Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Procreation, naturally

Anon asked the following question: “I’m not sure how to ask this w/o being too graphic, but I’ll try. Why does the church frown upon the withdrawal method of birth control?” This blogger went on to compare this method (called “coitus interruptus”) with another method called “IUI” because he/she heard that IUI was “alright as long as the sperm is collected through licit means”. IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a method in which “sperm are collected from a perforated condom after normal intercourse, washed, and then injected into the uterine cavity, bypassing the cervix to avoid ‘hostile’ mucus” (http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/treatment.htm).

First, the purpose of IUI is “to assist the sperm to achieve its natural goal of insemination” (“Ethics and Medics”, October 2007). I have researched this and found no definitive statement from the Magisterium about whether IUI is morally permissible or not. In the above referenced link to the USCCB, IUI is listed under “Reproductive Technologies under Discussion (neither ‘approved nor ‘disapproved’)”. My seminary professor of medical ethics (great class!) said that he is “hesitant to endorse IUI in general since it seems to be one of the procedures which can be a substitute for intercourse. In addition, is there a finis operantis problem? Does the couple intend to produce a child or consider themselves in possession of a right to a child? Is this a process which can be done by the husband and wife or does it require the intervention of a third party?”

So, there are many questions and factors to consider with these methods, especially IUI. The professor mentions a potential “finis operantis” problem – this refers to the ultimate intention of an act. His ensuing questions speak to the ultimate intention of a couple using IUI. Please remember that the morality of an act is judged by all three components of an act: 1) the act itself, 2) the circumstances of the act, and 3) the intention of the person committing the act. If any of the three components is not good, then the act is not good (i.e., immoral).

With this in mind, we turn back to Anon’s question about the withdrawal method. The intention of the couple who uses coitus interruptus is NOT to procreate even if “sperm could fertilize an egg with this method”. Their intention is not good – it goes against the natural purpose of sex (procreation) – so the act is not good. But, this is different from IUI because the intention of the couple there is to procreate! IUI may still be immoral for the potential reasons the professor suggests in his questions, but its intention is procreative while the intention of coitus interruptus is contraceptive.

NFP was mentioned in some of the comments in this thread. I would argue that the finis operantis of the couple using Natural Family Planning is to be open to God’s Will. If they discern in prayer and in conversation with each other that at that time He is calling them to procreate, then their intention during the fertile period is to conceive. If they discern that He is not calling them to procreate, then their intention during the fertile period is not to conceive. For those who would argue that the latter is contraceptive, please check out the following from www.catholic.com. It defines contraception (from Humanae Vitae) and gives clear teaching from Scripture about coitus interruptus. It also addresses a point by another Anon about how certain sexual acts (e.g. masturbation) are not mentioned in Scripture. To view the full text, please click on today’s post.


Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.

The Historic Christian Teaching

Few realize that up until 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching condemning contraception as sinful. At its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church, swayed by growing social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. Soon the Anglican church completely caved in, allowing contraception across the board. Since then, all other Protestant denominations have followed suit. Today, the Catholic Church alone proclaims the historic Christian position on contraception. Evidence that contraception is in conflict with God’s laws comes from a variety of sources that will be examined in this tract.

Nature

Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as "natural law." The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children. But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.

Scripture

Is contraception a modern invention? Hardly! Birth control has been around for millennia. Scrolls found in Egypt, dating to 1900 B.C., describe ancient methods of birth control that were later practiced in the Roman empire during the apostolic age. Wool that absorbed sperm, poisons that fumigated the uterus, potions, and other methods were used to prevent conception. In some centuries, even condoms were used (though made out of animal skin rather than latex).

The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10). The biblical penalty for not giving your brother’s widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:7–10).

But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he violated natural law, as Jewish and Christian commentators have always understood. For this reason, certain forms of contraception have historically been known as "Onanism," after the man who practiced it, just as homosexuality has historically been known as "Sodomy," after the men of Sodom, who practiced that vice (cf. Gen. 19).

Contraception was so far outside the biblical mindset and so obviously wrong that it did not need the frequent condemnations other sins did. Scripture condemns the practice when it mentions it. Once a moral principle has been established in the Bible, every possible application of it need not be mentioned. For example, the general principle that theft is wrong was clearly established in Scripture; but there’s no need to provide an exhaustive list of every kind of theft. Similarly, since the principle that contraception is wrong has been established by being condemned when it’s mentioned in the Bible, every particular form of contraception does not need to be dealt with in Scripture in order for us to see that it is condemned.

26 Comments:

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many questions I wish I’d asked a long time ago…

“But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex”

Whether it’s from a moral perspective or not, it’s obvious that when the purpose of sex is distorted and pleasure becomes all important, lives are hurt.

