The old battleground

Fertility and Gender is a collection of papers mainly derived from a conference by the Linacre Centre (now the Anscombe Bioethics Centre). It is edited by Helen Watt (£16). The subjects are marriage and meaning, contraception, virtue and technology, HIV prevention and the ethical treatment of infertility. Its central assumption is the moral aspects of the marriage act, as taught by the Magisterium, regarded in terms of its procreative and unitive aspects. The form of the marriage act is procreative in the sense that its structure is directed towards a procreative outcome. That is, we can properly refer to it as a reproductive act through its own nature. This identity is not a matter of what the participators intend, nor whether or not conception is a possibility at the time. Its dynamic is as it is because God made it so.

It follows that the contraceptive intention motivating the use of the safe period (NFP) is strictly irrelevant – as is, for example, the possibility that the wife cannot conceive because of age or because she is pregnant already. For in all such cases the reproductive identity of the act is preserved.

The unitive purpose is not separable from the reproductive form. That is, its unitive character necessarily involves the reproductive character of the act. Reciprocally, conception taking place through methods which are not part of the marital embrace (the obvious, but not exclusive, example is the test tube) violate the unitive character of the act.

This description is amplified by John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. It is not a secret, however, that acceptance of the intrinsic evil of the contraceptive act is by no means universal, even among the clergy. It is, as one might say, more honoured in the breach than in the observance. There are those, such as the priest demographer Andrew Greeley, who would claim that this doctrine has a major responsibility for the gross diminishment of the Church, at least in the developed countries. He would not be alone if he claimed that it has been taught by the Magisterium but has not been received by the Church.

In my conversations with several people I am clear that in many cases those who disagree with the Church’s ruling do not fully understand it. These papers will be invaluable to those prepared to accept the possibility that they are among the number.

They may be provoked into so doing by reflecting on a point to which reference is often made in this collection: accept that you can separate the marital act from either its procreative or its unitive form and then explain why it should be confined to marriage or indeed why the exercise of genital sexuality should have any intrinsic rules. If an act has no inherent form, then the concept of perverting (or deforming, if you wish) that act has no meaning. Indeed, more than one contributor argues that an inability to accept the central assumption of the papers is inconsistent with the virtue of chastity.

Nevertheless, some important issues are not addressed here. The collection cannot be criticised for this; it was not the objective. But it is as well to note that these issues exist, although I do not have space for an exhaustive account.

The papal commission of the 1960s, which recommended a fundamental change in the Magisterium’s teaching on contraception, indeed recognised the special value to be accorded to the marital act in the fullness of its reproductive and unitive nature. But it was unable to demonstrate that contraceptive intercourse as such was contrary to the Natural Law and therefore wrong under all circumstances. This demonstration is still not forthcoming.

Consideration needs to be given to what is meant by stating that the marital act, and its consequent imperatives, is formed by God. At a biological level it is a product of evolution. The natural rate of female fertility is an adaptive answer to the need to reproduce population. Throughout the history of the human race up to about a century ago, it was necessary for a wife to average some seven or eight pregnancies for this to be achieved. This is no longer so. Maintaining that biological structure is an immutable datum for behaviour certainly invites questions.

A cardinal issue in the commission’s debate was that a reliable study had shown that while well-motivated, active, Catholic couples had on the whole valued natural family planning, a large majority had also found it had harmed their relationship in various ways. This is no place to discuss the issue; I merely note that experience shows that the use of the safe period can endanger as well as benefit the unitive expression of a marriage.

McCarthy and Pruss’s paper is enlightening when they argue that permitting serodiscordant married couples to use condoms as prophylactics would remove “the foundation for the Church’s position on sexual ethics in a way which has very serious implications”. This is correct: the verdict follows ineluctably from the basic assumption I have described above. Others argue that the inevitability of such a grotesque conclusion throws serious doubt on the integrity of the assumption itself. It seems likely that the problem caused by settling for either solution is the latent reason for the Church declining to decide.

What does seem clear to me, however, is that those who are making moral choices about the conduct of marriage should be familiar both with the arguments in this collection, and the difficulties which those arguments present.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Moral judgment. Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to The old battleground

  1. BRIAN HAMILL says:

    I think that perhaps the Ecclesia discens is teaching the Ecclesia docens a thing or two in its general reluctance to take the practical side of Humanae Vitae to its heart. It is interesting to note that unlike the Ten Commandments which deals with specifics, Jesus in the Beatitudes is concerned with principles. Perhaps St Augustine hits the same good nail on the head when he said ‘Love and do what you will’. All this sound delightfully vague and open to as much misinterpretation as any saying can be. However, at its root, it tells a simple truth: enter by prayer and good works into the heart of God and your mind will be so formed that you will find it less and less possible to act in a manner contrary to the Law of Love which is hardwired into us by the creating hand of God. ‘You have made us for yourself and we are restless until we rest in you’.

