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Friday, February 04, 2005

Claire Barshied on sex, part 4

This is the final installment in this series. Parts I - III can be found here, here, and here.

A more troublesome matter than use of contraception for family planning, I think, is the attitude that marriage justifies sex. While this is true in a sense, what it implies is that marriage is a justification for pursuit of one’s own sexual gratification. Also troublesome is a view that the pleasure of sex is an end in itself, even in marriage.

We all yearn for that perfect “completer of our souls” – that ultimate life partner -- in a marriage partner. And truly that is what a spouse is, even if not quite in the way we imagined as we were walking down the aisle. The natural response is to want to give oneself fully and completely, including sexually, while simultaneously receiving same. In this way, one is completed, and this is what marriage should entail.

I know that a Catholic would say that the act of sexual giving must include a complete giving (of gametes) in order to be a selfless act of giving, and this is a compelling argument. However, the argument then runs up against the issue of family planning. Complete sexual giving is clearly not taking place if one is abstaining in order to avoid conception. Such abstinence is obviously not self-giving. Catholics say it is self-denial. But self-denial in and of itself is not a virtue; it is a requirement toward some other end. Self-denial in the wrong circumstances is actually selfishness.

I think that, in the contraception question, the real issues do not pertain to whether or not contraception is inherently bad, but to the motives of the heart for using it. If used for responsible family planning, the only way use of contraception can be selfish is if the procreative aspect of sex is more important than the other unitive aspects. This may be true, but I have not seen it proven.

Obviously there can be selfish sex in marriage, whether contraception is used or not. If one spouse is using the other for their own gratification, then this is as much of a problem as whether or not they are using contraception, for it violates the unitive purpose of sex. A child conceived as result of a selfish act of marital sex is begun at a distinct disadvantage. What kind of environment will that child grow up in, if it’s one not founded in a mutually-giving-and-receiving marital relationship? What kind of marriage is it that has produced this child?

It’s these questions that must be addressed first and foremost, I believe, in order to set the context for the rest of the debate.

Endnote: What bothers me about Barshied’s article and others I’ve seen that revisit contraception and the purposes of sex and marriage is that the contemplations are either initiatory ones (i.e., of someone embarking upon a change of heart) or, they mimic those of dogmatic Catholics. Or they are given by those who had a change heart some time ago yet the change was tied to attitudes not related specifically to contraception in and of itself -- their use of contraception was associated with or representative of the old attitude, to them. Where are the voices of the folks long-established in a marriage, with children, who have been more or less steady in their perspective? Is it possible for them to defend a proper use of contraception, in ways that do not capitulate to the “liberal” thought of our times?

Neither Onan, Natural Law, or the Humanae Vitae provide sustainable argument against contraception. (And yes, I realize what that sounds like... I’ve discussed my reasons for believing so in the latter part of my series on contraception, here and here.) Perhaps someone out there can show me a different way to argue from natural law, or else has an argument based on a different line of thinking. If so, I’d love to hear it.

29 Comments:

  • Well said, indeed, and, I think, in the spirit of Deuteronomy 24:5. Thanks.

    By Blogger Martin LaBar, at 8:53 PM  

  • Well, I think I fall into this category:

    "Where are the voices of the folks long-established in a marriage, with children, who have been more or less steady in their perspective?"

    Married for 24 yrs this month, children (lots, biological and adoptive)
    But I'm not so sure that you'd want to hear from me because of the comment you made about "dogmatic Catholics". I don't know for certain what you mean by that, and since I am Catholic, it might make a difference in whether you listen or not. As for your question:

    "Is it possible for them to defend a proper use of contraception, in ways that do not capitulate to the “liberal” thought of our times?"

    I'd have to say no.

    I looked over the past few posts you wrote to try and figure out what your thoughts are. I wasn't able to go back to read other posts about contraception, so I sort of hate to repeat things that might have been said. It seems that maybe you have questions or doubts still though, so maybe I can help to clarify some things?

    First a few basics:
    1. Significant if you consider yourself to be pro-life.
    The word contraception means "against life". How can one be "against life", yet "pro-life" at the same time?

    2. All hormonal contraception and the IUD can be abortive. We know for a biological fact that all life begins at conception. These methods potentially prevent a newly conceived human life from implanting in the uterus because they either irritate the uterine lining or render it in-hospitable to a "conceptus", Inother words they make it too thin for implantation to take place. By default then, the newly conceived baby is aborted because it can't implant and continue to grow.

    3.some organizations have decided to change the definition of pregnancy to be "when implantation has taken place". By changing "their" definition, they justify claims that these methods are not abortive be cause there is not a pregnancy. It does not change the fact that conception may have taken place. Ask a few women and see how many tell you they knew they had concieved prior to any positive pregnancy test- I know I did several times. A pregnancy test won't be positive until implantation , which is another way some organizations get away with claiming things are not abortive. It is interesting to me that so many people have come out against "emergency contraception" yet they see no problem with other birth control, when in fact they work the exact same way.

