It comes with the territory

Since my previous post has concerned the question of fertility, it is important to recall that an accompaniment of artificial contraception has been a huge increase in promiscuity. Separating the pregnancy threat has led to sexual expression becoming less significant and, in many instances, reduces it to no more than a casual activity. Anyone who, like myself, suggests we should be reviewing our attitude towards the mismatch between fertility and need has to be very aware that these side effects are damaging to individuals and to society.

Our society has become very sexualised. We may regret, although we have become accustomed to it, that young, unmarried, people find it quite natural to have casual sexual relationships. Nor is this confined to an unavoidable minority, it can be found among people of good and responsible character. I have twelve grandchildren in the age bracket, and I do not know, and do not wish to know, how they conduct their relationships. That is for their parents. But I am not sanguine.

Marriage breakdown continues at a high rate but, of more concern is the growing fashion for cohabitation – an uncommitted state which has proved substantially more unstable. But in our society I suspect that instability is seen as a virtue. The ability to chop and change is evidence of freedom, is it not? I wonder if the children agree.

But perhaps the children won’t notice, hunched, as we are told they are, over their computers, watching porn. I saw porn when I was a youth. It consisted of single photographs of  naked, airbrushed, females in a magazine called Lilliput. I do not think that it did me much harm. But I do know that disgusted fascination is a common response to various forms of sexual activity, taken out of context – at any age. I find it hard to understand how anyone of  perhaps 10 years of age could fail to be damaged by such scenes. Nor do I care to imagine what peer pressure demands by way of imitation. Do I take it too far if I suggest that any parent not taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the invasion of porn is, at least indirectly, guilty of child abuse? I read this week that boys and girls are entering puberty at a younger age than former generations. Boys may be showing first signs at the age of 10, and girls a year or two earlier.

I was shocked by the Savile affair. But now I learn that the probable reason for the dearth of investigation of under-age abuse is that it was so common. It may have been taken for granted that the giggling 14 year olds would be flattered, excited and please at the attentions of a glamorous star. What’s the harm in that? Who wants to rock the boat for a little girl who obviously asked for it, and spent next day at school boasting to her friends. O tempora! O mores!

However, were the Church to change her views on the issue of controlling excess fertility, little difference would occur in practice given that the substantial majority, including Catholics, disregard the teaching already. One might even argue that the Church’s view that sexuality is grounded in procreation, and so belongs only to committed marriage, might get broader attention. And she would certainly be in a better position to condemn abortion – right now she appears to be promoting it by outlawing the means to avoid conception in the first place. It surpasses belief that there are still serious Catholic moralists who argue that unprotected fornication is preferable to protected fornication.

But there are those, I am confident, who read this blog, and who would argue that I am wrong. This is the place to say so.

About Quentin

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119 Responses to It comes with the territory

  1. Mike Horsnall says:

    “However, were the Church to change her views on this question, little difference would occur in practice given that the substantial majority, including Catholics, disregard the teaching already…”

    What question, precisely? I have read your article three times now, many allusions to under age sexuality but I cannot see the ‘this question’ you refer to. Perhaps if you could spell out ,clearly and simply, the particular issue you have in mind?

    • tim says:

      Mike, I think we are being asked to respond to a number of things that some people might say – for example, that the Church is promoting abortion by forbidding artificial contraception. I don’t think Quentin is saying this. Maybe Advocatus Diaboli will – or someone else?

      • St.Joseph says:

        I don’t think the Church will ever compromise with the Truth!
        Catholics know the abortive effect of the pill. The rest of the contraceptive methods is left to their conscience – like all sin! The Church is responsible for our souls-to teach correctly-She does have the authority to forgive the sin. That s what the Sacrament of Confession is for-repentance.
        Especially when there is an alternative She teaches-and we know what that is!!!!

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, it’s the question of fertility, which I introduce in my first line. Since this wasn’t clear to you, I have done a small edit. Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Rahner says:

    The blog seems to be becoming obsessed by sex, why is this? I think it is most unlikely that anyone, including myself, will say anything new or anything that is likely to convince those who take an opposed viewpoint. Though I suppose that like last week we may get a few contributions that are, from time to time, mildly amusing…….

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Perhaps we all need to get out a bit more.

    • Vincent says:

      As a matter of fact, Rahner I feel quite differently from you. We managed to make numerous comments on ‘Fair means,,,’ l without anyone seeking to point out these practical issues raised by contraception. I’m as guilty as anyone else. My guess is that if Quentin doesn’t think one side of an issue has been represented, he is quite happy to have a go himself.

    • Quodvultdeus says:

      Rahner, do you really mean that it is not possible to “say anything new or anything that is likely to convince those who take an opposed viewpoint”? Even when you play chess there are practically innumerable new ways of winning. We are not playing with a machine, a heartless computer. We are not computers either. So there is always room for saying for instance, “yes, I didn’t take this or that into consideration, maybe things are different”.

      Or maybe you are, and like a computer, which has full knowledge and zero emotions, your rational thinking is not obscured whatsoever? I doubt, on this earth apart from machines that kind of clear rational insight pertains only to angels.

    • tim says:

      Rahner, sex is obsessive – and important enough to be worth discussing quite often. We may not convince one another very often, but we can at least remind each other of the problems. The blog is worth reading in part because at least some of the contributions attack the world’s current assumptions – which is worthwhile in itself, even if such assumptions change quite rapidly of their own accord. I’m slightly worried about what it is that has been causing you ‘mild amusement’, but that’s probably not important.

  3. Gerry says:

    Mike, As far as prosperous and becoming prosperous countries are concerned you are quite right about a change in the Church’s views making little difference. They all have effective family planning, otherwise they would not be prosperous. But in those countries where there is no family planning and there is great poverty, and even hunger, and water shortage, and conflict, it would make an enormous difference. These countries are now almost confined to Africa and the Middle East, with some Catholic countries such as the Philippines and a few Latin American countries.

    Chris Bain, Director of CAFOD, in his 2009 London Newman Lecture noted that “it is estimated that nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa’s health care, education and social services…are provided by the Catholic Church…” The fact that Catholics provide half of all sub-Saharan Africa’s health care, education and social services may help to explain why family planning is so difficult to obtain in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Michael King OBE, FRCS Malawi Silver Jubilee Medal 1989. Surgeon in Swaziland 1970-1973 Chief Government Surgeon in Malawi 1976-1994 and Elspeth King Ph.D, his wife, Lecturer in University of Malawi at the Polytechnic, Blantyre, 1980-1994 note in their book The Great Rift

    “if European Catholics do want to help African families, they could do no better than try to change their Church’s official policy on contraception.” It’s not easy.

    (Malawi, much the same land surface as Portugal, is doubling its population every 25 years or so: 1950 2,882,000; 2000 11,229,000; 2050 an estimated 44,531,000)

    When discussing our Church’s teaching on artificial contraception, it is best to keep in mind its effect on the poor rather than its effect on the rich: its effect on the poor is enormous, its effect on the rich is relatively trivial.

    • St.Joseph says:

      So OK. The Church gives the green light – ‘Catholics you can all use contraception now- we were right to teach it before-but now things are different, over population- hunger,
      large families- the church appreciates that you can not cope with the knowledge of understanding how your fertility works,and we guarantee that God will not be offended because we say it is OK.After all HE did give to St Peter the power to ‘loose and bind’.
      It doesn’t matter if you use the pill and get all the illness’s that go along with it apart from early abortions, Oh and by the way you can also use the mini pill too-so you don’t even need to use any other, as you will be using an abortifacant, anyway you may also have one up to what the law says 6 months (24 weeks) and if the baby is handicapped maybe up to full term too..
      We are changing into a loving church just to please you all . I am sure God won’t mind as long as you are happy here and not suffering on earth.You don’t have to carry your cross like He did !.

      Is that what we want ?
      I would like some one else’s thought on this and how they have thought it through to the end because it does not end here. Not just as far as the Church saying ‘yes’ .

      • Vincent says:

        St.joseph, who is saying all this? Do you not think that if you really want to get people thinking your way you might get a better hearing by giving clear, evidenced ideas rather than what you offer here? I’m sure that you don’t go around shouting in real life — so why shout on the blog?

    • John Nolan says:

      Do people in poorer countries have large families because they follow Catholic teaching on artificial contraception? Or are there other, economic factors in play? Is western prosperity a result of having smaller families, or are smaller families a result of increased prosperity? These are pertinent questions. Is the low birthrate in countries such as Italy a cause for celebration or a potential if not actual demographic concern?

      Quentin, can you provide a link to a respected Catholic moral theologian who advances that argument re protected/unprotected fornication?

  4. Peter D. Wilson says:

    The problem seems connected with the invention of novel and spurious “rights”: everyone (children included) have a “right” to an active sex life, people have a “right” to do as they wish with their own bodies, and so on, The church might do well to point out more vigorously that one person’s right almost inevitably involves another’s detriment somewhere or other, and that even those with a genuine basis should be exercised with a minimum of selfishness.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Look around you -the evidence is all there. The slippery slope.Do we want that for the Church??
      Does the truth hurt- because it hurts me and it ought to be felt by us all. The consequence of sin.Whether you like it or not!!!
      BTW who is shouting? It sounds more to me like it coming from you.

