Pop-pop and everybody: "How do you feel as "Christians" about Birth Control?"
tuckThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
From that website that Christine provided on the other thread, I came across this essay by Janet Smith. I met her recently at the 40 Days for Life closing rally and instantly liked her straight-forward intelligence.
Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in 1968....You might remember that it fell like a bomb on the Church and the rest of society. It was a shock to everyone that the Catholic Church reiterated its constant teaching against contraception. Pope Paul VI, in Section 17 of Humanae Vitae, made several predictions about what would happen if contraceptives became widely available and widely used in society.
He said, first of all, that there would be a general lowering of morality in society...
The Pope predicted accurately. Why?
Here's Smith's reflections:
Well the Church has always based it's teachings, not on something private to Catholics but on what is known as the natural law. And, I'm going to give you about a three minute course here on natural law. Natural law says that if you want things to prosper, you have to use them in accord with their nature. If you want to grow good tomatoes, you have to treat tomato plants in accord with their nature. You have to give them sunshine and water and fertilizer and a good soil. And if you want your car to run you have to put oil and gasoline in it. You can't put your tomato plant in the closet and expect it to grow good tomatoes. You can't refuse to water it and expect to grow good tomatoes. You can't put molasses in your car and expect it to run. The Church has said human sexuality has a certain nature and unless you live in accord with that nature, chaos will result. You won't get your tomato plants and you won't get from here to Cleveland. It won't work if you don't live in accord with the nature. The Church says that its teaching on sexuality is not revealed wisdom. It is something that man can discover by the basis of his own reason if his understanding is not obscured by his culture – and ours is an obscuring culture
Shasha, that seems to be the rub with many theologians, Catholic and Protestant. As Smith acknowledges, the Catholic teaching is based on natural law, and not divine revelation. Natural law implies principles that are transparent to human reason, which means you ought not be a Catholic to understand what healthy sexual morality should look like. And this is true. Pretty much everyone agrees that human sexuality has both a procreative (reproductive) and unitive (bonding) aspect, but ONLY the Roman Catholic Magisterium insists that both of these aspects ought to be in play with every sex act. That's not how Protestants interpret natural law on this point, however, nor even many (most!) Catholic moral theologians. So it seems there's a disagreement between how the Magisterium interprets the natural law, here, and how pretty much the rest of the human race understands it.
To make things more confusing, the Magisterium does allow for biological methods of contraception (e.g., NFP, rhythm, etc.), and so couples using these methods to avoid conception are, in fact, having sex when there is virtually no possibility of pregnancy (NFP boasts a 98% efficiency rate). So where's the openness to new life that Humane Vitae insists on as a foundational principle? How can a couple be said to be open to procreation when they are deliberately making use of a Church-approved method that is virtually guaranteed to allow them to enjoy non-procreative sex? See what I mean? For many couples, it just doesn't make sense, as they don't see any substantive difference between what's going on with NFP and using "artificial" (i.e., non-biological) contraception. In fact, over 80% of Catholic couples are doing just that: using artificial contraception, and I don't think it's fair to say that their doing so is because they're caught up in some kind of "contraceptive mentality" (a favorite term of Smith) or that they're merely creatures of the culture. Smith has seemed quick to judge such couples on this point in some of her writings, implying that they're "selfish" or "shallow." We might also note that she is not married, and so has never had to struggle with the practical implications of the Magisterium's teaching on birth control.
Jim Arraj has written a good book on this topic.
- see http://innerexplorations.com/catchtheomor/is.htm
- - -
Note: I have edited the thread title.
I have a few thoughts that I've had about this topic.
First, I think the CC's view of birth control does made a lot of sense at a natural law level...in many, but not all, ways...here is where I have a problem:
Abortion is a far bigger sin against life, I believe. If all children now being aborted were born, a portion of them would probably best be given up for adoption by other couples, IMO. I personally know several couples who have chosen to adopt multiple children, some with problems, and deliberately not had their own children for that reason--to make room for life that others didn't want. It seems like it was a calling they had.
