Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Clarification

Danielle Bean believes that I have misrepresented her on the subject of NFP. She writes that she has always included the use of NFP in the phrase "open to life" and that when she writes about the hypothetical heroic mother she is not excluding the possibility of the use of NFP.

For the record, I didn't think Danielle would disagree with the use of NFP; she has written before on the topic. I was intending to discuss the fact that in the context of the post the phrase is unclear, and leads one to expect that both the humility and the heroism come from not attempting to limit one's family size even when one is already choosing between food for the family and the baby's prescription. If I misunderstood her point or misread it, I apologize.

I do, however, disagree with this paragraph from the post:
We need to be very careful when we talk about “responsible parenthood.” All too often, this phrase leads to the idea of preventing pregnancy as the default mode for Catholic marriages. In this way of thinking, couples must meet certain criteria, financial or otherwise, before they are “allowed” to have children. I can think of many words to describe this kind of thinking, but not one of them is “Catholic.”
The Church herself speaks of "responsible parenthood." The Church also speaks of "generous parenthood." In fact, balancing the demands of responsibility and generosity are what make the prudential decisions difficult at times for individual couples and families.

But nobody ever says we need to be "careful" when we speak about "generous parenthood." Nobody ever says we must guard against hurting the feelings of the infertile, of those who are prevented by medical conditions or mental conditions or financial conditions from adding to their families, whether temporarily or permanently. Nobody warns against creating the false impression that striving to achieve every physically possible pregnancy is the default setting for a good Catholic marriage and that only the most dire of circumstances will be acceptable before the couple is "allowed" to use NFP.

Nobody says there's anything wrong with presenting all large families as "humble and heroic" while whispering that small families are "contraceptive-mentality and selfish" without knowing the circumstances of either; nobody seems to find any impropriety in demanding the most personal details from those with small families as "proof" that they're not using NFP "contraceptively" while insisting that large families should never be burdened by even a discussion of general principles relating to finances and the acceptance of government aid (which, to be fair, has nothing to do with family size; there are rich people with twelve children and impoverished families with two, after all).

So again, Danielle, I'm sorry if I misunderstood. I disagree with the notion that anything the Church teaches us is off limits for discussion, however, or needs to be addressed "very carefully," provided no one is judging individual couples whatever the circumstances.

And on the subject of responsible and generous parenthood, that goes for both sides.

38 comments:

kategirl said...

Red,

I think you are right on target and did not find you misrepresented Danielle. I think she really put anyone to task who raised the questions for discussion that you are bringing up. And she was very clear about it. I believe the word selfish was used.

I hear it discussed often the reasons and discernment behind using NFP to avoid a pregnancy. It is rarely discussed the other side of the coin. When do we need to limit our family size to be prudent and wise and care for the children we have, including their physical, emotional and spiritual needs?

I find an answer in the orthodox community that says unless you are dead or dying you had been keep conceiving. It is a very militant way of thinking, unless you and your husband are in dire straits and suffering intensely everyday you must conceive another child. and even if you are in dire straights it would be heroic to intentionally conceive another child. So be the hero.

Danielle said...

Thank you for clarifying, Erin.

We must run in very different circles, though, because the things you say nobody ever says I hear all the time.

But, for further clarification, I have not said that anything the Church teaches ought to be off limits for discussion, though I might not be up for hosting the discussion on my blog.

What I did say was that we need to be careful when discussing them. Especially where the subject matter is so sensitive, so prone to misunderstanding, and so potentially hurtful to families of all kinds, I think that charity requires it.

Anonymous said...

In this way of thinking, couples must meet certain criteria, financial or otherwise, before they are “allowed” to have children. I can think of many words to describe this kind of thinking, but not one of them is “Catholic.”

But should they? Should they meet some kind of basic financial criteria of feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating their children? And who best should provide those things for children? Others? Or does the responsibility fall first and foremost on the parents? And should parents-as-providers be considered the better, more excellent thing to do? And if there is a better way than poverty, then why would the aspect of being poor not be thought of as a lesser way to live?

What I see here is again, that emotionalism and twisted sentimentality that a lot of women resort to instead of fact, intellect and well-thought-out concepts They take it all personally, sniff, "feel bad" and insinuate that others are "uncharitable" because the "way" someone said something wasn't sweet enough for them. If anything, it shows how many people really don't know the teachings of the church as well as they think they do nor do they have a clue about general economics and personal financial planning. And some are saying that this lack of insight is to be...ignored? Applauded? Blessed? What, exactly?

And yes, I say this as a woman.
~Kayo

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you, Danielle.

It may not be so much a matter of running in different circles as being the target of different kinds of criticism, though.

Growing up in a large family, I heard it all, all the negative and insulting things a mom (and her kids) can hear. So I get that it can hurt if you think you're a target.