  5. Quodvultdeus says:

    Quentin, the Church cannot “change her views on the issue of controlling excess fertility”, as for instance the British government cannot change its stance on looting shops, it cannot eg. introduce yearly, say, a month of state controlled looting in order to avoid eruption of uncontrolled massive incidents in the future. Also letting people freely grow marihuana to fight drug cartels’ income, as they have done recently in Mexico, is not a solution. Christ came to fulfil the Law, but he did it by re-creating this world, and not adapting the definition of good and evil to the situation. His death and resurrection have direct renewing effect on this world, though to some extent it is still at the stage of a prophecy (cf Rom. 8:25). The only way to control excess fertility is to re-create human hearts in Christ, giving them the virtue of chastity, and not to let the married couples break the moral law.

    I would like to quote from J.T. Noonan’s book (“Contraception, A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists”, enlarged edition, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London,1986), on page 227 he writes how St. Catherine of Siena viewed moral consciousness in “those who sinned in the married state”. It is noteworthy that the patroness of Europe regarded married people especially prone to end up in hell not because of particular seriousness of sexual sins – according to her confessor, bl. Raymond of Capua OP they were “not more serious than others” – but because “they have not as much contrition as they have about other sins” (see footnote 47).

    We are tempted, like Adam and Eve, to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that is to decide what is good and evil by adapting the moral law to a specific situation. This is exclusively Divine role. The Church has a mandate to interpret the faith and morals revealed to us in Christ. But if she started re-interpreting, it would be equal to listening to the whispers of the serpent: “God is not good, you may do better than obeying His will”.

  6. Rahner says:

    “This is exclusively Divine role…..”
    Er, ever heard of Natural Law ethics???
    And why does the contemporary Church no longer apply previously held teachings on slavery and usury???

    • St.Joseph says:

      Would you be kind enough to say exactly what you mean-and explain your own question so that I can give you an answer.

      Your comment on Nov 8th 9.04.
      You are really a little misguided in your thinking.
      This is a messy world-we all mess up sometimes-but however we can all learn from our mistakes.
      We have to get amongst the mess and dirty ourselves with the sin that exists around us-like Jesus did-with His sweat and Blood that was the reason for His coming here!,
      We can not walk the other way and say ‘thank you Lord I am not like other men etc’
      The seed that we spread will fall on deaf ears but sometime someone will hear it and it will bear fruit- fruit that will last.
      We don’t stop spreading the good seed whilst we are here and able to do so, we have that responsibility as Christians.
      After all it may have helped you at one time-there for the Grace of God.

    • tim says:

      Rahner, what teachings on slavery has the Church ceased to apply? I remember (as if it were yesterday) St Paul saying that slaves should respect their masters, and vice versa (or words to that effect). That implies – possibly – that slavery (in St Paul’s time) was a tolerable social institution, which is certainly no longer true today. Or have you something more recent in mind, from the last millennium, say? And was it an authoritative church teaching or a private theological opinion?

    • Quodvultdeus says:

      Rahner, yes my formulation “adapting the moral law to a specific situation” was not very fortunate. I do not think God may change the moral law. Unlike Muslim, we understand that God is bound by His logic (cf. Benedict’s Regensburg lecture – ). Natural law is of course an expression of the Creator’s mind in the creation. God’s revealed law, lawfully interpreted by the Church, cannot contradict His natural law.

      Having sad that, we need to underline God’s pedagogical approach to the commandments. He has always been very good, tolerant towards our human morals, e.g. He accepted divorce of a wife or polygamy in the First Covenant. Well, I understand that, since we have reached the final stage of the history of salvation and we have signed with God the New and Eternal Covenant, our righteousness has been lifted to the level higher than that of the Pharisees. Therefore we cannot change moral evaluation of a sexual conjugal act, we cannot remove fertility from our bodies and eradicate readiness have to children from our hearts without breaking God’s law. By doing so we tend to commit the sin of Adam and Eve – we eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We want to decide what is good and evil in our sexual life.

      Regarding slavery, I do not think there has been essential change. Paul words are still valid for the Catholic teaching on the subject. Our freedom is that of the Messianic Kingdom, so we can be free even in the prison or as slaves. It doesn’t mean Paul approved slavery, he tolerated it, very much as God tolerated polygamy in Israel. 1 Cor 7:21-22 “So, if when you were called, you were a slave, do not think it matters — even if you have a chance of freedom, you should prefer to make full use of your condition as a slave. You see, anyone who was called in the Lord while a slave, is a freeman of the Lord; and in the same way, anyone who was free when called, is a slave of Christ.” (New Jerusalem Bible)

      • Quentin says:

        Quod Vult Deus, I am glad you included the sentence “we cannot remove fertility from our bodies …without breaking God’s law.” because it enables us to focus.
        The level of fertility in our bodies can have come about in two ways. First, God could have created us directly with that level of fertility. If so, it is possible to argue that we must not interfere with his will, clearly expressed in our bodies. Alternatively that level in our bodies could have come about as a response to the pressures of evolution. If so, why would it be an offence to correct the mismatch?

      • Singalong says:

        I thought fertility was always high, with one pregnancy following another, and no menstruation, but growth in population slow because of high mortality and low life expectancy. Why would it make any difference anyway? We are evolving to live longer, should we be forgoing medicines and treatments?

        The Church allows us to control birth through the natural means of observing and understanding the fertility cycle. It is artificial methods which you are asking about, but you have stated the serious problems they involve in the first sentence of your original Post.

        How would the Church`s sanctioning of these artificial methods and their provision to Catholics in developing countries slow the rate of population growth more than increased teaching of natural methods?

        I think St. Joseph and Brendan put it much better than I do, and time presses.

      • Quentin says:

        Singalong, the most important factor in population growth is the ‘total fertility rate’. It is the average number of live births to women of childbearing age in that society. In a developed society it is calculated that a tfr of 2.1 is sufficient for the population numbers to be maintained. In an undeveloped society, high infant and child mortality means that a tfr of more than 2.1 is required.

        If you have a tfr of say 4.2 in a developed society the population will double if that tfr level continues. In due course it doubles again (and again) (and again).

        In fact this doesn’t happen quite so dramatically because tfrs tend to get lower the more prosperous the society becomes. How does it get lower? People use contraception: 20 people use artificial contraception for every one person who uses the safe period. Some might say that, instead of declaring artificial contraception to be wicked we should be grateful that so many people do use it. Our international situation would be drastic if they didn’t. And Gerry’s figures show us that without proper programmes of artificial contraception, we may even now be indirectly responsible for increasing social troubles, and perhaps armed uprisings, in the future.

        Certainly we should be keen to promote NFP because it has many benefits. But to suppose that we can persuade everyone else to switch to NFP is not realistic. Indeed, all the surveys have shown that very few Catholics in this country and in the USA favour NFP, and we would need to be very credulous to assume that Catholic countries like Italy and Spain rely on NFP. They have lower tfrs than good old pagan England.

      • Singalong says:

        Quentin, I do understand the mathematics of population increase, but from your own analysis, it doesn`t sound as if any change in the Church`s teaching would affect the numbers. Would those now using NFP start using artificial methods, and how would that help if they did? The concern is with those who are not using any form of fertility control, and why do they accept the artificial rather than the natural methods? We must work on that, for those who will listen to the Church`s teaching. It doesn`t affect those who don`t and won`t does it, and they seem to be in the majority by far, but we must go on trying.

        I really do like the very spiritual way Quod Vult Deus writes about the subject,

      • Rahner says:

        The idea that you can justify a moral teaching in today’s world with a simple-minded reference to the “sin of Adam and Eve” is absurd.
        And as regards slavery would you still defend the position of the Holy Office which asserted in 1866 that slavery is not against the natural law?? And are you seriously suggesting that Catholic teaching on sexuality is complete and final and incapable of any development, correction or change? Such a view would seem to me to be puerile and irrational.

      • Quodvultdeus says:

        Quentin, it’s always good to focus on particular detail, unless you forget about the whole picture. I think we do not speak about the level of fertility that much as about the meaning of a single sexual act as an act of persons. Each particular sexual intercourse biologically is an act aiming at conception. But it isn’t by no means all what we can say about it, because it is an act of a person accomplished in love with another person and aiming at lovingly giving life to another person. In this context If you still want to speak about the level of fertility, you will do it by perfecting your powers specific to you as a person: your brain, mind and will. You will not mechanically lower the powers of your body, fertility is not a blood pressure.

