Thursday, June 01, 2006

Birth Control and Catholic teachings

I do not believe in "birth control," or even conception control. Why this is is a topic for another day, probably whenever I feel like it.

However, I am not a Catholic. One of the issues I have with the Catholic Church is their teachings on birth control. They are too liberal.

Yes, you heard that right. The Catholic teaching on birth control is too liberal.

Catholic teaching is that sex is a sacred part of marriage. It is inseparable from reproduction, and sexual acts should remain open to life. For this reason, drugs or barriers that separate sex from conception are inexcusable.
That, I agree with.

Catholics also teach that abstaining, either during a woman's most fertile time or whenever children are not desired, is an acceptable alternative to birth control. So long as each sexual act is open to life, it's okay.
Most resources promoting Natural Family Planning (NFP) or, as it is sometimes called, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), then go on to say that their method is as effective as the pill when used properly.
Most sources, I believe, acknowledge that while God can and sometimes does work around birth control, we should not require him to do so.

Let me summarize this position. God is the author of life and the Lord of the womb*. He and he alone can begin life, and it is important to be open to that life. So make it easier for Him to work around your lack of openness to life and your fear of having children by not using artificial birth control.

This is not sensical**. The (occasional) Protestant position that it is acceptable to use "birth control" which only blocks conception, such as barrier methods, spermicide, and non-reproductive sex, is far more consistent. Such views also acknowledge God's command (through Paul)*** not to withhold oneself from one's spouse except with and for fasting and prayer. One could make an argument that this means that if a couple practicing NFP (natural family prevention) did so with prayer and fasting during their abstinence, it would be okay. First of all, no one makes that argument because we all know these couples aren't fasting for an entire week out of each month. Secondly, I believe this would reverse the causality; it does not say that we may fast and pray so that we have an excuse to refrain from sex, but that we can refrain from sex in order to pray and fast. (If someone has enough Greek to contradict me, feel free. In fact, I think I will contact someone who does and post about the result.) Thirdly, the verse says nothing about preventing children.

Indeed, the whole bible says nothing about preventing children. It was unthinkable. In the Bible, children are considered weapons or armies against enemies, blessings, and crops. The one Biblical account of birth control ends with the death of its practitioner. Even if it was sin because Onan's potential offspring would provide for his wife, or because he was selfish, these reasons apply today. And why risk it if it may be a sin?

Arguments from stewardship are mostly selfish as well. Which is a better Kingdom investment: a new home or a child? A car or a child? A business or a child? A vacation or a child? A child or an education? If there are truly financial issues, God's church should be helping that family. Those who think that children will impede ministry seem just as guilty to me. Why would I have the authority to say what kind of ministry God wants me in? If I believe that God is in control, then he will provide a way. God is capable of not giving children, of giving the "right number" of children, and of allowing and even blessing a woman's ministry while she is raising children. A couple think that the "right number" is two or three. God may think that the right number for this family is eight or thirteen. I would like six children, and wouldn't mind seventeen. But God has not given me any children on this earth yet. His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways. If you truly are in a country where the church can do little to support you, and you lack the financial resources to provide your children food, please, contact me. I will pay for a plane ticket. You can live in my house. I will feed you and your children.

One interesting argument I saw was from the verse in Ecclesiastes that claims there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain (3:5b). This ignores that Ecclesiastes is the the futile efforts of man to understand the meaning of life and the likelihood that this has more to do with the instruction in Leviticus not to have sex with a menstruating woman.

The only argument I can think of that has some validity is one I have not seen. One might be able to make the case that the injunction under the old covenant to be fruitful and multiply was replaced by a new and parallel command to multiply the Kingdom through evangelism. Yet that work can also be multiplied by our children. Perhaps it would be possible for the woman with two children to do more for our Lord than the woman with eleven. But what will those two godly men or women be able to accomplish compared to eleven godly men and women? If most of ungodly America is not willing to bring forth children, this should be our chance to take back the country by sheer numbers. If we have an average of six children (which was the average before birth control) and they have an average of two, and, as the bible commands, we see to their upbringing and their education in the faith, as well as evangelizing, we will make a very big difference.

These things are true even if birth control simply prevents conception. If you think that's true of all birth control, though, go do some more research on hormonal birth control and IUDs. These are abortifacients (things that cause very early abortions).

*Relevant verses:
God closes the womb:
Genesis 20:18
1 Samuel 1:5-6
Isaiah 66:9

God opens the womb:
Genesis 29:31
Genesis 30:22

God creates life in the womb, according to Job.
David says God created him in the womb and brought him forth from the womb.
Isaiah affirms repeatedly that God creates us in the womb.
God told Jeremiah He knew him even before He formed him in the womb.
God gave John the Baptist the Holy Spirit while he was still in the womb, and Mary's baby was Lord and Savior before his birth, according to Luke 1:41-45.

In Job 3, Job curses the day he was born as if it was the fault of the day or the night, but there is no evidence that the day was actually at fault.


**Please excuse my occasional use of words which aren't. I am an English major, I know what I am doing, and I have a poetic license. I usually use these non-words for some effect or cause. In this case, I wanted the meaning of "nonsensical," but with the additional emphasis on the "not" part. "Sensible" has alternate meanings; "sensical," being defined by myself, does not. I have enough trust in my writing to know that when I intuitively use a non-word or fragment or other ungrammatical construct, it will serve its purpose better than a more grammatical alternative, which might lose some of the intended meaning. Please note that as one of the minority on the internet who can properly use "its" and "lose," I am eminently (not imminently) qualified to judge such things. I do not intend to obtrusively editorialize on this issue again.

***Paul on abstaining within marriage:
1 Corinthians 7:2-6
(Actually, the NIV doesn't have the fasting part; nor do many versions. But versions of the KJV (which Catholics use) have it, as well as the Message (which was written from the Greek) and the one I found labelled as a literal translation (Young's literal translation).)

3 Comments:

Blogger Laura said...

Good post! My husband and I worked through many of the arguments you list early in our marriage. God has generously blessed us with 20 pregnancies in the last 19 years, and of those He graciously gave us 7 living children to love and train. We realized the truth of what you write after our third child was born. How wonderful that you understand God's blessing of fruitfulness now before you've had any children!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Young Christian Woman said...

I only wish it had been sooner.

It must have been (be?) very difficult for you. I admire that you still trusted in God even after so much loss...

Just think of the welcome committee you'll have once you get to heaven!

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Funky Dung said...

You might find this article interesting.

"Couples who use natural family planning to have only one or two children allow 'brief parentheses' in a marriage 'willingly made sterile,' said a new document from the Pontifical Council for the Family."

10:13 AM  

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