    4. Aside from the above reasons that many people think of when not using contraception, there are a few others.

    One is this: In all other cases of medication, we take them to improve our body, to make it better, to "fix" it so to speak, to correct imbalances. Contraception is the only case where medication and/or artificial means is being used in order to prevent our body from working like it should.

    Contraceptive methods can cause many side effects that in fact cause our body harm, including death. (no, I'm not exagerating). So we are knowingly subjecting our body to stop if from working like it should, and possibly causing it harm in the meanwhile.

    5. As for deeper reasons - you mentioned quite a few. I'm not sure where to start. Though I will begin by saying in relation to NFP and abstaining, even Catholics are not supposed to abstain for selfish reasons. They must hae a good reason. The most simplistic explanation for the reason the Catholic's and other churched too BTW say that NFP is ok is because you are still ultimately giving control of the life issue to God. You are not putting a purposeful, physical or chemical barrier between yourself, your spouse and God. You do give yourself totally to your spouse, regardless of the timing of your fertility. As for the pleasure part- it is a fact of life that sometimes one partner may not want to have sex/intercourse and the other may. Men and women have different physical and emotional needs. I tell women (and their partners if they are there) a sexual relationship is far more than intercourse and orgasm. For some people at some point in their life it is about the partner doing something like a load of laundry or cleaning up a puke mess, or washing the dishes, or holding you when you cry. Intercourse may result and be a natural extension of the closeness you feel, but orgasm may or may not be involved. Sometimes, lets face it- we are, for lack of another word, more "desirous" of our spouse than others, or it may be vice versa. It is at that point with NFP especially that we have to decide if we know we are fertile, would we mind terribly or would it be so bad if we had another child? Or is there really a compelling reason we should wait for a time that a) would be less fertile or b) that our partner may be more amorous and more in the mood as well.

    Love and sex and marriage are part of our Will. Learning to control ourselves and our desires, or re-thinking them at any given point is part of life, part of marriage, part of parenthood. With contraception especially it just doesn't happen like that. There is no need for self control in our sex life and that tends to carry over into other parts of our life as well. How for instance do we tell our children that they should control themselves when we don't or can't?

    ...Self denial ...not a virtue ?? Hmm. I think we could probably argue that one for quite some time. I disagree. I hope my children grow to understand that denying oneself of something for the sake of another or for someone else's benefit is indeed a virtue. It not only is compassionate towards the other person and puts their needs or best interest at heart it also take the focus off of "self" and builds character.

    I wonder if anyone has mentioned a book called "theology of the body"? It goes into much better detail than I can on that subject...

    I could continue, but this is a bit long already...Hope I haven't offended you and I wish you luck on your musings!

    By Blogger Nancy, at 10:34 PM  

  • Uh... Bonnie, I've been discussing this with you since November and I'm a long-married (25+ years, in a row!! with the same guy!!!) with 7 kids (5 boys, 1 girl, 1 unknown, 5 here, 1 in heaven and 1 on the way).

    Unless being a "Dogmatic Catholic" (not sure what that means as the Vatican has never ask me to write dogma!) disqualifies me, YOU HAVE been been hearing the voice of a long married folk with kids, steady in my perspective!!

    By Blogger Elena, at 7:32 AM  

  • Martin,

    I'm confused. I had always heard that the purpose of the man staying home out of the army for a year was for the purpose of possibly conceiving offspring to carry on the line? So how does Bonnie's post on contraception get in line with the "spirit" of Deuteronomy 24:5? Or are you saying that only contracptive sex is happy sex? I don't get it.

    By Blogger Elena, at 9:58 AM  

  • Nancy and Elena: On the long-married folks with kids in a steady perspective statement, note that the paragraph which mentions that (the Endnote) begins by stating that I am concerned about the rationale behind the revisitation of contraception (by Protestants, which has been occurring lately). I am asking to hear from those who are long-married, with children, who have maintained a steady perspective on legitimate use of contraception. I apologize for not making that clearer.

    On dogma: I consider the Catholic Church’s position on natural family planning and contraception to be dogmatic, in that there is no room for the individual to decide for themselves within Scriptural bounds. I’m distinguishing dogma from doctrine. So when I speak of a non-Catholic adopting the Catholic view, which has its basis in Papal authority, I am saying that the reasoning itself has to ultimately end there.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:49 PM  

  • Nancy, thanks for your comment. No offense taken, but thanks for your concern; I appreciate it very much. And I hope I have not offended you. I should’ve been more clear in my post that I was asking my question of Protestants. Not that I do not welcome a Catholic response, but I’ve been over the Catholic position pretty thoroughly with Elena. I do encourage you to read my entire contraception series to get perspective on where I’m coming from. It starts here. (note: by the term “contraception,” I am including NFP as well. When I wrote the first 5 installments of the series, I was not aware that Catholics do not consider NFP to be contraception. Please read those parts with this in mind.)

    I will respond to your points:

    1) I disagree that “contraception” means “against life.” It means “against conception.”

    2) Apparently the abortive properties of the Pill are unclear. The element of doubt, however, is enough to encourage many not to use it.

