Sunday, February 19, 2012

Contraception in society

As a small epilogue, here are some advertisements for contraception.  Notice their rationale for promoting said products and also, has anyone ever seen a commercial featuring a married couple?  Ponder that for a minute!


There has been much said and reported on recently regarding the HHS mandate that Catholic organizations and institutions along with like-minded employers involved with healthcare start providing contraceptives to those who request it.  With this in mind, I thought it would be good to go deeper into why the Church believes such things are wrong.  This ties into my previous Pro-life post, in which I touched on this briefly.

To reiterate, all of what the Church teaches on sexuality stems from the sacrament of marriage/matrimony.  It is the definition of marriage, specifically the “openness to children” criterion, which affects all that was touched on in “Pro-Life”.  Homosexuality, contraception, and abortion are the big issues involved.  Each act of intercourse between husband and wife should be open to the possibility of conceiving a child.

Some would say, “Ah ha!  That’s why so-and-so Catholic has 12 children!” or ask, “So no sex unless we want children?”  To answer that question, I say yes and no.  Yes, we should be open to the possibility, but no, not just when reproduction is the only aim.  Couples should “renew” their vows often, and God created us in such a way to make this possible.

As we all know, men are fertile 24/7.  “When the moment is right”, they are good to go.  Women, on the other hand, are typically fertile for a relatively short period of time each month, roughly a week for those with consistent schedules.  It is the beauty of this design that allows us to say, “Yes, we’re open”, but God can say, “Not this time.”  This is how methods like rhythm method were developed.  Since that particular method is highly inaccurate, others have been developed and are used by many women today, like the Sympto-Thermal Method or the Creighton Method (we use the latter now after using the former).  Essentially, using the signs God “programmed” into women, it can be determined how likely a pregnancy is to occur.  This is called Natural Family Planning (NFP for short).

Objections now might be, “Wait, that’s still a form on contraception!”, but it is in God’s hands, not ours.  A pregnancy is possible during an infertile time, but it is unlikely and vice versa.  Catholicism essentially teaches that using things like condoms or pills essentially say to God, “I give you my all, except for what happens in the bedroom.”  It is also worth noting that the phrase “protected sex” is contradictory, because what are you protecting yourself from and why do you need protection from your spouse?

What has happened in our society is a redefining what sexual intercourse is.  Because of the “sexual revolution” in the 1960s, sex has become purely recreational; it feels good.  Naturally defined, sex is meant as a means to reproduce; it’s the natural order of things.  As people created in God’s image, this holds true as well, but it takes on a higher meaning.  Sex, as God defines it, is meant to affirm the sacred union between husband and wife.  That is the cake; the feeling and stimulation is the icing.  Far too many people think sex is all about the icing, which leaves them spiritually and emotionally sick.

Contraception was not designed by some great medical persona believe it or not.  Nor was it originally designed to prevent pregnancy.  All it does it allow us to give into our sexual appetites and ignore self-control, because with it we avoid the “consequences” of sex.  Christopher West notes in his book, “Good News About Sex and Marriage” that contraception not only violates the openness to children, but the other marriage criteria.  For example, with fidelity, he writes:

“Being faithful to one’s spouse does not only mean refraining from adultery.  It means living what you promised at the altar through thick and thin, no matter how difficult, no matter how challenging, no matter how much sacrifice is required.  Couples who succumb to sterilizing their acts of intercourse have consciously or unconsciously decided that fidelity to their vows is too demanding.  Consciously or unconsciously, they choose to be unfaithful to the promises they made at the altar.” (pg. 111)

Essentially, contraception allows to us to be like animals, giving in to our base desires.  However, we are called to practice self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), part of the fruit of the Spirit.  This is part of how we are made in God’s image; we can decide to ignore those desires.  Paul himself wrote to the Corinthians, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize,” (1 Cor. 9:27) and even earlier said, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” (1 Cor. 6:12f)

I leave you with some notable figures that predicted (some could even say, prophesied) about what would happen to a society that embraced contraception along with a recent article from Business Insider:

“Artificial methods are like putting a premium on vice.  They make men and women reckless... Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws.  Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints… As it is, man has sufficiently degraded woman for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.” – Mohandas Gandhi

“The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.” – T.S. Eliot

“Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee's report (to allow marital contraception) carried into effect would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution, by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptive would be ‘careful and restrained’ is preposterous.” – Washington Post editorial written in response to Anglican Church and Federal Council of Churches, USA, decisions to allow contraception in marriage in 1930.