But now I'm in a position where having a smaller family is suspect. And what I cringe about isn't people hurting my feelings (intentionally or otherwise); it is the witness that gets presented to others.

For example, not long ago a Protestant woman on a non-Catholic blog asked a very timid question about NFP, obviously drawn to it. The first person to respond just gave her some helpful links--but almost immediately several Catholic commenters showed up to say "Don't use it contraceptively!" "Is there really a reason for you not to have another baby right now?" and my favorite variation, "You know, real Catholics (not those Novus Ordo wackos with their silly pretend Mass and lax rules) don't believe in NFP."

Someone might have been driven away from even investigating NFP--and maybe being drawn to the Church--because all people could think of was getting out there and promoting their agendas. That is a real problem, to me.

Maria said...

Kayo -

Being poor is not necessarily a "lesser way to live." In fact, poverty is one of the Evangelical Counsels, along with celibacy and obedience. And as the Catholic Encycolpedia describes the counsels, "These things which are counselled are not set forward so much as good in themselves, as in the light of means to an end and as the surest and quickest way of obtaining everlasting life." Poverty in and of itself is of no value. Poverty, lived for Christ, is actually a more perfect way of life. I

n any case, disdain for the poor is certainly not in line with any Catholic teaching of which I know.

Red Cardigan said...

But Maria, as I've been trying to point out, the subject here isn't a) let's trash the poor or b) let's criticize individuals for the choices they make. The subject instead was, what does the Church teach about responsible parenthood, that is, the moral obligations parents have toward their children?

Helping the poor and needy, working for a just society that comes to the aid of those in need, reaching out hands of love and support, etc., are all very good, very noble things to do, and no one is disputing that.

But it doesn't change the fact that parents have serious moral obligations in regards to their children, and that considering those obligations when discerning the call to add to one's family or to refrain from doing so is necessary and important.

Now, most people I know don't wake up one day and decide to quit their jobs and "trust" God to provide for them--hardships take us unawares, and many people struggle in times like ours when costs are rising and salaries are dropping. We absolutely must be charitable and considerate of the circumstances of others, and no one I know seriously opposes that.

But here's what I'm reacting to: the notion that families do not, ever, have an actual obligation to postpone, using moral means, adding a child to the family for a while, even if Dad is working two jobs and Mom is exhausted and the children are sharing shoes so that only half of them can go outside on a given day and they're already accepting every form of government aid available to them along with some private charity and there's a serious likelihood that the next pregnancy will involve an extended hospital stay which dad will have to take a third job to afford even with Medicaid and so on and so forth.

Because when we intimate that sort of thing, however unintentionally, there is the risk that good, holy, kind Catholic mothers in situations like that will think to themselves, "Hmm, I'm not dying, so we have no excuse to use NFP."

That's not really what the Church teaches, and that sort of absolutism can be dangerous.

Anonymous said...

(Ah! I just hit preview and got to read Red's response, which I totally agree with, but I'll publish my comment anyway; what the heck...)

Maria - I think it depends on what you mean by "way to live". I mean, most of us aren't called to celibacy either, right? That's no way to live, for most of us.

I've sort of alluded to it before, but if the way of poverty is truly the way you believe you've been called, I think you really have to ask yourself: the vocation of poverty (probably in religious life) or the vocation of marriage? I don't think we're meant to seek both simultaneously. They don't mix well, those two vocations, so when things happen that make them coincide, it's regrettable; it's obviously a cause of shame and pain for many who've posted and it's a cross to offer up. (And it's also something that demands that you do what you can to get out of, I think, or at the very least, not exacerbate. Hence, the whole willfully-adding-children-in-times-of-severe-financial-stress argument.)

It's not disdain for the poor, it's more a coming to understand that there is a better way to live out the vocation of marriage and family. To word it simply: to have money for a family is better than not having money for a family. Could one argue with that?

~Kayo

Maria said...

Red,

I certainly am not saying a couple must adopt any kind of providentialism. I generally believe it is very, very difficult to "abuse" NFP and loathe all the arguments I've seen online about Catholic couples using NFP with a contraceptive mentality. Catholics who have a contraceptive mentality in this country simply use contraception! Sad, but true.

However, I think it is difficult to find a whole heck of a lot in Church teaching that says a couple has a moral obligation to absolutely avoid pregnancy for purely financial reasons. If that's the case, we have millions of women living in third world countries who would be barred from becoming mothers by Church teaching.

Finally, I guess I find all the hullaballoo about this issue a bit sad. Most studies I've seen show 95% of Catholic women have used contraception. So we have about 5% of couples who are remaining "open to life" - if I dare use the term now. :) Of that 5%, there couples who struggle with infertility, couples who marry late in their fertile years, couples who have sufficient financial resources for their family. Finally, we have couples who are having children but struggle financially. This is maybe 1% of the Catholic population in America. Catholics are the largest single religious denomination in the country. I find it very sad that these families are having to turn to the government for help. The Catholic community itself should be taking care of its poor families. Any indictment in this whole situation should not fall on these families, but on ourselves, our parishes, and our Church.

