Contraception and Signs of Contradiction: Part I

by James Matthew Wilson on April 26, 2012 · 31 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Philosophers & Saints,Politics & Power

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Contraception as Apparent Moral Good.  Most persons who use contraception conceive of it as a moral good.  They see an unruly, pullulating nature directed toward nothing other than its own continuance all about them; and in their sexual desires and fertility they find, unsurprisingly, an image of this endless profusion.  In response, they believe that the use of contraceptive technologies makes possible the near mastery of the human intellect over the otherwise undirected, at times dangerous, abundance of their inner natural world.  By suppressing fertility for much of their lives, and having children only at those moments they think most propitious, they hope to attain several goods that they believe to be both individually attractive and publically beneficial:

a) one can wait to have children until the most convenient moment, so that one’s career or economic well-being can be on a good footing, and that one’s career can be minimally sidetracked;

b) one can have just one or two children, so that the promise of sufficient time to dedicate oneself to one’s spouse and one’s children and the prospect of being able to provide for their every material want to great advantage seems most likely to be manageable;

c) planned parenthood in general provides numerous public benefits: a decrease in illegitimacy and abortion; allowance for later marriages and a consequent increase in fidelity and a decrease in divorce;

d) finally, in a world swelling with huge masses of humanity, a mastered and limited fertility can allow one to have a child or two without contributing to the long-prophesized fear of overpopulation.

These views are so common as to be practically universal; they are the common sense of our day and the guiding principles of much of our public policy in America and in the West as a whole.  To call any of them into question seems absurd.  To doubt the goodness of these things, more specifically, seems outright threatening.

Persons who use contraception believe themselves to be experiencing its goodness in every way: in the freedom felt in the very absence of a daily grind of daunting responsibilities for other lives; in the sigh of relief breathed as one loses a job or fails to earn what one had expected.  They see stories of child abuse or neglect on the news, or hear their friends’ tales of divorce, and reaffirm that children will have to wait until they are emotionally ready for that unique, privileged, and immense job.  They look to it as a moment to be prepared for, a singular episode to be lived through.  Moreover, they look at the images of urban slums abroad and at the high rise projects uptown; they see the very density of traffic on their own suburban roads, and they cannot help but wonder whether the blessing of each new child born—so palpable a joy in the singular—is not contributing to great social and material harm in the aggregate.

The Fragility of the Catholic Consensus.  One may hardly be surprised, then, that the Catholic teaching on the evil of contraception has, for forty years, met with visceral scorn and vitriolic contempt everywhere outside its parishes.  Nor need one be surprised that, in its parishes, such teaching has not infrequently been met with silence and evasion not just by lay Catholics but by priests.  For decades, a contract has been tacitly maintained between pulpit and pew: we will not preach against the secret practices of the bedroom, if you do not speak of them with casual acceptance.  One may contracept, so long as one remains too embarrassed or well-mannered to speak about it.

These last months have brought the silent shame and embarrassing teaching to the center of our public life in a way few of us could have anticipated.  The Obama administration has disrupted the shrouded-in-silence status quo of American Catholics as part of a larger political strategy further to fragment what remains of the Catholic vote.  It has thus rendered that quiet bargain so long ago struck in the old churches of Somerville and the parishes of Peoria uncomfortably visible and, consequently, simply unsustainable.

Catholic Bishops, drawing evidently on the same prudential wisdom that led to decades of silent impasse and families of one or two children becoming the norm in their churches, attempted to make the federal mandate regarding contraception, sterilization, and abortafacients a question of simple religious liberty.  Patrick Deneen and others have pointed out the lack of wisdom in attempting to frame the argument in the terms of liberal democracy, precisely because the spirit of liberalism is ultimately, if subtly, totalitarian in character.  The positive freedom to have equal access to something almost inevitably trumps the negative freedom not to violate one’s conscience.

But is it not rather the case that the Bishops had no choice but to argue for their Church’s religious freedom simply because most Catholics already accept as a fact of life and even as a moral good the practices of contraception that have become widespread in America over the last several decades?  Did they not, importantly, already have a case study in the fragility of their hold on the Catholic laity?

