NFP: holistic understanding of person & integral understanding of sexualityBirth Control in the Catholic Church
October 30, 2002, 05:02 PM
NFP: holistic understanding of person & integral understanding of sexuality
ABC Positions

1)Biological fertility is part of the physical world over which humans have dominion.
2)The relational/amative/unitive aspect of sexuality is its personal and human aspect.
3)The two goods of human sexuality and of marriage, the unitive and the procreative are separated, procreation as an aspect of biological nature, the unitive purpose as the free, human, and personal end of the matter.
4)The procreative aspect of human sexuality is NOT a good OF the person which participates in the goodness of the person but is rather a good for the person, something to be used as the person chooses. It is regarded, in other words, as a useful or functional good, not a personal good. Thus human fertility becomes a personal good only when it is freely assumed into consciousness.
5)The personhood of human beings consists in their ability to relate to other persons or selves, and it is for this precise reason that the most profound meaning of human sexuality lies in the ability it gives these conscious subjects to reach out and to touch others in an intimacy of shared affection.

NFP Counter Position

1)The ABC understanding of person is a dualism in the pejorative sense of that term, insofar as it places the body and the biological processes of human life beneath the person, regarding them as a material substrate distinct from and subordinate to the person.
2)In the mind of the Church and of those who recognize as true the Church's teaching on contraception, we find much different conceptions of human sexuality and of the human person.
3)The procreative aspect of human sexuality is regarded, along with its unitive aspect, as a personal good, not an instrumental good, for in the mind of the Church the human body is not an instrument of the person. Rather the body IS an expression OF the person; and a living human body, no matter how tiny or handicapped or senile or functionally unable to relate to others, is a person.

THEREFORE: The proponents of contraception propose a dualistic understanding of the human person and a separatist understanding of human sexuality. The Church, on the contrary, proposes a holistic understanding of the human person as a unity of body and soul and an integralist understanding of human sexuality. While the entirety of a human person's being is not exhausted by the body, the body is nonetheless integral to the human person and is personally, not instrumentally, good.

October 30, 2002, 06:18 PM
The crux of your argument seems to reside in the differences between those who choose to do something and those who choose not to do something. The couple choosing NFP rightly "choose to abstain", but the heart of NFP is not when couples abstain but when they do not abstain and choose to use the conjugal act for non-physically procreative purposes. Nor is it clear why non-procreative is different from contraceptive, or how we can call the not concieving a side effect when it is the purpose of practicing NFP to begin with.
It is puzzling how an act in natural family planning which we intend to be non-procreative and is, indeed, because of our planning anti-procreative, can be called an something like non-procreative. And when NFP proponents say, "The further intention to avoid conception does not cause infertility since the act is found to be infertile on its own", we might note that in actual fact the act is infertile, but this is different from saying nature intends the act to be infertile so we can use the conjugal act in a way it will be infertile. The days that are infertile in a woman's cycle are days in which nature is working diligently to prepare the egg and move it to the proper place, and after the fertile days remove it so a new egg can be prepared. Should we call these days devoted to preparing for fertility days which nature intends to be infertile, as if she wants to thwart her procreative designs, or should we call them days which are accidentally infertile because of the nature of human fertility ?

If natural family planning involves no intention to prevent an act of intercourse from being procreative, just why do people practice it at all? Certainly, refraining from intercourse is not contraceptive intercourse, but the real purpose of natural family planning is not refraining, but insuring that the conjugal act is not procreative. How can an act of intercourse in the infertile period not have an antiprocreative intention, since that is why the act was chosen for that time?

If a couple undertakes to carefully plot by temperature and time when the marital act will be infertile because they will and intend the act to be infertile, can we say that they have done nothing to "close off" the possibilities of the act achieving its natural ordination? Can we say that "procreation is simply not available to spouses for reasons beyond their control."? They know or fervently hope they know when procreation is available and when it is not, and they are precisely trying to eliminate procreation.

If a couple has sexual intercourse with an openness to procreation-they realize a child can be conceived, and they take no steps to prevent this conception - and the act is infertile because, unknown to them, they did it during the infertile time, then they have left the act open to procreation. But if they intend not to have a child, and they deliberately act so as to have sexual intercourse when they know or hope the act will be infertile, how can we say the act is still open to procreation? Subjectively by their intentions and objectively by their calculations they strive to close the act to procreation.