Should they be thought of as "not open to life"? No. Yes, they could use NFP, but in principle, ABC or NFP don't seem so far apart to me that you can promote one and call the other a mortal sin.
I personally think we would have a far bigger social problem than we realize. I don't think there are enough willing adoptive parents or orphanages to house unwanted children, or those that their parents are simply unable to care for, for whatever multitude of reasons. And those that would remain in orphanages would grow without the love of family. Those that irresponsible parents kept and raised would also grow without love. Unloved children = dysfunctional/wounded adults. It is these that end up in our institutions. I respect the Catholic churches opinion on "life," but they don't have the answer/resources (as far as I know) to solve the social issues that would result if the entire world was anti-abortion. To me it is unrealistic to enforce such a stance/rule without having the solution to its ensuing ramifications. It fails to see the larger picture and social ills, imho.
Isn't it ironic that the most important and difficult job we can do is raise children, but we have so little preparation for doing so? There are so many "unplanned pregnancies," not to mention the great harm we inflict upon one another through adultery, promiscuity, and even rape. Our sexual expression (as a society) is grossly dysfunctional! We are clearly "missing the mark" of what God intended for human sexual expression, and the Church is at least trying to say something about that.
We don't have to have all the answers to problems like abortion, overpopulation, etc. before trying to hold forth a vision of what healthy, God-centered human sexuality looks like. The more we move toward living out these values, the more some of these problems are resolved on their own. E.g., abortion: if it were only married couples who are truly "open to new life" who were conceiving children, there would be no abortions. Of course, this would mean that sex ought to be reserved for married couples, and that is God's vision, clearly expressed in both Scripture and Tradition. It is this "openness to new life" that is the crux of the matter.
I have come to the conviction that not all married couples are called to have children. We are called to be generous with our lives, but there are lots of other ways to do that besides having and raising children. I think parenting is a vocation within the vocation of marriage, and even among those who are called to parenting, discernment needs to be exercised concerning the proper time to bring children into the family. The Catholic Church pretty much affirms all this, acknowledging the importance of "spacing children" for a variety of means, including economic and social ones. So the crux, at least in Catholicism, comes down to the means by which conception can be avoided in the interest of spacing children, and it is there that the disagreements begin. Otherwise, there is little to object to in Humane vitae and other documents on sexuality and married life. In a way, it is most unfortunate that the vision expressed in those documents has been diminished because of the ongoing squabble over birth control methods.
Thanks for your reflections here, friends.
I'll check out the book by Arraj. The more I learn about him, the more I admire his deep thinking and wisdom.
Moving into a discussion of birth control and Christian teaching on it, is always challenging it seems. In all honesty, I groan whenever this subject is brought up, because I know that its discussion is a point of encounter and often divides many from magisterial teaching (if they are Catholic) and from Catholicism if they are Protestant. It often thereby brings into play teachings on formation of conscience and freedom of conscience as well as a discussion of the authority of the magisterium. In some ways, this subject seems (to me) to have as much reactivity as does the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Wine and music delight the soul, but better than either, conjugal love. (Sir 40:20)
I find it interesting to reflect on, that not just per the civil law of one’s state, but also by the divine law, one must be ‘licensed’ to enjoy this sovereign gift of conjugal love. In not just one’s state, nor one’s country, nor one’s planet but in the entire cosmos we are licensed to share this gift with but one person! …. And that sharing, that gifting, .… only in the confines of valid marriage publicly entered into. This is a formal significant and substantial reality that we perhaps fail to deeply consider.
A substantial gifting with attendant substantial power is part and parcel in all this. Two separate individuals, immortal beings, via the gift of sexuality (an attribute of their being) are enabled and licensed to enjoy a fullness of life and joy and the accompanying pleasing-ness that physically accompanies their interacting together. Dynamite! Blessed be God forever! But also, they are enabled thereby, by conjugal love’s creative potentiality and its possibility: to, as a consequence of mutual sexual expression, bring into existence other immortal beings! (Literally astounding if one thinks a while about all that and not just one’s orgasmic buzz –delightful as it is. There’s more!) These beings will exist for all time. God has made this the case. It’s a consequence of our being made in His image and likeness that we can share in His creative role. So there is more at play than the joy of sex when we consider all this.