    3) My definition of pregnancy is the same as yours.

    4) On contraception not allowing the body to work like it should: that would have different implications depending on the method. If you are referring to preventing the meeting of gametes, I am agreed. However, I think the case can be made that NFP also prevents the married body from working like it should. That’s explained in “Contraception Part VI” (linked in the post).

    There are a very small percentage of cases in which use of contraception can be fatal. If one is going to use that argument, though, one must also concede that pregnancy and childbirth carry risk of fatality as well.

    5. NFP is ok is because you are still ultimately giving control of the life issue to God. You are not putting a purposeful, physical or chemical barrier between yourself, your spouse and God.The “failure rate” of NFP and AC (artificial contraception) are about the same. Therefore I don’t think it’s true to say the NFP practitioner is still ultimately giving control of the life issue to God in a way the married user of AC for family planning reasons isn’t. NFP also most definitely does put a purposeful barrier between spouses -- be it space, clothing, proximity, or withholding. As to a barrier between the married couple and God, if the issue is family planning, I do not see how prevention of conception via AC and prevention of conception via NFP are any different.

    You do give yourself totally to your spouse, regardless of the timing of your fertility.Not sexually, obviously. For my thoughts on the ministry of marital sex, I refer you again to Contraception Part VI.

    Learning to control ourselves and our desires, or re-thinking them at any given point is part of life, part of marriage, part of parenthood. With contraception especially it just doesn't happen like that. There is no need for self control in our sex life and that tends to carry over into other parts of our life as well. How do you know this? Do you have proof?

    How for instance do we tell our children that they should control themselves when we don't or can't? I don’t follow how a person who uses contraception in marriage is unable to teach their children self-control. Self-control is needed in most every facet of life.

    ...Self denial ...not a virtue ?? Hmm. I think we could probably argue that one for quite some time. I disagree. I hope my children grow to understand that denying oneself of something for the sake of another or for someone else's benefit is indeed a virtue. It not only is compassionate towards the other person and puts their needs or best interest at heart it also take the focus off of "self" and builds character. What you say here is what I am referring to: self-denial as a means to an end, i.e., for the sake of another or for someone else’s benefit. I said it isn’t a virtue in and of itself. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it depends on how “self-denial” is defined. Is it compassionate toward one’s spouse, putting their needs and best interest at heart, to practice abstinence in marriage for any purpose other than prayer? (I Cor. 7:1-11, vs. 5 particularly)

    I wonder if anyone has mentioned a book called "theology of the body"? It goes into much better detail than I can on that subject...Yes, Elena has mentioned it. I looked at Christopher West’s website and I have many disagreements with the material there. Too many to get into now but would be glad to discuss it if you wish.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:08 PM  

  • There are a very small percentage of cases in which use of contraception can be fatal. If one is going to use that argument, though, one must also concede that pregnancy and childbirth carry risk of fatality as well. For obvious reasons, this has been on my mind today so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

    Pregnancy and childbirth certainly do carry risks. God said childbearing would be difficult after the fall, to Eve. Yet if we are created in the image and likeness of God, and if Jesus as our teacher has shown us how to live and how to love as God loves, it seems to me that the death of a mother is an ultimate act of love. A total act of giving. The true embodiment of there is no greater love than to lay down your life!

    I can't see how the same thing could be said of an unnecessary drug or procedure that causes death.

    I remember reading somewhere about one the children of a President, I think it was Alice Roosevelt but I can't remember for certain, who said that she felt a great responsibility to do something with her life! to live a good life, because her life had cost her mother's life in return. That's how I would want my baby to feel if something happened to me and I would want my living children to feel that this sibling was a great gift to be cherished, because he/she had come at such a great cost.

    ...I fully admit to being a tad hormonal here, wiping tears and all.

    By Blogger Elena, at 4:10 PM  

  • Is it compassionate toward one’s spouse, putting their needs and best interest at heart, to practice abstinence in marriage for any purpose other than prayer? (I Cor. 7:1-11, vs. 5 particularly)The idea is if they have a grave or serious reason for not being open to another child, the couple should be praying about it! What we learned in our marriage when we used NFP before we just became open to life, is that NFP causes you work together as a true team in this area. It's not that one is selfish and the other isn't, but that you work through it, talk it over, share and communicate. That's probably why the divorce rate for NFP couples is extremely low.

    By Blogger Elena, at 4:14 PM  

  • Some more thoughts Bonnie - this was a big piece for me to digest all at once.

    I think that, in the contraception question, the real issues do not pertain to whether or not contraception is inherently bad, but to the motives of the heart for using it. Interestingly in your other thread about being a mom a commenter used this scripture
    "The heart is deceitful (Jer 17)"

    The heart is deceitful and I think with the loud message of society about contraception and all that go with that, it is very difficult to keep the heart focused on what God wants as opposed to what we want.