In college, I took a class to fulfill a religion requirement; Woman’s Studies (thought it’d be less challenging than a theology class). The course focused on a study about women of the WWII generation compared to women on my generation (I’m 41). When polled, the women of the WWII generation considered themselves considerably happier than those of mine. The question posed- why? Were they less self aware and therefore didn’t question happiness? Did they have lower expectations for their lives? Or was it something else...

Natural law and order were the dominant themes of the class. The prof. talked about the world beginning with all in balance/order & how OS disrupted it. Christ’s coming in the EXACT way he did and living his life EXACTLY as he did showed us, uniquely male and female, the proper order of things. To me then, the challenging part of the discussion had to do with the natural order as it pertained to family and male/female virtues. Basically, it was suggested that the women of that generation lived lives closer to the natural order and that is why they were happier. I didn’t then, but I now believe that.

People are happier when they are living in harmony with that order. My life has taught me this- especially in the Church’s teachings about sex. I’ve been hurt by actions (both mine and others) which were not in accordance with how we are meant to live. When I used the gift of my sexuality the way in which it is meant, I was happy and content, but when I misused it, I was sad and lonely. And I didn’t understand the loneliness (I mean, I had someone right next to me). Now I do- the loneliness was rooted in a separation from God. I felt empty.

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

aaagh! TMI! TMI! TMI!

 
At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's take a poll:

FG'post has TMI from:

A. Too much information

B. Too much insight

 
At 9:29 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Come on people- don't you think the problem with most people in most things is one of the following-

1. too little information
2. incorrect information
3. complete lack of information

I do! So, I'll go with the "insight" answer. And thanks for answering ALL the question, Father.

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Off this topic...

There is something I don’t understand. There are several Catholic politicians who say that they don’t want to impose their religious beliefs on others- people like Pelosi, Biden and this new cabinet member, Sebelius, have all directly said that. I think, "Ok. Don’t impose your “religious” beliefs, but what about moral ones?" The constitution upholds moral beliefs, doesn’t it? Life and liberty, freedom from enslavement- aren’t those all moral issues? Why is it then, when speaking of any matter of dignity, any matter of rights, ANY matter of morality for the unborn, it becomes something only “religious.” I don’t understand.

I also don’t understand the word “rebuke” when used to describe the actions of a bishop or archbishop towards one of these people. What does it mean when one is rebuked by the Catholic hierarchy?

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd agree with Mindy; I'll vote for insight. We need to learn the facts, appropriately, have educated discussions, continue to learn and teach others, especially our youth. Sex, intercourse, procreation, masturbation, contraception, and the list goes on, are not words new to our times. Sex and the sex drive have a history as long as the Bible. You want an ancient steamy scene, read the Bible!

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger fran said...

Mindy -

You must have read Michael Gerson's Op-ed in today's WPost.

In a nutshell, I would say that Catholic politicians, such as Pelosi, Biden and Sebelius are lacking in integrity. I keep hoping, and mainly praying, that one day, Americans of all faiths will wake up and open their eyes to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time - abortion.

On whether or not the original post provides "too much insight" or "too much information," I offer this: There can never be too much of a good thing. All of what was posted was necessary information. Always a good thing.

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I did Fran, and one question that struck me that no one pro-choice politician seems to want to answer is-

"Couldn't a Catholic politician support women in crisis and effective protections for viable children?"

Personally, I don't think he needed to specify the "Catholic" there, but that was obviously the point of his article. I think the either/or is a question that could be posed to anyone, though, yes, especially one who says they are Catholic.

I wish the following of his points would also be further emphasized-

"But moral beliefs about human dignity are not religious dogmas such as transubstantiation or the Trinity."

Respect for life is not only a religious based concept- our history proves it. Why are so many so obstinant here? Hypocrisy exists, but why?

 
At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fran and Mindy I concur! Well said and Thanks.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger fran said...

Mindy,

I ask myself those same questions. To say, as Sebelius has, that her "Catholic faith teaches me [her] that all life is sacred," and label herself as Pro-Choice is hypocritical.

In my conversations with others, it always comes down to the word "choice." While many say they respect life, personally; would never have an abortion or promote abortion, they do not wish to take a "choice," albeit a horrendous one, away from another individual.

How they can separate it like that, I have no idea, for to afford another a "choice" which is discordant with what they say they personally believe is not rational. Well, I guess they have rationalized it in their minds, but it is just that - a rationalization.

When someone says that they believe in the sanctity of life, but in the same breath say that they support another's right to choose, makes me wonder if this same person could/would also say that they personally would never own a gun or use one to take the life of another, but if another wanted to use that gun to end a life, they could choose to do so.

Keep praying.

 
At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the use of Viagra, Cialis et al considered acceptable?

 
At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can FG please elaborate on "sterilization?" Ie, is it limited to only having tubes tied or a vasectomy? --Thanks.