        I think you should have in mind particularly two things:

        1. When you discuss fertility in the light of the evolution. You need to take into account the difference between a man as a person and other animals, which do not have this dignity. They are not created at the image of God. The origins of mankind are hidden in a mystery both from the point of view of theology and palaeontology. But we can assert that always, from the very moment our body became a human body, fertility was not a means of blind life-power of human kind of mammals struggling to promote its genes. (By the way: where did the genes come from at the beginning of life on earth? A question accurately asked and answered by Francis S. Collins in his “The Language of God”.). Procreation was an expression of a person giving life to another person. Each new man carries always the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26), and is conceived in cooperation with the Creator of the soul – God from whom all fatherhood comes (cf. Eph 3:15 Vulgata). So, unlike animals which are not capable of self-consciousness, the fertility is always supposed to be used consciously in loving cooperation and obedience to the will of Our Heavenly Father. In the primordial plan of creation each conceived man was willed by the parents and God as a person. As John Paul II wrote to the families:
        “The genealogy of the person is thus united with the eternity of God, and only then with human fatherhood and motherhood, which are realized in time. At the moment of conception itself, man is already destined to eternity in God.”

        2. There was a dramatic change in human nature after the fall, when “creation had frustration imposed on it” (Rom 8:20). Augustine rightly says that also human procreative powers suffered dramatic disruption. Human person went into pieces. Body and mind are no longer in harmony, two laws opposing each other appeared (cf. Rom 7:22-23). Sexuality no longer is as obedient to our mind and will, as it used to in the paradise. But it does not mean that we are entitled to regulate our level of fertility by mechanically intervening into intended by God the whole extremely complex event. We have another personal way: the virtue of chastity, a gift of reverence given to us by the Holy Spirit.

      • Quentin says:

        Quodvultdeus, you evidently have a very strong belief, and express it beautifully. Of course you are entitled to hold that man may not modify his level of fertility when the ordinary process of evolution has put it out of kilter. Nor do you need to give me a reason why you believe this.

        Singalong, you suggest that any change in the Church’s teaching on contraception would make no difference on the ground. Broadly speaking you are right. But there are situations where Catholic aid organisations know that contraceptives are needed, but have to hope that their clients find their way to the non Catholic agencies next door. It’s all a bit silly. And there are considerable problems with the Obama health plans. What I have in mind is rather the implied hypocrisy of us preaching that artificial contraception is invariably wrong while relying on it to continue in order to solve the problem we are unable to address in a practical way.

      • Singalong says:

        Thank you Quentin. I realise that it is relatively easy for those of us who are not working at the coal face to write about this issue very logically.

        I also remember some clients of Life, a young Indian couple, who decided that they could not accept the help we could give them to keep their baby. They asked where they could go to arrange an abortion. They were very insistent and desperate. To my shame, I eventually mentioned looking in the phone book. As you sat, problem passed on.

        However, the Church`s reaching still stands for very good reasons, and we must hold on to that. The mission of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost seemed impossible!

      • Quodvultdeus says:

        Quentin, our focus is definitely on different things in human person. You say: “the ordinary process of evolution has put it (fertility) out of kilter”. I would say what most influenced us and our bodies was not blind evolution but original sin. And it was not that much fertility that was put out of kilter, but human moral powers which use. It is believed that people before the fall were more fecund than after, but they were not urged by concupiscence to have sex when it was not reasonable to conceive. Multiple couples in the Old Testament show the decrease in human powers to procreate: Abraham and Sarah (Gn 16:1; 18:12-15), Jacob with his two wives Lea and Rachel (Gn 30), Zechariah and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist (Lk 1:6-7). That is also very much a painful experience of increasing number of marriages nowadays. The main problem is not fertility, but sexual urge which is or tends to be no longer part of human love. It is clearly visible in irresponsible parents who abandon or ill-treat their children, in all sex industry customers, and indeed in hard to understand paedophile twisted and obsessive conduct of some public respected figures.

        In my opinion, the level of fertility in our bodies is not a job for modern technology or chemistry, because it is not an illness. In the part of a husband each healthy sexual act is fertile. Making it infertile would be hurting his bodily powers. Pregnancy of a woman is not an illness either. Therefore contraceptives are not medicines, abortion is not a therapy.

        Reasonable level of fertility, i.e. the number of children is a matter of strengthening moral powers of a person as well as respecting the integrity of human sexuality. I follow the line of the Humanae Vitae, which addresses the following issue: “A further question is whether, because people are more conscious today of their responsibilities, the time has not come when the transmission of life should be regulated by their intelligence and will rather than through the specific rhythms of their own bodies. ” (n.3) Paul VI responds to it by pointing to the “inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (n. 12). You cannot “lower” its level of fertility because removing fertility from it is destroying its integrity. It was not evolution which made man and woman irresponsibly fertile, but original sin putting moral virtues in disarray.

        One more question of personal nature regarding the reasonable level of fertility. My grandfather was the tenth (and last) child of my great-grand parents. Was that reasonable level of fertility or not? Today people normally would say it was not. I would say: yes it was. Otherwise my mother would not have been born, and also I would not have been able to write these words. They were quite rich family, my great grand father was a papal count. My father’s father was the 8th child. And my great-grand parents had much less resources, as a consequence of Russian occupation policy towards patriotic noble families in 19th c. Poland. But he managed to study medicine and become a doctor.

        I hope I have given you in this lengthy answer “a reason” why I “hold that man may not modify his level of fertility” by doing harm to the bodies of wives and husbands, and why I believe that man is morally obliged to exercise his or her (their) responsible parenthood by growing in virtues.

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you for your explanation. I can see why you have come to the conclusion which you hold.
        Just a couple of minor points. Too much or too little fertility is relative — that is, to circumstances. Throughout most human history it has not been too high because it was needed to allow the population to reproduce itself, and indeed to grow at a reasonable rate. In the last 100 years or so the percentage of born children who have lived to breed in turn has gradually increased, and brought about the situation I have described.
        We do not know at what stage the homo line reached its current level of functional fertility. It may well have been before homo sapiens came on the scene.

      • Quodvultdeus says:

        Quentin, I can’t see in your vision any room for conscious, appropriate to a person, family planning. Sorry, do you really regard human procreation solely in terms of impersonal, blind process? “We do not know at what stage the homo line reached its current level of functional fertility”. Man does not breed like chimps do. We are persons created at the image of God, able to consciously manage our fertility. You disagree?

      • Quentin says:

        Do we have crossed wires? By fertility I mean those natural, biological and psychological factors which work together to produce a rate of reproduction. For example, if women did not customarily experience greater desire at the time of their ovulation, they would not conceive so often.. et cetera. The effect is significant at population rather than individual level. When conditions are hard most breeding success is experienced by those with high fertility – and those genes increase in the future population. The same principle applies to any breeding population.

        I think you mean the choice of an individual as to whether he/she uses his/her powers to conceive at any one time. This works at individual rather than population level, and, though influenced in multiple ways, is subject to choice.

      • Quodvultdeus says:

        Quentin, I am trying to understand you. I try to work out what kind of ethics you follow. It looks it is similar to that, which contemporary evolution biologists have. The problem is that it is not a job of any biologist to reflect on ethics, he/she hasn’t got proper intellectual tools. When he does, his theories sound pretty awkward. As if he/she wanted to open a press-button glass door with a stone. They do not look for any press button, because they do not even believe there is such thing as electricity. I cannot help thinking that your provisional theory why women conceive is not very sophisticated. You haven’t mentioned any element that is traditionally attributed to man and I believe explains the phenomenon of our European heritage: apart of physiology and emotions (and brain), which we share, in a way, with other animals, we have such faculty as spiritual reason or mind. According to classical Greek definition, which was originally not Christian, man is an “animal rationale”. If you exclude the reason – distinct to brain – from the human nature, you may easily confuse the motives why your mother and father conceived you with the factors which move chimp males and females in their breeding habits. In my view excluding the faculty of reasoning from what is “natural” for man is like opening a glass door with a stone instead using a press-button. If you break with the classical definition of man, you end up in materialistic vision of man and monistic, pantheistic vision of the universe with no room for Judeo-Christian God. Then your blog is no longer about relationship between faith and science, it is about brain, emotions and physiology and phantoms of virtual spiritual life produced by them. Do I go to far in my conclusions? Please let me know.

      • Quentin says:

        Quodvultdeus, I was intrigued by your remarks here because I had a lingering, and unworthy, thought that you were championing a reductio ad Gnosticism. But I only have the right to express my view and not to make judgments about yours. And my view is very simple.

        I belief that every aspect of God’s creation is held in existence from moment to moment by his active will, As I explore it more deeply, my sense of wonder grows. My task is to examine the interpenetration of spirit and matter. And to try to explain this as well as I can. Thus my view of fertility asks me to look at how the truth of both elements complement. The effects of Original Sin, whatever its history may be, are of course a continuous factor which I have emphasised and explored in various ways. And ultimately of course I look forward to the Resurrection when we, and all creation, will be changed. And you and I will meet and laugh at our puerile efforts to detect the mind of the Creator

      • Quodvultdeus says:

        Reductio ad Gnosticism? It would be true if I regarded body as something not belonging to the nature of man. I speak about both, body and spirit created in harmony and put in disarray after the disobedience of the first parents, and indeed restored in even more perfect harmony in the resurrection of Christ. When you spoke of decisive factors in charge of the level of fertility you mentioned only the non-conscious factors in human nature. It looked like reductio ad Materialism. You didn’t seem to refer to the spiritual mind. I hope it was just a matter of a focus, but I would like to hear from you explicitly if you acknowledge the existence of spiritual soul in charge of material, corporeal body in man.