Maria said...

Kayo-

I think we all are called to live poverty to a certain degree, though obviously not all of us are called to live a vow of poverty like religious. I definitely recommend Fr. Thomas Dubay's book, Blessed Are You Poor, for a look at what each Catholic is called to live in regards to poverty. It was definitely one of the most spiritually challenging books I've ever read and had me re-examine many of my habits. I've had much more respect and sympathy for the poor and a desire to live out poverty in accordance to my state of life since reading it.

kategirl said...

Kayo, the questions you ask are good and thought provoking. Not just the ones in this one thread but also elsewhere. I am surrounded by a certain theology (that does not ask such questions) and perhaps a sense of frustration or criticism comes out in my posts because of it. It is enlightening to read someone else who asks some deeper questions.

I think we have to understand that sometimes couples break as human beings do. I see couples that embrace NFP wholeheartedly but somtimes logic does not seem to make its way through in planning and wisdom. A couple I know, who has a large family, is separated in large part because the husband has been battling severe depression long before the birth of their last child (which was very much planned, "if God wants to send us another child let Him", who can argue with that)

Mental illness is a hard thing and can not be taken lightly. The stress of so many little ones on top of the illness was too much to bear. There is so much to think about in having children and the preservation of our marriage and the health of our spouse is vital.

I would not be one to regret a child, who could? But one who rather thinks we need to think more about our responsiblities before we have additional children.

Let us teach our kids about the things they need to think about in raising a family. Let us teach our daughters to get an education that could potentially contribute to the family income if needed. Let us guide our sons to find something they are passionate about that they can do and support a family with it.

On another note, yes we need to be charitable in our discussions. But that includes all our discussions. I can think of many situations where the orthodox Catholic community in general is not very kind. For example, with women who work outside the home to help support their family. I find so much disdain for them spoken among Catholic women who are home full time. It realy makes me sad. Let us be consistent in our charity.

Mary said...

I didn't read any of what DB said in the way it has been represented here, Red. I think what she said was very clear: those who can still choose to embrace life (of course it's not "life" unless conception has already taken place!) under difficult circumstances are to be honored.
There is ALWAYS a choice. A choice to end that life, a choice to accept it begrudgingly and complain throughout pregnancy and beyond. A choice to say, "fiat."
And once that life has been created, that mother has a choice to say, "oops", or "well, that's what I get for using NFP" or, "this life is a gift from God."
There are no accidental pregnancies in God's eyes. No mistakes.
I think this is what DB meant when she was talking about being "Catholic". It means recognizing that God is author of everything and that we always only receive. Our "plans," as the infertile or fertile woman will tell you, don't count for much and we are very mistaken if we think we brought that baby into the world by our own will or ovaries.

Jennifer F. said...

What I see here is again, that emotionalism and twisted sentimentality that a lot of women resort to instead of fact, intellect and well-thought-out concepts They take it all personally, sniff, "feel bad" and insinuate that others are "uncharitable" because the "way" someone said something wasn't sweet enough for them.

Kayo - I would certainly agree that there are a lot of emotions in this debate, but we should remember that we're talking about fellow Catholics, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our rare allies in the culture war that rages around us.

Red - It's probably a new convert thing, but I just have not seen anything like what you're talking about...

Nobody ever says we must guard against hurting the feelings of the infertile, of those who are prevented by medical conditions or mental conditions or financial conditions from adding to their families, whether temporarily or permanently...Nobody says there's anything wrong with presenting all large families as "humble and heroic" while whispering that small families are "contraceptive-mentality and selfish"...

Arwen just had a nice article up at Faith and Family about the witness of infertility.. A while back Karen Edmisten also covered the topic of small Catholic families and how we must not judge them, and received 21 warm, supportive replies. These are just two blog posts, but I hear sentiments like this regularly, and almost never hear the viewpoints you describe.

Nobody warns against creating the false impression that striving to achieve every physically possible pregnancy is the default setting for a good Catholic marriage and that only the most dire of circumstances will be acceptable before the couple is "allowed" to use NFP.

I've been warned about this more times than I can count, like in the comments here and here. In fact, the maximalists who make this claim are like Bigfoot to me -- I've heard the lore, but have never actually seen one in real life. :) In fact, if someone could point me to something written by one of these folks I'd appreciate it. I definitely know they exist since I've heard so much about them, but I'd be curious to know how on earth they could possibly reconcile their position as Catholics since that's clearly not Church teaching.

But here's what I'm reacting to: the notion that families do not, ever, have an actual obligation to postpone, using moral means, adding a child to the family for a while.

