make sure” an unintended pregnancy didn’t happen again. I have no doubt that you and Laura would love that baby unconditionally; no question whatsoever. However when a couple is taking steps to actively avoid pregnancy with only science to help you, how would that couple not seek to find out what went wrong (i.e. how they got pregnant). I see search increasing for a couple of logical, research minded people. As previously stated, NFP doesn’t work under the illusion that the couple can always prevent or achieve pregnancy alone. They need to have faith in their creator as well as science. They have to use their God-given intellect and abilities to accurately chart to help NFP be as effective as possible. However, these couples have to be more realistic because they are acutely aware that every sexual can act lead to pregnancy. If you are only using abstinence and timing then you naturally would be more aware of the outcomes of sex. There is no fall back for you. You have to sacrifice to make this work. Again, I believe this is a sacrifice that Christ calls us to make for love of the other.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mandy,
      It’s really cool that you would sacrifice yourself for the unborn. I have nothing critical to say about this other than I would not ask my spouse to do it. Call it what you will, I can have more kids or even adopt, but there is only one Mrs. Corbin Lambeth. She is my human priority over all others, and, God willing, she and I will still have each other long after our rug-rats grow up and make their own way in the world.

      You asked me how it would be intentional if we became pregnant while we were using conception control. This is a fair question, but you have already alluded to it in the comment above: Sex is the only activity known to humanity that result in pregnancy (or at least it is for most of us), so to engage in that activity with the absolute expectation that pregnancy will not result is a bit… stupid. Soooo… each time my wife and I are together, we fully accept that pregnancy may result. We try to mitigate the chances, but we will accept them nonetheless. And rest assured, we will honor the consequences of those chances and choices. Babies freak me out, but I’ll own my actions.

      Once again, the issue here doesn’t seem to be conception control at all, but rather which method of it each of us uses respectively. My spouse and I use one way (and are willing to accept the consequences), whereas you and yours use another (also expressing your willingness to accept whatever happens as a result). You believe that your method assists in your relationship with God and your spouse. That is awesome and I say more power to you. For my part, however, I see your choice of NFP as inconsequential for my relationship with God and patently unhelpful in my relationship with my spouse, maybe even detrimental. Of course that may change, but then again it might not. I am ok with either.

      your friend,
      -Corbin

  17. Mandy P says:

    Part 2:

    That leads me to moral order. My boy, Tommy AQ (sorry, I went to Aquinas College) said this about natural law: “the natural law is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law”. NFP is rational because of the realistic stance regarding sexual acts. I also found this on the new advent website: (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09076a.htm)
    “For example, to nourish our bodies is right; but to indulge our appetite for food to the detriment of our corporal or spiritual life is wrong. Self-preservation is right, but to refuse to expose our life when the well-being of society requires it, is wrong. It is wrong to drink to intoxication, for, besides being injurious to health, such indulgence deprives one of the use of reason, which is intended by God to be the guide and dictator of conduct. Theft is wrong, because it subverts the basis of social life; and man’s nature requires for its proper development that he live in a state of society. There is, then, a double reason for calling this law of conduct natural: first, because it is set up concretely in our very nature itself, and second, because it is manifested to us by the purely natural medium of reason. In both respects it is distinguished from the Divine positive law, which contains precepts not arising from the nature of things as God has constituted them by the creative act, but from the arbitrary will of God. This law we learn not through the unaided operation of reason, but through the light of supernatural revelation.” To extrapolate this further (and this has been done by the Church fathers) sex between a couple that is unitive and with the openness to be procreative is good but sex for pleasure alone (no matter the commitment of the two individuals) is wrong. When one is using artificial birth control they are ignoring the law of nature: sex leads to babies. In Genesis 38:9 we read of Onan using an “old school” form of birth control of removing his boys from the battlefield too early. Then in verse 10 we read about God’s displeasure with this. (Onan was killed.) Onan took matters into his own hands because of his selfishness (didn’t want to make babies that would be “credited to his brother”.) Does Jesus refer specifically to birth control in the bible? Obviously not. He also doesn’t explicitly refer to euthanasia, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, artificial insemination, or any of the other moral problems we have in the world today. That is why we have natural law; to help fill in the blanks from the bible. We follow God’s will even though that almost always includes sacrifice.
    Additionally I would say that the use of contraception violates God’s commandment of not killing (Ex. 20:13). Cleary abortifacent drugs do this by actually killing babies in the womb. But by denying God’s right to decide when life is created in the act of intercourse we are acting as Adam and Eve did by trying to become God.