“Surely it should need no demonstration to show that willful sterility is, from the standpoint of the nation, from the standpoint of the human race, the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement.” – Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, State of the Union address, December 3, 1906

“The abandonment of the reproductive function is the common feature of all perversions.  We actually describe a sexual activity as perverse if it has given up the aim of reproduction and pursues the attainment of pleasure as an aim independent of it.” – Sigmund Freud

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Love Jesus and Religion

For anyone who may be out of the loop, there has been a video circulating called “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.”  Many responses to said video have cropped up, with people both praising it and others harshly criticizing it.  If you have yet to view it, check here:

I find that while the author makes some good points, there are many things I think he gets wrong.  First, he starts with the statement “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion.”  This I strongly disagree with.  Jesus was a practicing Jew, and his message was largely to the Jewish people who were awaiting the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek).  Many times Jesus is seen teaching in synagogues and also celebrating the various Jewish, most notably the Passover before his death.  He even said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” (Matt. 5:17).

Now about the whole “religion starts wars, fails to feed the poor,” etc., yes, that has happened historically.  But here’s the thing:  we’re all human and we’re all fallen creatures in need of God’s grace.  Are we quick to judge at times?  Yes.  Are we going to look out for ourselves instead of others at times?  Yes.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not.  Jesus knew all this when he formed his disciples.  Look at them, and really take a close look.  Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots:  all groups who were certainly not at the top of the pyramid.  Look at Peter, James and John, Thomas, Judas; a fine example of “rag tag” if ever there was one.

Yet, it as Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:27, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”  This is why throughout history in the Catholic Church, many popes are in a sense terrified at being elected, unlike today’s politicians who revel in it and celebrate it.

Thankfully, Jesus gave us hope when he established this New Covenant.  Look at these statements:

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt. 16:18b)
“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20b)

Hypocrisy gets some noted face time as well.  Again, we’re human and not perfect.  I know all too well that there are hypocrites out there; the Catholic Church is tragically well known for this.  Terms like “Chreaster” or “Ash/Palm” Catholics get thrown around (Chreaster is fairly universal in any church).  It does bother me that people, especially Catholics, are not serious about their faith and simply go through the motions, but I cannot change their hearts; only God can.

“Jesus and religion are on opposites spectrums.  One’s the work of God, the other’s a man-made invention.”  Hardly, since Jesus established the New Covenant to fulfill God’s original promise.  As mentioned above, Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  Even the Pharisee Gamaliel admitted this when the disciples were brought before the Sanhedrin, saying,

“Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.  Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.  Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:35-39)

The well known saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is a perfect metaphor for the Church.  Despite the various weak links that have strained the Church, still it stands as Jesus promised it would.

For those also interested, here's a response video:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Clarity

As Christmas came upon us, I'm sure many of us saw nativity scenes/creche with the shepherds, magi, Mary and Joseph, and various animals all around the manger with a star above the stable. We have sung many carols as well, like "The First Nowell." While such a song and scene are nice and remind us of the story, they paint an inaccurate picture of the events that we read in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

To start, we look at Luke, which has details regarding Jesus' actual birth. This is where we receive the details of Mary and Joseph being turned away because there was no room in the inn, so they had to stay in a stable, which is where Mary gives birth. Shortly after this, the scene cuts to shepherds watching over their flocks. An angel appears, telling them the news of the Christ being born and where to find this newborn child. Notice there is no mention of a star or magi.

Now we turn to Matthew. Here, the birth itself is glossed over, with attention more on Joseph's actions (1:18-25). Chapter 2 then turns to the Magi, who come to Jerusalem looking for the "King of the Jews". We are familiar with the events: Herod wants to know where the child is also to kill him, the Magi are told to not go back, and Herod goes on a rampage. However, there are a couple key details to note. We read in 2:7 that Herod finds out when the star first appeared. This is what aids him in his decision to kill all boys in the vicinity under the age of two (2:16). It seems highly likely then, that Jesus is a toddler at this point. Also, the Magi do not come to a stable, but a house (2:11), so the Holy Family has found permanent residence by the time these Magi arrive with their three kinds of gifts. And speaking of, we do not know how many Magi there were. I'd like to think there was a sizable group of these foreigners, but that detail is omitted.

It is because of these details that we celebrate the visit of the Magi separately from Christmas in the feast of Epiphany, which is Jan. 6 (the twelfth day of Christmas). Many parishes with nativity scenes may move the Magi away, but then bring them closer as Epiphany approaches, symbolizing their journey.

The Magi themselves, according to scholars, could have been Chaldeans or from another Eastern culture. These men were astronomers essentially, hence why the star is instrumental in their search. This should further impress us that even these Gentiles recognized that something incredible had occurred, while many Jews missed it entirely, which is seen throughout Jesus' ministry.