For, the liturgical and devotional changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council just a few years before Paul VI’s promulgation of Humane Vitae (1968) revealed how fragile Catholic culture and practice in America really was.  Thinking they needed only to modernize to make Catholicism the American religion, drawing Protestants into its fold, the Bishops changed with confident authority the daily lives of their long-standing and previously docile flock.  But the effect was swift, drastic, and unanticipated.  The seminaries emptied; so, also, if more slowly, did the pews.  An outward structure of massive strength and size turned out to be less like the dome of St. Peter’s and more like a fabergé egg.

What resulted from the changes of the Council was not a Church reborn, dynamic with the new life and priesthood of the laity, or a Church aggrandized, gaining in ubiquity through modernization, ecumenical outreach, and the reconversion of “our separated Protestant brothers and sisters.”  Rather, churches were trashed, liturgies bowdlerized, and those not already deeply entrenched in the habits of devotion saw that the Church seemed to offer little that was not available elsewhere in the West’s secular, therapeutic culture; what little it did have to offer rang with just that slight and unattractive dissonance of the anachronistic—unattractive in consequence, and certainly not an entirely other way of being in the world.  Not, not certainly, a sign of contradiction in an age of unbelief, greed, acquisitiveness, and libertinism.

The Bishops had learned their lesson.  The pews may still be half-full today, but they would be mostly empty tomorrow if the Church were to couch its objection to the Obama mandate in terms that draw attention to the particularities of Catholic moral teaching rather than appeal to the liberal truisms of American religious liberty.

Perhaps providentially, the candidacy of Sen. Rick Santorum—through some sly journalists’ questions apropos of nothing and Santorum’s own compulsion to chomp at any rhetorical bait—did not allow this framing of the Obama mandate as a question of religious liberty entirely to take hold.  The Church was able to make its argument on liberal grounds and gain something of a hearing in that regard.  But the presence of Santorum and all he made visible—by his very presence, not to mention his outspoken and not always fortunate language—made it evident that something more, and something other, was at stake.

Unhappily, this has been most obvious in the manner in which journalists hostile to the Church have been able to keep the discussion of these matters from being neatly restricted to the trope of religious liberty.  What has not, on the whole, resulted is a forthright defense of Church moral teaching that compels Catholics to affirm what they believe or that takes on the common sense of a culture that views contraception as a personal convenience and a moral good.  More priests than ever before have in fact undertaken just this affirmation, and many lay Catholics have tried to make such a case, and to do so with unapologetic reasoning, but it has not penetrated into the dominant locations of debate; it probably cannot do so, unless the Church in its clerisy and episcopacy speaks with a more unified and definitive voice.  This will be hard to do; it is hard to be a sign of contradiction in a world where persons believe that their everyday practices and the ends they are already pursuing are demonstrably authentic goods.

The Order and Goodness of Creation.  But is it not just this common sense certitude in the authentic moral goodness of contraception what the Church does indeed contradict not just in its specific moral teachings on marriage and the bearing of children, but in its entire philosophy of nature, its entire understanding of the character, conditions, and purpose of creation?

The conception of nature that most modern persons intuitively accept is that first advocated by Thomas Hobbes.  Though many later things have nuanced our common sense about nature, it remains essentially Hobbesian.  The English philosopher writes, in the early pages of his Leviathan,

That when a thing lies still, unless somewhat else stir it, it will lie still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of. But that when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion, unless somewhat else stay it, though the reason be the same (namely, that nothing can change itself), is not so easily assented to. For men measure, not only other men, but all other things, by themselves: and because they find themselves subject after motion to pain and lassitude, think everything else grows weary of motion, and seeks repose of its own accord; little considering whether it be not some other motion wherein that desire of rest they find in themselves consisteth. From hence it is that the schools say, heavy bodies fall downwards out of an appetite to rest, and to conserve their nature in that place which is most proper for them; ascribing appetite, and knowledge of what is good for their conservation (which is more than man has), to things inanimate, absurdly.