Women by nature are certainly sometimes fertile and sometimes not. But this does not mean there is a God-given natural method of family planning, for then we have to ask why God waited until the time of Pius XII to reveal it. It is easier and more correct, I think, to argue that the patterns of human fertility are designed to aid procreation, and not as a natural means of avoiding procreation. The patterns of fertility are per se ordered to procreation and per accidens infertile. And in natural family planning the good of procreation is not available because we will it to be not available.

But just what is the content of this total self-giving that can be found in a couple practicing natural family planning and not in one using certain contraceptives? It can't be the generation of new life, for that takes place in neither, nor can it be a subjective giving in love in view of the children they have or will have in the future, for that can happen in both cases

If your arguments fail to make a case for distinguishing between certain contraceptives and natural family planning, Humanae Vitae and its defenders have been unable to do it before you. And the reason that these attempts have failed is because it cannot be done.

The condemnation of contraception is based squarely and firmly on the nature of the marital act. Unfortunately, these arguments, which I believe are valid as far as they go, are equally effective against natural family planning. Let us call this analysis of the marital act and the condemnation of contraception, the essentialistic tradition of the Church - meaning nothing more by this than an analysis that focuses on the essence of the marital act - and this is a long and venerable tradition. But the initial approval of use of the fertile periods as a form of natural family planning by Pius XII in his address to the midwives was not based on such an analysis of the marital act, and it is a document that would repay the kind of careful attention that you have given to Humanae Vitae. In it the Pope asserts the legitimacy of rhythm for a variety of different concrete reasons like health and economics, but despite the common impression, he never directly compared the morality of contraception with the morality of rhythm. What he compared contraception to is the case of a couple who use the conjugal act also in the days of natural sterility "anche nei giorni di sterilitá naturale", and therefore "do not impede or prejudice in any way the consummation of the natural act and its further natural consequences" i.e., a couple that acts with procreative intent without picking and choosing days. They have sexual intercourse "also in the days of natural sterility", but not only in the days of natural sterility, and this certainly is different from contraception, and natural family planning, as well. Does Pius XII approve rhythm because of an analysis of the nature of the conjugal act? I think not. He does so drawing and developing in a new way an equally venerable tradition in the Church which we can call the existential tradition on the use of the conjugal act which said that various reasons can allow the use of the conjugal act even when there is no possibility of procreation.
October 30, 2002, 06:22 PM
NFP: holistic & integral
NF, in dicussing holism and integral approaches, you are not alone. However, the others I have read have a much larger concept that considers not just our sexual faculties and our human bodies but also the community, the People of God, the Body of Christ.

Humanae Vitae expects the married couple to carry out their duties to "God, themselves, their families and human society".

One eminent theologian, Richard A. McCormick, says that since Vatican II there have been new ways of looking at moral theology. One such point is what he calls "the centrality of the person in moral thought" . The emphasis is not on the actionpeople but its effect on . McCormack says "the question is then - does contraception or sterilization promise to help or hinder the total relationship that is marriage" .

Similarly, Richard McBrien argued that there is another way of approaching this question. He says that man has manipulated nature before. Man is constantly developing. He has been given the opportunities by God to change and not merely to leave things to chance. A person must be seen as a whole being and this sexual expression is not considered by itself but is part of "the larger context of human love, family life, education etc".

So, my point is, NF, that there are holistic and integral approaches and there are approaches that are even more holistic and more integrated, taking into account, not just the human body but also, the Body of Christ, the People of God, and the little Churches, the families, which nurture, sustain, affirm and love us!

Good point though. Just expand your holistic view to be congruent with Humanae Vitae's. wink
October 30, 2002, 07:09 PM
Very good exchanges! Nice framing of the issue, NF, and wonderful response, James. I'll probably refer to it many times, since these threads will actually stick around instead of sliding off after a few days like in the old forum.