    Where Humanae Vitae, and, in a sense, the Magisterium, got and gets it wrong is that there seems to be an irrepressible urge to say too much. So much in that Encyclical is good and wonderful and then in a disastrous slip moves into areas which are beyond its, and the Church’s remit. Pope Paul was battered into giving a ruling on artificial contraception at a time and a moment when neither he, nor we, were ready to think the whole thing through. The fact that the Pontifical Commission came out so overwhelmingly in favour of a development in the Church’s teaching on marriage should have given him real pause for thought. To reject that report so precipitously was a grave failure of judgement. Popes have been guilty of that in the past and no doubt they will be guilty of it in the future. One of the unfortunate consequences of that failure was that, at a stroke, it undid all the good work which the Encyclical had done in creating a deep and wonderful vision of marriage. Humanae Vitae has become, alas, remembered for one sentence.

    • Horace says:

      Is the sentence in question:-
      “Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. ” ?

      • Quentin says:

        Horace, I think this was phrased to deal with the question of using artificial sterility for contraceptive purposes. The “Pill” was then the topical interest. Elsewhere (sec 11) it reads: “The Church…by its constant doctrine, teaches as absolutely required that any use whatever of marriage must retain its natural potential to create human life.” This last is in effect repeating Casti Connubii.

  2. Rahner says:

    In the case of a wife that cannot conceive because of age how can it possibly be that “the reproductive identity of the act is preserved”?? I’m sure most people would find this claim absurd.

    • st.joseph says:

      Rahner, I thought you would have known that? But then you dont know the answer to questions you were asked .I have come to the conclusion that you dont know much!

    • Quentin says:

      Rahner, I wonder if it is wise to describe a view arrived at by wise and good people after long consideration as “absurd”. Such a view may be fallible, not being infallible, but it is hardly likely to be “absurd”.
      I think that you are deriving the nature or the identity of an act from the intention of the actor. As I was at pains to describe, the Magisterium is concerned with the identity of the act as inferred from its nature. It would claim that the form and operation of the act and the form and operation of the organs involved is reproductive. To interfere artificially with this reproductive form, it is argued, would deform it. That is the argument which you must attack if you disagree with it.

  3. Rahner says:

    Quentin, can you explain how, in the case of a 50+ woman, regardless of her intentions, the form and operation of the act is (still) reproductive? It is a question of what such a claim means. No doubt my mind is clouded by sin.

    • Quentin says:

      Rahner, I don’t think that either your sinfulness or mine has anything to do with it. It’s a question of understanding what the Magisterium is getting at before we agree or disagree with it.
      In plain English the act of intercourse is one in which the male penetrates the female and deposits semen in the vaginal tract. This is the necessary structure to bring about conception, although this will only occur on relatively few occasions. And this is what makes it a reproductive act, or, if you prefer, an act apt for reproduction. Place a barrier to the semen and it ceases to be an act apt for reproduction. This is really a question of definition and is not controversial. The Magisterial view argues that contraceptive intercourse is a de-formation of the act as given to us by God. Indeed I understand that a marriage which has invariably used a contraceptive barrier is treated as non-consummated because the expression of two in one flesh, or the total sharing of self typical of marriage, has not taken place. The contrary view does not argue that contraceptive intercourse is as full in its expression as non-contraceptive intercourse but that the less full expression is justified for adequate reason.
      You might be interested to read the account of my interview with Professor Marshall, who was a member of the Papal Commission throughout. Put Crowley into the search box. That should bring up Stop Press, and the interview is the second article under this heading.

  4. Gerry says:

    Quentin should never hesitate to return to the old battleground. After all, it has a direct bearing on one of the most important non-religious, undoubtedly man made events in recorded human history; on what Paul Johnson calls ‘the prime fact of modern history, the demographic revolution’; on the problem which Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini considered to be of ‘extreme importance…and…vital to world peace’; on what the World Fact Book puts first on its list of the long-standing challenges that the world faces, ‘the addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe…which is… exacerbating the problems of underemployment, pollution, waste-disposal, epidemics, water-shortages, famine, over-fishing of oceans, deforestation, desertification, and depletion of non-renewable resources’; and, finally, it has a bearing on the present hunger in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, and Kenya where the population of 32 million people in 1950 has increased to 167 million today, a number which is expected to almost double to 321 million by 2050, making the numbers needing emergency aid almost too great to manage.

    I hope that all contributors to Secondsight, whether for or against HV, whether certain or not certain that NFP is the answer, will find it curious that in our worldwide church there is no interest in population control and virtually no forum – other than Secondsight – where these things can be discussed in normal language. There are many reasons for this, but these two sentences from the front page of the Universe of Friday October 29 1971 under the headline ‘Church and the population explosion’ may help to explain it: “Cardinal Heenan was reported to have said on Tuesday that unless the synod took a stand on the population explosion it would risk appearing absurd.” “All 19 members of the (English language working) group are reported to have agreed with him.”

    We can see from this that Cardinal Heenan was concerned that many bishops were dismissive of the difficulties caused by overpopulation and that any mention of the population explosion might be blocked. In the event, the World Synod of Catholic Bishops 1971 did mention population growth briefly and quoted Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio paragraph 37.