    By Blogger Elena, at 9:42 AM  

  • The true embodiment of there is no greater love than to lay down your life! Elena, I’m not sure that losing one’s life in childbirth is what that verse is referring to. What cause is one giving their life for in this situation? In war, a soldier sacrifices for the betterment of other’s lives. In daily life, if we lay down our lives for each other, we are serving others before serving ourselves. I don’t see how losing one’s life in childbirth is doing this. What about the burden that now rests on someone else to raise one’s children?

    I can't see how the same thing could be said of an unnecessary drug or procedure that causes death.The point was, if you are going to use risk of death as a reason not to use contraception, you must also be consistent and apply it as a legitimate reason to avoid pregnancy. I’m not sure that pregnancy can be judged according to necessity, or that a contraceptive drug or procedure can be judged to be always, without question, unnecessary. (Indeed, the practice of NFP itself renders pregnancy at times unnecessary.)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:30 AM  

  • Is it compassionate toward one’s spouse, putting their needs and best interest at heart, to practice abstinence in marriage for any purpose other than prayer? (I Cor. 7:1-11, vs. 5 particularly)...The idea is if they have a grave or serious reason for not being open to another child, the couple should be praying about it!I’m not sure what you’re referring to exactly by “the idea.” The idea of NFP? Or of the Scripture passage? The Scripture passage certainly is not referring to prayer only about whether to be open to children or not; it’s referring to prayer, period. It is disingenuous to say that one is abstaining in order to pray to determine whether or not God wants one to be open to conceiving a child, when the obvious purpose for the abstinence is to avoid conception of a child. Why not abstain before the fertile period in order to pray about being open to a child?

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:32 AM  

  • The heart is deceitful and I think with the loud message of society about contraception and all that go with that, it is very difficult to keep the heart focused on what God wants as opposed to what we want.What makes contraception any more deceiving than a myriad of other things in our society?

    In Matthew 15, Jesus speaks to the Pharisees of what it means to truly give to God, and of what defilement actually means. In verse 11, He says, “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” In verses 18-19, He elaborates: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

    He is saying that it is not practices themselves which defile; it is the attitudes of the heart in relation to these things. What defiles does not come from outside of a person; it comes from within.

    Obviously, if someone has a heart problem with a certain thing, i.e., is weak and vulnerable to temptation in something, then they should flee the externals which incite the temptation. But that does not mean that whatever tempts this person is evil in and of itself. One person may gratefully enjoy a piece of chocolate cake for dessert and incur no defilement whatsoever. Yet another may be incited to gluttony by the same piece of chocolate cake. Does this mean we should outlaw chocolate cake?

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:38 AM  

  • There's a lot of here to talk about Bonnie, so I am going to have to go one at a time as I have time.

    The true embodiment of there is no greater love than to lay down your life! Elena, I’m not sure that losing one’s life in childbirth is what that verse is referring to. Well why not. Jesus says there is no greater love than to lay down your life!!! Jesus himself laid down his life for all of us. If we are images of God too, this really is the ultimate way of loving isn't it!!??


    What cause is one giving their life for in this situation? The bringing forth of a new life, an eternal being into the kingdom of God. Very scriptural as well i.e. Rachel birthing Benjamin who becomes the patriarch of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.



    What about the burden that now rests on someone else to raise one’s children? What about it? Do we Christians see something like that as a burden? or as an opportunity to serve? I submit it should be more of the latter than the former.

    By Blogger Elena, at 5:26 PM  

  • I can't see how the same thing could be said of an unnecessary drug or procedure that causes death.The point was, if you are going to use risk of death as a reason not to use contraception, you must also be consistent and apply it as a legitimate reason to avoid pregnancy.It can be a legitmiate (grave, serious) reason to avoid pregnancy. Of course since all contraceptives have a failure rate.

    The real question I think Nancy's comment brings up is, which death would be righteous in the eyes of God - one that brings forth life according to his design? or one that was brought about by an artificial technique to thwart his design?

    By Blogger Elena, at 5:30 PM  

  • Is it compassionate toward one’s spouse, putting their needs and best interest at heart, to practice abstinence in marriage for any purpose other than prayer? (I Cor. 7:1-11, vs. 5 particularly)...The idea is if they have a grave or serious reason for not being open to another child, the couple should be praying about it!I’m not sure what you’re referring to exactly by “the idea.” The idea of NFP? Or of the Scripture passage? The idea of NFP as taught by the Catholic church is that it is used for grave or serious reasons, prayerfully.

    The Scripture passage certainly is not referring to prayer only about whether to be open to children or not; it’s referring to prayer, period. What type of prayer specifically Bonnie? Adoration? Thanksgiving? or petition? The verse isn't quite specific is it. So why do you assume that the prayer of a couple faithfully and prayerfully seeking to do the will of God in this area of family life and marriage is not legitimate prayer?


    Why not abstain before the fertile period in order to pray about being open to a child?Some do. Once in a while we missed an entire cycle just trying to decide what to do.

    By Blogger Elena, at 5:55 PM  

  • But that does not mean that whatever tempts this person is evil in and of itself. On the other hand, sometimes it is. Per the longstanding Christian history - this is one of those times.