I think this is where the confusion is coming from. Did anyone make this case? Danielle didn't. Was it one of her commenters or something?

Here's the way I see the issue. Let's use Jane and John Catholic as an example:

-------------

Jane and John Catholic have five children, and they are poor. They currently get a little bit of government assistance to get by each month, though they're working on eliminating that. They are also super-fertile and have weird cycles, and their last two children were complete surprises. (I realize that there's a side issue of whether or not they're actually using NFP responsibly, but that's a separate debate. For the sake of charity and clarity let's assume that they are not stupid, lazy or lying when they say that even when implementing careful, modern NFP practices they have gotten pregnant.)

Jane and John want to be good Catholics and responsible parents. They completely agree that they have a duty to care for the children they already have and that therefore it's not ideal to have more children right now. However, they also don't see a clear way out of poverty and can expect to be more or less poor for the rest of their lives. Given their circumstances, here are their options in terms of limiting family size:

a) Have a celibate marriage.

b) Use artificial contraception.

c) Carefully practice NFP, realizing that there's a good chance that this will mean they will bring another life into the world sooner than is ideal.

d) Throw all caution to the wind and do nothing to avoid pregnancy, and/or actively try to get pregnant.

-------------

So what are Jane and John to do? I think this is what the issue is really about. Danielle's post was supporting those who choose c amidst the pressure in our culture to do b. I have not heard anyone at all advocate for d.

kategirl said...

What I hear being said is that NFP is not effective like all the studies show it is. And for some couples it means having 4, 5 or 6 unplanned pregnancies in the midst of dire circumstances. Where each time there have no idea how they could have conceived. It was a magical theological happening. God suddenly decided they needed to conceive another child. This really flies in the face of everything the NFP community produces and says and the scientific knowledge we have of NFP.

If this is the case then they should be more forecoming and not embellish their 99.5% effectiveness because for some couples having another child is a is a matter of life and death.

I have to emphasize I believe that conception is a miracle from God. Conception is also a biological happening of naural law. I don't believe that God creates pregnancy other than through this natural law, as in some other intervention when the woman is not ovulating.

Do we hold the same theology when we see children conceived from rape, IVF for a gay couple, a drug addicted mother, single moms? That God interevened in a unique way during that time of intercourse because he felt that this person needed to conceive. Or do we in these circumstances think it is a matter of biology. Is it only when NFP using couples have a surprise pregnancy it is some extraordinary act of God?

Since God knows best and we only conceive when God insists it is time why would we even try to space our children. Biologically I would have a child every 11 months based on my previous history, I must reconcile my biology with my theology. Even though I can conceive that often it is not God's desire or will for my life.

What I found lacking in DB's post was acknowledging that it is not always heroic to add another child to a family and sometimes it can be tragic. Not that God does not have a special purpose for that child because He does.

I see a starry eyed theology that says no matter what nothing really bad will happen to you if you keep having child after child. It is hard to reconcile this with my faith when I see couples who simple have too many burdens to bear.

Matilda said...

Jennifer F.,
Perhaps it is the area in which we live, but I have heard all of the comments that Red alluded to in one form or another. In fact, I know specifically of a conversation in which the area of mental health was discussed (anxiety and panic) as a reason to postpone pregnancy to which someone else responded "sounds like a guilty conscience to me". Telling someone who has serious post-partum depression, the kind that can get you institutionalized, that "with every baby, God sends a loaf of bread" or the story of that one woman who was cured of her life threatening illness by becoming pregnant to the woman trying to avoid pregnancy due to a life threatening illness is just cruel and these are all examples that I have read/heard/witnessed in some way along with all of the ones Red referenced.

I also believe that Danielle post's was supporting option c., as you put it, although I would argue that using NFP means that they CAN (as opposed to your word "will" bring another life into the world sooner than is ideal, that's what makes it "open to life". While it is true that some couples still conceive while doing their best at following the rules and recommendations of whichever method they are using (there are so many now!), other couples use it for years without ever having a surprise pregnancy.(Side note: Those are typically the people who are charged with using NFP contraceptively in my experience.)

I discerned Danielle's intention based on what she has written in the past and what I have learned about her through the bit that she shares with the world. I must be honest and admit that I found it hard to discern just from that one post alone. I am glad that both she and Red have offered clarifications in charity and humility. As Patrick said, "Anyway, this is all just a long way of saying that I learned and important lesson this week. Next time when I am frustrated that otherwise smart people are missing my point, I will try to step back and look at my terms. Chances are, we are not speaking the same language.

Anonymous said...

Jennirfer f: - Thanks for your thoughtful post. My point about the skewed emotionalism is not that there is emotion expressed, but that it is used as a weapon. Here's the example:

Person 1 says something that Person 2 believes must be refuted.

