Monday, August 15, 2011

When devout secularists and devout Catholics agree...

…then it's time for everyone else to pay attention, because a point of great clarity has likely been reached.

A few examples of what I mean:


Embryonic Stem Cell Research and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Years ago, I was listening to Ron Reagan, Jr. (avowed leftist and atheist) advocate on television for embryonic stem cell research. Young Ron was strongly in support of using "excess" human embryos from IVF labs for research material. He caught my full attention when he dismissed pro-lifers' objections to embryo research by noting with a smug chuckle: "Look, if pro-life Christians were really interested in the protection of human embryos, if they really thought those embryos were babies, they'd be against IVF as well. But they're not!"

That "gotcha" statement had me yelling speaking calmly to Ron through the TV: "Why, yes! You are right, Ron, that one cannot logically oppose the use of embryos for research and support IVF at the same time. The Catholic Church teaches that both embryonic stem cell research and IVF are immoral. Both violate the dignity of the smallest humans, and ultimately lead to their mass destruction. The Catholic Church is utterly consistent when it comes to the life issues." (Okay, I didn't use those exact words, but that's what I meant.)

Ron thought he was making a clever point. He was; he just didn't realize that the Church had been making that point for years. 



Contraception and Homosexual "Marriage"

In July 1997, Philip Lawler wrote an excellent article about homosexuality in The Catholic World Report, which I've saved to this day. In it, Lawler quotes homosexual activist Andrew Sullivan* from his book, Virtually Normal
The heterosexuality of marriage is intrinsic only if it is understood to be intrinsically procreative; but [with the acceptance of contraception] that definition has long ago been abandoned by Western society.
The response from Lawler, a faithful Catholic:
If Sullivan's premise is correct, then his logic is inexorable. If [sex] is robbed of its distinctive quality -- its fecundity -- then there is no rational explanation for a public policy that restricts that franchise to heterosexuals.
They are right. If a culture accepts the marriage act stripped of its essence and purpose, with willfully sterilized sex now the norm within marriage, then that culture will be hard pressed to find a philosophical leg to stand on when traditional marriage needs defending. Pro-contraception Christians are in a particularly hard spot.

The redefining of marriage began with society's acceptance of contraception, and both gay activists and the Catholic Church know it.

(Update April 2013: More secularists make the connection, here.)


Contraception and Abortion

Those who approve of contraception but are uncomfortable with abortion will deny the link between contraception and abortion all day long. But how then to explain the similarity of reasoning between the liberal, pro-abortion Supreme Court justices and the pro-life Pope in Rome? Though diametrically opposed on this issue, both sides "get it": There is a symbiotic relationship between contraception and abortion that cannot logically be denied.

Liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, 1992 (emphases mine):
...for two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives...  
...In some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception.

Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (emphases mine):
But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practised under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God's law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.
If opposing sides understand the connection, why is it hard for the "middle" to see?


Abortion and Infanticide

Atheist Peter Singer (a utilitarian and celebrated Princeton bioethicist) believes that most people are missing something important in the debates about human life and death. His logical mind agrees with the Catholic Church that "viability" and "birth" are utterly arbitrary designations when discussing the morality of abortion and infanticide:
[I]n discussing abortion, we saw that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be 'replaced' before birth, but newborn infants may not be. Nor is there any other point, such as viability, that does a better job of dividing the fetus from the infant. Self-consciousness, which could provide a basis for holding that it is wrong to kill one being and replace it with another, is not to be found in either the fetus or the newborn infant. -- "Taking Life: Humans", from Practical Ethics, 1993.
Singer understands that abortion and infanticide are not morally different. "Viability" and birth itself are illusory lines drawn by abortion proponents to make themselves feel a moral distinction where there is none.

Of course, while Singer horrifically uses this truth to make the case for infanticide, the Church uses this same truth to call for the protection of all innocent human life, beginning at conception.

Pope John Paul II called the battle we face The Culture of Life vs. The Culture of Death, with lines clearly drawn. But those who deny the very existence of a culture war insist that the "truth" lies somewhere in the gray and shadowy middle, and that we can safely dismiss the two "extremes". I am grateful, therefore, for the refreshing clarity of Peter Singer when he spoke about his philosophical, spiritual, and cultural nemesis, Pope John Paul II:

"I sometimes think that he and I at least share the virtue of seeing clearly what is at stake."

May the rest of us have the grace to see it clearly, too.





*Sullivan identifies as Catholic, but he takes the position of the secular left when it comes to gay "marriage" and social issues. He has described himself as a "religious secularist" and a "dogged defender of…secularism."