 
At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for a poem to send to a friend whose mother died and came across this. My daughter wanted to enter the poetry contest for the March for Life event. She penned a poem and asked for some help with meter and some of the words. The work is about 80% hers, but I didn’t think we should submit it if it wasn’t 100% hers. However, the thoughts are hers, and I think they’re worth sharing-

We believe life comes from God above
He created us out of His own love
For us a perfect world He created
But that world soon changed with people’s hatred

We’ve seen in the past the wrongs we have done
And then followed the lessons of God’s own Son
And we chose to do good and we fixed much wrong
And saw how evil caused suffering so long

And now is the time for an important encore
We must say that this evil will happen no more
We must do this now without any haste
A human life is not medical waste

Each life has value no matter how small
Each life deserves love, each one and all
We’re supposed to protect those who cannot
Protect themselves from evil’s onslaught

We must change this now for each moment lost
Means another child of God pays the cost
We must do this now, it has continued so long
And our hearts keep on telling us each time it’s wrong

There is never a time and never an exception
This evil that’s done demands quick correction
Even if it’s hard and causes some strife
We can each love enough and we each must choose life

 
At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

A key element of the base of the Democratic party is the ultra-Left. They may be in the minority, but they make up a vocal and influential minority, one which few Democratic candidates dare cross outright.

If the ultra-Right in our country is about "God, guns, and family", then it might be said that our ultra-Left is about "Socialism, Revolution, and as much Godlessness as possible". A more precise name for the ultra-left is Materialist Socialists, and for Materialist Socialists, the very mention of God, of holiness, of sanctity is offensive. What matters is the here and now, and attaining the maximum good in the here and now; the maximum good being the most earthly pleasure for the most people and the least earthly suffering possible. Beyond that, any talk of a next life, of redemption, or sacrifice for God is held in utter scorn and contempt. To the Materialist Socialist that sort of talk is counter-revolutionary - what the idle rich use to keep the ignorant peasants under control. (Which is one reason that in the former Soviet Union and in China, churches have been so persecuted). In the Materialist Socialist view, Men and women, boys and girls should enjoy as much sexual license as they wish - this is a Good Thing - because it brings pleasure to people. It is also a Good Thing for the Materialist Socialist revolutionary cause because people accustomed to living in a society in which sexual license is the norm are more resistant to the message of the Gospel. Unfortunately, the consequences of the Good Thing can lead to a Bad Thing - unintended pregnancy. The women among the vanguard Materialist Socialist movement in this country aren't into having babies; Socialists don't believe in private home or family life - all work should be directed to building the workers' utopia. (Hence the attack on women's traditional roles during the 1960s and 70s). It would be intolerable, then, for a woman of the Materialist Socialist persuasion to find herself pregnant and not be able to secure a means of killing her unborn infant. The drumbeat is is "Abotion on Demand; no excuses, no apologies!"

Pres. Obama and many others in U.S. politics are beholden to the Socialist ultra-left minority in the Democratic party, and so the rest of America is essentially held hostage to their demands and requirements. That is why the U.S. now has the fewest restrictions on abortion among all the nations in the world, comparable only to Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam.

As Fr. John Corapi likes to say, "Wake up, America! Before it's too late."

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger fran said...

I have read the first post on this thread several times now, finding it both interesting and well written, particulary the comments on natural law and order. Sometimes I wish we could dial the clock back and return to a simpler way of life. It sure seemed simpler, anyway.

Coincidentally, while reading through the pro-life material at the crisis pregnancy center today, I came across an article on the introduction of contraceptives in our society and how their use has moved us away from the natural order of living. I wonder if such courses on natural order are still taught in colleges these days? Maybe it is time to re-introduce them.

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

You know Fran, I think it comes down to wanting the best for another- free of their opinion of us. Maybe that’s something harder for some to offer.

Personally, I was grateful for the campaign to invite people back to the church. Fr. Mike, in announcing the initiative, suggested that we might be brave and put return address on the envelopes. I took it a step further- I wrote personal notes in my letters.

The initiative gave me the opportunity to say many things I’ve long wanted to say. Several of those people in my life who have either left the church or become lackadaisical in their support are ones who expressed thoughts regarding choice, birth control, sexual orientation, etc. saying, “It’s okay for me to believe, but I can’t put that on others.” I was grateful for the opportunity to suggest that maybe it is their calling to do exactly that. Maybe it will change only a few hearts, but if one looks at the analogy of the ripple in the pond, each person whose heart is changed has far reaching power.

 
At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to an all-girl Catholic school, and those ideas of natural order were not taught and even disputed. Hence, my introduction in college was completely alien. An honest look at my life taught me more and helped me reflect on the on the value of that class. Men and women are different. We have different innate virtues. We have our own natural talents and gifts. We have our own unique purposes in society that make our lives rich. Our sexual natures are but one part of that, though a big part of it. I do think it's time to bring sexuality back into the classroom- a learning of self, of gender, of God's plan that has far more reaching than only the function of body parts.