Person 2 states, plainly, without ad hominem, "I disagree, because of A, B and C. I ask questions 1, 2, and 3"

And the response from Person 1? "I don't like the way you said that! I want you to speak differently! You are uncharitable!" (Note: they didn't say they might have misunderstood; could there be clarification? They simply tell you - in a most charitable way - to shut up. Now Person 2 is the bad guy and Person 1...wins?)

I see pulling the "uncharitable" charge not unlike how politicians play the race card; it ignores the issues all together, casts aspersions on Person 2 and basically, is a passive-aggressive control issue.

I won't buy into it.

And here's the one sticking point I find in your scenario:

However, they also don't see a clear way out of poverty and can expect to be more or less poor for the rest of their lives.

I think it's a bad presupposition. It's a give-up mentality and - I think underneath a lot of the talk about gov't handouts - people do think that those on some kind of permanent dole have given up. They haven't looked down every path, searched every solution or tried enough to change their lifestyle. And the reason some think that is because, if you have any dealings with "the system", there are far too many who fit that description perfectly. (I also think there is difference between poor, working poor, lower-middle-class, etc. so those differences should probably be taken into account, as well.)

Matilda, your side note, especially, is spot-on!

And absolutely, kategirl, the idea that NFP "just doesn't work" for so many families, and yes NFP teachers site all kind of very high success rates for postponing pregnancy, well, where does the science of it all come in and why is it not working?

There's a ton of things to unpack about this and patient Erin has been kind enough to allow us to hog her combox going at this (thank you for this!), but I'd even love separate conversations on NFP effectiveness, ideas about what some think are and are not legitimate reasons to choose family size (!), the changes in society that make NFP less or more understandable (e.g. I've heard some say that since NFP wasn't used in generations past, it must be perfectly good to continue doing the same. But generations past had astronomical infant and maternal mortality rates, generations past lived an agrarian lifestyle, etc.)
~Kayo

Mary Poppins NOT said...

You know, this conversation can not be boiled down simply to responsibility. Things happen. Unexpected things; illness, job loss, law suits. You can not have a contingency plan for everything. I had a baby (our sixth) that wasn't expected, didn't seem possible from my charts, and at the worst possible (seemingly) time imaginable. Yet,he was the greatest gift I could have received, a burst of joy in a very dark time for us. Many of the crises we were undergoing at the time have resolved, and my son is here, reminding me that life is eternal, temporal matters are not. Oh, I have stories, but this isn't my blog so I won't go on and on. But financial security is an illusion. The eternal gift of life is not.

We have tried to be as prudent as possible when making choices about things we have control over. So many things that have happened to us were unexpected and impossible to plan for. Other things, hindsight being 20/20, we can see where we could have done things better. But my children's existance is one thing that I wouldn't question. Their arrivals were a mixture of planned and unplanned, and having people scrutinize the spacing and size of our family would be laughable. I would have to write a book to tell all the stories involved in the evolution of our family. It can not be boiled down to "providentialism", "failed NFP", "irresponsible parenthood", or "selfishness".

Our family formation is a mix of seeing and acting on grace in our lives, and trying our best to do the right thing, using Church teaching as our guide (realizing there is a bit of latitude given us by our church to allow us to respond to our individual moments of grace).

One event that formed me deeply on this issue was back when I was single, working in a nursing home as a physical therapist. I had many hours to spend talking with people with much life experience about the events of their lives. I heard repeatedly, from people who had lived at the time of the Depression and through WWII and other difficult times, "I wish I would have had more children."

The Church doesn't say, "You MUST use NFP" nor does it say, "You MAY NOT use NFP". No, the Church is too wise a mother to make those kind of pronouncements. The Church does say, Be Generous. That means to God, to our neighbor, to our children. How we work this out with the graces given us is very personal and very individual.

nutmeg said...

"What I found lacking in DB's post was acknowledging that it is not always heroic to add another child to a family and sometimes it can be tragic."

I cannot believe that a Catholic could ever ever think this. How in heavens name would adding another child (albeit an unplanned occurrence) be TRAGIC?? To look that precious newborn in the eyes and say, yes, my child, YOU were my tragedy.

We really need to pray for the wisdom to look at new life through the eyes of the Divine. Heaven help us.

kateg said...

please don't miss understand me. the child is not a tragedy obviously, but if the mom dies due to a know illness prefore pregnancy then it is a tragedy that occurs but no the child is not a tragedy. Andrea yates is a tragedy, with known psychosis conceiving a child not no her child is not a tragedy, the baby just put her ilness over the edge

kateg said...

PS if we conceive children without adequate regard for the health of our marriage and the stress a large family has on us and we wind up divorced then that is a tragedy, if a woman with severe mental illness has 7 children and is institutionalized the rest of her life because of her severe depression then it is a tradegy, if a father of 8 commite suicide because he can not take the stress anymore that baby after baby as put on him (and also he has a mental illness) and I would go on and on...and yes I have seen all of these things happen, it is not in theory it is tragedy and we need to be wise when we bring children in to the world because it is a huge responsibility. Let us not place heavy burdens on people they can not carry.

