James writes:


Contraception does go against the physical procreativeness of the conjugal act, but so does NFP. And theologians have not been able to find a way to distinguish one from the other, except in the instances of saying something is not what it is, but as we have seen this does not wash with the laity. The outer form of the act can be the same. The inner intent not to have a child, and to will the unitive or spiritual procreativeness of the act can be the same. And the use of the sterile period in NFP is not natural in the sense of being in accord with the procreative nature of the conjugal act. If we argue the sterile periods are a natural means of avoiding procreation, we are saying it is natural to separate the two dimensions of the conjugal act, so why can't we do it with certain contraceptives instead of with calculations of time and temperature? NFP and certain contraceptives should stand or fall together. They are all, in a certain sense, unnatural, and if one is allowed, so should others.

The popes have tried to justify NFP by appealing to an analysis of the conjugal act, but it does not work. NFP gives the surface appearance of being more natural, but this is because we ignore the intent of excluding procreation. The essentialistic tradition under the pressure of the existential tradition has, over the centuries, moved from an Augustinian position, and shifted its attention from actual procreative intent to preserving the outer form of the act. (See G. Egner.) It was relatively easy to do this when the preservation of the outer form, due to the uncertainty of the time of ovulation, seemed to preserve at least the possibility of conception. But as it becomes clearer that conception is not possible, it becomes clearer, as well, that we are deliberately thwarting, in NFP, the physical procreativeness of the act. Can we imagine that a further perfecting of natural family planning is a solution to the moral question of contraception? Given the difficulties that exist in all kinds of contraception, including natural family planning as it actually exists now, such a more advanced natural family planning method would find a wide audience that would extend beyond Catholic circles, just as the current natural family planning does to a limited degree now. But what we are talking about in natural family planning in final analysis are the benefits and drawbacks of another form of contraception. To say that some form of rhythmic use of the conjugal act could be both psychologically better and medically safer than spacial devices or the pill is not to really deal with the central moral issue of contraception, which is the separation of the two dimensions of the conjugal act. In this regard we should not overlook Bernard Häring's response to Humanae Vitae, "The Inseparability of the Unitive-Procreative Functions of the Marital Act".

There are, then, two aspects to the Church's tradition on the use of the conjugal act. The first, the essentialistic one, condemns contraception. The second, based on the experience of marriage, supports the use of certain contraceptives and finds strength in the Church's approval of rhythm. These two traditions clashed in the Papal Council on Birth Control and the birth control commission, and they are at the root of the disagreements today. Must we choose between them? Or is there a way to reconcile them within a common framework? Just what, for example, is the precise bearing of the argument based on the totality of the values of the marriage act advanced by the Majority Report and rejected by Pope Paul? Or can the two traditions meet even within the perspective of natural law? If we say that in natural law, unitive is the more important aspect of the conjugal act, then we have in essence done this. Once the Church is willing to say this, and it will be having introduced NFP as acceptable, the two ideologies will no longer be diametrically oppossed as long as a conceptus is treated as a human life in each and every case. The totality of the act in marriage, in and of itself has intrinsic value and need not accompany procreation to have that value as Humanae Vitae has stressed. Clearly when the intent and outcome are both the same, the strict examination of nonabortive means becomes irrelevant.


Response from Editor:


Just absolutely marvelous post. Please don't let that be the last we hear from you!



Response from Mom of Four:


James sure is clever, eh Editor? Surely his thinking on this must be flawed somewhere? It makes too much sense! He could be a theologian if he really wanted, I'd bet.



Response from Michael:


Maybe the flaw in his thinking is hidden. I will probably hate myself for revealing to you what I think it is, especially since I do not know to whom I am addressing this. I would hope you could find this out for yourselves with a cognition or realization. Perhaps you have and have tried to move on.

If you can not see the difference in ABC and periodic (or prolonged abstinance), perhaps it is because periodic abstinance is the method you can not do. I wonder if this is partly both the cause and effect of your confusion.

Regretably if this is the case I probably can be castigated as the Pharisee who loads up the faithful with strictures and dictates and does not lift a finger to lighten the burden.

I am not in a situation where birth control, family planning, etc has been a personal issue with me. And I have never been in such a situation, so I wonder if I should even be posting on this board. I am not a priest, parent, theologian, clergyman, etc. Any posting that I do is intended to be mildly prophetic and not obnoxious. I remember back in the 1960's and 1970's when subjects like this spawned yelling contests in church circles.



Response from Mom of Four:



I assure you that you wonder wrongly, in my case, in particular, but that's okay with me because, placed in the context of the overall thrust of your past contributions, I'm sure you intend no offense or insult.

As to whether or not you could or should speak to the issue, I wouldn't thus castigate you for speaking without the authority that comes from experience, necessarily. Your awareness of the essentialistic aspect of morality needn't be crippled by your lack of some (but certainly not all) existentialistic experiences. By analogy, I think it is a common fallacy that is put forth where it is suggested that the clergy's lack of conjugal experience should disqualify them from marriage counseling, pastoral counseling re: sexual ethics and couneling in the context of reconciliation. Sometimes their wealth of knowledge communicated by untold numbers of confidants and penitents can place them in a position to know more about matters than those who have direct experiences and have them unreflectively to boot. This is not a direct analogy but the principle holds. You know better what your own case may be but, imo, your contributions are welcomed and encouraged based on their prevailing tone, tenor and substance.


Now, the counterpoint to my response to Michael might best be voiced by Cardinal Ratzinger:

The life and suffering of Christians who profess their faith in the midst of their times has just as important a part to play as the thinking and questioning of the learned, which would have a very hollow ring without the backing of Christian existence, which learns to discern spirits in the travail of everyday life.
+++ +++ +++

Listen carefully. You can hear the hollowness of the ring

The lives and testimonies and witness of the millions of Catholics in the supermajority re: sexual morality and gender-related issues in our Church are a reliable, credible, authoritative and trustworthy source over against the sterile thinking and questioning of the learned in the hierarchical "part" of "our" Magisterium. It is only a superficial and overly cursory and dismissive response to this charge to invoke, time and again, the fallacy of consensus gentium or to patronizingly concede that most dissenting faithful are exculpable through invincible ignorance rather than to seriously engage the central issues of whether or not Paul VI's fundamental natural law presuppositions are wrong. This is really to talk past one another and to avoid engagement of core disagreements.

I meant to ask earlier, Michael, what the moral theological undergirdings of your black widow spider bite analogy were? I presumed classicl exculpability arguments like lack of consent (such as force of habit), invincible ignorance, etc and not fundamental option theory? (because fundamental option theory might use a similar metaphor/analogy)

Do you get what I am driving at?