Momz, I think you'd have to search long and hard to find a better moral theologian than Richard McBrien. I'm glad you brought up his works.
October 30, 2002, 07:33 PM
existentialist approach? teleological? vs (versus) Veritatis Spledor?
Aside from the issue that NFP does not damage, impede, or destroy any biological faculties ordered toward generativity and ABC undeniably does, are you recognizing that both NFP and ABC are, at least, pre-moral evils? And are you saying that the unitive aspect is a pre-moral, non-moral or ontic good of a higher or greater type than the procreative? All this in order to take us toward a consequentialistic conclusion? Using proportionalism to make the choice between those evils and goods?

In the first place, it is not an NFP consistent with Church teaching that can be labeled as a pre-moral evil because the acts themselves and their present intents differ from such acts as would damage biological faculties in ABC. What's physically damaged in NFP?

Next, your appeal to essentialism sounds consistent with the Church’s deontological approach, but doesn’t your existentialistic appeal get tainted by teleological, consequentialistic and proportionalistic approaches?

Further, wouldn’t a proportionalistic appeal to the unitive over the procreative be a missapplication of the principle of double effect since we are deliberately setting aside/impeding our biological functions and are not otherwise solely intending an act of effective good through these actions? Also, are there any intrinsic evils in your view?

How do you square these positions with Veritatis Splendor, which was very much rooted in the "universality and immutability" of the natural law, where it is very clear that the commandments apply to all peoples, all cultures, and all times such that we should affirm the truth of intrinsic evils, those acts which are always evil, regardless of culture, intention, or situation?

From Veritatis Splendor:
"If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. ...In themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person" . Didn’t Veritatis Splendor directly refute consequentialist, proportionalist, relativist, and teleological theories, which hold that the object (good or bad) of an act depends upon the situation, culture, intention, or net outcome, and not on the nature of the act itself? Isn’t that precisely what your existentialistic approach consists of?

October 30, 2002, 07:51 PM
Hey Ed (or Edie) - how do you edit? or I should say: how does one edit on this board?

I meant to say above that Richard McCormick said: The emphasis is not on the action but its effect on people.

Also, I misspelled his name.

Glad to be back! Where is everybody?
October 30, 2002, 08:02 PM
essentialistic or existentialistic? hmmmmm
NF - Didn't the Church change its teaching, having once taught that sex in marriage was justified only for procreation?

Was that change based on essentialistic or existentialistic approaches?

Didn't the Church change its teaching, having once taught that a sterile woman could not marry and enjoy full conjugal relations?

Was that change based on essentialistic or existentialistic approaches?

Didn't the Church change its teaching, having once taught that intercourse during the safe period was not allowable?

Was that change based on essentialistic or existentialistic approaches?

Glad to have a resource like you who can clear that up for us! roll eyes

Enjoy the boards.

Yours, most cordially
October 30, 2002, 08:40 PM
Mom, you have to be registered to edit. See the link in the top right section, or click the login link above the board to enter the register form.

You'll see how it works; totally painless and the info is confidential. Feel free to say as much or as little about yourself as you wish. My guess is in your case, the more the merrier, as you just might get a university or two looking you up the way you write about these matters. wink
October 30, 2002, 10:27 PM
First of all NF, please refrain from introducing the straw man of probablism. It is not good debate form to detract from the actual topic in such a fashion. The complete answer to your questions is the following: Although God does not change, nor does absolute morality, the Church's understanding of it continuously grows and develops as we learn more about the infinite Christ. Therefore traditionally speaking NFP and ABC would be understood as pre-morally evil, but our understanding of the unitive and procreative necessities may change and therefore so our understanding of the objective morality of the unitive act over the procreative. Furthermore, there are certainly moral absolutes. Murder and theft are always wrong, until the principle of double-effect is applied in certain special cases, such as a poor man stealing bread to feed his ten children in a moment of desperation and clouded judgement. Finally, in just what statistically/scientifically demonstrated manner do condoms or withdrawl damage sexuality and the functioning of the sexual organs, much less the marriage bond? Certainly there are ABCs that cannot be used morally by Christians. I however, do not believe that withdrawl or condoms fits that bill. Regards-
October 30, 2002, 11:13 PM
Perhaps I have erred in raising probabilism in this particular thread. I suppose it is off-topic from the central issue of the distinction between NFP and ABC.