A truly religious person is concerned with justice towards God.—I read that recently somewhere.
What have we thereby learned from this, so far? Well (my dibs, and speaking as a Christian to Christians) we see that the church has indeed therefore, a right and a responsibility to make statements on the subject of conjugal love – because conjugal love involves in its very aspects the matter of creating and not just of orgasm; and of the eternal not just the momentary. We see as Christians, that one cannot really dismiss the church’s involvement (and therefore the magisterium’s) as an ‘intrusion’ into one’s personal freedom. Nor are we able to validly gripe that celibates have no reason or right to discuss what is the domain of the married. We are all members of humanity, society, church (Mystical Body), family and cosmos. Reality is huge: cosmic and eternal; and it extends beyond one’s pants (though it exists there as well, and I can like that -- and that God has embraced man’s humanity and not just created it) and it extends beyond a few moments of pleasure in time. It extends into eternity. We just often forget about thinking deeply.
As a momentary aside, but relevant nonetheless (methinks), I have just finished a book that contained extracted tidbits of the writings of Romano Guardini. There was this: “The more accurately Christianity testifies again to its non-self-evident nature, the more precisely it has to distinguish itself from a predominantly non-Christian world view, the more strongly the practical and existential aspect will stand out in the dogma next to the theoretical aspect.” …… There is much to consider in the statement that the reality of Christian revelation is non-self-evident, – like for example: the bigger picture, mystery, the culture of prevailing rationalism we exist in and its formation of our culture as opposed to the truer supernatural culture revelation informs us that we really exist in and which mankind is living oblivious to, essentially. We have mindsets that are overly temporal-focused and self-focused, that are practicality and expediency – focused; and we give limited, if any, thought to the bigger picture that God’s revelation points to. Non-Christian religions are man’s revelation to man and therefore cannot really arrive at the non-self-evident revelation that has come to man from God, via Jesus His Son.
OK; so what does the church teach concerning birth control? We will likely also have to address what the church says about formation of conscience and freedom of conscience as well.
The official RC church wording is found in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (C of CC) paras 2366 -2371, & 2399. The general focus is that married couples are to always maintain an openness to the possibility of the transmission of life in their conjugal relations. This norm is based upon eternal realities that are God’s domain not man’s. Paragraph #2371 states: “Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man’s eternal destiny.”
Regarding the difference and confusion between the use of natural family planning (NFP) and artificial means of contraception as Phil’s post mentioned seems inconsistent to many people and some moral theologians: the church acknowledges as Phil mentioned, the responsibility of occasional regulation of procreation, and in #2368 one finds: “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.” In #2370 one therefore finds that “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with objective criteria for morality.” Further down, one reads that actions which “render procreation impossible are intrinsically evil.”
So there is no inconsistency of position. Regulation of birth is only to be periodic. Conjugal relations, because God and His eternal purposes (and not just the couple) is involved in eternal reality and creativity, are to always remain open to the possibility of God’s transmitting life via their mutual love. NFP is not to be practiced as a norm over the course of one’s marriage, but as an exception. And NFP, when justly practiced, does not render procreation impossible as do artificial means of contraception. Artificial means are intrinsically evil. They counter God’s desires. Therefore artificial contraception is sinful.
Again, the church maintains that artificial contraception renders transmission of life impossible, whereas NFP maintains some possibility (2% if Phil’s statistics are correct) and is acceptable. For those who believe that 2% is essentially the same as 0% anyway, then using NFP as their means of periodic birth regulation would be a non-issue.
At the end of #2370 one reads that the difference “between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”
The church’s teaching in this regard is based on the big picture, on the supernatural reality in which we live and move and have our being. In the one in which God lives -- and is our creator still creating -- and we are his creatures, who in justice -- if not eager love-- should be cooperating with Him.