  7. Gerry says:

    Parents in sub-Saharan Africa have large families for several reasons, but principally because they cannot get artificial contraception. In many cases this is because their only medical clinic is run by Catholics. Although individual Catholics can take no notice of Catholic teaching, Catholic hospitals and clinics cannot do this.

    Catholics, over the last fifty years, have often excused themselves for blocking the availability of family planning by saying that prosperity was all that was needed. “Prosperity is the best contraceptive” was a common phrase. But, of course, prosperous people need family planning almost as much as poor people. (Poor people need family planning rather more than the rich, because married love is almost their only relief from the troubles of this world.)

    Populations are going to be controlled either by family planning or by war, famine, and disease. Catholics who prefer the former have now left the Church, or are mostly keeping quiet. Catholics who are dismissive of the need for family planning are in charge. So get ready for plenty of war, disease, and famine in Africa.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What is the Church doing in the way of teaching fertility awareness if there are so many
      Catholic organisations which we subscribe to at least 3 I do ( not much) but I would dearly like my small pennies to go to catholic teaching on NFP. as well as other important issues.
      Your comment does make sorry reading for the church which main duty is to save souls-if what you say is true-and I have no reason to disbelieve you-as I always find your comments interesting.
      I would understand that the labourers are few, although the NFP workers are doing as much as they can unless, but we must have the support of the Church-so I would ask what the church is doing in that area of teaching.

  8. Singalong says:

    Yes, Gerry, why is NFP apparently written off as a solution? If it worked in India with Mother Teresa, as has often been mentioned, why can it not work in other countries, and all its advantages be strenuously promoted?

    Vincent, I did not think St. Joseph was shouting. I took it that she was illustrating, very cleverly and graphically, how a change in the Church`s official teaching would actually come across.

  9. Gerry says:

    Thanks St Joseph,
    I think in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa there is some sort of attempt to teach NFP, but their efforts don’t seem to influence population growth. I came across one called Famli in Malawi about 15 years ago. The elderly Catholic priest I corresponded with was a fan of Fr Stanislas de Lestapis SJ one of the “no change” stalwarts of the 1964-1966 Commission. I’ve just looked up Famli’s website. I found it at

    You’ll be glad to learn that they claim 90% success rate for NFP in sub-Saharan settings! However, this great success never shows up in the United Nations population figures. In Malawi 41% of couples use some method of family planning. Injectables are by far the most popular at 29%. Rhythm – as they call it, which will upset you! – is used by 0.7%. (In developed countries 72% use some method.)

    Although there is benefit to a country soon after effective family planning arrives, it takes – in normal circumstances – about a century to stabilise a population, so we have to think ahead. I’m afraid that I think it is now too late for many countries in sub-Saharan Afraica, and, for that matter, many countries in the Greater Middle East where, for different reasons, many Muslim countries are dismissive of family planning.

    Singalong. I did not know that Mother Teresa, my heroine of the 1960’s, had an NFP scheme. Was iit a big one?

  10. Brendan O' Leary says:

    ” …she [ the Church ] appears to be promoting it [ abortion ] by outlawing the means to prevent conception in the first place.”
    This would seem a reasonable assumption to make if it was the true or even perceived outcome of historical fact and belief – for me, it does neither. Firstly the Catholic Church has only accepted contraception if it does not PREVENT conception – ipso facto, NFP. IN 1967 one of the main arguments for allowing abortion – very difficult to argue against given the secular backdrop at the time – was that with the greater use of contraceptive ( AFP ) the number of abortions would nosedive. But unfortunately , human nature is not confounded by solid reasoning alone. With 7 million human beings destroyed since then, who really believes that now. ? Enter Catholic Teaching . By adhering strictly to the Mosaic Law ( 6th Commandment ) which is immutable and following the belief that it is not permitted to do wrong that good may come of it …….. the Church’s position all along has been vindicated . The Catholic Church can do no other but speak the Truth, it is for others to prove otherwise ! It is blindingly obvious to all – and I take no pleasure in saying this – that AFP has in fact encouraged the relentless rise in abortions irrespective of the Church’s position on contraception. Abortion ineffect ,is now commonly viewed by many if not most as a ‘ second tier ‘ of contraception. That’s the morass we’re sunk into!
    Saint Joseph is right to insist that better teaching of NFP techniques is the way forward, to slowly over time – IF PROMOTED VIGOROUSLY BY THE UNITED NATIONS – in future lowered population trends in line with what God and by implication Nature would deem manageable levels. Pilot schemes partucularly in Uganda ( with its horrific number of hiv/aids victims ) has shown successes in NFP. If the results have been mixed for NFP alongside AFP , both promoted by the Government there, it is because of lack of commitmnet by both party’s in the use of NFP, dearth of trained teachers and poor instruction. Uganda is 40% Catholic with pilot schemes fot NFP being run in Musaka Province , – 60% Catholic.
    The Ugandan Government takes from the results that NFP offers the couple no health risks at all, with couples closely associating themselves with an enhancement in married life through which children are welcomed, not prevented. Spacing of children is then possibble with women particularly relieved that they felt no sense of guilt after intercourse that AFP made them feel. Similar results have been made public in neighbouring Kenya with consequential comments which run parallell to the ‘ Catholic vision ‘ of the practicalities of married life. I make no apologies for my beliefs arising from my belief that our Catholic Faith holds the essence of truth with a de- christianised Europe as our backdrop. What is neede is the WILL to do and the overcoming of old tired PREJUDICES !

  11. Brendan O' Leary says:

    I’ve just found this for consideration. The Journal of The American Board of Family Medicine ( JABFM ) published an article , based on results by Drs. Pallone and Bergus of The Dept. of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at Iowa University. In it they defend the position that FABM’S – fertility awareness based methods of contraception , have a typical-use unintended pregnancy of beween 1 and 3% in industrialised and non-indusrtialised countries. Usual methods of natural family planning such as Billings, Creighton and symptothermal methods are suplemented by more accurate methods called Standard Days Method and Two-days Method.

  12. Singalong says:
    Gerry, I hope this link works. The bare facts are given under FAQ`s, 20,000 mothers, !971. I have read a number of articles and seen and heard references to the work of Mother Teresa and her sisters in this field. St. Joseph probably has more detailed references.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong thank you for your comments.
      I have no further details other that your info from the Association who I trained with..
      Gerry also many thanks for your info.
      I only have some information on Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta.
      She was often critizied for her attitude towards Family Planning obviously disapproving of the pill and condoms and all other means of restricting the size of the family except the Natural Method.
      Her Sisters instructed the uneducated parents. She kept a careful count of the families who were persuaded to adopt that form of family planning,and once wrote to the Indian Prime Minister Moraji Desai Here we promote the moral, legal,and scientific method of Natural Family Planning.
      From 1971 to 1978 they helped 11,000 Hindu families 5,568 Muslims, and 4,341 Christian families. Through this natural and beautiful method there have been 61,397 less babies born.
      There are those that say she did not understand sociology or modern management, and if she did her work would be more effective,and she would be able to look after more children.But Mother Teresa was first and foremost a Nun and rather incidentally a social worker..
      A truly wonderful women and a perfect child of God.
      Gerry I believe if one really and truly loves the Lord like Mother Teresa RIP from their hearts we ‘can’ work miracles.. I believe if each and every one of us even did as little as what she achieved it may be a better future for this world. and our children. Mother Teresa Pray for us.

  13. Gerry says:

    Thanks Singalong, (And thanks St Joseph for the facts about Mother Teresa. A great saint.)

    I found the NFP site and they put me onto the World Health Organization Multi Center Study 1981. I couldn’t find the 1981 study, but the 2004 study came up.

    This gave the percentage unintended pregnancies in one year with PERFECT use as:
    Billings 3%; Sympto-thermal 2%. (They didn’t give figures for the Billings or sympto-thermal typical use, nor the numbers continuing after one year, which is a pity.)

    Other figures for TYPICAL use were Condom 15%, with 53 % continuing after one year; pill 8%, with 68% continuing after one year; IUD 0.08% with 78% continuing; implant 0.05% with 84% continuing.

    These figures will tie us in knots! Broadly, NFP is good, but will always be a fringe method. I suspect that most couples find it too complicated and they never quite trust it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry I will see if I a can find some further info for you.
      I don’t see why couples find it complicated, I think the problem is having to abstain for a few days in a month and not being able to use the marriage act whenever!!.
      As I said before Mother Teresa taught the Billings Method , using coloured chalk on pavements, because that is probably the way it works without complications with the more accurate indices which has been scientifically proven over the years. I would have thought with females more educated to-day it would be simple to use, perhaps the timing is wrong for them, and it is not such an important issue as it ought to be.religiously, in relation with The Holy Trinity within the Sacrament of Marriage. It is not their vocation or t to use it,.or persevere-which is actually a Gift of the Holy Spirit..
      I am not undermining those who genuinely don’t cope. I am sure Our Lord doesn’t either
      He is everyone’s judge, and knows the inner heart of man..But it is not a reason for it to be condemned.Thank you for your interest.