I apologize.

In principle, I would not even be debating such issues as essentialistic versus existentialistic thrusts because a Church teaching, such as that on contraception, does NOT depend for its authority on the reasoning advanced in its support.

Nonetheless, in the case of contraception, an exposition of the reasons for the teaching is especially useful because the contraceptive ethic is the source of other evils. A refutation of the case for contraception can help to dissuade people from a contraceptive ethic and the consequent disintegration of the family, as well as the acceptance of abortion and euthanasia.

Contraception is wrong, Humanae vitae tells us, because it breaks the "inseparable connection" between "the unitive and procreative meanings" of the conjugal act. But abortion also involves the separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of sex. And a contraceptive society requires abortion as a "fail safe." For these reasons, a coherent pro-life policy cannot be neutral on contraception. The separation of the unitive and the procreative, the separation of sex from life, is evident, too, in pornography, homosexual activity and "in vitro" fertilization. The rise in divorce also may be traced to the practice of contraception, since, in the natural order of things, the main reason why marriage is permanent is because it is ordained to the begetting of children. If, through contraception, we affirm that sex has no inherent relation to reproduction, why should marriage be permanent?

The acceptance of contraception can be seen to follow from the adoption of secularism and relativism. The theologians who reject Humanae vitae offer nothing but an avenue to the dissolution of the entire moral teaching of the Faith. If I take your point that it is our understanding of moral absolutes that change through time, then can you not see that this particular teaching has been held constantly and firmly and so requires assent of the faithful? Ooops, there’s that straw man of probabilism!

But still I have engaged you now on your terms by laying out a teleological, consequentialist case: just look at society in the wake of the advent of ABC!

Finally, condoms and withdrawals obviously damage nothing but just as obviously impede, another criterion I clearly set forth as unnatural.

October 31, 2002, 05:59 PM
NF, Yes, you have set forth the separation of the unitive and procreative as unnatural, but certainly have been unable to prove your case as anything more than culturally recursive. And you have also not proven that NFP is the natural state in which married couples should find themselves. Also, the occurance of ABC is coincidental in anything you compare societally. Furthermore, I would assert that society is in no worse shape than it has ever been historically. Abortion, rape and murder have always occurred and you would be remiss to prove that it "happens more" now, percentage wise, than at any other time in history. Yours is not successful illustration. It appears that your problem with ABC originates in the fear of the unknown. Things aren't great now, therefore the new culprit that we've never dealt with before must be ABC. There is certainly no proof for this or even mild demonstratable evidence. In fact from a cultural standpoint probably one of the most immoral cultures (religions) is Islam, and ABC is shunned in that community. Certainly, ABC has nothing to do with the murderous tendencies of Islam. My point being that temporal occurance never guarantees causal relationships. Which discounts your premise entirely.

One more point is that NFP in itself summons probablism to a degree. Depending on your particular circumstances your are allowed to use it with the probability that you are not sinning. Regards-
October 31, 2002, 09:58 PM
speak English willya James?
NF, what James meant by culturally recursive may, at least in part, be related to the fallacy of petitio principii. See JSM's posts for further examples.


p.s. Just kidding! about this begging the question stuff wink
November 01, 2002, 09:54 PM
dispensation of natural law?
James wrote: NFP and ABC would be understood as pre-morally evil.

So, you must somehow be implying that there can be some type of dispensation from the immutable natural law? insofar as you appear to agree that ABC, at some level, remains intrinsically disordered?

November 02, 2002, 08:54 AM
No, what I am trying to get at is that our understanding of natural law as a Church at this point in time has enough difficulty appealling to reason, that it is fundamentally flawed. If this flaw is corrected no dispensation would be necessary. Regards-
November 02, 2002, 09:35 AM
While I can imagine many scenarios for imputing exculpability, should the Church's present essentialistic understaning remain intact, and although I set forth same on another thread, I must say that my own reading of the sensus fidelium suggests that our understanding of natural law as a Church at this point in time has enough difficulty appealling to reason, that it is fundamentally flawed. If this flaw is corrected no dispensation would be necessary.

Gracias, James.