When a body is once in motion, it moveth (unless something else hinder it) eternally; and whatsoever hindreth it, cannot in an instant, but in time, and by degrees, quite extinguish it:

We see that nature is already in motion, and we imagine that the whole natural world will go on and on, without limit or purpose, changing, growing, toiling beyond profusion, unless something interrupt its movement.  We find this incessant movement in ourselves as well: a tendency toward growth and expansion, an endless appetite, which we must discipline, suppress, or master—sometimes by our reason, but often by the external contrivances of our reason.  The cosmos just keeps on turning, unless someone stick a mop handle in the spokes; and we just go on breeding and devouring, unless we can disrupt the fertility of our own inner world.

We would all accept as a matter of course that a physical body in motion tends to stay in motion, just as Hobbes says; abstractly speaking, an unspecified “physical body” has no natural conditions or particular purpose.  But the Catholic philosophy of nature does not think this conclusion answers any significant question on the nature of nature.  Have any of us, it asks, actually ever encountered pure and simple a body?

Pure matter may be in itself indeterminate, infinitely subject to continuous motion and infinite mutability.  But once matter has been formed into this or that particular nature, one of the attributes it evidently gains thereby is an ordination to an end: no sooner does something come to exist as some thing than it has also an aim at which it is directed, a purpose its very being sets it on the path to fulfilling.  I can imagine my body, carried up into outer space and set adrift.  It may well move in a straight line, forward, forever.  But my body, as part of my self, is naturally intended not to live in the waste and void of space but on the solid ground of the good earth.  And there, my self finds its movement internally limited, ordered to particular goods by its very nature.  That nature would be so violated, were it set adrift in the void, that it would soon die.

The orderliness and self-limitation of nature is a reality we encounter every day.  So universal an experience is it that we ought to question why our common sense speaks to us of a Hobbesian endlessness of motion rather than of an orderly, purposeful, and definitively finite nature: a nature that involves our reason as a part of itself, but which is not dependent on that reason for most of its operations.  We see this orderliness and, by definition, because we cannot help but perceive it, we find the entire world consummately intelligible.  The stability and predictability of all things in nature seeking their ends we see as a sign of their truth.  And when we see the fluent and articulate speech of nature’s truth, its participation in the language of Truth Itself, we know it for the created expression of a creating voice; we thus come to know the world also as Good.

Catholicism teaches us that the way to be in a world instinct with purpose and intelligibility is to perceive it as true and good, and this means to accept it and our place within it as a gift.  All things seek their individual goods, and their individual goods cooperate in an immanent universal good, the order of creation.  Our reason, a part of this order, has a designated role to play, and the whole moral mystery of human life in this world is to discover the character of that role.  That mystery is itself a gift, though it also should feel like a great burden.  The burden is justly eased as soon as we see that the intelligible order of nature helps to direct our reason with a very light yoke.  It is, however, unjustly eased when we use seek technological or ideological substitutions for it.

To be concluded tomorrow . . .

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Siarlys Jenkins April 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I generally agree with statements (a), (b), (c) and (d) above. I have yet to read an argument against contraception that does not begin “My church [or my moral beliefs independent of a formal doctrine] teaches that this is wrong, therefore, (a), (b), (c), and (d) must be somehow fallacious, even though I can’t offer an objective, rational basis to say so. It’s a mystery.”

One point Mr. Wilson touches on is certainly true: there is an order and goodness to creation. God pronounced it good, and after creation of home sapiens sapiens, very good. The order of creation is far more complex and subtle than the fumbling mind, hands, and technology of man have ever comprehended, so caution in exercising our dominion over the earth to make fundamental changes is called for. This caution no doubt applies to contraception also.

But contraception certainly has its place. The untampered natural order of most species is that most offspring die before reaching puberty. We have tampered mightily with that natural order. Even one hundred years ago, it was normal that half of one’s kindergarten classmates would be dead before the class finished high school. With sharply lower death rates, it is our duty to the natural order to commensurately lower birth rates as well.

Only a voracious intensively industrialized economy can support 7 billion human beings and rising. To implement the vision of Wendell Berry, or The Omnivore’s Dilemma, to have room for “a sense of place,” to reconnect with the land, we need to stabilize our population back around the level of 3 billion, which was the world population within my lifetime.

