Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Army of One

Well I'm just batting 1000 with my Greek Mythology images aren't I?

This study
from the Globe finds that more college students than ever before are narcissistic. Ya think?

Some cultural trends that have contributed to this:

Mass Ad Populum
Tabernacles and crucifixes- removed from the Sanctuary
Remember Time Magazine's Person of the year? It's you.
Having one or two children.
Social security- hey, if the government will take care of the elderly we don't have to.
Celebrity worship of the beautiful people
Heresy of Universal Salvation- because it's every man for himself
The Automobile
Attachment Parenting - which is another way of letting kids do whatever they want
NFP- when my will and God's will comes into conflict- I'll go with my will

Did I miss any?

I did- blogging.


Anonymous said...

Uh, Pope JPII clearly states that if a couple is using NFP the couple is following God's will. Sorry.

M. Alexander said...

And what if NFP "fails"?

NFP is tolerated and should not be promoted as mandatory and praiseworthy.

If I had a dollar for every "Catholic" who asked me if I knew about NFP- b/c I had way, way too many kids (and possibly they were feeling defensive) I wouldn't need a 401K.

What would have happened to St. Catherine of Siena if her parents believed in NFP? She was # 23.

Edward said...

Motives are everything.
NFP can be (and I suspect VERY often is) used as just another form of birth control.
It is still ONLY to be used for grave reasons.
Again, what is the MOTIVE behind its use - REALLY, honestly.
Motives are everything in morality.

Of course, that could be because I am basically an Augustinian theologically.
But still...

Anonymous said...

From a Catholic perspective there is no such thing as "failure" when NFP is used.

I understand you are defensive because so many Catholics don't understand that marriage means by its very nature to being open to life. My parents received those types of nasty comments all the time and they "only" had 5. Don't blame NFP, though.

Many Catholics mistakenly equate NFP with birth control and Pope JPII made it very clear you cannot even make that case because NFP respects God while contraception does not. BUT, like all good things, NFP CAN be abused like sex, food, etc.

Petrus said...

"Uh, Pope JPII clearly states that if a couple is using NFP the couple is following God's will. Sorry. "

RCM: I don't know of any circumstance when doing something, despite your motives or surroundings, is ALWAYS "following God's Will". There are TONS of theological errors with that without even delving into NFP.

Can you cite where JPII said that? I find that you make statements and then can't back them up... like with your comments regarding the IRA.

Madeline said...

I'd be interested in hearing what anyone thinks the "benefits" of NFP are. As far as I know, the goal of NFP is to prevent conception (also called "contraception"). The means employed by NFP may be less offensive to God than artifical contraception, but the question is, is it a worthy goal?

Steve said...

I've gone around and around on the NFP question myself. In college I was for it (Novus Ordo Conservative) and after becoming a trad was adamantly opposed to it (thought it was just Catholic contraception.)

I'm at a point now where I see how it can be used in a way that is acceptable to God. I hesitate to accept the idea that using it is ever really more pleasing to God than not - I think that being faithful to his providence is likely the better course. It is, in my estimation, a greater good to trust Him and accept the children given to us than to try to plan the conceptio of our children. There are cases, however, where prudence allows for the use of NFP, even though trust may be the more meritorious option.

On the other hand, NFP can certainly be equally as grave a sin as artificial contraception. This is the case when it is used with a contraceptive mentality. When this occurs, it is separated from artificial contraception only by its means and not by its end.

For those of us who struggle with the idea of how NFP can be acceptable, I think it's good to remember that human sexuality is designed with fertile and infertile periods; that breastfeeding can supress ovulation for a certain period of time; and that we are posessed of an intelligence capable of identifying these changes. God could easily have designed fertility to be an "always on" scenario. He didn't.

This means that periodic abstinence for grave reasons fits within His plan for human sexuality.

How does NFP differ, then from artificial contraception? It comes down to an understanding of the nature of a moral act. While circumstances could dictate a certain obligation (ie., marital debt), generally speaking, spouses can never be bound to engage in the marital act as a matter of course. Ergo, there is no moral implication for abstaining from from the marital act. Abstinence, in this case, is not an omission. It is rather a non-act. It simply doesn't exist.

Conversely, in the case of artificial contraception, one is always committing a moral evil. It is an act, not a non-act (as in the case of abstinence). And it is an act that distorts human sexuality and separates it from its natural end.

NFP has become all but compulsory in the Catholic Church. It has been elevated to the level of a good by JPII because he also believed that in marriage, the unity of spouses was an equal good to the procreation of children - something that flew in the face of the traditional Church teaching that the primary end is in fact the procreation of children.