      • St.Joseph says:

        It may seem that I am missing the point of your post. I do think that casual sex and not using a condom is the height of irresponsibility as well as the sin of fornication and then to resort to an abortion , but that wont’make any difference to those who will do so anyway-they are ignorant of the true relation within marriage to what Holy Mother Church teaches. It is another world to them.I feel the same as you about my grandchildren, as we were told -‘if you cant be good be careful’ We don’t live altogether in a perfect world ‘yet’
        Some just believe it is a lot of rules.

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you st.joseph. You give me an opportunity to say something (which I believe you know already). I am a great admirer of NFP, and used it for many years from 1956 onwards. In fact my very first piece of published writing in my own name was an article much praising the method. It was in the Clergy Review, and widely referenced.

        I believe that it is the best way to guard the precious pleasure of sexuality in marriage, and to remind one continually that it need never become routine. It also continues to link the concept of sexuality with procreation in a very active way.

        I think it could play a big part in bringing excess fertility under control. And should be the Church’s great gift to the world. But it will not, realistically, solve the whole problem – as Gerry, who is one of the great experts in this question, has shown us. So let’s look on it as a truly valuable practice of marital virtue, without seeking to condemn those who choose other ways.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin thank you.
    One comment I will say now for an encouragement to all.
    My eldest grandson 22 yrs left Uni-decided not to join the Army-he was fortunate to get a job, straight away. His fiance who he has known since he was 16 is still at Uni in Lincolnshire, she is 21. studying speech therapy . We don’t discuss what their ‘relationship’ is she comes to her parents-my grandson lives at home.
    Out of the blue he said to me- Nan in Iona’s Uni there is a poster up saying all the dangers of the contraceptive pill and sexual diseases and promiscuity, but further more advertising NFP.-that surprised me and pleased me to know that it is maybe getting known.-especially as it was not allowed in catholic Churches,taken down after 1 week!!!!! Sometimes I lose a little trust in the Church. I often felt I had a disease which was contagious!
    So I believe that I have not wasted my time,even if it takes a few generations or more and more……..
    We must encourage the young ,not demand. And thank you for supporting it.

  15. Singalong says:

    What are the insuperable problems with relying on the promotion of
    NFP? I appreciate that you and Gerry are longstanding experts in
    the field, and have detailed knowledge of what is involved.

    It would be very helpful if you could explain why you have come to
    this conclusion.

    I can see that some spontaneity is lost. It is not as easy as some
    artificial methods. However, I think that their widespread use, along
    with increasing secularisation, has contributed a lot to the chaos we
    have now in our culture, widespread promiscuity, the near destruction
    of marriage and family, and all the accompanying misery.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong, is that comment meant for Quentin or Gerry-I dont wish to butt in..

      • Singalong says:

        Both, St. Joseph. I couldn`t see a Reply bar after Quentin`s 11.09 (or is it 12.09) Post, so I put it in at the end, which was after your last Post, sorry if that is confusing.

      • Quentin says:

        No great mystery about this, Singalong. The Church (and some others) has actively promoted NFP internationally for half a century. The progress so far does not suggest that periodic abstinence is ever likely to replace “modern” methods. The percentage of married women using family planning through the world is 63%. The percentage using periodic abstinence is 3% (withdrawal is 4%). This does not include family limitation via abortion, nor methods used by the unmarried. Full details, country by country at

      • Singalong says:

        Thank you, Quentin, I will look at this information as soon as possible.

      • Quentin says:

        If you don’t see a ‘reply’ bar, this is usually because the item is already a reply to a contribution. If you find the ‘mother’ contribution, and click reply, your answer will come at the end of existing contributions to the ‘mother’. That’s the theory, anyhow.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    Singalong. I am easy confused by the computer, not being an expert, I will reply later I have to go for my 2 mile walk after a broken back and its nots raining! now!!!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong, Quentin has given you the statistics
      Quentin is that just 2008?
      The problem in relying on the promotion-do you mean how difficult is ‘fertility awareness’ to promote. All I will say it would be a lot easier if the Church provided the knowledge through Marriage Care- who don’t teach it! And when couples will see how important it is they will understand it better-I am not looking through rose coloured glasses here ,as most couples getting married are already using a form of contraception.
      Pre-marriage instructions is the best way to promote it,but somehow they seemingly don’t want to be involved.I am not saying they wouldn’t if there was a trained teacher there.and I believe the Bishops ought to be promoting this-but I understand they are holding on to the reclining Catholics there are and don’t wish to rock the boat.
      Something I feel strongly about and have been trying to bring to all the Bishop’s.notice
      I had a good response from about 21 3 years ago..All I can do now is pray about or or take any opportunity that comes my way-that is my personal thoughts-others may think differently.I found the promoting it after I had passed the exams-then the hard work started.
      You say some of its spontaneity is lost-maybe for newly married or teenagers-I only taught engaged or married couples-it is obvious others are not interested I taught more non-catholics than catholics .
      I believe it is easier and better than condoms, Dutch Caps, coils, and other inconvenient ways of spacing a family-responsible couples wont mind waiting when the infertile comes around-and after all it make sense-married love and patience and understanding.
      Then who are we speaking about.One has to believe in it .
      The world is full of promiscuity, porn, easy abortion open for all to see, obviously easy contraceptive have made it easier, but it is more the mentality and Godless society .
      I hope this answers your queries, it seems I have draw it out a lot but there is much over the nigh on 30 years-but let me know.

      • tim says:

        St Joseph, it has been difficult to interest the bishops in this topic over the past few decades. I fear they are nervous of it, understandably. But their distaste for dealing with sexual matters seems almost pathological. Witness recent ‘Life Sundays’. These rarely deal with core ‘Life’ concerns, such as abortion and euthanasia. This year’s was about the importance of taking regular exercise! But we must persevere. Some of the newer bishops have other ideas. Which diocese are you in?

  17. Horace says:

    I am, as readers of this blog will know, a rather simple minded individual. I have carefully read Quentin’s post and all the comments and this is how I understand things.

    Quentin makes the following points :-
    1) Fertility if unchecked will lead to an unsupportable population.
    The use of “artificial methods of contraception” has many undesirable side effects e.g. :-
    a) young, unmarried, people find it quite natural to have casual sexual relationships and there is a growing fashion for cohabitation.
    b) Pornography and under age abuse becomes surprisingly common
    2) The Church should change her views on the issue of controlling excess fertility.
    If she did this she could not only help poorer countries but also she would be in a better position to condemn abortion.

    Gerry adopts a clear stance
    – Populations are going to be controlled only
    a) by family planning
    b) by war, famine, and disease.
    (which is essentially the Malthusian position).

    There is much discussion about NFP and similar methods of fertility control. The basic trouble with these methods is that they require the use of SELF CONTROL!
    [btw St Joseph the version I heard was {Mother to daughter “Be good. – If you can’t be good be careful – If you can’t be careful, keep your legs crossed!”}.]

    I can unreservedly agree with Quodvultdeus – The only way to control excess fertility is to re-create human hearts in Christ, giving them the virtue of chastity. Not by letting married couples break the moral law.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Horace. It was buy a pram- or don’t bring trouble home to our door, of course the answer now in lots cases would be have an abortion.But I will honestly say I was never told either of those.

      EWTN has a wonderful series weekly ‘Embracing the Marital Act ‘ around about I think 10 weeks, it has been repeated, and no doubt will be again.
      There is a very good DVD Contraception ‘Why not’ Dr Janet Smith. Ii can be obtained free .
      My middle grandson was at 15 now 19 just gone to Uni, was watching it as he wanted to take it to school to show the teachers he was impressed with it, so he ordered a few to be sent to Bishops He sent one to my Bishop but had no response, so when he visited a local parish he asked him what he thought of it,he was in his school uniform as he was helping with the Lourde team with refreshments. The Bishop said he could not remember it, then looked behind and saw me, and said ‘Oh I thought you would have something to do with it!’!! In fact I had not played any part in it at all. It was not a compliment as I had written to him many a time
      A saying of my mothers was ‘Get the name of an early riser and you can sleep all day!
      Not the first words of sarcasm from Bishops
      American bishops are more open I believe to NFP .

    • Quentin says:

      Horace, thanks for an excellent summary. I just have a question about your last sentence “Not by letting couples break the moral law.” Of course most of us would agree to that. The question is whether the Church’s understanding of the moral law takes into account the fact that human rates of fertility have evolved according to circumstances. If they have, how could we read an absolute moral imperative from human sexual structure? I would be glad if you would address that question. No one else on the Blog has. Check with my post ‘Fair means or foul’, for fuller description of the problem.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am in the Clifton Diocese.

      • tim says:

        Quentin, at least one person (me) has failed to address that question because he didn’t understand it. I don’t yet see how (in any circumstances) one deduces an absolute moral imperative from human sexual structure. I am not (consciously, at least) being deliberately obtuse, but could the argument be set out in small and simple steps? Then we can see where we are, how we got there, and what might have gone wrong.