So the church isn’t against orgasm and the pleasure and bonding it brings to conjugal lovers. Not at all; it is pro-us and pro-God. (And pro-creation.)
Valid discomfort with the RC church’s rationale, after sincerely endeavoring to form a right conscience is ameliorated via the church’s teaching on personal freedom of conscience. This is addressed in the C of CC, paragraph 1782. Formation of conscience is addressed in paras 1783-85, 1798 and 1802. Paragraph 1784 points out that formation of conscience is a lifelong task.
The Spirit is a spirit of freedom. The Spirit is a spirit of truth. The spirit is a spirit of love. The Spirit is never a spirit of scrupulosity.
Shasha’s stance is correct. It is in harmony with the church’s. Therefore, always a sure and expedient means toward growth.
In heaven there is no marriage, Jesus taught. Whether there will still continue to be generation of immortal beings is something to ponder. Will the beatific vision preclude such? Somehow there is beatific vision within the Trinity, and creation has occurred and still occurs. God is unchanging; God is constant; and ontologically, He is a creator. He never changes but is always creating. Therefore, (methinks) He will ever be creating and we will be sharing in all that – eternal participants in intelligent design and eternally awestruck in contemplating it all as it evolves and evolves and evolves. Time will tell.
Very good post, Pop, and I'm glad you mentioned those sections from the Catechism on conscience. To my understanding, the duty of a Catholic (married, of course) with regard to the teaching on BC is to prayerfully consider the teaching and attempt to put it into practice, which enables a proper formation of conscience. The Church also teaches that we are duty-bound to follow our conscience, even if our decision is at odds with Church teaching. I wish this were taught more when the BC teaching is being explained.
Some have objected that since ABC is considered "intrinsically evil" (a needlessly strong term, imo), it therefore constitutes grave matter and so to go against the teaching is a mortal sin. That's a misunderstanding, as intent and circumstance come into play when determining the gravity of a sin. E.g., missing Mass on Sunday is also considered grave matter, as is killing another person. But missing Mass when you're sick is not a sin at all, and killing in self-defense is not condemned. Circumstance cannot EVER, EVER, EVER be discounted in moral considerations, yet I cannot tell you the number of horror stories I've heard from couples who were told by priests that they absolutely, positively, could not use any kind of ABC without jeopardizing their souls. That's just wrong.
Actually, a condom is considered only 85-90% effective; diaphragm 13%, oral contraceptives 9%, etc.
- see http://womenshealth.about.com/.../effectivenessbc.htm and other sites.
So . . . could one say that couples using such methods are, statistically, more open to new life?
It's the bishops/NFP people who say their method, "properly applied," is 98% effective.
- see http://www.usccb.org/prolife/i...fp/information.shtml at bottom of page.
I doubt this, and other studies maintain a much higher rate of pregnancy. The 98% effectiveness point almost seems like propaganda. Here's a good summary:
(btw, Pop, I received email notification of your PM about K, but cannot access the message; I think it'd be a good topic for the whole group, however, maybe in the Christian Spirituality Issues forum.)This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
thank you for mentioning the formal aspects of human actions, as a counterpart to material aspects. And by formal I mean mostly intentions. Of course, the whole context of life is crucial, too. I can well imagine a couple who commits a mortal sin by doing everythings "as they should" in their sexual life, and a couple who commits no mortal sin, although they use some contraception. I can't wrap my mind, however, around abortive methods. The idea of killing a life is for me very difficult, but I know that there are situations in life we cannot imagine before we are in them.
For example, a woman wants to use natural methods, but her husband insists on a condom. If she denies him, he will most probably cheat on her and their marriage will be destroyed. What then? I guess, God only knows, but the woman has to decide in her own conscience what to do.