    But soon after this, those bishops, and higher than bishops, who disapproved of population control and artificial contraception started to dominate the Church and, with the arrival of John Paul II, all hope that Catholics with our medical centres serving the poor across the developing world would support the provision of effective family planning was lost: an immense tragedy for the poor and for the Church.

    Just one more point: I’ve read the first three paragraphs of Quentin’s opener over and over. I knew immediately what it was about from the ‘Anscombe’ at the beginning – that is, it would be the philosophy side of the Church at full-power aimed at proving that artificial contraception was sinful. But without this clue those first three paragraphs would have been beyond me. I suspect I share this lack of understanding of this type of philosophical argument with well over six billion of the almost seven billion humans now living. I can only hope that the final result of this long debate will be that the philosophy side of the Church will end up “on tap and no longer on top”.

    Catholics are not alone in trying to block discussion of overpopulation. See
    http://www.gerrydanaher.com/2009/population-taboo.php

  5. John Nolan says:

    In Europe at least, and for materialistic reasons, the birthrate has fallen to the extent that the population is no longer replacing itself and is only rising due to non-European immigration, which threatens not only the survival of Christianity but of European civilization itself. And God help us if that goes under.

    • Gerry says:

      John Nolan, Quite right! UK, USA, and Australia have all had fertility rates below replacement level for thirty years, but all are expected to continue increasing their populations for the foreseeable future. One reason for this is that we are living longer, but immigration is a more important reason. USA should not be disturbed too much, but Australia, UK, and Europe generally are in for an exciting time. The Australian Anglican Church have produced a excellent review of the Australian situation which is well worth a read and can be seen at
      A Discussion Paper on Population Issues, prepared by the Public Affairs Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. March 2010.

      As for Europe: Ineluctable demographics indicate that our third of the world – that is Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to Pakistan – will have 3 billion of the 9 billion people on earth in 2050. How the 700 million rather elderly, mostly prosperous Europeans will interact with the 2,300 million rather young, mostly poor Africans and Middle Easterners is going to be one of the most intriguing dramas of the next forty years

    • mike Horsnall says:

      John Nolan:

      After spending 5 years in China serving the underground church there and watching its literally incredible multiplication I am fairly convinced that the survival of Christianity is neither in doubt nor is it dependent on geographical/cultural shifts. Certainly the forms of the church are subject to change at the margins but the Spirit of God has moved upon the face of the earth since the very beginning and will continue to do so till the end and then afterwards!

      • John Nolan says:

        Of course the Church will survive – we have Our Lord’s promise on it. But Christianity in Europe has been threatened before, and it is being threatened again, not only by the old enemy (Islam) but also by an aggressive post-Christian secularism which has its supporters even amongst those who style themselves Catholic. The collapse of a civilization can be quite rapid; the fall of the Roman Empire in the West occurred within the lifetime of a single individual, and St Augustine’s ‘De Civitate Dei’ was written against this background.

        Fratres, sobrie estote et vigilate: quia adversarius vester diabolus, tamquam leo rugiens, circuit, quaerens quem devoret: cui resistite, fortes in fide.

  6. mike Horsnall says:

    I agree with Gerry about the opaque nature of contributions here. It would be very helpful if those
    writing could realise that not all of us have spent long years perusing latin named texts. I could understand very little of Quentins paragraphs till about the third reading and I have no idea at all which ‘sentence’ Brian Hamil refers to.
    I teach complex aspects of physiology and clinicianship at times to adult students and am never happy that they truly understand issues until these students are able to discuss the subject clearly and simply in their own words before hiding behind complicated phrases. I understand that catholic issues can sometimes be finely wrought but this is after all a public site and it shouldn’t be too difficult to explain ones terms as one goes along.
    What for example Gerry is HV ? Is it something to do with genetics? Is it an abbreviation of Humana Vitae? Does it mean heavy vehicle? Have you missed the I out of HIV?… what?

    • Quentin says:

      You are quite right to point out when I have failed to make myself understood. And certainly these concepts are difficult. Let me have another shot.

      Let’s suppose that right at the back of your attic you find a piece of machinery which you do not recognise. It has a handle which you can turn, and cylinders with series of numbers. After some thought you guess that it has something to do with arithmetic. And when you experiment with it you find a way of doing multiplication. And by reversing your action you can do division. You conclude that the designer, whose name appears on a label as Brunsviga, invented the machine as a calculator.

      As the sole owner of the machine you can do as you wish with it. You could calculate – as the designer intended, or you could use it as a door stop, or you could throw it into the council tip.

      Now let’s suppose that you start thinking about the human eye. An anatomical examination shows you that the lens, the retina with its rods and cones, the connection to the visual area of the brain through the optic nerve tells you immediately that it is designed for seeing, for that is how it is structured. And you can confirm this by closing and opening the lids observing the muscles as you focus on distances etc. Now, it does have some other purposes. For example you can signal your feelings through your eyes, indeed you can even express undying love (or hate) through them. And eyes are such great objects of beauty that we might call them mirrors of the soul. Yet, for all the importance of these secondary uses of the eye, we have to admit our examination of structure shows that the primary purpose of the eye is to give vision.