The Catholic consensus is broken because the doctrine doesn’t make sense, at the family level, or for humanity. Most Catholics know that. Only the bishops remain in obtuse denial. Some individual Catholics do also of course, but thank God they do not dominate the choices available to individuals.

avatar Anymouse April 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I assume you have heard of NFP, and Ecological Breastfeeding?

avatar Siarlys Jenkins April 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Your point, Mr. Anymouse? Pray, elucidate on the significance of these choices to this argument.

avatar Anymouse April 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm

They avoid the moral and technical problems of chemical contraception while allowing one to reduce the amount of children born to an acceptable level.

avatar Gian May 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

“the amount of children born to an acceptable level.”

Acceptable to whom? To God or to Secularists?

The worries about population increase are misplaced. Firstly, sufficient onto the day is the evil thereof.
Secondly, love your neighbor. It is beyond one to ponder all the good or evil there is. Work in one’s appointed place.
Thirdly, even if large number of faithful are being pro-creative, the very fact of them being faithful in this will make them faithful in other matters, with implication on resource consumption et al.

avatar Anymouse May 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

You are correct. I was trying to appeal to those who do not fully understand.

avatar Mark van H May 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

@Anymouse: Using breastfeeding and/or NFP as a contraceptive is any different than using condoms. Condemming contraceptives and at the same time promoting NFP is a bit hypocrite. To say the least.

avatar ahunt May 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Sigh.

Folks…just butt out. Our use of contraception is between my husband and myself.

Are we good?

avatar Gian May 2, 2012 at 10:59 pm

ahunt,
You buy contraceptives in a shop, don’t you? They are produced in some factory, aren’t they?

Even if the use is considered a private matter, the production and sale is not.
And the City may legitimately control these aspects.

For instance, the City variously restricts smoking on health grounds.
On moral grounds, such as easy availability of contraceptives promotes fornication, the sale of contraceptives may be restricted too.

avatar ahunt May 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

“For instance, the City variously restricts smoking on health grounds.
On moral grounds, such as easy availability of contraceptives promotes fornication, the sale of contraceptives may be restricted too.”

…the compelling public interest being what? Be specific.

avatar Anymouse May 3, 2012 at 12:30 am

Social degeneracy, and turning the City into a new Sodom could be one issue.

avatar Anymouse May 3, 2012 at 12:35 am

“Condemming contraceptives and at the same time promoting NFP is a bit hypocrite. To say the least.”
Wow, you must be smarter than men with degrees in Theology.

avatar Anymouse May 3, 2012 at 12:37 am

Let’s keep it simple: NFP = Natural, and part of the body like menopause. A balloon used as a contraceptive device is certainly not a part of the naturally occurring order, and is made by human beings.

avatar ahunt May 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm

“Social degeneracy, and turning the City into a new Sodom could be one issue.”

Wow…married couples having contraceptive sex is “social degeneracy?” Who knew?

Frankly, I loved my time on “The Pill.” From the tremendous physical freedom of crampless, two day, light flow periods to the relaxed intimacy of sex w/o fear and tension…

Certainly, oral contraception is not for everyone, but it certainly worked well for us.

So why would anyone want to take my greater physical freedom and my enjoyment of sex with my husband? To what good end?

avatar Tom B May 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

ahunt,

The essay is about whether contraception is a moral good or evil. If we granted for a moment that it really is no one’s business but your and your husband’s whether you use contraception, it would seem that you want that private sphere not only to be impervious to law but also to reason. That you consider it an intrusion on your private business that someone would even make an argument against contraception suggests to me that you already sense something is wrong with the use of contraception and feel threatened when someone speaks that truth.

Western society has clearly been changed — radically altered, in fact — by the introduction of contraception. On this, nearly everyone agrees. What we disagree on is whether that change has been a good one. So, if the change has been a) great and of social consequence and b) evil, it would seem to matter very much whether you and your husband contracept.

Because the first — though not the last — evil of contraception is its reduction of sex to that domain of free pleasure you describe, you, along with everyone else, have a compelling interest in ending that evil in your lives and in the lives of others to whatever extent it is possible to do without causing the advent of some other, new evil.

avatar ahunt May 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Well no…but I’ll play. Permit me to point out that it took exactly 3 acts of conjugal bliss to give us our three. Unless you are advocating marital celibacy once the childbearing is finished…separating sex from pregnancy to allow for free pleasure with my husband strikes me as a matter best left in our remarkably capable hands.