 
At 12:04 AM, Blogger fran said...

Mindy -

I agree with what you say regarding reaching out to another- free of their opinion of us. I think sometimes that good will gestures are often viewed as being judgmental. If done in a compassionate and humble way, such outreach is never an act of judgment, but one of genuine concern and caring; wanting what is best for another, as you say.

I also read, today, an article featuring the views of Archbishop Chaput. He thinks that we have allowed "good manners" to get in the way of saying what really needs to be said, when it comes to matters of life. He makes a good point.

Additionally, I read an online article discussing the Pope's apology over the situation surrounding the Holocaust denying bishop. The Pope said that he felt bringing the bishop back was necessary to prevent further drifting from the Church.

Isn't that what we all do when we reach out to others? Whether it is our politicians, a woman in crisis pregnancy, a friend or relative who has separted him/herself from the Church, we should not good manners get in the way of allowing others to drift away from what is good, what is right, what God would want.

To anon 10:18-

I think a lot more could be done in the classroom too. In my reading ( it was slow at the CPC )
I came across a really interesing program that is being instituted in some parishes across the country to coincide with the Feast of the Annunciation, which is coming up on March 25. It is a series of posters that show the development of a baby, in utero, along with the biblical references which culminate on Jesus' birthday - Christmas. It sounded really neat and would put a whole new beautiful slant on the message of life. I would think, something like that would be embraced by catholic high schools and maybe even catholic middle schools.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger fran said...

Don't want to misrepresent what the Pope said. He said:

"Should we casually let them drift farther from the church?"

I am done reading ( and posting )for the day!

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

The “good manners” message is true, but how ‘bout “political correctness?” I’m sick of being expected to be tolerant of ideas and values I don’t think are “correct.” We’re so PC that we don’t see truth, much less speak it. Instead, we are sensitive to everyone for fear of hurting or alienating anyone- even when what they are doing is wrong- for them, for us, and for society. It’s the very thing that breeds lack of integrity.

There was an issue among a group of my daughter’s friends regarding one child’s actions at an event. The girl had done something and others judged her harshly. It grew into an episode involving many students and parents. I asked my daughter,
1. Why didn’t you defend you friend’s reputation?
2. If you thought your friend was doing something that might hurt her, why didn’t you say something directly to her?

She didn’t say anything to her friend b/c she didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings, even though her intention would have been to help. Very PC. She didn’t want to defend her friend against the large group b/c then they might think, instead of defending her friend, she would be defending her friend’s choices and therefore be labeled as “one of those,” which I think extends a bit into what Marion said.

Marion talked about the extremes, both left and right. Most of us fit in neither and yet behave as if we are worried that we might be labeled as “one of those” by them and have our values and even identities called into question. Most of us are in the middle, and maybe it’s time to put those “good manners” aside and simply say to those extreme mouthpieces, “Shut up!” Okay- so maybe that’s not the most Christian way to handle it, but sometimes I feeling like saying it. And- there’s part of me that hopes my daughter will actually have the courage to.

Okay- now I'm done too.

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to the anon of 11:12

I don’t know what he church says about Viagra (I’d imagine it would be fine when used within marriage), however, for those of you thinking about the health of your “circulatory” system in broader terms- try watermelon. The rind of watermelon starts the production of a compound that relaxes the bodies’ blood vessels, thus helping with blow flow. It may not work as (ahem) specifically as the other, but there is research to suggest it could help with a number of other ailments too. So, it’s an all around good choice for your health (in a number of ways).

 
At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great natural remedy, but, somehow I can't envision a man chomping down on watermelon rind! Are you sure the moist fruit of the watermelon doesn't work like the rind?

 
At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope- it's something in the rind- and I know this b/c I have some (unrelated) circulatory things and my mom goggled all these holistic things for me.

 
At 5:31 PM, Blogger fran said...

I don't mean to rain on your parade, but being a dietitian, I am concerned about consumption of the rind of a watermelon.

Last summer there was concern that the rind of cantaloupe might contain salmonella.

So be careful! If I can find any specific information I will let you know.

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps that's why they pickle it?!!

 
At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

W/the watermelon thing, I was being a little “tongue in cheek.” My mom is into holistic approaches to health, so it was a bit of info I only recently came across- saw the Viagra question, and thought, “Hmm, if it is supposed to work for me in “this” way, perhaps it would work in “that” way too.” It contains an amino acid called citrulline, and I’m pretty sure it’s in the inner part of the rind (the white part). Either way- watermelon’s a good (yummy) thing- enjoy whatever “benefits” it may bring you.

 

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