So this is much more complicated than is usually presented, but in Poland we have this one priest who does a very good job - he teaches the Humanae Vitae vision along with JPII theology of the body, but in a way that takes into account the "human" part of the whole thing. People who went to his workshops are generally fascinated, and many couples starts to use NFP because of him. And this is because of the way he present the teaching. Like, for example, he doesn't start from "you shouldn't this, you shouldn't that" etc. So I suppose what needs to be done is to figure out how to talk to people and how to write about Christian sexual life. Not to conform to "the world", but to be sensitive to the various aspects of life and morality.
So, basically, I totally agree with the teaching, but not always with the wording.
In terms of rationality and natural law. I admit I can't always see the truth in it. To myself I explain it that in NFP you don't use any "artificial" things, but I know it's not the argument of the Church, not really. Openness to life - yes, Phil, I thought exactly about the "safeness" of the so called "safe sex". It's not that safe, so more "open to pregnancy", if not "to life"... I think openness to life is an intention, a state of mind, not an outward action, but it's better maintained and expressed through NFP.
I like JPII way of thinking about it. But the actual risk that contraception will destroy a marriage is like a risk of car accident when you don't follow the rules. It's a possibility, but it's not imminent, IMO. So I see it more as a challenge, an invitation to grow in love, to exist in a manner of gift, than as avoiding a catastrophy of selfishness. There are so many ways in which we are selfish, unfortunately...
Although I accept the Church teaching on that, I don't have quick answers to the problems raised by many couples trying to love God in their sexuality. But I guess, people should feel OK to talk about it more freely, without a fear of being judged and condemned by raising questions or problems. But the matter is delicate, because sexuality is entangled into archaic, unconscious conflicts - what Freud discovered seems to be true, but it's not about "morality" versus "desire", it's about "internalized, severe injunctions" versus "archaic desires". But it's not that ease to leave aside our neurotic conflicts (mostly unconscious) and to talk "as adults" about sex and morality.
Finally, it's hard to deny that the way of sexual life that "the world" is promoting, seems to be intimately connected with contraception and abortion. That's way risks are serious. Don't laugh at me, but I like to watch TV shows on Showtime or HBO (like House M.D., Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara etc.). I always wonder if people in big cities like NY or LA really live like that or is it just a leftist vision of reality? Maybe you can tell me?
Very good post, Mt. Can't help you with your last question, however.
That goes to the heart of the issue, Mt., as "openness to new life" is the moral principle at stake, here. There's no doubting the high degree of respect for the body and the woman's fertility cycle with NFP, but I don't know that I'd agree that couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy are more open to new life than, say, committed Christian couples using ABC. Openness to new life means accepting conception if it happens, and I think most committed Christian couples do just that. I also think that, at the level of intention, NFP users are just as guilty of cultivating a non-procreative intention with regard to their sex lives. They plot days on the calendar, examine cervical mucous viscosity and pay attention to other signs to insure that those sex acts that they do have will not result in conception. All of that entails an extensive exercise of non-procreative intentionality, does it not?
I don't wish to be throwing a damper on the enthusiasm some of you seem to have for NFP, for I know it's got many wonderful qualities. It is, however, simply a biological method of either avoiding or enhancing conception, depending on how you use it. Making a moral distinction between NFP and ABC is not so easy, imo, and I think many (most?) Catholic couples find the explanations given on this point to be strained, at best, and so they end up basically disregarding what is, otherwise, a very powerful teaching by the Magisterium on human sexuality. The world very much needs this teaching, as you noted, for we are pretty sick as a culture when it comes to this topic.
Me neither, Mt, never heard of those movies.
BTW, Phil, no offense taken from your comment about Janet Smith. I do value critical, clear thinking and see your point about her speculative claims.
I can still like her and see that she's not a social scientist and should acknowledge her lack of sure knowledge.
from Phil's post above:
[/QUOTE] ... as "openness to new life" is the moral principle at stake, here. There's no doubting the high degree of respect for the body and the woman's fertility cycle with NFP, but I don't know that I'd agree that couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy are more open to new life than, say, committed Christian couples using ABC. Openness to new life means accepting conception if it happens, ... I also think that, at the level of intention, NFP users are just as guilty of cultivating a non-procreative intention with regard to their sex lives...[/QUOTE]
Excellent point. NFP is natural while ABC is artificial, but both are external means or strategies for avoiding conception. Both are 'guilty' of not being open to new life, of wanting to separate creation from sex. Both represent a kind of brokenness in that most people are not emotionally or spiritually equipped to be open to new life with every sexual act.