  18. Mandy P says:

    Part 3:

    Now we get to your Devil’s advocate arguments. I really don’t need to argue this because ailments and fertility are not equal. Fertility is the sign of good health (as anyone who is struggling to conceive can tell you) but for argument’s sake I will give it a go. Another way to do this is to answer the question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” The bad things that happen are a result of a bad thing that happened to man earlier. They are reactions to a situation. Diseases can be caused by any number of things but it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. It is our bodies’ reaction to the exposure to some negative output. If our God is loving, then why do these things happen? Because of natural law. The negative consequences of diseases, ingrown toenails, body order, poor self image, etc. are the consequence of humanity by actions of humanity. Maybe I eat right, exercise, and generally take care of myself but I get cancer. That doesn’t mean that I did something wrong. It does mean that somewhere along the line humanity made a mistake (like sprayed the field next to my house with DDT) and I am experiencing the consequences.
    Now we get to using technology (using vehicle and fighting diseases). God gave us intellect; a gift that places us above animals. Of course we should use our intellect in our lives to do God’s will. But when the technology becomes the goal rather than serving God then yes, that is wrong. It is God’s will to fight cancer when it does not lead us to financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual ruin. When our lives become all about “beating the ill” rather than accepting our situation then we are letting our pride (winning) get the best of us. You mentioned wearing deodorant and make-up. Yes, even though I am getting more “granola” by the day I do wear deodorant but not make-up (I would rather spend that money on good food). Keeping my armpits from chapping and keeping my funk to a minimum is a way of taking care of the temple that God has created in me. When a person becomes obsessed with their appearance by spending excessive amounts of money on clothes, accessories, plastic surgery then they are putting their own worth about God.
    Then you really dive down deep… (“And why is your husband not “using” his own sperm on a daily basis in an appropriate context”) because we are not animals. My husband is not wasting his sperm by “sowing it elsewhere”. Why don’t we just have sex all the time? Because that is irresponsible. We have jobs and responsibilities that demand our attention. A couple’s expression of love is not limited to the sexual act alone. Another benefit of NFP is through the periods of abstinence you have to find ways to show love for your spouse besides sex.
    Then you make your fatal error (“castrate all boys and spay all girls as they are born”) which again is against the natural moral law. God created us to procreate the way we do so that we can “be fruitful and multiply.” You can’t multiply in either of these scenarios (having sex in the first manner depletes a man’s sperm count thus rendering him ineffectual and in the second…is sex even possible? I’m not sure what spaying the girls would look like to be honest with you.) You gave me argument to excess but going against God’s will is prideful any way you slice it, no matter the degree. Gossip is not a better or lesser sin that stealing, lying, etc. “Colossians 3:5-6 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.” I believe that using birth control is our way of grasping a good thing (sex) and kicking God out of the equation. It is the absence of faith in Him. It is a form of greed and grasping the things of this world.

  19. Mandy P says:

    Part 4:

    I’m not going to get into the hierarchy point except to say it sounds like what you are promoting is a form of Christian relativism. Is that correct? You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want and we’re all alright as long as we all believe in Jesus and the Bible. And also, wasn’t it just learned men who put the bible together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? How do you know they got it right? And where in the Bible does Jesus say “Here’s everything you need. Don’t try to write anymore because I covered it all.” I feel like you do acknowledge that God is still giving us messages but when they don’t agree with your personal beliefs and are not found explicitly in the Bible you have a tendency to discount them. I find that unfair.
    The green option: why do you think I put it at the end! I know my audience! I won’t go into it now but the folks I know that use NFP are hippies and Catholics.
    Finally, after my survival with you and the Res Life guys at lunch all those years ago, I don’t take what you say as hurtful to me personally. I really and truly believe that NFP is what God calls us to and because I love you and Laura, I want you to share in that gift. I don’t spend this much time talking about NFP with people don’t really care. My practice of NFP is so much a part of who I am that it flows into all aspects of my life. It is the cornerstone of my faith and life as a Christian wife, mother, and woman. It allows me to act in ways that are beyond reason because I engage in a practice daily that reminds me that I am not in control now matter how much I try to be. It is such a beautiful dimension of my life and one of sacrifice. Are there days when I want to have sex but we aren’t able to? Yes! In fact I am more aware of those days because I know when I am fertile and we are humans are programmed (by God) to want to perpetuate the species by procreating during fertile times. However, if we are not currently in a place to have children, we abstain from sex. We make a sacrifice as a way to honor God and our nature.

    Like I said, didn’t want to post all of this but there it is…
    Mandy

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