No please don't interpret me wrong, I don't think children are a tragedy. I hope you understand.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

I know many, many Catholic families who prayerfully accept the difficulties in being open to life during many hard situations. I have yet to know anyone institutionalized, suicidal or terminally ill because of their family size. Tired, yes. Financially unstable, yes. Overwhelmed, yes. The fine line between balancing generosity and responsibility are not well served with imaginary, worst case scenarios. Most people involved in this discussion are dealing with real, but less dire straights.

four_and_counting said...

Mary Poppins NOT wrote:

"Be Generous. That means to God, to our neighbor, to our children. How we work this out with the graces given us is very personal and very individual."

This is what is continues to boil down to imho. Many of us have a tendency to think we know what is best for everyone else because it is what we have decided is best for us. There is also a lot of "offense" taken when someone does things differently, especially in regard to family size, education, and parenting.

I also REALLY appreciated the comment:

"financial security is an illusion"

ABSOLUTELY! This is the language I'm speaking. All too often I hear, "What if your husband loses his job?" "What if you die - who would take all those kids?" "What if you got seriously sick; what kind of support do you have?" "What if your next child is disabled?" "Look at the economy - how can you afford more children if prices keep going up?" "What if..." It is those kinds of fears - fear of the future - that drive the conversation in my circle...and is where I have a tendency to respond with a "providentialist" attitude.

Regarding the effectiveness of NFP, according to various NFP websites, there is a difference between "method effectiveness" and "user effectiveness" and the latter is lower. I've read that "user effectiveness" is higher among more motivated couples, but it is still not quite as high as the advertised "method effectiveness". I suspect that many of these "motivated" couples are the ones who are accused of using NFP "contraceptively"...which brings me full circle back to the quote I included at the beginning of this comment from Mary Poppins NOT and how I read it: Be generous to our neighbors - assuming the best of them and giving them the benefit of the doubt in all circumstances.

nutmeg said...

Kateg, the point you are completely missing is that most of the time, these unplanned pregnancies are EXACTLY that... unplanned. Not due to any conscious "fault" of the parents! NFP is difficult at times (and for some of us ~myself included~ ALL of the time) and these unplanned blessings make up our entire family.
Families who are struggling financially, feeling overwhelmed, even women who have an illness whereby they will die if they get pregnant... these couples still use NFP (stringently, yes!) rather than contracept. Tragic? Stupid? Maybe in the eyes of the world. But DB rightly calls them heroic.
They are true to Church teaching, no matter what, (it's not SUPPOSED to be easy folks!) and they deserve our prayers and respect.

nutmeg said...

And just to be clear... when I say "It's not supposed to be easy" I am talking about our path to heaven, NFP. Our path to heaven is laden with suffering, and therein lies our sanctification.

:)

Anonymous said...

Kategirl,

You present yourself as an enlightened deep thinker. I understand that you are being condescending when you say "magical theological happening" but using the word magical when referring to God's actions seems less than enlightened. It's also less than enlightened to erect boundaries for God's actions in peoples lives. God is never bound by nature, including when it comes to conception.

Secondly, the science of NFP is different from the human practice of NFP. NFP involves taking measurements, evaluating results, and drawing conclusions from the results. These are things that even scientists do imperfectly. Science itself predicts human error especially when intense emotions and distractions exist as they often do. Science also predicts that test results will vary from woman to woman and so they will be more or less difficult to interpret.

Unplanned pregnancies don't necessarily indicate that someone has a shallow and unenlightened mind. I can find statistics for you that say just about anything.

Finally, the real "tragedy" is not the planned or unplanned child born to a poor family, it's your attitude toward him. This was not an unfortunate use of the word on your part but an attitude that permeates most of your comments. There will never be agreement here on this topic for several reasons.

People like DB will NEVER refer to a child as a tragedy even in a poor family because it is against their core beliefs and attitudes. You are coming from a completely different place on this one and it's a place I don't want to visit. At least not with my children.

Lastly, for you and Red and others to purposefully attribute positions to DB like anything the Church teaches us is "off limits" for discussion" is unfair and completely disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

Like Red and her allies in this debate, China is big on weighing the benefit of a new life against its cost to society. That train of thought led them to the one child policy and forced sterilizations. It's a dangerous path to start thinking about whether it's fair to you for someone else bring new life into the world. Be careful.

MommaLlama said...

Oh for cryin' out loud, if you actually read what Red wrote (and continues to write), you will see she isn't stating 'STOP WITH THE BABIES' or anything. She is simply wanting people explore more fully what the Church is asking of Her Faithful.