    By Blogger Elena, at 5:57 PM  

  • I'm neither long-married nor a user of contraceptives, but my husband and I have gone from just letting whatever happen to using NFP for limited purposes. (We've been married seventeen months and have a seven-month-old.) Nor are we Catholics.

    Here's the thinking that's led us to this. Our actions must have both proper means and a proper end. Is it a proper end to avoid having children, as a married couple? Children are undoubtedly a blessing from God. It is our responsibility to prepare for and care for each one as best we can. There are some times, though, when having another child would be harmful to that child or the current one--for example, if we had them so close together so that I did not have the physical strength to adequately nourish both. We trust that God will provide strength when he gives us challenges, but we also know better than to deliberately go out and take risks. And this is one area where God allows our actions to interact with His.

    What about proper means? There are three kinds of artificial contraception: hormonal, barrier, and surgical. Hormonal methods, as have been mentioned, provide enough of a possibility of abortion to be out of the question (not to mention the potential harm to the woman simply from taking them). Barrier methods work against both the procreative and unitive aspects of sex, depriving the act of all its created purposes. (How does putting up a barrier express total self-giving and receiving?) Surgical methods cut off the future of any possible children, thus implicitly declaring that children could not be a blessing--not to mention potential harm from tampering with the body's systems.

    NFP requires only abstinence for a short period of time. Nothing in the way God made sex requires couples to have sex every day or requires it to result in a child every time. We might refrain from sex because we're too tired, or because one of us has a bad back, or whatever. These reasons don't have anything to do with prayer, just the practical realities of daily life. The important thing is the reason--that we're abstaining out of unselfishness, a desire to care for each other and our children.

    In application of I Corinthians 7, we have come to the conclusion that if several days of abstinence get to the point where it does feel like we're depriving one another, then we are to go ahead and trust God with the outcome--whether it's being too tired to get up for work or having another child. NFP provides a way for us to consciously balance our responsibilities to each other, to our children, and to the world at large.

    By Blogger Queen of Carrots, at 7:58 AM  

  • The true embodiment of there is no greater love than to lay down your life! / Elena, I’m not sure that losing one’s life in childbirth is what that verse is referring to / Well why not. Jesus says there is no greater love than to lay down your life!!! Jesus himself laid down his life for all of us. If we are images of God too, this really is the ultimate way of loving isn't it!!??As I said, it depends on the how, the why, and the circumstances in which one gives one's life.

    What cause is one giving their life for in this situation? The bringing forth of a new life, an eternal being into the kingdom of God. Very scriptural as well i.e. Rachel birthing Benjamin who becomes the patriarch of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.MYes, of course. Obviously, sometimes death during childbirth happens. This in no way diminishes the value of the new life, nor of the life of the mother. But what I was getting at, with my original point, was responsibility to the family one already has.

    Whether something is a burden depends on whether it is placed or shouldered. It is not very sacrificial of anyone to knowingly place a burden, or clear risk of burden, on someone else. Shouldering a burden, however, with no hope of glory for oneself, is certainly a sacrificial act.

    The real question I think Nancy’s comment brings up is, which death would be righteous in the eyes of God - one that brings forth life according to his design? Or one that was brought about by an artificial technique to thwart his design?It’s a good question. I think the matter of what His design actually is, though, is what’s really at issue.

    What type of prayer specifically?...The verse isn’t quite specific...I will repeat my earlier comment: "The Scripture passage certainly is not referring to prayer only about whether to be open to children or not; it’s referring to prayer, period."

    why do you assume that the prayer of a couple faithfully and prayerfully seeking to do the will of God in this area of family life and marriage is not legitimate prayer?I indicated no such assumption. Again, I will repeat my earlier comment:
    "It is disingenuous to say that one is abstaining in order to pray to determine whether or not God wants one to be open to conceiving a child, when the obvious purpose for the abstinence is to avoid conception of a child."

    But that does not mean that whatever tempts this person is evil in and of itself / On the other hand, sometimes it is. Per the longstanding Christian history - this is one of those times.How is evil determined? There is no Scriptural basis for what you are saying.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:48 AM  

  • "It is disingenuous to say that one is abstaining in order to pray to determine whether or not God wants one to be open to conceiving a child, You realize of course, that you are calling me and my husband and couples like us "disingenuous" because we did in fact abstain and part of that abstinance was to pray earnestly and ask God His will was for our lives.

    Funny... we thought we were being faithful!

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:31 PM  

  • It’s a good question. I think the matter of what His design actually is, though, is what’s really at issue. His disign doesn't include unnaturally flooding the body with hormones, covering up reproductive parts with synthetic materials, or maming healthy body parts so that they no longer function via surgery.

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:32 PM  

  • Whether something is a burden depends on whether it is placed or shouldered.That's not what Jesus said. Jesus said we had to pick up our crosses and follow them. He didn't say that anything about getting to pick or choose!!

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:35 PM  

  • How is evil determined?

    Well let's look at a definition first.