      But the human eye does not stand in the same moral case as the calculator. While it is possible to use the eye for its secondary purposes, and even to withdraw it from its main purpose by closing it, it would not be right to destroy our eyesight because its maker is not Brunsviga but God. Just as we do not have absolute rights over our own lives, so we do not have absolute rights over the faculties which God has given us.

      If we apply the same sort of analysis to the marital embrace as we have for the eye, we will conclude that its form and structure is based on its potential to create new life. If we use it when conception is, for incidental reasons, not possible, its form and structure remains the same. If however we deliberately prevent it from bringing about conception we have altered an essential element of its structure. We have deformed it and it has become a different act.

      The marital embrace also has a unitive purpose both in the intimacy of its structure and in the motivation of marital love which we bring to it. But we are talking about two interdependent facets of the same act, not alternatives. Thus, if we contraceive, our deformed structure is no longer capable of expressing the complete gift of ourselves; as a married couple for this includes the gift of our fertility. We cannot so to speak, claim total giving while choosing to exclude an essential part. Equally, if we bring about conception via, say, a test tube we destroy the unitive purpose. Analogously to the question of the eye, we are not entitled to deform the marital embrace in either its conceptive or its unitive character because that would be to contradict God’s purpose built into its structure by his design.

      Please notice that I am neither defending nor attacking this line of reasoning, I am merely trying to explain it. But those who wish to oppose it should oppose what the Magisterium is actually saying, and not their own version of it.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Not you in particular Quentin and you did explain your case well to Rahner. I grasp the point quite well that one is discussing overall purpose and nature rather than particular case…overall I personally agree with the concept that you describe and which was laid out clearly on the recent Compass tv programme some of us watched. Given that above and given the promulgation of NFP it is a little difficult to see what the church can actually do about population control beyond preach and teach its normal line of the dignity of humankind-this involving agape love, self control, respect periodic abstinence etc. I think that the whole teaching of the church along this line (as far as I understand it) is enough.

      • Rahner says:

        “Please notice that I am neither defending nor attacking this line of reasoning” OK, But do you find the Magisterium’s reasoning compelling?

      • Quentin says:

        Rahner, The Magisterium’s teaching is presented as an outcome of Natural Law. Natural law is in principle accessible to human reason. Since the theologians on the Pontifical Commission were prepared to agree that they could not demonstrate this to be so, and I have seen no subsequent demonstration (although much persuasive argument), I cannot find it compelling. But that does not tell you whether I accept it or not.

  7. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, I find your analysis riveting. I can think of no other journalist who would dare to address these issues in such a way. There is a place for polemic, and yet you manage to avoid it. Your column alone is worth the subscription price of the Catholic Herald. And your editorship of this blog is nothing short of exemplary – you are prepared to start a hare and let it run, occasionally acting as a whipper-in, but never imposing your own views or disparaging others, unlike some contributors, myself included. Long live Secondsight!

  8. Rahner says:

    “I cannot find it compelling.” Thank you, Quentin, that is very reassuring.

  9. John Nolan says:

    Sorry, typo in my quotation above from 1 Peter. Should read ‘Sobrii estote …’

  10. Gerry says:

    Mike (Horsnall July 23 8.13pm), very many thanks for the tip. When one has been interested in the effects of Humanae Vitae (HV) for over forty years and in the effectiveness of natural family planning (NFP) for 60 years, if one includes the temperature method, or 45 years if one means what John and Lyn Billings used to call the Ovulation Method, it’s very easy to presume that ‘everyone’ knows what NFP and HV mean when Catholics are discussing contraception. It’s heartening to find fresh minds coming to the problem. I’ll be more careful with abbreviations in the future. And John (Nolan July 24 3.34pm) I agree wholeheartedly with what you write.

    When we read that a fairly recent President of the USA got a headache if he did not get relief from sexual tension several times a day, or when we read that a recent Prime Minister of the UK when under stress needed relief several times a night, or when we read the late Archbishop Roberts of Bombay (Mumbai) explaining that an Indian living in a mud hut with his wife and several children has “nothing else at all except her love” we may think – even allowing for exaggerations in the stories above – that this immensely powerful God-given drive is not going to be controlled very easily, and that it may be all right for moral theologians to declaim that contraception is sinful, but that, if it is not available, this world is going to be so crowded that God’s creation will be very gravely damaged, surely something to be avoided. Some may conclude that Catholic moral theology needs not just a few minor adjustments, but a major overhaul.

    Just to add some figures: Without contraception, and with the “checks” of war, disease, and famine removed, as they mostly have been since 1950, and with conditions as favourable as in north America around 1800* or in Uganda today**, the population of the world would be doubling every 25 years or so and – starting to count at 1950 with 2.5 billion – it would have been 10 billion by 2000 growing to 40 billion by 2050. Even if this rate of growth was halved, we are only delaying the inevitable damage. Long before 40 billion we would have returned to the old fashioned checks of war, famine, and disease, but not before having done terrible damage to God’s creation.