      • Quentin says:

        Tim, I don’t think that you are alone — which is why I expect no one else has had a go at the problem. it’s late now, and I must to bed. I hope to get time to answer you tomorrow morning. But my wife and I have given ourselves the treat of High Mass, and I don’t want to miss that. But tomorrow, certainly.

  18. tim says:

    St Joseph, thank you. I don’t know if your present bishop is likely to listen (or at least to do anything much after listening) if you approach him about natural family planning. We have a new bishop in Portsmouth, who might be more sympathetic.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Tim thank you.
      It was Bishop Mervyn Alexander RIP who asked for teachers in the Diocese- 1980-and would pay for training in Bristol. University Hospital-then moved to Birmingham.NAFPTA
      I at that time had no intention of studying-leaving school at 14 ,no knowledge of Biology, Physiology or Psychology or NFP for that matter in its present form only miscarriages and a little knowledge. In those days one had to have a Certificate from the to teach from the Central Board of Midwives.(-I did not resort to AFP so if one has to in difficult times, can in one way now place the blame on the lack of insight by the Heirarchy) .I did realise that it was very important to understand and a blessing that progress was being made in that area-and as the Parish priest wanted someone ,although I felt it was a nurse or doctors area-but in the end after soul-searching and help from Our Blessed Mother & St Joseph, and my husbands support although a non-catholic could see how important it was. I don’t regret it and I will be always grateful to Bishop Mervyn for encouraging it.
      I believe it is down to the Bishops Conference to make it a joint effort and put some finance into making it obtainable in the UK-use some of the CAFOD money here.Or the Mission Sunday Collection into Fertility Awareness.
      A great opportunity was missed when ‘Making the Home a Holy Place’ also the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. and the Programme in my Diocese Seeking the Face of Christ. I did try. Maybe something to look forward to in the future please God!
      Nafpta are doing wonderful work here and abroad-anyone interested in being a teacher-look on their web site.Plenty of information.

    • Quentin says:

      OK Tim, here goes.

      Imagine that you were a scientist from Mars sent to explore what happens on earth. When you watched animals mating you would soon discover that mating was for breeding young. When you switched to the human animal you would notice the same thing: this clumsy, odd act was clearly made for breeding. However there were additional factors (for example humans did not wait until the female was on heat to mate, or the development of close pair bonding that related to the long period that their young needed to mature) and these led you to conclude that this mating act had a secondary purpose – to sustain the relationship between the parents.

      You would reason that the primary purpose of the act was for breeding while the relational aspect, though important, was secondary. If you spotted a human deliberately spilling his semen or in some other way taking steps to interfere with the possibility of conception, you would recognise that the primary purpose of the act had been deliberately obstructed so that the secondary purpose could be achieved without breeding. If you like, the ‘mating act’ had lost its essential ‘mating’ character. You would also note that the female deliberately withholding her egg so that she could mate without conception would amount to the same thing – the primary function of the act was being removed.

      This would not be a moral question for you (any more than artificial insemination of animals is a moral question for us). But you would find a large group of humans who would say that it was. They would argue that the sexual structure was created by God as an important part of human nature. And that you could ‘read’ how it should be used from examining it (just as you, from Mars, has). Artificially removing from the mating act its mating character was directly against God’s will and nothing could ever justify that.

      Now my question here arises from the fact that we are now confident that the sexual structure was not created directly but indirectly through evolution. And the aspect of this which I examine was the evolutionary need for the human race to develop a high rate of fertility because in primitive times (and still so today in some areas) high infant and child mortality required a large number of children to result in the human race having continued to this day.
      This high rate of fertility is not fundamental but accidental (in the strict sense of the word) because it was brought about through circumstances. Consequently it is within our remit as human beings to adjust our mismatched rate of fertility to the level which is needed.

      Forgive the simplicity of this. If you need a more formal and tighter version read for example Para 54 of Casti Connubii.
      “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin ‘ Presuming the man from Mars hadn’t heard about Jesus and was unaware that there was a higher person in charge than us.
        What is your question then-?Are you saying that we would be only sinning against nature-and if circumstance arose then it would be OK to sort the over or under population problems ourselves and have a dose of this every so often as need be.
        I suppose if we belonged to the animal kingdom who do not Bow down before Him it would not matter- I suppose neither would euthanasia. But you see we do know !

        If one believed that our fertility was made by God in the beginning-we can’t mess about with ‘human’ nature. (i hear you say Why’)Maybe we are doing too much of that already,and will eventually destroy ourselves through mans trying to play God. Maybe a lot of the problems that cause natural disasters is really not natural but what we are doing to the Planet and will affect the whole Universe eventually.
        The Gospel this morning I thought was pertinent to the poverty in the word to-day, misuse of sources, greed, by governments-etc etc. Get man right and then it may be a perfect world.
        The world is only over populated in the wrong places we need to distribute our wealth.
        Mother Teresa showed us how to reduce over 60,000.. .

      • Quentin says:

        St, joseph, is our current rate of fertility, brought about through evolution, really an essential part of human nature? I am inclined to high blood pressure. There may be many causes but one almost certainly lies in my genes — it has come to me through evolution. My doctor prescribes me various tablets Should I take them or would that be ‘messing about with human nature’ as you put it?

  19. Brendan O' Leary says:

    Quentin, I’ll try and tackle your question to Horace which you have kindly ‘ put in a nutshell ‘ , as best I can. The first sentence of your question…..” whether the Church’s understanding of the moral law takes into account the fact that human rates of fertility have evolved according to circumstances. “… would appear to be answered by CCF. 2371 – ‘ Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to [ italics ] man’s eternal destiny.’ ( Gaudium et spes ). From this, I construe that ‘ natural law ‘ derived directly from knowing ‘ moral law ‘ ( God’s Law ) , and underpining the Church’s stand on acceptable contraceptive use , would lead us to believe that God, is ( or has ) taken into account changes in fertility rates through history. How we choose to ‘ run ‘ our world and provide the ‘ circumstances ‘ for change is down to free choices in answer to His will ….. ‘ the Way, the Truth and the Life. ‘… for us. If that we not true , then it would make God responsible for our mistakes in problems arising today from overpopulation, which of course would not make theological sense. The evidence of turning away from God’s will, sadly is only too visible in our world !
    The second part of your question…. ” If they have, how could we read an absolute moral imperative from human sexual structure ? “…. follows I believe, logically from the above affirmation of Faith. In taking our beliefs from Christ’s Church on Earth we are presented in our time with what we call ‘ natural family planning ‘- which may or may not as yet be perfected ( scientifically ) to our satisfaction – but in good faith all of us can accept as applying to all ‘ human sexual structure ‘ – CCF.2370 “Periodic continence, that is the methods of birth regulation based on self – observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.” ( Humanae Vitae, 12 ) – on the road to fulfilling ‘ man’s eternal destiny .’

    • Quentin says:

      You’re right, Brendan, God doesn’t make mistakes. But he leaves us plenty to do — from fighting climate change to ensuring that population and provision for population are in balance. We have continually to work out ways or ensuring that human beings prosper according to their nature. This is why God gave man dominion from the very beginning.

      One of the ways we approach this is by respecting God’s creative activity. Since we know that his creative activity at the biological level is through evolution, we have to respect his methodology in order to discern what we can lawfully modify — and what we cannot. The question is: can we modify human fertility when, through an accident of evolution, it no longer matches the needs of human beings, and in fact endangers their welfare?

      • Brendan O' Leary says:

        Then Quentin, I believe my answer at present to your question is , no , which I believe I have tried to express in my earlier contribution on this posting. Therefore I feel I have nothing left to contribute on this issue with my mind. The thing I have left is ‘ Faith. ‘
        If we are to find our way through this impasse then I believe that God has already given us the tools and the wherwithall for His ‘ right management ‘ of our world through Holy Mother Church ,as has already been discussed in this blog. I believe you’re right, and history has shown that humanity’s ‘ ingenuity ‘ has and probably will find a answer to the problems that plague our world. Perhaps the problems arising from increased population will be overcome by ‘ colonising ‘ another planet or a disaster of our own making which will decrease the male population on our planet.
        I also have ‘ hope ‘ that God will find a way eventually, but it will not come any closer by our denying His prescence in our lives and our world, nay cosmos! To that extent I believe my late grandmother with her stubborn but firm Faith ,who could hadly read or write, was no less blessed than a Saint Thomas Aquinas . They could both rejoice that as ‘ little children ‘ God had revealed all that needed to be revealed to them both . For I truly believe that when asked ,The Holy Spirit puts the right words into ones mouth when the time comes to speak them.
        This I hope and pray will be in your next blog !

  20. John L says:

    Forgive me fellow bloggers, but I have joined this discussion rather late and have had to try to assimilate a lot of material. Forgive me also if I am repeating a point that I have missed somewhere in the preceding comments, but is it not the case that birth control is not the only question in the context of over-population?
    Many poorer societies, having no social services, rely for support in old age or infirmity by ensuring that they have enough children to be sure of at least some support in a culture with strong family responsibilities.
    This may exacerbate the problem if a cause of poverty is already over-population, but what alternative do such people see?
    As regards Church teaching – social justice is high on the agenda, but gets far less attention than birth control or other sexual matters. I will reserve my own opinion on the birth control issue, but surely this blog may have missed a wider picture?