Sorry, Red, the notion that you find yourself agreeing with Commie's seems completely absurd to me.

Anonymous said...

MommaLlama-
Is Red not thinking about whether it's fair to her for someone else to bring new life into the world?

Anonymous said...

Red Cardigan said...
But Maria, as I've been trying to point out, the subject here isn't a) let's trash the poor or b) let's criticize individuals for the choices they make.

Red –
I generally love your writing, but I think you are mistaken here. You are (a) trashing the poor by second guessing them, and (b) criticizing individuals for the choices they make. How can you say you are not doing both (a) and (b)? Go back and read your posts.



kategirl said ...
I see a starry eyed theology that says no matter what nothing really bad will happen to you if you keep having child after child. It is hard to reconcile this with my faith when I see couples who simple have too many burdens to bear.

KateGirl –
When did you start getting to decide how much of a burden is too much for me (or anyone else) to bear?



In response to this:
However, they also don't see a clear way out of poverty and can expect to be more or less poor for the rest of their lives.

Kayo said this:
I think it's a bad presupposition. It's a give-up mentality and - I think underneath a lot of the talk about gov't handouts - people do think that those on some kind of permanent dole have given up. They haven't looked down every path, searched every solution or tried enough to change their lifestyle.

Kayo –
Do you understand the concept of making a statement “for the sake of argument.” If I say, “For the sake of argument, let’s assume X” it is totally nonsensical for you to say, “But X is a bad presupposition.” If you want to disagree with the speaker’s point fine, but don’t play word games.

Also, your insinuation that people who are poor their whole lives have given up (tsk tsk, it’s their own fault), well, I just don’t even know what to say to that. That’s one of the most ridiculous and mean-spirited viewpoints imaginable. It’s viewpoints and voters like that which make many Catholics feel like we have no choice but to vote for Democrats. We have to choose between Republicans who just can’t stop sneering at the poor and jeering them into not having children, and Democrats who are in favor of aborting children. Which one is more anti-life? It’s really a tough call sometimes.

Nicknames are still anonymous and easy said...

How many "anonymous's" do we have here? People, click "Name/URL" and choose a nickname. Sally, Betty, Bob, I don't care. It's easy. Pick a name. I could offer a few, but since you all seem to be such creative thinkers anyway... knock yourself out.

patjrsmom said...

Erin,
Thank you for your thoughtful response to a very emotionally charged subject. I pray for a productive (not destructive!) charitable discussion.

God Bless,
Jane

Maria said...

While I disagree somewhat with Red Cardigan's overall argument, I think comparisons to her stance and China's One Child policy is way over the top.

In supporting a charitable and generous view of the family, it certainly behooves us to be charitable and generous in the way we present a point of view.

freddy said...

You know, there’s a reason why we don’t encourage our children to get married when they are teenagers; why we don’t let our twelve year olds drive, though they may be taller than we are and have better eyesight; why we don’t drop the contents of our husband’s paycheck in the collection basket and then ask Father to open the Poor Box. It’s called Prudence, and it’s a virtue.

Prudence is the virtue that doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. These days everybody wants a hero. Dramatic virtues like Fortitude and Justice get all the good press. They’re the big manly virtues with flashing grins and wavy hair. Prudence, and her lowly sister Temperance, are often ignored, or worse. Sometimes Prudence is even made a scapegoat, like when someone says, “Well, you know I’d love to help you move, but it really wouldn’t be prudent of me, now would it, what with it looking like rain and me being so prone to colds and all…”

Yet the Church believes in the importance of Prudence. Believes it so much that She calls it one of the four cardinal virtues. Justice and Fortitude are all for the fray, but without Prudence they’d just be a pair of bullies: Prudence chooses the battles.

Charity, the golden leader of all the virtues, dictates that we not pretend to have the ability to see into the hearts of others. How many children a family has, or under what circumstances, are neither the issue nor the point. No one can tell, from the outside looking in, whether that big family you know is struggling to put food on the table or saving for their children’s college funds, or whether that small family you know is carrying the burden of a health condition requiring them to put off yet again having a much desired baby.

Prudence, however, dictates that we look into our own hearts, ask our own selves difficult questions, and make decisions to the best of our ability with prayer and humility before God.

There’s a reason why the Church doesn’t tell us how many children a couple should have, or how much we should put in the collection basket each week, or what all the good reasons are for missing Mass on Sunday, or the caloric difference between a hearty appetite and gluttony. The Holy Spirit is ready to guide us with the virtue of Prudence. All we have to do is ask.

Anonymous said...

mary poppins not:
I have yet to know anyone institutionalized, suicidal or terminally ill because of their family size.

You are blessed to have such a sane, healthy and narrow population as everyone you know. I know one father who committed suicide. In front of his family. Can one argue that it wasn't only because of his family size? Perhaps. But you'd have to take family size into account when he believed that he was worthless as a husband, father and provider. Does anyone think that it would have been prudent to bring another child willfully into that family?