    * A Summary View of the Principle of Population, by the Rev. T.R. Malthus, A.M., F.R.S. 1830 (Malthus’ follow up to his Essay on the Principle of Population 1798)
    **Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision

    • st.joseph says:

      Gerry, this is why I prefer to call it ‘Fertility Awareness’ and not family planning.
      Fertility Awareness -to know when a women can become pregnant!Not so much emphasis on the fact when a women can’t. It is primarly useful for married couples who are spacing their children according to their means!
      The Lord freed us from bondage with this knowledge Like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea !
      Thanks is due to Dr Billings and his wife for his research on the diagnose of ovulation knowing ones mucus 1962) a very important discovery. I dont think it was very effective 60 years ago. For most anyway. Since this research the Holy Father wrote Humanea Vitea.Using the temperature is another indice called the Symptho Thermal Method! Which pin points ovulation-but it is not necessary, a matter of choice.One would not use the temperature alone, it is a double check.
      One must be clear about this, Listening to too many failures only makes women doubt its accuracy!

      The necessity for the regular use of reliefing ones self as you mention. I was told that the
      Blessed Sacrament cooled our passions!I believe firmly that it does!

  11. st.joseph says:

    When it comes to population control, I think that it is contolled by starvation in the world with corrupt governments, also Natural Disasters
    Mother Teresa taught Billings to women in Calcutta with coloured chalk on pavements.
    I was greatfully impressed with her when I was a c0-worker for her many years ago and listened to her speaking at the Brompton Oratory. She spoke so much sense and gave me a lot of encouragement the way she taught fertility awareness to those who could not read or write.
    She put things in perspective and got it right.

  12. st.joseph says:

    P.S thats what females can do if they wish!

  13. John Nolan says:

    Just a thought. If sexual intercourse using a barrier contraceptive is not ‘real’ sexual intercourse to the extent that it does not consummate the marriage, can using a condom mitigate adultery or fornication?

  14. Gerry says:

    St Joseph, Very many thanks for reading and commenting on my last contribution. As you will have gathered I can go on and on about this, yet I know others can cope with only so much.

    There is much to be said for NFP. Many women find it works. The Billings method started – as you noted – in the early 1960’s and had reached Europe by the mid-1960’s, and explaining it had been found to be difficult by one NHS GP by the late 1960’s. (That’s because you don’t ovulate, Gerry!) Even left to the women folk, there are now many enthusiasts, as a recent page via Quentin shows. But really, good as it is, it is far – very far- from being as good as artificial methods for most people.

    Uganda is 40% Catholic and the same size as the UK. It is doubling it is population every 25 years. That wonderful, fertile country is already seriously stressed by this repeated doubling, and a catastrophe will come if population growth is not controlled. When the peoples of the Far East noticed that this huge population growth was happening to them they saw the problem and acted to prevent catastrophe. Why Ugandans cannot do the same is a puzzle that needs investigating. Unfortunately, this type of puzzle does not interest many Catholics. But we may ask, if NFP is so effective, why is it not effective in Uganda where Catholicism is influential?

    Well, St Joseph, there you are. More of the same. Still, I was delighted to note that you did not mind people knowing that you think women and men are different. I discovered this in the1950’s, although I did not discover how different until the late 1960’s. I lived near Wimbledon at the time, and it was watching the tennis at Wimbledon that gave me both insights. I used to mention this difference on my website, but the younger generation persuaded me to cut it out as no one would take me seriously if they thought I held such an outrageous belief. This was about the time that the President of Harvard had been heavily criticised for suggesting that some research indicated that there were some differences between men and women in mathematical ability and that ‘there may be innate differences between the way the male and female brains work’. He didn’t last long as Harvard’s president!

    As for your point about prayer cooling passions: it is possible that one of the differences between men and women may be that the strength of the second most powerful drive in man is greater in men than in women and that in some men, quite possibly very many men, even with prayer, this drive at times may be unmanageable. More research!

    I very much like your term “Fertility awareness”

    • st.joseph says:

      Thank you Gerry for your reply.
      One of the problems why it is not successful is that sex is thought of before chastity before marriage.
      Contraception in schools along with sex education are already created in young peoples minds fertility awareness could be taught in schools to over 16 girls or earlier Condoms are taught, females may appreciate this info- we ought not to underestimate them(I am speaking now of the majority way of life to-day) Easy abortions, not necessarily caring about abortifacants- no respect for human life- sex is fun, not a gift from God-in other words, religion does not come into it. So by the time they reach adulthood the majority have already been taking the pill since an early age and had a number of abortions. So why would they when married lead a lifestyle the way the church teaches. I am not speaking about Uganda, but generally especially the West.

      Sometimes I think we are beating a dead horse,neverthless we must continue to provide this knowledge or else we will never acheive the Will of God.I will stop now as you say one can go on beating the same old drum.

      • st.joseph says:

        Gerry I wanted to finish with this but my computer crashed. and that is, I do find it difficult to understand that males are unable to cope with abstinance for about 7 days out of 30 or 31.
        I am not sure about St Paul when he says if a man cannot control his passions he must marry. One ought to marry for love not sexual satisfaction, there are prostitutes for that! Marriage is not for convenience.! When it comes to loving the Lord I believe there is no difference between the sexes.