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221 comments:

  1. What an interesting post! Thanks, Leila!

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  2. Whew this post is loaded! Can't wait for all the comments to roll in!

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  3. Leila-this is perfect. I've thought this for so long (especially about contraception and abortion) and you have stated my thoughts so clearly. The logic is right there-if we only have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.

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  4. Great post! I have met so many pro-life people who are not against IVF. They don't realize that the same arguments to justify embryo destruction also justify abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.

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  5. Hi Leila et al,
    I agree that the link between abortion (particularly past the first trimester) and infanticide makes sense to articulate. Also the link between IVF and ESCR an abortion. But again, if you are talking about limiting births within a marriage, it does not appear much different to me (and many others) to use barrier methods or to use NFP with the goal of not conceiving. With proper education, including comprehensive knowledge of reproductive cycles etc., under a scenario where abortion is strictly illegal, we will see a gradual change where people become much more careful and attentive to using their contraception correctly.

    If we lived in a limitless world (which is a logical impossibility) or had 10,000 worlds within the distance of the moon, I would say, sure...no problem, exponential growth is fine for those whose immediate surroundings seem amenable to it, and who are very interested in having large families. But, we do not live in such a place.

    Again, no problem with individuals making choices for their family size, but I do have a problem with an institution that preaches Truth to sidestep the reality of finiteness for both regional areas and for the entire world.

    It is interesting to me that people like Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life try to debunk the "overpopulation myth" by combining a series of true facts with misrepresentations. For example, here: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2008/0812fea2.asp
    in reference to the world total fertility rate, he says, "In 1960 it was an average of 6 children per woman; by 2002 it was just 2.6. Around 2.1 is the replacement level, that is, the number of children that each couple needs to have to maintain the population."
    But...he never elaborates on why the TFR declined so rapidly! In truth, it was largely in response to family planning practices (sadly including abortion). To employ this statistic as a reassuring point to dissuade those concerned about overpopulation who advocate contraception is just plain disingenuous.

    I have recently summoned the guts to talk to some leftists about this very subject, and they all come to that sticking point. Why do none of the faithful Catholics see the incongruity?

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  6. On another note, the following link in the NYT speaks to the link between IVF and abortion: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/the-two-minus-one-pregnancy.html?_r=1

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  7. Mary, thanks for the link to that horrendous article about the "selective reduction" of the lady's twins. I had meant to include it in Quick Takes, and I did have a lot on that on my facebook. The horror that some pro-aborts express in the comments section of that article is good news in the sense that they realize something is horribly wrong with what the woman did. But I think instead of making them turn against abortion, they will simply eventually accept the idea of selective reduction (abortion) with multiple IVF pregnancies (which is very common).

    As for overpopulation: Catholics do not believe that the world is going to be overpopulated, even without contraception. So, there is no sticking point there. If a woman is educated enough to use contraception, why can't she be educated to use NFP? That is what Mother Teresa and her nuns taught the poorest of the poor. It is being taught all around the world. And if a family decides to have many children, that is good for a society. Aren't people the world's greatest resource? When we speak of all the ills of "overpopulation" we are usually talking about the sin of evil and corrupt governments which keep food and resources from the people. Meanwhile, the developed world is crashing and burning. Europe and Western civilization will cease to exist if this population dearth keeps us. The only reason we have so many people on the planet now is because the elderly are living so much longer! Don't worry about too many births, is what I am saying.

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  8. Awesome post Leila! So much truth in this. Thank you!

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  9. Leila,
    I get all of what you are saying, but are you saying that with NFP, at some point the replacement rate will level off to 2.1 kids per woman (as a statistic, not saying every woman has 2.1 kids)? Is this what the Catholic intellects believe? Because...at some point in the future, growth will unsustainable for a finite world (I realize that you and others do not think we are anywhere close to that yet.)

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  10. Mary, so are your liberal friends so worried about the idea that the Church will get an army and force everyone to give up contraception, that they are ignoring the real problem at hand, which is the birth dearth? That seems illogical to me.

    Also, NFP use could never, ever lead to an abortion mentality. Contraception does.

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  11. Mary, I'm saying that if married people in any culture feel the need to limit their family size, they can do so with NFP, which is safe and moral and effective. If people continue to have bigger families, the world will not explode. The world at this point remains almost completely empty, believe it or not. The numbers don't lie. You can fit seven billion people comfortably in Texas, I believe. I recently saw a (secular) demographic website illustrating it. I have been trying to find it! But essentially, God does not fail to provide enough room or resources to feed and house His people. We have so much. Our problem is not lack of room or resources (or intelligent human minds to figure out how to get the job done), but rather sin and corruption, and failure to distribute.