    By moral evil are understood the deviation of human volition from the prescriptions of the moral order and the action which results from that deviation.I think by that definition we can look at scripture and see what is evil in the eyes of God. Clearly the historical Christian understanding of contraception is that it is evil because it is a deviation. Throught scripture there are comments to be fruitful, and verses about the blessings of children. No where in scripture barenness, let alone willful deliberate barenness described as good or blessing. The clear message of the scriptures is not one of contracepting Bonnie. And again I remind you that all of the Christian denominations taught that up until 1930.

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:45 PM  

  • Elena, we’ve been over this stuff before so there’s no need to keep saying the same things over and over. I will just clarify/note a few things:

    1) I’m not calling anyone anything. If a couple is abstaining during a fertile period, for the purpose of avoiding conception, yet saying that they are abstaining merely for the purpose of prayer...that’s clearly disingenuous.

    2) Whether something is a burden depends on whether it is placed or shouldered. / That's not what Jesus said. Jesus said we had to pick up our crosses and follow them. He didn't say that anything about getting to pick or choose!!Nor did I. You’re missing the point. Jesus calls no one to place a burden on another. He calls us to bear one another’s burdens. We carry our own crosses; we don’t put them on others.

    3) the definition of evil that you give says nothing about things being evil in and of themselves; it speaks of human volition -- which is the heart (the will), and actions which result from the condition of the heart.

    If God gave us sex in marriage for making babies, then why the need to abstain during a fertile period? For grave reasons, you say. Yet you won’t allow that someone can use contraception for the same purpose, even though God also gave us sex in marriage for unitive purposes besides making babies.

    And, if abstinence practiced in marriage for the avoidance of conception isn’t willful deliberate barrenness, then certainly neither is a lack of production of more children that results from contraception for the marriage that has already produced children.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 8:08 PM  

  • 1) I’m not calling anyone anything. If a couple is abstaining during a fertile period, for the purpose of avoiding conception, yet saying that they are abstaining merely for the purpose of prayer...that’s clearly disingenuous.I have never met anyone that has said this have you? However I have known and have been in a couple that prayerfully abstains. I think you are being a bit pharisaical in your interpretation.


    You’re missing the point. Jesus calls no one to place a burden on another. He calls us to bear one another’s burdens. We carry our own crosses; we don’t put them on others.Then don't get old Bonnie. And never get sick and please don't ever have an accident. Someone might have to take care of you!!

    Sorry, but that is an outgrowth of the contraceptive mentality that no one should ever have to care for anyone else because "that's a burden." That's the type of attitude that will probably end Terri Schiavo's life this month, and why older people commit suicide and why children who aren't "planned" are called burdens. However it's simply NOT the message of the gospels.


    If God gave us sex in marriage for making babies, then why the need to abstain during a fertile period? For grave reasons, you say. Yet you won’t allow that someone can use contraception for the same purpose, even though God also gave us sex in marriage for unitive purposes besides making babies. I didn't make the rules Bonnie. God did. Couples can have sex, they can enjoy the unity and they can enjoy the pleasure! But what offends God is the abuse of his gift that deliberately takes accepts the pleasure and then deliberately sterilizes the procreative act itself. He gave couples a cyclical fertility pattern for a reason. It's up to us to accept how our bodies are made and accept the blessings of those bodies as well as the crosses.


    And, if abstinence practiced in marriage for the avoidance of conception isn’t willful deliberate barrenness,It's not. An NFP woman can't will her body to stop ovulating. She isn't deliberately sterilizing herself. She is simply working with God's design for her body.

    certainly neither is a lack of production of more children that results from contraception for the marriage that has already produced children.

    If that lack of production is caused by deliberately sterilizing the act, that indeed is the definition of barrenness.

    By Blogger Elena, at 11:18 PM  

  • Queen of Carrots,

    In case you’re still reading, I wanted to thank you for your comment and for taking the time to contribute your perpective. It was very well expressed.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 2:18 PM  

  • I’m not calling anyone anything. If a couple is abstaining during a fertile period, for the purpose of avoiding conception, yet saying that they are abstaining merely for the purpose of prayer...that’s clearly disingenuous. / I have never met anyone that has said this have you?yes, I believe you said this, though I haven’t met you :-)

    I think you are being a bit pharisaical in your interpretation.of what?

    You’re missing the point. Jesus calls no one to place a burden on another. He calls us to bear one another’s burdens. We carry our own crosses; we don’t put them on others. / Then don't get old Bonnie. And never get sick and please don't ever have an accident. Someone might have to take care of you!!You are still missing the point, Elena. It has to do with intentions. Getting sick, having accidents, and getting old are not intentional, they are unavoidable.


    If God gave us sex in marriage for making babies, then why the need to abstain during a fertile period? For grave reasons, you say. Yet you won’t allow that someone can use contraception for the same purpose, even though God also gave us sex in marriage for unitive purposes besides making babies. / I didn't make the rules Bonnie. God did. Which rules did God make, Elena? I do not find your rules in Scripture. The ultimate source of your rules is Papal authority.

    And, speaking of rules, God doesn’t make rules; He gives commandments. He also gave the Law, which was fulfilled in Jesus.