    • St.Joseph says:

      John L.
      I don’t think that Holy Mother fails in the practice of social justice-it is not all talk in the CCC. If I am reading you correctly-I stand corrected if I have.
      Without Christianity and its charitable organisation I wonder where we would be if the Church withdrew all its help to the rest of the world.

      We as Christians don’t shout about the good works that are done by Missionary’s abroad-the world would be in more of a sorry state if we did not have them,
      That does not mean that we forget about the soul.
      What other sexual matters were you speaking about, because a lot of the problems are caused by the body-and after all Jesus did say-‘Don’t worry about what happens to the body-but what happens to the soul- I take that as meaning we have to do all the works of mercy to help save our own our body will die-but our souls will have to live on whatever state it is in when we die without repentance-we then just have to believe in Gods Mercy. We have to believe in Eternity-otherwise why bother with our souls-even the pagans look after the body and love each other.!

      • John L says:

        Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear – when I said “gets far less attention” I should have said “gets far less PUBLIC attention”,

  21. Quentin says:

    You are right, John, about the tension between the need for children to support the aged and the overall control of population growth. It was briefly mentioned here. And we did have a post related to this. Search for: The population explosion is over. It did not however attract as many contributions as this one!
    Perhaps someone would like to develop this? You, maybe?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin- To answer your question above-perhaps I ought to have said pro-creation.
      Do you believe the way we pro-create has changed over the years through evolution.
      Do you have any evidence of that occurring naturally in the past? Or do you mean for pro-creation to be changed by man.? It already is by the contraceptive Pill A bitter one too as it has been said often.How do you mean it to be precisely ,can you explain how you mean we ought to do it without messing with it., and not as a contraceptive.?

      • St.Joseph says:

        I meant to ask you-how do you know that your blood pressure has come about by evolution How do you think it was not the way we live to-day under stress and other factors of living which has always been there only not found out only by medical science.
        Should we not treat these illness’s so that we will die younger.
        Thank God we are able to cure illness in lots of cases. But ‘pregnancy is not an illness’
        something to be cured.Nor is messing about with Hormones to mess up ovulation to make a women cycle Anovulatory. which is really really a contraceptive no matter how you see it ,and immoral -I know that is not the answer you would like..But you will have to wait for that until science can prove that it isn’t and the Church is satisfied too!
        There is a wonderful book to read which will answer all the questions you might want to think about The Art of Natural Family Planing, a teachers manual by John & Sheila Kippley
        Forward by Konald A Prem, MD Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology University of Minnesota.

      • Quentin says:

        St.Joseph, I think it would help if you explain why you think artificial contraception is immoral. I don’t mean simply that it is immoral because the Church says so (if that were your only reason there wouldn’t be much to discuss). Nor do I mean that some forms of contraception may cause abortions (they are immoral because of the abortions not because of the contraception.). Because you are so confident about this question while I am still working at understanding what is right, that I would like to know how you came to this conclusion.

    • John L says:

      Unfortunately, Quentin, I have perforce been away from the blog again, and too much water has flowed under the bridge for me to develop this point constructively. My point was merely to suggest that the original question had become swamped by the (perceived) obsession with sexual matters when this is discussed within the context of the Catholic Church, and that more than that is at issue.
      Your blogs are a most useful tool and service for exchange of ideas, but I already get into trouble for the amount of time I spend at the keyboard. I follow as best I can, but seldom feel provoked into joining in. Sorry!

  22. Claret says:

    There appears to be a general assumption on here that population growth is ‘over population’ and therefore in need of drastic control. By repeated use of the phrase we come to believe that all Africans are doomed especially if they rely on Catholic health services !
    In the West we are beginning to be told that ‘under population’ is the next big issue and is just waiting on the horizon to come into effect as we are discovering that there will not be enough young people around to support those who are in greater need of social services , pensions etc. In Russia evidently, a country where easy accessability to abortion was a matter of pride, they are now encouraging a return to bigger families through an increased birth rate, as they begin to realise that they are heading for a potentially hazardous future unless a certain birth rate viz a viz death rate, can be built back up.
    Supply and demand, cause and effect , work just the same with populations as they do with tins of beans on the shelfs of Tesco.

  23. Gerry says:

    Quentin, I’m so glad that you mentioned the post on :’The population explosion is over’. I hope several re-read it. It reads very well! The population explosion is, indeed, far from being over: South and East of the Mediterranean it is going like a bomb.

    Just two quotes confirming this:

    The World Fact Book 2012 says: “The addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe 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.”

    The Royal Society in its April Report ‘People and the Planet’ notes, “Developing countries will be building the equivalent of a city of a million people every five days from now until 2050.”

    The All Party Parliamentary Group on Population Development and Reproductive Health 2006, voices much the same anxiety.


    Thank you for putting my view so well. Mind you, Thomas Malthus would be more that a little upset by being associated with me! He thought that the use of family family planning was a vice, I think that it is a virtue.

    I find it hard to understand why everyone else does not have the same view as myself! For over 100,000,000 years human numbers were kept down by disease, helped by war and famine. Suddenly, in the last 200 years, but particularly in the last 70 years, the killing diseases of babies and young children have been largely abolish, and even famine has become temporarily manageable. This has unleashed one of the great dramas of history, and it is only the development of effective family planning that gives us a chance of saving ourselves from disaster. Since about 1970, our Church has not been helpful in explaining this to people.

  24. Gerry says:

    Oh,oh! Too many 0’s. For 100,000,000 please read 100,000.

  25. Singalong says:

    I have just seen this on another blog, which should make interesting reading

    • St.Joseph says:

      Your comment at 5.46pm above (no room to reply above)
      You say ‘ The idea that you can justify a moral teaching in to-days world with a simple-minded reference to the sin of Adam and Eve is absurd.
      Who says that NFP has anything to do with that.Is that what you mean?
      If you do can you explain how you reached that conclusion?

  26. Rahner says:

    “Sexuality no longer is as obedient to our mind and will, as it used to in the paradise.”
    Used to be in Paradise?? What utter drivel.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Man in the beginning was made in the Image and likeness of God- body and soul-that is why Jesus took on our human nature-to become like us.-Man was perfect in the beginning!
      When God made male and female from Adam (or John or Bill- or Joan) the name is what the Bible uses as a reference to the first perfect man. and Paradise is where they existed` in that perfect state..
      Are you saying that is a load of drivel.I define Paradise as a place God made fit for mankind to live in perfect harmony with the rest of Creation. and put us in charge . It can still exist in perfect harmony-not now from the fall of our first parents- since Jesus saved us from that, by becoming man and showed us how to live with his Divinity.-God did not send His only Son to suffer and die do for no reason.
      It is just that we are slow at learning.
      If any evolution has to take place it is for our struggle to be like Him, so that we can live in the Paradise that was meant for us in the beginning.-hopefully Heaven.
      One can not call it drivel without giving the full understanding of what you perceive.
      Can you do that please.?

      • Rahner says:

        I would refer you to previous Secondsight discussions of original sin and to Jack Mahoney’s recent book on this topic……….

  27. St.Joseph says:

    Did you not understand anything that I asked of you?
    It is obvious you don’t experience the Spiritual state of our souls in relation to or why God sent His only son.
    Of ‘course’ you would understand Jack Mahoneys article and agree -as it appeals to the earthly mind to which fallen man belongs too.
    The Spiritual world that Jesus came to teach has no bearing on evolution if it had He would have spoke about it!
    Jack Mahoney’s thinking is not the Last Gospel of St John ,if it was meant to be we would know.!!
    It seems to me that you can not envisage Paradise and I pity you, the Kingdom of God is close at hand-little- do many know.

    • Rahner says:


      • St.Joseph says:

        Rahner.When you do sleep- I hope it will be in Christ, and you will then see His Face in the Beatific Vision I do hope you don’t Yawn,Yawn then!.But maybe your soul will have reached its full understanding of the Spiritual Life of Eternity, and you wont’t be worrying your soul about earthly matters I will pray for you and hope!!!!

  28. Gerry says:

    Singalong, I was going to send a note for St Joseph and other NFP enthusiasts about the Catholic Medical Quarterly, but you beat me to it. I think St Joseph would enjoy it, although she probably knows it all already. There’s a photo of an elderly John and Lyn Billings, and a note that John started investigating NFP in 1953; an article proving absolutely conclusively that Humanae Vitae is an infallible teaching; and several articles on NFP.

    The Guild, as it used to be called had about 500 members in 2008, but this may have increased after it was opened to nurses and other health professionals. I’ve been a member for 60 years.

  29. Singalong says:

    Thank you, Gerry, and for all your statistics and information about the whole issue. You really are at the coal face.