      • John Nolan says:

        If it’s true, st.joseph, that men can’t cope with abstinence (from sexual intercourse) why do they prefer to spend their time in the pub?

  15. st.joseph says:

    John, did I say they couldn’t cope. Men were considered to be the hunters , now women are their equal.
    Having run a pub for many years.Its what happened after they left the pub!!!!! Not only with their wives, sadly to say.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      There was an interesting bit of ‘research’ published in one of the broadsheets recently which came to the conclusion that men generally respond well to notions of self sacrifice-and that this is in fact prized among men highest. I sort of agree with St Joseph about the ‘stages’ of awareness and that awareness of sexuality is well in place before notions of fidelity and chastity take root and act as a brake. I don’t share the view that men simply cannot control themselves-though some are no doubt better at self control than others. If we start from the point of a lack of self control then don’t we argue by default that men pretty much lack souls?…tempting though it may be for some to draw that conclusion I can’t agree! I always understood the injunction of St Paul (above) to be more along the line of a simple pragmatic warning along the lines of:
      “If your passions run high boy then best not become a monk..!”

  16. mike Horsnall says:

    I wonder if by ‘Far East’ you mean China Gerry?

    • st.joseph says:

      To clear up any misunderstanding about men controlling themselves. I was replying to Gerrys comment about the necessasity to relieve themselves. It was never my opinion.
      My comment to him about the Blessed Sacrament, is in my old Catechism about cooling ones passion.
      Which brought me back to St Paul!
      Obviousley celebate priests can cope-obviousley with the help of their faith, as it helps us all. I know becauseI dont know what I would have done when I was a teenager without my faith. We are all human, not Saints. I always kept my eyes on the Blessed Sacrament, and it was not always easy!
      I would have probably been a right ‘run around’ chasing the fellas!

      • John Nolan says:

        As St Paul says, it is better to marry than to burn (I assume he meant burn with desire). Some accuse the Church of being over-obsessed with sexual morality but a perusal of the daily papers shows that apart from maerial greed, the main motive for crime is sexual jealousy.

  17. Gerry says:

    Thanks St Joseph, I think I understand it now. You are interested in fertility awareness as the solution to fertility problems and spread the information mainly in England, whilst I am interested in family planning in countries were family size may average five, six, of seven, and were families of ten or more are common, and where food and water are short now and will get shorter as the years go by. These are quite different problems though there is some overlap.

    It’s upsetting when a great saint such as Mother Teresa, my heroine in the 1960’s and 1970’s, makes a mistake such as her over enthusiasm for NFP, but great saints do make mistakes

    Nevertheless, although we are interested in different problems, if you ever come across good statistics on the use of NFP in Africa, particularly Uganda, I’d be very grateful if you would pop them into your contribution the next time the “old battleground” is revisited.

    Mike, By Far East I mean all the Far East, except countries such as the Philippines, which is one of the few countries in the Far East that cannot see that overpopulation will bring terrible poverty. I think that even in the Philippines the government can see the problem but it is meeting strong opposition in implementing effective family planning. The insight about the need for family planning came first to South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but when their prosperity became obvious population control spread to almost all the countries of the Far East. A good book to read about South Korea, which in 1960 was poorer per capita than many African countries, is The Starved and the Silent by the Maryknoll missionary Fr Aloysius Schwartz 1966. He notes the rapid population growth rate and describes the horrendous conditions in the slums of South Korea and wanted to divert planes from Lourdes to Pusan to give European Catholics a glimpse of a different life! Happily, the South Koreans discovered family planning and there are no slums like that in South Korea any more.

  18. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Mike. How did Mother Teresa make a big mistake with her over enthusiasm. I am sure she would have thought that it was a better way than the aborifacient pill! Especially when condoms were not 100% effective. She was after all following her conscience ‘whilst looking after the poor’. Jesus did say there will always be poor people . It wont be solved by family planning I am afraid to say.
    I will look up some info for you on Uganda.And sent it next when the discussions come up.

  19. Gerry says:

    St Joseph, Here are the answers. (1) Mother Teresa made a mistake by being over enthusiastic about NFP because she is holy and influential but wrong in this – NFP, good as it is, is not effective enough to control the huge population explosion which has brought and is bringing terrible suffering to large areas of the world. (2) According to the WHO (World Health Organization) the morning after pill is no an abortifacient. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs244/en/index.html
    (3)”It won’t be solved by family planning” Well, it has solved it in Europe, Australia, North America, and Japan and several other countries in the Far East, and it is solving it in Brazil and in most of Latin America, and in most of the other countries of the Far East. I don’t see why it should not solve it in Africa and the Greater Middle East. Without it they are certainly going to remain extremely poor and short of water and food.
    Thanks for offering to hunt for the Uganda information.

    • Quentin says:

      Gerry, looking at your link, I find:
      “Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy. They should not be given to a woman who already has a confirmed pregnancy. However, if a woman inadvertently takes the pills after she became pregnant, the limited available evidence suggests that the pills will not harm either the mother or her fetus.”
      So I gather we are not looking at the long term “pill”. But what does “confirmed pregnancy” mean? My guess is that it means implantation of the embryo in the womb. If I am right no reference is being made to the period after fertilisation but before implantation.