    Rules are what the Pharisees were fond of.

    An NFP woman can't will her body to stop ovulating.No, but she can avoid sex while she’s ovulating.

    She isn't deliberately sterilizing herself.

    Neither is the person who has not had any tubes surgically tied off.

    certainly neither is a lack of production of more children that results from contraception for the marriage that has already produced children. / If that lack of production is caused by deliberately sterilizing the act, that indeed is the definition of barrenness.Barrenness is defined as a lack of producing children, being sterile, or being unfertile. The contracepting couple with children are no more or less barren than the NFP couple with children. Barrenness or lack thereof isn’t defined by numbers of children, either.

    Again, I ask you, what is the purpose of sex? Only pleasure, or children? Is there no other purpose in the sexual union of a man and wife? Is there no other great, mysterious, unifying, cementing force? Is sexual union not a ministry of one spouse to the other?

    On sexual pleasure: you sing its praises if it occurs during a fertile period that was purposefully open to producing a child, or during an infertile period. Yet you deride it if it occurs during a fertile period during which contraception is used. Are you saying that a couple can switch back and forth between mature sexuality and puerile adolescence, sexually speaking, every few days?

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 2:26 PM  

  • I believe you said this, though I haven’t met you :-)Bonnie, I want to make one thing clear. Even though you and I go around and around on this topic, I really do enjoy wrangling with you and I enjoy your photos and other things you put on your blog!! Also, if you were to ever wander into my neck of the woods in NE Ohio, you and yours would be more than welcome and I think we would really enjoy each other in real life.

    I just wanted to make sure that you understood that this is nothing personal and although I disagree with you on this issue, I think you're a neat lady and a good blogger!!

    I return now to our regularly scheduled discussion! : )

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:00 PM  

  • yet saying that they are abstaining merely for the purpose of prayer...that’s clearly disingenuous. / I have never met anyone that has said this have you?yes, I believe you said this, though I haven’t met you :-) Don't think so Bonnie. I always had some intention to go with my prayers!

    I think you are being a bit pharisaical in your interpretation.of what? Of your interpretation of the use of Prayer in this passage of 1 Corinthians.

    You’re missing the point. Jesus calls no one to place a burden on another. He calls us to bear one another’s burdens. We carry our own crosses; we don’t put them on others. / Then don't get old Bonnie. And never get sick and please don't ever have an accident. Someone might have to take care of you!!You are still missing the point, Elena. It has to do with intentions. Getting sick, having accidents, and getting old are not intentional, they are unavoidable. Sometimes death in childbirth is unavoidable too Bonnie. I don't think anyone of sound mind ever attempts suicide via childbirth!


    If God gave us sex in marriage for making babies, then why the need to abstain during a fertile period? For grave reasons, you say. Yet you won’t allow that someone can use contraception for the same purpose, even though God also gave us sex in marriage for unitive purposes besides making babies. / I didn't make the rules Bonnie. God did. Which rules did God make, Elena? I do not find your rules in Scripture. Ah... this could lead into the sola scriptura, scripture as the sole authority debate!! Which we could do perhaps in a different thread? Your place or mine! : )

    What I find in scripture is an openness to new life and children as a blessing! I do not find a contraceptive attitude in scriptures.

    I.The ultimate source of your rules is Papal authority. Actually the ultimate source for "my" rules is God.

    And, speaking of rules, God doesn’t make rules; He gives commandments. He also gave the Law, which was fulfilled in Jesus. Interestingly I have a little Sunday School book for pre-schoolers that uses the word Rules for the 10 commandments. Let's not nit pick.

    An NFP woman can't will her body to stop ovulating./No, but she can avoid sex while she’s ovulating. Which is not the same thing as rendering herself deliberately sterile. The period of infertility exists regardless of whether or not she has sex.

    She isn't deliberately sterilizing herself.

    Neither is the person who has not had any tubes surgically tied off.
    .

    To deliberaly CAUSE oneself to be infertile, to be deliberately sterile even in just this one act, certainly is! Just not in a permanent sense.

    certainly neither is a lack of production of more children that results from contraception for the marriage that has already produced children. / If that lack of production is caused by deliberately sterilizing the act, that indeed is the definition of barrenness.Barrenness is defined as a lack of producing children, being sterile, or being unfertile. The contracepting couple with children are no more or less barren than the NFP couple with children. Bonnie, they are deliberately making a fertile act, sterile.

    The NFP couple is either, not engaging in the act, or they are engaging in an act that is already infertile. Big difference.

    Again, I ask you, what is the purpose of sex? Only pleasure, or children? It is both. It always has been both.


    Is there no other purpose in the sexual union of a man and wife? Is there no other great, mysterious, unifying, cementing force? Is sexual union not a ministry of one spouse to the other? IT certainly is. But not at the sacrifice of the other aspects.

