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No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

NFP Infighting

Ah, lovely. Just when we've recovered from Torodes' surprise recantation of their views in Open Embrace, there's a new document from the Vatican on the subject of "Family and Human Procreation." Sadly, the document itself is not currently available. All we have are various articles on the subject. But we all trust the media to represent ecclesiastical proceedings correctly, right?

I thought not. If you're curious about the document, see this article from Catholic News Service. I'm trying to refrain from extensive commentary at this time, since I don't, in fact, know what the document in question really says. I can say right now that it's already controversial. Over at Amy Welborn's blog, her mention of this document somehow sparked a debate about how the Church responds to IVF. Elsewhere -on message boards and discussion groups- I've seen a lot of dialog about this quote from the CNS article:

However, using natural family planning to have only one or a maximum of two children "is nothing other than a kind of series of brief parentheses within an entire conjugal life willingly made sterile," it said.

I'd really like to see that quote in context. As it stands alone, it seems rather extremely worded to me, but of course, it wasn't meant to stand alone. I fear that that won't stop people from latching onto it and using it either as evidence that the Catholic Church is hopelessly behind the times (or, in another variation, maliciously intrusively into the private life of families) or as evidence that most NFP users are really contraceptors in denial, and that any Catholic family worth its salt will have ten children.

Of course, people say those things anyway. When I began reading blogs for the first time, one of the things which most surprised me was just how polarized views on NFP are, even within the community of faithful Catholics who endorse Catholic sexual ethics. Let's face it, that community is pretty small: most Catholics ignore their Church's teachings. To me, that makes it all the stranger that nearly every debate on NFP I've seen on Catholic blogs has elicited comments claiming such things as:

1) NFP is only for cases involve extreme poverty or mortal illness. (most common error)
2) There are many many people who misuse NFP, and it's a serious problem in Catholicism.
3) You have to get a dispensation from your priest to use NFP.

For the record, I know #1 and #3 to be definitely false. Personally, I think that #2 is false, too. The fact is that most Catholics don't use NFP, period. Of those that do, some may be using it selfishly or with an incorrect understanding, but I hardly think that that tiny percentage of NFP users with a "contraceptive mentality" is the real problem. The problem is, first, that the majority of Catholics don't even understand their Church's teaching well enough to offer informed dissent; and second, that Catholics in developed countries are confused about the obedience required by them.

Enough about that. In any event, I predict a new round of NFP infighting over the announcement of this document. Put your goggles on, people: it might get ugly. There's nothing quite like a gaggle of dogmatic-minded folks who all believe that the official Church documents say exactly what they're saying. . . and anyone who reads them differently is an idiot or a Modernist or a Radtrad.*

But hey, they'll know we are Christians by our love, right?

* I know this thinking all too well, because I slip into it all the time in NFP debates. "Oh those stupid ____. If they had bothered to read the Address to Midwives they'd KNOW that grave reasons aren't just limited to life-threatening problems!"


Anonymous Becky said...

Most of the people I've met with the "NFP should be only used in very dire circumstances" and "many Catholics misuse NFP" attitudes have been associated with one NFP organization. I won't name names.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

I've also frequently seen variations on 4) the Church teaches that the mis-use of NFP is morally equivalent to using ABC.

11:10 AM  
Blogger cliff said...

Personally, I think any couple committing to any style NFP surely must be free of the "contraceptive mentality". And besides, in charity, shouldn't we give the benefit of the doubt?

5:01 PM  

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