      • st.joseph says:

        Gerry. Thank you for that link. There is no need for me to comment on that, as Quentin has already.
        Mother Teresa being a very holy Nun, giving her life to the Lord. The first and foremost was to save souls.To quote Jesus again. ‘Dont worry about the things that destroy the body-but what destroys the soul, that lasts forever.
        That does not mean that we ignore human suffering. Mother Teresa didnt- she gave her life to the poor after giving it to the Lord first.The responsibility for the poor are mainly with the corrupt -who allow this to happen
        The contraceptive mentality (artificial) in the long run causes extensive health risks, as we find out in the West. Also when things do get better, I believe then people are more into material pleasures than the Lord.
        You as I can see are concerned with serving the poor, but we must consider the whole person.
        Mother Teresa did just that.
        We do have Christian Organisations in Africa.
        If you google nfp in Africa you will come up with something. But Dr John Kelly the President of NFPTA would be the person to give that info as he has over the years done extensive work there. I am going on holiday in a few days so I cant help at the moment without a search . That is if you are interested.

  20. st.joseph says:

    .Gerry, I came across a little info in a NFP newsletter in 1988,it wont help much but just to show that thins were on going then
    Dr John Kelly wrote .In and Out of Africa.
    Having worked as a locum at a small voluntary agency hospital in Ethiopia each year fot the last 18 years, I have watched with interest the growth of Natural Family Planning (NFP) in that country.
    Despite many problems the dedicated team of Ethiopian trained teachers of NFP continue to expand their work.
    In Kenya the demand for NFP is increasing. One of the groups responsible for training NFP is Family Life Counselling,Association of Kenya (FLCAK) whose current chairman is Dr Andrew Kiura. He and 7 colleagues came to Birmingham in 1977 for a month of intensive training course in NFP.Another group in Kenya has 3 full time Sisters involved in co-ordinating training throught the country. One of their local teachers in a small area told me that she had 50 couple users. There are hundreds of such local teachers throughout the country. I gave a papr on NFP at the annual scientific of the Kenyan Obstetric and Gynaecological Society, which was subsequently published in the East African Medical Journal.
    Much work is bein done in technology and research and these are essential to contribute to further accuracy and knowledge of NFP.The basic guide lines of good teaching of the subjective self observation of the symptoms and signs of fertility will always be the essence of NFP.
    I was impressed by the words of a poor but dignified woman at a simple NFP clinic in Ethiopia. She remarked, when she had found what for her a satisfactory way of family planning,’Why did no -one tell us about this before?’ Clearly we in the field of NFP,for that womwn were guilty og neglect in not providing her with a trained teacher much earlier.
    The challenge is to ensure that those who wish to use NFP have access to a high quality and efficient service.

    Sorry for this being so long Gerry but I wanted to tell you what was happening way back in 1977 and earlier. I think Dr John Kelly has given up the Presidency to do further work in Africa.
    The NFPTA do wonderful work abroad – have done for years, with Dr Anna Flynn.R.I.P.
    It is not all taught with coloured chalk on the pavements now.It is a cause to be respected.

  21. Rahner says:

    Mother Teresa may have been very holy but she was also operating with a crude Augustinian model of Christianity which simply has no future. And as regards Humanae Vitae, it is clear that most Catholics do not accept that it makes a compelling case against the pill and nothing the Anscombe Bioethics Centre or any pope says is going to change that. Perhaps its time to move on?

    • st.joseph says:

      Rahner. Everyone has their own free will to ‘move on’ as you call it.
      People have already moved on,that is why we have our free-will.
      A Gift from God . We are not puppets! Do as you will and face the consequences.
      Our Lord didn’t force anyone to stand at the foot of the Cross.
      Will you explain the Augustinian model of Christianity to me I only know the one kind.
      And as far as the pill is concerned if women want to have early abortions, that is there free will. They ought not to moan when they see the effects of it later.
      But everyone has the right to know the Truth and make a decision

      • st.joseph says:

        Rahner your sweeping remark about ‘most catholics make it clear etc’., What evidence have you of that. It is taught world wide.Can you tell me where you get that from?
        Do you know everyone in the world.What great insight you consider yourself to have!

  22. Rahner says:

    “And as regards Humanae Vitae, it is clear that most Catholics do not accept that it makes a compelling case against the pill”
    There have been many surveys of Catholic opinion to support this claim. A YouGov survey in the UK in 2010 found that 4% of Catholics thought that contraception was immoral. Do you have any evidence to indicate that most Catholics accept HV?
    “Will you explain the Augustinian model of Christianity to me I only know the one kind.” An examination of the history of Christianity reveals that there is a range of interpretations of Christian doctrines.

    • st.joseph says:

      Rahner,You dont have to tell me about the UK. We are not the only people on the Planet!
      Catholics may use artifical contraception, but not necessary believe it to be right. Maybe they sometimes dont understand their fertility!Believing in their conscience, and not knowing he alternatives.
      Most catholics havent maybe heard or read Humanea Vitea, or not really understood it.
      Tell me about this Gov survey. I would like to read it.
      We may have a range of interpretations of Christian Doctrine, but there is ony one True one, that being the One Holy Catholic Church.