    On sexual pleasure: you sing its praises if it occurs during a fertile period that was purposefully open to producing a child, or during an infertile period. Yet you deride it if it occurs during a fertile period during which contraception is used. Are you saying that a couple can switch back and forth between mature sexuality and puerile adolescence, sexually speaking, every few days? An adolescent mentality, i.e. a mentality is not mature, would probably not be able or willing to abstain for any reason. That is the type of mentality that only seeks pleasure with little to no regard go the consequences. I would say that tpe of mentality permeates the contraceptive culture that upholds self, pleasure and happiness as supreme.

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:42 PM  

  • Wow, Elena...thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it very much.

    I enjoy debate too, I must say, though I’m not so fond of wrangling :-)

    To the program: I’d have to go searching through the miles and miles of comments over on your blog, but I do recall you saying what I think you said...and I still do not believe that I Cor. 7:5 can be used in defense of NFP, for the reasons I’ve stated. Nothing pharisaical about not twisting or misapplying Scripture.

    Sometimes death in childbirth is unavoidable too Bonnie. I don't think anyone of sound mind ever attempts suicide via childbirth! LOL! Well no kidding. But we’ve gotten far away from the original point, which had to do with the use of the “can be fatal” argument as a strike against contraception.


    Ah... this could lead into the sola scriptura, scripture as the sole authority debate!! Which we could do perhaps in a different thread? Your place or mine! : )Another time :-)

    What I find in scripture is an openness to new life and children as a blessing! I do not find a contraceptive attitude in scriptures.
    then how do you justify NFP (no, don’t answer that – please! ;-) ) Clearly, willful abstinence during a fertile period for the purpose of avoiding creation of new life is not openness to new life.
    Actually the ultimate source for "my" rules is God.
    well, that’s one for the sola Scriptura debate, I suppose

    And, speaking of rules, God doesn’t make rules; He gives commandments. He also gave the Law, which was fulfilled in Jesus. Interestingly I have a little Sunday School book for pre-schoolers that uses the word Rules for the 10 commandments. Let's not nit pick.Well first of all, Elena, you and I are not preschoolers; we are capable of understanding distinctions between rules, commandments, and laws. And 2nd of all, good grief -- we’ve been nit-picking for months!!!

    certainly neither is a lack of production of more children that results from contraception for the marriage that has already produced children. / If that lack of production is caused by deliberately sterilizing the act, that indeed is the definition of barrenness.Barrenness is defined as a lack of producing children, being sterile, or being unfertile. The contracepting couple with children are no more or less barren than the NFP couple with children. / Bonnie, they are deliberately making a fertile act, sterile.

    Yes, this is true. But here’s what it comes down to: the wrongness of making a fertile act sterile while intentional barrenness is not wrong. “Integrity of the sex act,” you say, and “integrity of the purpose of sex in a marriage,” I answer. I mentioned in another comment on another post, which you may or may not have seen, that your view sees the procreative aspect of sex as holier than the other unitive functions of sex, whereas my view holds that other unitive aspects of sex can be holier than the procreative function.

    Again, I ask you, what is the purpose of sex? Only pleasure, or children? / It is both. It always has been both. It has always been much more than both, which is what I was saying:
    Is there no other purpose in the sexual union of a man and wife? Is there no other great, mysterious, unifying, cementing force? Is sexual union not a ministry of one spouse to the other? / IT certainly is. But not at the sacrifice of the other aspects.As I said above: you see the ministry aspects as sacrificeable to the fertility aspect, but not vice-versa. I question the sacrifice-ability of the ministry aspects to the fertility aspect. I understand that the Catholic view holds that interference with the fertility aspect of the sex act itself interferes with the mystery/union of the act, yet, if this is true, then there must be something different about the spiritual aspects of the sex act when it's engaged in during an infertile period. During such sex, there is no ripened egg, and cervical mucous destroy the sperm.

    **There is not a “complete giving” during infertile sex, naturally, therefore why is there a problem with a lack of “complete giving” during an otherwise fertile act of sex? And, perhaps most importantly of all: if it is OK to interfere with the fertility aspect of sex via abstinence, given that there is a unity of function to marital sexuality, then why is it not OK to interfere with the fertility aspect of sex via AC? Why is it OK to interfere with the other unitive aspects of marital sexuality yet not OK to interfere with the act itself? I would think that taking the anti-AC arguments to their logical conclusion would exclude NFP as well, and leave the “quiverfull” philosophy, i.e., no attempt whatsoever to manage family size, as the only remaining option.**

    On sexual pleasure: you sing its praises if it occurs during a fertile period that was purposefully open to producing a child, or during an infertile period. Yet you deride it if it occurs during a fertile period during which contraception is used. Are you saying that a couple can switch back and forth between mature sexuality and puerile adolescence, sexually speaking, every few days? / An adolescent mentality, i.e. a mentality is not mature, would probably not be able or willing to abstain for any reason. That is the type of mentality that only seeks pleasure with little to no regard go the consequences. I would say that tpe of mentality permeates the contraceptive culture that upholds self, pleasure and happiness as supreme.

    I agree that there is a culture that upholds self, pleasure, and happiness as supreme; however, your answer/statement does not address my question :-)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:46 PM  

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