And yes…I believe contraception has radically altered the West…and women’s lives are the better for it.

avatar MMH May 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm

ahunt – Did you ever read the pill package insert that describes how it works as an abortifacient?

avatar ahunt May 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm

As in the thinned uterine lining that prevents implantation in the highly unlikely event fertilization occurs?

Before we go any further, you should know that I do not lose any sleep over flushed blastocysts.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins May 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

“Western society has clearly been changed — radically altered, in fact — by the introduction of contraception. On this, nearly everyone agrees.”

Everyone? Meaning you, those you hang with most closely, those whose books you read for reaffirmation of your existing thought process, and the handful of token liberals in the 9th circle of your social group? I doubt very much that “Western society” has been “radically altered” by contraception. Sex has been with us since the dawn of pre-history, ditto extramarital sex, etc. Today, the demographic populations with the highest rates of birth outside of marriage are also those with least access to contraception, and the least desire or attention to making use of it.

I have some limited sympathy for the advocates of NFP. The best argument I’ve heard is that refraining from sexual intercourse for certain periods of time is fundamentally different from using chemical or physical means to block fertility anytime. There is at least a consistent logic to that, which has a certain integrity.

One can make an argument that “social degeneracy” is a mandate for strict government control and intervention, but that argument leads down a short, steep, slippery slope to the absolute totalitarian state. The framers of our constitution believed in the right to be left alone by the government in broad areas of personal life. One can of course make a moral argument in the public square, “Mrs. ahunt, I implore you to abandon your wicked ways,” but she has the civic option to ignore you, and bar you from her door and her property.

It is obvious that sexuality exists only because without it, nothing more complex than a sponge would endure the inconvenient contortions necessary to reproduce. However, in human beings at least, marital bliss celebrates the reunification of the Image of God, the two parts into which the Adam was split when God created man “male and female” in his own image. That is, in itself, worthy of celebration, as anyone with a heart can recognize in the devotion of two people celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

As for population, we would have been much better off it we could have stablized our population at 3 to 5 billion; we are now headed unavoidably for 9 billion. This is not an evil that we can deal with when the ultimate limits are reached… babies don’t suddenly cease being born because we decide its time to stop. We need decades of planning, and preferably, the time to handle it without the draconian measures China has taken. Yes, there is plenty of unoccupied land, but only a small fraction is desirable farmland, and much of that has been over-run with housing developments due to shortsighted economic incentives. If we are going to return to living within natural cycles in a more sacred manner, as many on this site advocate, we have to break out dependence on intensive industrialized agriculture to barely sustain a burgeoning population.

In fact, population stats are starting to ease, thank God, and in part that is due to contraception being available so individuals may CHOOSE to make use of them.

Incidentally, I don’t lose any sleep over flushed blastocysts either. It happens naturally all the time. At the cellular and genetic level, reproduction is a numbers game. By the time a unique and fully formed individual emerges from the womb, there are more individualized considerations, but medicine is basically an increasingly sophisticated effort to free ourselves from the numbers game that resulted in half the kids from kindergarten class being dead before their surviving classmates reached the age of 18. The higher survival rates is one reason we no longer need, nor can afford, the larger families of yore.

avatar Anymouse May 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

“Today, the demographic populations with the highest rates of birth outside of marriage are also those with least access to contraception, and the least desire or attention to making use of it.”
You kind of proved his point. Contraception and the incentives to use it do radically alter a society.

And what really stops ordinary people from using Natural Family Planning or ecological breastfeeding? You seem to be ignoring those things as means of limiting the population explosion.

avatar ahunt May 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

“If we are going to return to living within natural cycles in a more sacred manner, as many on this site advocate, we have to break out dependence on intensive industrialized agriculture to barely sustain a burgeoning population.”

What I find so frustrating is this…is it necessary to repudiate everything that makes life more pleasant and less arduous in order to live within natural cycles in a more sacred manner…connected to community and land?