I think we're often focussing on the wrong level of brokenness if we make it about birth control. I like what you're saying Mt, that there's a deeper need to talk about what sex means to a person, to the married couple, what they want out of it, do they need help taming/ controlling their desires, why is it hard to welcome more children into the family, are you not trusting God? etc.
If I can wonder about the deeper issue of our broken sexuality...I would guess that in the pre-fallen state of Adam and Eve, sexuality was so connected to, subsumed in loving God, there was no possibility of the de-coupling of sex and the procreative capacity. No possibility of a mis-match of sexual energies between man and woman, no selfish gratification was even possible. Sex was all about worshipping God. Whatever the forbidden apple signified in the garden, I bet it had something to do with Eve's sexual/creative fidelity to God. Just a weird thought...
Shasha and Mt., the book by Jim Arraj I cited above has an excellent chapter on "Sex before the Fall" that makes some of the same points you're sharing, here. It's really superb.
Meanwhile, however, we do live in a fallen/redeemed world and have to make decisions about all sorts of things, including our sexuality. For married couples, in particular, this is anything but an academic or theoretical issue, as you both know. We do need to examine our deeper attitudes and, for most couples, make decisions about when it seems best to bring children into this world. Equally important is the ongoing discernment and discussion about what kinds of sexual expression helps to nurture and deepen the marriage relationship. To my thinking, here, sex is the ritual celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony -- akin to Eucharist, in many ways. A couple will have sex to celebrate and deepen their Sacrament many, many more times than they will with the intent of having children, so they will have to make decisions about birth control. In the actual living out of married life, it turns out that the unitive aspect of sex is far more important than the procreative, though the consequences of the latter do keep us busy for many years.
And another thing is that our psychological knowledge (or maybe not knowledge, but hypotheses) is different now. It's (most probably) better to have not 7 or 10 kids, but 2, 3 or 4, because the children need supportive, holding environment to grow healthy. I can't imagine how parents can provide such environment when they have 7 kids, for example. The father probably works all day to provide for so many children, the mother has to love and care for all of them... I don't say those children will be neurotic or worse - for ages people had to raise many children in one family and I don't think we were less healthy than now, but the culture changed, there are no more grandpas, grammas, uncles and aunts always around to help with raising children, so is it openness to life for two middle-class parents to have 7 kids? By life we should understand also psychological and spiritual life, not only biological. I guess Arraj spokes about "womb" of the family in metaphorical terms, dealing with that. But it's a real question - can we provide a healthy amount of time and attention to all our children?
Me and my wife are both in our 30ties, but still we have to deal with the fact that we could raise 3 or maybe 4 children in a good way, but not more.
For me, openness to life means that IF God wills to give us more children than we decided to have, we will welcome them with the same love and acceptance as the ones we plan to have. But openness, for me, is also about giving every child a good environment to grow, which implies birth control for at least a year or two after his/her birth.
By the way, you probably heard stories about parents who didn't want to have any children, but then, after a non-planned pregnancy, they changed their minds and began to love the child. It's also God's working.
Wonderful sharings! Thanks so much!
I did read that short chapter Phil, interesting. Now there's a special grace Jim had to see things like that.
BTW, you all know that when I said Artificial Birth Control (ABC) above, I am EXCLUDING abortion, right!? Just for the record! Abortion
is a sin in a category by itself and should not even been included in discussions comparing ABC
I know Ariel, Mt, et al have already said that, but I had to be clear too.