This is, in my view, an error that will eventually be corrected. It's good to remember that just because a pope says something - even in an encyclical - doesn't make it binding or even right.

Anonymous said...

Petrus: You are right. I did not get back to you on the IRA and completely forgot about it. I am a full time mom and I am in the midst of coaching a competitive DDF team so I did not have time to seek it out at the time.

I don't want to abuse MA's blog, but I thoroughly covered this very topic on my blog with all the citations and sources straight out of the mouths of the Popes (Four of them in all +) themselves. I don't know how to link it, so you will have to go to the January 29,2007 archives and you will have access to Pope Paul VI's, JPII's, Pius XII's quotes.

Here is Pope JPII's thoughts from Familiaris (sp) Consortio #32:"In the light of the experience of many couples and of the data provided by the different human sciences, theological reflection is able to perceive and is called to study further the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle: It is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is, the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control.To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity. In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality in its physical dimension also. In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never "used" as an "object" that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God's creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person."

Edward said...

May I just write here how wonderful a reflection Steve has given us.
Steve, thank you so much. I'm going to copy this and keep it for a reference.
Lucid, balanced, well-ordered - Catholic!!!
I really, really mean it. Thank you so much!

NCTradCatholic said...

I believe Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae that "grave" reasons are required to use NFP. Radical Catholic Mom, I can't find the archives on your blog. How do I get to them?

Madeline said...

Hi, Steve;

I really agree with a lot of what you've written, but there are a few assertions with which I disagree, and I just wanted to comment, and ask for your thoughts.

When you mention that human sexuality is designed with fertile and infertile periods, I think we have to remember that the current human condition (physiologically as well as spiritually) does not exist according to the original design. I don't think that the current condition, or our knowledge of it, necessarily adds to the justification to use that condition and knowledge of it to prevent conception. However, if these conditions are close enough to the original design, we may have this knowledge of it to aid in conception, not to prevent it.

I also don't see how NFP can be used (except in the case above), without a "contraceptive mentality" if the reason for it is to prevent conception.

Finally, and I may be opening another can of worms, here, I understand that it is the duty of each spouse (to some degree) to respond to the sexual needs of the other. This is part of the marriage covenant.

I'd appreciate your comments. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

M.Alexander & Petrus,

This has been a nagging question for me and hopefully you will be able to answer it.

How do you understand the Church's call to Chastity for married people? Many people who are against NFP argue that it is too hard to do. It actually places restraints on a couple. I am sure you are not against marital chastity, so I wonder, how do you incorporate it into your lives if you are against delaying sex?

Petrus said...

RCM: I don't feel comfortable commenting on this since I'm not married. However, it occurs to me that you are using chastity in a very narrow context. You're idea of chastity seems to be "no sex".

God doesn't ask us to simply avoid sin and its occassion, but to do good. In this sense, perhaps you should try looking at Chastity as a positive virtue - as in, purity intentions and really wanting the other person to get to heaven.

Anonymous said...

Petrus: Good point. I also realized after I asked the question, I did not mean to ask for details so to speak. I am wondering about your philosophy or your understanding of how it plays out within marriage.

I need to think about what you have said.

Steve: I agree with you that all good things can be abused. However, the Church has taught that respecting the woman's cycle is part of God's Will,not just Pope JPII. They all teach the caveat that the couple must have good intentions. I make that assumption with most couples who even accept the Church's teachings on sexuality, which most Catholics do not.

NCTradCatholic: If you use Internet Explorer, my sidebar is at the bottom of the page. I cannot figure out how to get it up to the point. If you use Firefox you can access it on the side under Jan 2007 archives. I will try and make one post with all the links if I have some time.

And M.A. one more point, how is NFP becoming a "cultural trend" again? Most people, including active Catholics, I know use artificial contraception.

Anonymous said...

This is NCTradCatholic. For some reason, it's not letting me sign on with my "new" account. Grrr.. Got it, Radical Catholic Mom! Thanks. Chastity, in all states of life, means purity, which is not necessarily the same as celibacy. As a married man, being chaste means I desire only my wife, avoid pornography and self abuse, and avoid occasions of sin with other women. Pretty much a no-brainer, but a lotta guys fall short!

Petrus said...


A couple of things. I don't think that not using NFP means disrespecting a woman's cycle. NFP is working around the cycle to prevent conception. I feel that that use is actually manipulating a woman's cycle.

Also, the part about good intentions is not a "caveat" or a "catch", it is the raison d'etre. I believe the terminology is "grave reasons". Being tired, feeling overwhelmed, needing "me" time are not grave reasons in my book, but those are the very reasons many defenders of NFP use. Perhaps a situation where there is alcohol or drug abuse in the house would be a "grave" reason.