    • Quentin says:

      It is difficult to get hold of reliable figures on this; probably the most accurate are those of The Tablet survey of 19 and 26 July 2008. If you have access to The Tablet these are well worth looking at.

      The sample was church-going Catholics from England and Wales. The following quote is an accurate summary, “It has found that a large proportion of otherwise faithful Catholics are using a range of artificial contraceptives, especially condoms and the contraceptive pill.”

      60% if those aged between 36 and 45 were not familiar with Humanae Vitae. 43% had used natural family planning, 24% would use. 12% had never used.

      In a survey of England and Wales parish clergy (Louden and Francis 2003) 43% did not support the total ban on contraception, 39% did, 19% were unsure.

      • st.joseph says:

        Thats interesting Quentin.
        I am a little ignorant about surveys ,I wasn’t asked.You say it was accurate I wonder what was the percentage of practicing catholics who were not asked Did it say?

  23. Iona says:

    Surveys which set out to investigate the opinions of Catholics often don’t distinguish between (on the one hand) Catholics who attend Mass regularly and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation at least from time to time, and (on the other) people who are content to describe themselves as Catholics although rarely atending Mass and never confession. The Yougov survey which Rahner mentions may have included a lot of the latter among its respondents, in which case no wonder only 4% of them thought artificial methods of contraception were immoral.

  24. Quentin says:

    St.joseph, thank you for your question. Surveys like this take a random sample of the kind of population that is being looked at, e.g. church-going Catholics. This is also adjusted to check that it is representative. That is, it must have the right proportion of people in each age group, or each social group etc. It that way it becomes like a little mirror image of the whole population in question . Once the questions have been answered it is possible by using “probability mathematics” to calculate the degree of accuracy.

    Of course mistakes are always possible – and sometimes you see this for instance in pre-election polls. But often it’s the best information you can get and, if it’s done by a reputable organisation – which this is, you can usually be pretty confident.

    Just imagine trying to put the questions to every single Catholic in England and Wales. By the time you had finished the early ones would have died of old age!

    • st.joseph says:

      Thank you Quentin.
      I am slow to grasp it, but dont doubt your word.I could understand it if it was a question on the Census Form.But thanks anyway.

  25. Gerry says:

    Quentin, Another hazy area. I think I’ll leave it to the younger generation to find out what effect ECP’s have on the fertiised but not implanted ovum. But the paragraph above the one you quote seems to make it clear that ECP’s work by preventing ovulation. Here is the paragraph:

    Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) have been shown to prevent ovulation and they did not have any detectable effect on the endometrium (uterine lining) or progesterone levels when given after ovulation. ECPs are not effective once the process of implantation has begun, and will not cause abortion.

    • Quentin says:

      Gerry, I am far from an expert here but this is an opening quote from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17241840
      “BACKGROUND:
      Although widely used, the mechanisms of action of the levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill (LNG ECP) are still unclear. There are increasing data to indicate that LNG is particularly effective as an ECP by interrupting follicular development and ovulation. An important outstanding question is whether it has any effect on fertilization or implantation.”

      This appears to be up to date at 2008. Has anyone got more recent information?

      • st.joseph says:

        There is plenty of information on the web site for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)
        Under Morning After Pill.

  26. st.joseph says:

    Quentin I looked at The Tablet 25th July 2008. The 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.
    I couldn’t find the statistics but thank you for telling me.
    I wrote to my bishop at the time to see if there was going to be a commeration .
    I would have thought when the Bishops knew that 60% of the survey were not familiar with HV they would have done! Unless someone else knows that they did.

  27. Quentin says:

    st.joseph, the statistics are there. Under the heading of Modern Catholic.
    Thank you for the SPUC lead. Very useful. I also like their analysis of the status of the embryo before implantation.
    It was 60% of the laity in a younger age group who were not familiar with Humanae Vitae. About 60% of the parish clergy either did not accept or were not sure about the ruling. Unfortunately no one surveyed the bishops!

  28. Stephen says:

    Quentin sees no compeling reason to accept that the natural law requires every act of intercourse to be open to conception. But surely compulsion refers to the will? The acceptance of Church teaching – e.g. in this case – lies in our will as well as in our intellect. Both are limited But grace can help us to accept what is difficult for our intellect. Contrasting, we may be willing to accept the salvation of a good and generous pagan, but if he were a doctor carrying out abortions we might have a problem ( intellect ) about his salvation.

  29. Vincent says:

    Stephen, good to see a new name in this discussion. What you have to say applies to doctrine. I can never understand the Trinity, so I must take it on faith, But a moral action is different because in most instances it is not revealed but has to be deduced. We may pray for grace to help our reason of course. The other element is that we are often making a choice. Perhaps the choice may be between using a barrier contraceptive or ceasing to express the marriage through lovemaking indefinitely. If we judge that abstinence is the greater evil then we are obliged to follow that judgment.

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