I wrote this on the Cardinal O'Brien thread, but figured it fits better here:
The contraceptive issue is interesting because there does seem to be a logical disconnect between the church allowing for some forms of non-procreative sex (natural sterility, sex during pregnancy, post-menopausal sex, and sex during naturally infertile periods of a woman's cycle), but also teaching that sex must "always" be procreative or open to life?? For me however it doesn't follow that therefore the Church should allow for artificial contraception - I don't think the two issues are necessarily directly related. I think however that the church's understanding of sex, even from a natural law perspective, is flawed and based on old ideas.
I think Eastern understandings of the metaphysical and spiritual realities of sex should be considered. I also think that practices like Karezza and Taoist seminal retention should be explored as natural alternatives to artificial contraception...but as far as I understand it the church discourages Karezza and condemns seminal retention...although, when I say 'the church' in this last sentence it may just be some moral theologians I've read, and not an official church position? Not sure? Learning to separate orgasm from ejaculation indicates self-control and maturity and seems perfectly acceptable within the realm of the natural capacity of human beings.
I also for the life of me can't understand why Karezza would be acceptable if neither partner has an orgasm, but sinful if the wife orgasms but the husband doesn't, which is what the church (theologians??) teaches??
Any thoughts on these "Eastern" attitudes to, and understanding of sex, compared with the churches view of the same?
Jacques, I've never come across any Catholic teachings addressing Karezza. Can you point us to a link?
I don't know how much you've read of the exchanges above, but the moral principle to apply is that the procreative and unitive aspects of sex cannot be separated in a sex act. Karezza and other practices where semen retention is practiced would seemingly be in conflict with that principle, though not as seriously so as using some artificial intervention to block conception. Of course, as you noted, it's a stretch to say that NFP used in the infertile time of the month is open to conception, but, technically, it is considered so because it does nothing to thwart conception.
Re. artificial contraception: you can divide the methods between those that are abortive (e.g., IUD), potentially abortive (some forms of the pill), and non-abortive (condom, diaphragm, some forms of the pill). The last one is the least controversial, though it does violate the norms of Catholic teaching.
It seems that most Catholic couples recognize the unitive and procreative aspects of sex in their overall relationship, even though they do not believe the two need to be present in every sex act. Hopefully, they consider the Church's teaching in forming their consciences on this matter.
This link discusses Amplexus Reservatus, from the bottom of pg 253, under the heading Conjugal Chasity.
The definition given for Amplexus Reservatus is
Karezza on the other hand is the practice of Amplexus Reservatus, but moves beyond the description quoted above in that the woman is allowed to reach orgasm, even multiple times, while the man refrains from orgasm all together.
The linked article is in favor of Amplexus Reservatus and describes the logical and theological errors of those who condemn such intercourse between married couples.
It also discusses a 'Monitum' put out by the Holy Office, warning priests and confessors not to recommend the practice to faithful Catholics without first discussing the various dangers.
So the fear is that the wife might orgasm alone, or that the husband might commit the sin of onanism/Coitus interruptus.
I understand why onanism is rejected as morally licit, but I don't understand why the wife having an orgasm without the husband is considered sinful. After all, if a husband orgasms alone during Copula Perfecta it isn't considered sinful.
That's all quite a splitting of hairs, isn't it? It goes to show how complicated things can get if the morality of an act is evaluated in terms of objective criteria like that.
In terms of spirituality (which ought not be separated from morality, of course), one would be more concerned about how the practice influences the marital relationship, and also one's connection with God.
I hear you Phil. I am interesting in knowing how binding you think all of this is on us as Catholics.
I mean, things like Karezza seem to be a lesser concern than Contraception, or even than coitus interruptus. And it certainly doesn't seem to be something that is well explored by the Church (in terms of scientific and even metaphysical implications). But how free are we do explore something like Karezza without feeling we are going against the Magesterium?
Jacques, you will find opinions all over the place on the "binding" question. Some theologians will say that even non-abortive contraception is intrinsically evil and binding in all circumstances; others will say that it's a matter of conscience for couples to decide for themselves before God after prayerfully considering their circumstances and the good of the marriage and family.
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