Little things like, foe example… contraception?

avatar MMH May 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

ahunt, in the past the birth control pills had more estrogen and were highly unlikely to allow ovulation to occur, but they also caused strokes, so now the lower dose birth control pills commonly prescribed will allow ovulation to occur 10-50% of the time.

I don’t understand how you could consider taking a hormonal contraceptive to alter your body to cause anovulation and the death of embryos (and which pollute our water supply) as “living within natural cycles in a more sacred manner”.

Why is it arduous to avoid intercourse for about 1 week each month if you don’t want to get pregnant?

Even

avatar Rob G May 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

“What I find so frustrating is this…is it necessary to repudiate everything that makes life more pleasant and less arduous in order to live within natural cycles in a more sacred manner…connected to community and land?”

False dichotomy. One need only reject those elements of modernity that run counter to traditional/agrarian notions of human flourishing. The notion that traditionalists/agrarians repudiate “everything that makes life more pleasant and less arduous” is a red herring, and comes usually from unfamiliarity with the literature.

avatar ahunt May 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

Unfamiliarity is indeed the case.

When we started back in the late seventies, I was working off a fantasy I’d put together as teenager after reading Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave…we would produce as we consumed, but in simpler, agrarian ways. I was a military brat, so please believe in my determination to find our place in the country and STAY PUT!

Thirty five years of sustenance farming later, we basically learned by trial and error. I did no reading on the emerging theories of place and tradition, and am just now investigating the lit.

As far as oral BC being responsible for contaminating the environment with estrogen…do some reading. That myth has been debunked. As for health considerations…those decisions are mine (in consultation with my doctor and husband) to make…and back in the day, I considered the tremendous freedom from pain, hassle and physical restrictions, as well as the ease of intimacy to be worth the minimal risks. Still do.

And finally, and if it is okay with everyone here…my husband and I will conduct our sex life as we see fit…and for us, that meant controlling fertility (and still obliges mutual enjoyment.)

avatar Rob G May 5, 2012 at 12:04 am

It’s the “doing as we see fit” part that’s the problem. Sounds like what a certain reptile said to a certain woman in a certain garden…

avatar ahunt May 5, 2012 at 1:04 am

Well, ya know, Rob…our own gardens are flourishing…have been for years. Possible that eating of the tree of knowledge and reason and inquiry have allowed for good decisions…

avatar Marie May 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

Why hasn’t Wendell Berry come up in this discussion?

“For the care or control of fertility, both that of the earth and that of our bodies, we have allowed a technology of chemicals and devices to replace the entirely cultural means of ceremonial forms, disciplines, and restraints. We have gathered up the immense questions that surround the coming of life into the world and reduced them to simple problems for which we have manufactured and marketed simple solutions. An infertile woman and an infertile field both receive a dose of chemicals, at the calculated risk of undesirable consequences, and are thus equally reduced to the status of productive machines. As for unwanted life–sperm, ova, embryos, weeds, insects, etc.–we have the same sort of remedies, for sale, of course, and characteristically popularized by advertisements that speak much of advantages but little of problems… That is only a new battle in the old war between body and soul–as if we were living in front of a chorus of the most literal fanatics chanting: ‘If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out! If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off!’”

I absolutely do not believe birth control should be illegal, or even restricted, except when the chemicals/methods harm the recipient. I do believe, though, that “knowledge and reason and inquiry” should allow for healthy discussions about the philosophies surrounding birth control and not-control. Ahunt, most of my peers (I’m 28) do not consider the moral or philosophical implications. “Waiting two years” (or ten) is simple taken for granted. For them, there are no philosophical reasons to consider why sex has been separated from procreation.

My husband of 6 years and I have 4 kids, and we are not worse off financially (or intellectually) than our friends wandering around academia for 10 years, acquiring astounding debt, or chasing after “ministry opportunities,” “working for God.” We actually may be better off (because we live in a city with 20% unemployment, my husband has started his own business out of necessity. This has been a goal for us since before we married, and I’m not sure we would have made the jump w/o 4 kids to support).

Most middle class will stay middle class, whether they have 10 kids or 2 kids. You just decide what is important, both with your use of time and money. Reading these comment threads, I wonder how many large families (8+) any of you skeptics know? I know probably a dozen, and none of them are poor or ignorant. Their children are quite pleasant, sometimes brilliant (and sometimes just average). On an emotional level, our decision not to limit how many kids we conceive probably came about because we knew so many awesome large families.