I also know of another mother who was overwhelmed about her children and left the country. She was stressed, mentioned it a few times in front of a few people, but decided not to seek help and simply...left. Both of these were within 3 miles of my home, within 5 years of each other. I know; these are both anecdotal. They're also true.

and anonymous:
Do you understand the concept of making a statement “for the sake of argument. Well, then let me be clearer. Anyone who has decided that "they will be poor" for the rest of their lives has, well, decided to be poor. And I find that unacceptable (except for a tiny percentage of the population; see below).

Also, your insinuation that people who are poor their whole lives have given up (tsk tsk, it’s their own fault), well, I just don’t even know what to say to that. That’s one of the most ridiculous and mean-spirited viewpoints imaginable.

Thanks for the name-calling. I'm mean-spirited now, am I? Because I can state that there clearly ARE poor who refuse to help themselves out of it? Notice I didn't say "all people", but I guess it's OK for you not to ask me to clarify; just go straight for the ad hominem. And so is it mean-spirited now to say something, you know, true? The idea that there is no perpetual welfare hand-out mentality in this country is absurd and easily refutable. Oh, by the way, do you know who I heard say of all the poor people he's worked with, only about 2 -3% are truly incapable of providing for themselves and are legitimately perpetually poor? And that the rest just do stuff that keeps them poor? Fr. Benedict Groeschel.

Do some of you ever really get out into the world and actually work with the poor? You talk as if you are blissfully ignorant of a whole host of pathologies that are out there; they're hard not to see.

four_and_counting:
Financial security is an illusion. I think a better way to say that is it's not a guarantee. Just like there is no guarantee that I could be hit by a car later; it can happen. But? I can do a whole heck of a lot to put the odds in my favor. That's my original point; I don't think enough is being done to put the odds in the favor of Catholics who want or do have big families.
~Kayo

Red Cardigan said...

I appreciate that people want to continue this discussion, and I'm a big believer in encouraging talk to continue, not shutting it down arbitrarily just because some people have started to get a bit shrill or heated.

But let's remember to be charitable, on BOTH sides of this. I've already deleted one comment from this thread and will not hesitate to weed out others that are unhelpful and unnecessarily inflammatory.

breeder said...

"Pick a name. I could offer a few..." is not inflammatory, but the explanation of what is meant by that is inflammatory? Well, you're right. That certainly isn't arbitrary.

Red Cardigan said...

Guess what, Breeder? This is my blog. I can be as arbitrary as I want.

Besides, I know "Nicknames." She told me she meant to write "a few more" not just "a few."

And the fact that you'd jump to conclusions about what that meant is telling--I happen to know the lady's got a bunch of kids herself, and doesn't have a dog in this fight, so to speak.

But you *assumed* she meant "breeder." What does that say about your motives, here? Honestly?

Red Cardigan said...

Note to Breeder: I deleted your most recent. I'll delete anything else off-topic you post. Here's a hint: the topic isn't me, or Nicknames, or your little hissy fit o' pique you've got goin' on.

You want this to be personal--have the guts to email me. You want to fling troll-like insults at the blog host, be advised that I follow the Mark Shea Protocols, which include the nuclear annihilation of comments that exist solely for the purpose of derailing conversation.

Bye now.

kateg said...

Hi Mary Poppins,

God bless you, I'm not out to condem anyone and I certainly don't consider new life a tragedy. I do believe though that sometimes their are situations where adding another child is not prudent. I don't believe this is against Church teaching nor do I believe I can decide this for other couples.

You said:

"The fine line between balancing generosity and responsibility are not well served with imaginary, worst case scenarios. Most people involved in this discussion are dealing with real, but less dire straights."

I thought I made it clear that each and every case I mention is a reality, a true story from a real Catholic faithfulled family, a real human being not some made up imaginary tradegy I could come up with.

Maybe most people in your world can continue to conceive without limits. Maybe you also have not seen the things I have seen. For everyone in your world it all it all comes out fine and that is good news. Praise God!!!

The tragedies I have known have affected me and challenged me to think about things different with a different view than perhaps you have. We can't always throw caution to the wind and say God will take care of it, to me this is starry eyed theology.

I am not out to condemn anyone. And I am dismayed that raising these thoughts and concerns puts me in the anti-life category. But that is life on the internet for you:) And I really can be a ppor communicator of what exactly I am trying to sort out.

For the other person concerned that I was deciding when too many burdens were for her, well I wasn't. I just recoginize that there are couples out there who have too much to bear and that individuals in the Church sometimes add to that by telling them they are not being generous if they avoid conception.


I pray that our discussion can challenge us all to expand our views and recognize all that is true. May we have the grace to embrace God's plan for our lifes with generosity and wisdom.