  30. Claret says:

    It all depends on what you want to believe and you’ll find a statistic to fit it and an expert to prove it.
    Here is something for the doomongers to chew on: You could fit the whole population of the world into a piece of land the size of Yorkshire.
    The fact that babies are no longer dying in the numbers required to keep the population down would seem to be a big ‘plus’ for abortion rates to increase ! More people dying of starvation would solve any food crisis.
    The fact is that more people also means more hands to do the work to produce more food. We can soon develop a frenzy of panic that we can soon believe that all will be well provided it affects someone else other than ‘me.’ Solved by somebody else, some other nation, some other person making the necessary sacrifice. Anybody but me.
    The world can cope. Don’t panic!

  31. mike Horsnall says:

    That statistic about Yorkshire is remarkable, where did you get it from?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Do you believe in ‘original sin’ ? What is your definition of Satan as the fallen Angel and St Michael and all the falling away from Grace and separation from God.
      Did we need a Saviour to suffer and die in such a horrible Crucifixion?
      How would you define fact from fiction in the Bible of the Fall?
      I believe this relevant to our thinking of how God made man in the beginningl
      Which part of the Bible ought we to believe and which not too?
      Do you believe that we are still evolving in our human nature and has nothing to do with the fall and have we gone beyond ourselves by playing God.,because many do not believe in Him.
      We are our own God and did not need a Saviour.then it would be easier to believe what you. say about messing about with creation , we can create ourselves instead of in co-operation with Him.

      • Quentin says:

        Might take me a year or two to do you justice, st.joseph, But you’ll find a piece or two on the Blog if you search for Original Sin. One piece – Remodelling Salvation History — describes a recent approach to Original Sin. On the literal truth of the Bible, Karen Armstrong’s book: ‘The Bible, the biography’ is very good on the different approaches to interpretation.
        Simply as a matter of fact, homo sapiens continues to evolve; we can see it for instance in the wide noses of Africans (cooling the breath) and the thinner noses of the Europeans (keeping the breath warm). It operates on a long timescale so it’s difficult to see. And it plays a smaller part in human development because our ingenuity enable us to adapt new conditions.

  32. Gerry says:

    Claret, In the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s we were told that we could get the world’s population onto the Isle of Wight. I don’t know who worked it out.

  33. St.Joseph says:

    Gerry.The comment I made above the last -is awaiting moderation.(thats the meaning of the Also)

    • St.Joseph says:

      overpopulationisamyth-should after it

      • St.Joseph says:

        Do you have any evidence that a women feels a greater desire to have sexual intercourse at ovulation.I know it is often said!
        That is not what I have found while teaching or others too.
        Women feel depressed- ovary pain- swelling of the breasts and some have even said that they feel the mucus is not ‘clean’ so abstained and that has been proven to me by the times that when they were told, then they became pregnant.One couple after 15 years.
        A friend of mine went to the doctor about 40 years ago- with discharge -he prescribed

        My last comments to you above were not a trick question-I feel that it is pertinent not ‘impertinent’.
        Maybe you missed it!

      • Quentin says:

        Yes, a number of studies have reported on aspects of this over recent years. Of course, as you would expect, it is not all women who react in this way, but sufficient number to show that there is a significant connection. Here is a study published this month and typical of the sort of work being done.

  34. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you for your reply .
    Of course it is a matter of opinion. As far as evolution of humans, I can appreciate how the different environment can change appearances especially with tribal facilities.wearing rings in their noses etc.etc.
    Also as far as the story of Creation(s) I would be more confident to believe -than the story It is said of evolution It is said Moses wrote Genesis-was he kidding about the Ten Commandments as well??.
    I also think that-that is one of the main cause of atheism especially among young people who do not receive any Christian teaching -and will not discover the real knowledge of our souls and spiritual life,
    I know the Holy Father has said somewhere there is no danger to our faith to believe in it-I believe him to be wrong . As it was only his opinion.It is more beautiful to read to my mind and more acceptable.

  35. Gerry says:

    St Joseph, I couldn’t read everything on the two websites, but I get the general drift. It is very like the arguments between those who think global warming is due to human activity and those who don’t. It is endless.

    Briefly, Fr Paul Marx who founded the organization around 1970 was a Benedictine. Here is a quote fom another Benedictine at about the same date:

    When learned Benedictines can differ so profoundly, what chance have we got of solving the problem?

    I think what happens is this: If we look at regions of the world where effective family planning is used by most couples, where populations have stabilised, and where prosperity has developed faster than at any time in human history, we think that overpopulation is a myth. Eg Europe, North America, and many countries in the Far East. But, if we look at regions where family planning is available to few, where populations rocket upwards, and extreme poverty continues, we think that overpopulation is a grave danger. Eg Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan. And when we put the two regions together and count them as one we really do get confused!!

    The second website is one of the better overpopulation-is-a-myth sites. I can’t go into it too much because it’s getting late and I’m getting drowsy. Just two points:

    1) It notes that urbanization causes a reduction in the birth rate, but it does not mention that this is mainly because in cities family planning is more easily available.
    2) I can’t find th exact wording but somewhere it says that UN estimates tend to be high. Not always. I can’t check estimates against real figures, but checking early estimates against later estimates we see: The UN 2050 low estimate for Africa in 2004 was 1,666,000; in 2006 1,717,000; in 2008 1,748,000; and in 2010 1,931,000.
    My guess is that in those countries where peope have taken to family planning like ducks to water they have guessed to high, but in those counntries where it is difficult to get family planning they guess too low. But this is not always so.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you Gerry for your reply.
      There will always be different thoughts either way, that is why we must always look at the moral issues along with our spiritual Christian thinking, and to cover the whole picture, and the right means to sort the problem out-if it becomes one,and I can not see it being one at this present moment. I can see problems messing about with The Lords work, we ought not to be in the business of playing God in Creation ,but working at preaching the Gospel that Jesus taught on the sermon on the Mount.,the central, and at the heart of the proclamation of His preaching.
      They take up the promise of the chosen people since Abraham.
      The Beatitudes fulfil the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory,but to the Kingdom of Heaven.
      I apologise for quoting too many Spiritual thoughts here but they are a large part of our Christian faith.I know you know that-but some reading the blog may not.

  36. Horace says:

    Quentin poses the question :-
    . . whether the Church’s understanding of the moral law takes into account the fact that human rates of fertility have evolved according to circumstances. If they have, how could we read an absolute moral imperative from human sexual structure?
    I do not understand how we are to read an absolute moral imperative from human sexual structure if by the word ‘structure’ you mean anatomy and physiology.
    I am quite happy with Casti Connubii (54).

    A later version of the question reads :-
    . . can we modify human fertility when, through an accident of evolution, it no longer matches the needs of human beings, and in fact endangers their welfare?
    Now, to me this is quite different. We are no longer dealing with the behaviour of individuals. I think, however, that it perhaps might have read :-
    . . may we modify human fertility when it no longer matches the needs of human beings, and in fact endangers their welfare?
    This might imply decreasing the likelihood of having more than (say) 2 children without necessarily “frustrating the natural power of the conjugal act”.

    • Quentin says:

      Horace, you are right to make the distinction but wrong to assume that the Church does not work on the basis of physical sexual structure. This whole moral area is posited explicitly on the fact that an analysis of the structure of the conjugal act shows that it is essentially ordered to procreation. This is what is meant by ‘intrinsically evil’, i.e. cannot be excused by good intention. And JPII’s ‘Theology of the Body’ (available on the internet) majors on the claim that to render such acts of “total self giving” infertile involves a contradiction.

  37. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin. Thank you for your reply on Premenstrual Syndrome. (PMS).
    No -one as yet knows with certainty the exact cause, but the changing levels of the two female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) and/or the balance between the two, are certainly factors.
    It is a while since I studied it on a course , but there is a lot on the web . Some of the symptoms include Headaches, tiredness, feeling full and bloated, feeling weepy and emotional, depression, clumsiness, feelings of panic and anxiety, a general feeling og inability to cope,mood swings, tender and painful breasts, irritability, lack of concentration,food cravings,particularly for sweets and chocolate.
    I can be, it is said ‘eased with diet’. and severe cases Progesterone and Oestrogen treatment.
    But there may be more ,Prof Studd of St Thomas’s Hospital suggests oestrogen patches for 8 days after ovulation which is helpful for some.
    Oral Progestogens such as found in the mini pill do not help.

    I will be rather busy now concentrating on three Choir Concerts for Christmas-so I will only be looking in occasionally.


  38. Claret says:

    We have moved on since to another blog issue since I read of your request ref: Yorkshire and the World’s population.
    The actual statistic relates to the Isle of Wight but has since been disputed ( I think it was only meant to mean that if the I of W was a flattened piece of land it would suffice.) So I have updated it to Yorkshire to allow for a bit more room! Of course it would be crowded but it is certainly large enough. It is all about how many people can stand in an acre and how many acres there are in Yorkshire.
    I look at it this way. Wembley stadium holds 100.000 seated people and is only about one tenth full if every avaibale nook and cranny was made available. That is 1 million people and you could fit limitless millions of Wembley stadiums in Yorkshire

  39. mike Horsnall says:

    Thanks Claret.

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