My biggest problem with NFP is that it leads people to think that they can "control" how many children God sends them. However, no one can. Everytime a child is conceived, it is God's will. Some couples want 12, and only have 6. One family I knew wanted three, and ended up with five because the wife had triplets on her third pregnancy.

I think the question that a lot of users of NFP have to ask themselves is: Am I doing this for a "grave" reason, or is it because in some part I resent my job as a mother, and want it to end as quickly as possible.

The reason that NFP promotes a contraceptive mentality is because it leads people to feel that they can have marital relations without the responsbility of children - which are the natural consequence of marital relations. Isn't that what birth control does? I think that this LEADS to disrespect in a marriage, not further respect.

M. Alexander said...

Well said Petrus and I don't think I could improve upon it. Maybe the Petrus blog needs to visit this topic!

Edward said...

" Everytime a child is conceived, it is God's will. Some couples want 12, and only have 6."

In reading these ideas, it has occurred to me that NFP is also tied in with another misconception (so to speak) that seems to be gaining currency among conservative Catholics - especially in affluent countries: the idea that if a couple cannot conceive a child, they somehow have the "right" to use almost any means that modern science can afford to get one, dag nabbit!
"Doesn't the Church want us to have children after all?" they will assert.
Well, yes and no.
The Church teaches that we as faithful married Catholics MUST be open to the RECEPTION (as opposed to the mere "conception") of children because they are a GIFT from God, new souls entrusted to by Him into our fostering to populate Heaven.
For His own ineffible yet most Merciful reasons, it may be His Will that a couple does not receive this gift. In other words, no married couple, even one that is godly and devout, has an inherent "right" to one or more children born to them in the ordinary way of nature.
Yet it seems to me that the misapprehension and ultimate abuse of NFP only serves to inform and fuel this error: as if in the end WE are to determine the size and circumstances of our families.

Anonymous said...


I think you and I are agreeing with each other. I agree with everything you say. I guess I assume that if a couple is using NFP they are also using it correctly. I know for myself, my husband & I are in constant prayer and dialogue about the uses every single month. Which is exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says a couple is supposed to do.

I also don't think it is right for us to judge someone's use of it without knowing all the circumstances. Humanae Vitae says "just reasons including the physical and psychological needs of the husband and wife." That is really broad.

I think Chastity is also connected to sex, Petrus. I know from what female friends have told me that they feel their husbands want sex from them all the time. Just like NFP can be abused, sex within marriage can certainly be abused and I hear the stories. I think for many women, NFP invites Chastity within the marriage. One friend of mine told me NFP saved her marriage (they didn't use any bc prior). How? She had been a rape victim, like 30% of females today, and she did not have boundaries.

When I say "sex can be abused" I am not talking about rape. I am talking about one of the couples wanting sex more than the other partner and the partner feeling pressure to give in and feeling conflicted. To me this is very important because it is an issue I have heard from non-nfpers and those using birth control. I have never heard an NFP couple complaining about this problem. **I am not saying all couples who follow Church teaching by not using anything are not inviting Chastity within their marriage. Usually happy people do not talk about their sex life because, IMO it is highly inappropriate. I am wondering if your definition incorporates this issue?

Anonymous said...

"NFP is working around the cycle to prevent conception. I feel that that use is actually manipulating a woman's cycle."

The Church's clear teaching blatantly disagrees with you. You have the right to reject it, but do not criticize those Catholics who believe it and follow it. If you actually read the Church's take on this, and cite your source I might hear you a little better. Right now I would almost classify you as a Cafeteria Catholic who rejects a teaching that you don't agree with or like. Come on. You sound like you are an educated Catholic.

Edward: I do not know ONE couple who follows the Church's teaching by either not using anything or using NFP who believes they have a "right to a child via all necessary means." I know many contraceptive users who are undergoing IVF "treatment". Do you know an NFP couple who is using unethical means?

M. Alexander said...

Dear RCM,

You have brought up so many issues-

1. You assume everyone is using NFP correctly. I hope you are right. I don't bring up NFP with anyone. I don't ask people why they have 1 child or why they have 10 children. People who promote NFP bring it up constantly. Non NFP users are constantly on the defensive to explain why they are NOT using NFP.

2. Judging others- I don't judge anyone. I find that I am assaulted with the most personal details of marriage - abc, ivf, nfp, etc.. Believe me I wish they wouldn't b/c then I can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt.