Raising many children is really hard, and not because of the financial burden, so I don’t blame those of you who have no moral qualms regarding BC using it! But please get out of your head the poor-Irish-street-children-in-rags-with-irresponsible-parents picture. Even the tragedy of the family in the picture linked below ended happily for many of the kids. It is wicked to think they would have been better off not born.

http://webhosting.web.com/imagelib/sitebuilder/misc/show_image.html?linkedwidth=actual&linkpath=http://www.sevensteeples.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/YoungFamilyHeadshot.jpg&target=tlx_pic6969

We live in the wealthiest nation in the wealthiest era in human history. Have another baby.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins May 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Marie makes a lot of sense, even if I don’t plan to “have another baby,” even if our status as the wealthiest nation on earth has, up to now, been financed by the deprivation of others, lending some crude credence to the utenable notion “white babies are the ultimate enemy.” (Any other color of baby in the USA consumes far more than the average baby elsewhere).

So long as we do not go down the Draconian road of wasting taxpayers’ money trying to police contraceptives, so long as individual choice is not infringed, there is plenty of room in the public square for Wilson and Berry to say, “Hey, think about this. Maybe its the wrong choice. Maybe there are better choices.” If such arguments are convincing, what if they marketed a contraceptive, and nobody bought it? Or maybe some will. So be it.

A lot of other commenters seem to be grasping as straws without even the vision to weave straw men out of them. If half of us aren’t weeping over flushed embryos, its not much of an argument to say “I don’t see how you could… consider the death of embryos …as “living within natural cycles in a more sacred manner”. We know you don’t see it. We don’t see it your way either. So, live your life, I’ll live mine.

“what really stops ordinary people from using Natural Family Planning” ??? Nothing whatsoever. No matter how many contraceptives reach the market, anyone who wants to is free to use NFP … or contraception. What really stops people from using the pill? Equally, nothing. What makes you so intent on imposing a dull conformity, that because your preferred method is available, nobody may choose any other? They each have their strong points and their prices.

Anymouse totally misses the point about the divergence of contraceptive use from births outside of marriage. There would seem to be no relationship between contraception and illegitimate birth, since those who have contraception are not those who are having babies without benefit of marriage. So much for the radical alteration of society. Maybe that is too complex for some people to understand.

avatar RockLibertyWarrior May 6, 2012 at 6:06 am

OK I have read both articles because I wanted to get the other opinion on contraception. I am for it, my answer to you. BUTT OUT. Seriously its between God and the people who don’t serve/serve him, you all have a right to speak out on this and try to change people’s minds on the whole thing and I admire you for sticking to your principles. However not everybody follows Catholic principles, I like this web site, its refreshing and everybody on here is pretty intelligent, not everybody though who visits your site is Catholic. I personally think a person should be able to choose if they want to get contraception, I have a problem with government when it mandates companies have to pay for it or the government funds it. But if a person goes to a store make that his/or her choice. I’ve seen some people chime on this board who champion de centralization yet champion government putting its big nose in certain other things. I find that hypocritical. Of course this is the sin ridden, hell bound Deist libertarian typing this so you don’t have to listen to me. LOL!

avatar Anymouse May 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm

To me it is not so much a Catholic issue as a Christian issue. All the Protestant reformers opposed contraception, and Wendell Berry does as well.

“I’ve seen some people chime on this board who champion de centralization yet champion government putting its big nose in certain other things.”
Why can’t the local community be allowed to regulate itself?

avatar Siarlys Jenkins May 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Christians for Contraception!

OK, I’m not likely to incorporate, but there are lots of us, many RC.

Please define “the Protestant reformers” and then, applying that definition, sustain the adjective “all.” Wendell Berry has some good ideas, but just because he said something doesn’t mean I have to agree with him.

The local community CAN be allowed to regulate itself, in fact it should, subject to constitutional restraints that reserve certain choices to the family, and/or the individual. Local communities are quite as capable of petty tyranny as state and federal governments, imperial conquerors, and extra-national bureaucracies.

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