3. The issue of one spouse "wanting more sex" is another HUGE HUGE problem with NFP. The purpose of it is not to punish your husband or wife or give yourself boundaries (show me that in an encyclical). Marriage is the antithesis of boundaries. If your friend who was raped needs boundaries in her marriage she is not ready for marriage. Her husband should not have to pay the price for what a rapist did to her. NFP is being used as a weapon against her husband- this I see all the time. Maybe the spouse who wants "boundaries" should try being generous. The marital debt is the obligation of the spouses- not a bonus that is parcelled out or has to be earned and granted.

4. Happy couples don't talk about their sex life- happy or unhappy no one should talk about it. NFP, it's study and teaching often violate modesty. You are in a mixed setting of men and women talking about something that should be personal and sacred.

5. You are right that not many couples use NFP though it is becoming huge among feminists (not too surprising since it is all about saying no, and setting boundaries). This is what makes it such a dangerous trap. You take the couples trying to be faithful to the Church, trying to be generous and you dilute their generosity and the result is fewer children to good Catholic homes, fewer souls going to God for all eternity, fewer vocations, a lessening of sanctity for the husband wife and children, and I believe it is a strain on a marriage. (Look at the McFarlanes- NFP didn't help them much did it?)

For all the people and priests who ever said to me, "Don't you know about NFP" I ask myself if it was really my good and that of my family that they were promoting- why didn't they ever offer to "help" in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM? They could have offered to make dinner, babysit, sit and talk, anything. Now I don't expect anyone to help me raise my family and no one is obligated to offer to help but the next time you or anyone else reading this is tempted to say, or recommend NFP why not try giving something of yourself first. Then, you might, just might get what I'm trying to say.

Ibid said...

hey Guys, I think you are all missing a major flaw in this post.

NFP, a subject that has gotten way out of hand in recent years, is not what all these comments should be about. I would reccomend we examine some of these "causes" of college narcissism. As far as I can see, some of them, such as TIME'S person of the year being you, having one or two children, spas, youtube, myspace, and to an extent blogging are more results of an already rampant narcissitic culture. What we do about this problem could also be a topic for responses, or better yet, another post.

HSarsfield said...

RCM said:
"I don't want to abuse MA's blog, but I thoroughly covered this very topic on my blog with all the citations and sources straight out of the mouths of the Popes..."

Here I thought you were going to address the issue of the IRA, and how you have proclaimed them to be terrorists. I'm still waiting for that one.

petrus said...

RCM: How are you we agreeing, yet you later call me a cafeteria Catholic?

Also, why are wives complaining to you about thier intimate relationships with their husbands? I can't imagine that those conversations are anything but purient. Perhaps if they are having serious problems they should seek professional help like a counselor or a priest in confession.

My source for saying "I think working around a woman's cycle is manipulating it" is the source cited in the sentence... myself. While I understand and accept that the Church allows this "manipulation" (my word) in grave circumstances, I don't think that it is something to be taken lightly.

Also, if an NFP couple discusses monthly whether or not this would be a good time to have a baby, how is it that there are grave circumstances so often? Do these grave circumstance occur daily? weekly? monthly? how long do they go on for? years?

See, this dynamic seems contrary to the term "grave".

You still have not defended your statement: If a couple is using NFP, they are doing God's will. Do you at least concede that they COULD be using NFP and NOT doing God's will?

Tradcatholic said...

RCM said:..."She had been a rape victim, like 30% of females today,..

Where does THAT 'statistic' come from? If it is from the feminist establishment it is bunk. Many of these so called 'statistics' come from the 'Our Body Our Selves' crowd, who think that control of their bodies , even in marriage, is a RIGHT...no matter what the husband thinks or wants.
And,as an important aside, using the term 'having sex' in reference to the holy marital union between spouses, is degrading. Do your four Popes use that term in their writings? I doubt it.The proper respectful term is 'intercourse' or 'sexual intercourse'or marital relations. Having 'sex' is what prostitutes do, or teenagers in the back of a car, which is certainly NOT 'becoming as one' in the eyes of God.
NFP can be just 'having sex' when little 'intercourse', whether verbal or sexual is involved. NFP used for contraceptive purposes is analogus to filling the gas tank in the Suburban, climing in and then not turning on the ignition. You are in a great car, but going nowhere!
The recent Popes may have expounded on the use of NFP -in grave circumstances---remember- their counsel being as was that of Moses: he allowed divorce because of the 'hardness of their hearts'. It was not so in the begining in the plan of God.

NCTradCatholic said...

Hey, TradCatholic, nice to hear from you! But please don't remind us of those increasingly painful stops at the gas station. My wallet's getting too thin...

surgite et coffeam olfacite said...

I think you forgot really huge wedding and I don't know why everyone is upset that NFP is on there when spas is the biggest misfit. I would link all my favorite spas but then everyone would know my beauty secrets!!