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  12. but are you saying that with NFP, at some point the replacement rate will level off to 2.1 kids per woman (as a statistic, not saying every woman has 2.1 kids)

    I have not heard that 2.1 kids is a "goal" of any Catholic thinker. Married couples decide for themselves how many children God is calling them to have. Marriage is about sex, and sex is about children. So, children are supposed to come within marriage. Where there is marriage, there are children who come from that union. Otherwise, sex and marriage would not exist. (God would not have designed sex or established marriage if He did not wish for marriage to produce His children.)

    It's such a different mindset from the secular. But the demographers back up the scientific fact that we are not going to fall off the face of the earth from having "too many babies".

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  13. Mary, why do you think condoms are an exception to the contraceptive mentality? In terms of contraceptive use, the only difference between the Pill and condoms are that the latter are not abortifacent. They still, however, encourage the contraceptive mentality within marriage.

    Also, once again turning to the excellent Shameless Popery blog, I encourage you read one of Joe's posts titled "The Overpopulation Debate at a Glimpse."

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  14. Also, pop quiz... who said the following, and when?

    "We are burdensome to the world, the resources are scarcely adequate for us... already nature does not sustain us."

    (a) Paul Erlich, 1971 AD

    (b) Thomas Malthus, 1798 AD

    (c) Tertullian, 200 AD

    *insert Jeopardy theme here*

    Go here to find the answer!

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  15. Since I just saw this, I am linking to a short post by Bad Catholic (so funny… a teen no less)!

    http://badcatholicblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/abortion-wont-die.html

    The connection between abortion and contraception.

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  16. Anytime I here anything about the overpopulation myth, I am immediately skeptical. If overpopulation is such the horrible problem that the many pro-choice and atheists claim the world faces then why do we seek out medicine and doctors and procedures in order to extend the lives of the current population (you know, Chesterton's "small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about", what makes them ALL important).

    The idea of abortion to save the life of the mother, becomes null and void, if the goal is to NOT overpopulate the earth. The new life, chances are, will have more potential to be productive in it's early-middle years than the mother whose life is in jeopardy during her pregnancy.

    And I hear the advocates of abortion to save the life of the mother claiming...

    "But the mother may die, and then so will the child anyway..."

    ...'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. -Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

    I mean this is the world we're talking about when it comes to "overpopulation", right?

    Makes you think twice about Tiny Tim, doesn't it?

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  17. This really is a black and white issue. Anyone who attempts to define a grey area are usually making excuses for what they want to justify in their own actions. They are ignoring reality to do what they want.

    I disagree though, that NFP does not create a contraceptive mentality "ever". Using NFP to prevent a child is not being open to life. Therefore, sex is only for pleasure which is no less distorted than artificially contracepted sex. What happens when there's a "mistake" after the couple so diligently charted to prevent it? No doubt a faithful Catholic would welcome the child, but is that always the case?

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  18. JoAnna,
    I have no problem with contracepting, but I do have a problem with abortion. I see one as killing something, the other as not killing something. I do think it is best in a marriage or in a very committed relationship, as I think women get the raw end of the stick when they make sex without consequences available to men early on in relationships.

    Personally, I am not sure that the abortifacient effects of the Pill are killing a "person" as I am not certain to claim the early blastula is a person, but I would err on that side, as I do see it as rather impossible to decide where the dividing line for personhood is along the gestational calendar. Also, the Pill has tremendous other drawbacks, although some benefits for health (regulating periods etc.)

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  19. Mary,

    I have no problem with contracepting, but I do have a problem with abortion.

    Do you think that one inevitably leads to the other, as the Supreme Court stated in Casey v. Planned Parenthood?

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  20. Using NFP to prevent a child is not being open to life.

    Katherine, I am sensing that you do not agree with the Catholic Church, which affirms that the use of NFP to space children is moral?

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  21. JoAnna, great question. And Mary, would you agree with the following:

    Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment "You shall not kill".

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  22. Leila,
    The Texas stat is terrible. Please don't use it. It makes you look uneducated, and that is not the case. No person knowledgeable of resource economics would be convinced with that statistic. People require vastly much more land than the land they are living on in their homes to sustain them. Also, most of the world is ocean, and much of the land is uninhabitable and unfarmable. We need vast forests as they are the lungs of the world. We need fresh water. We need a diversity of species.

    I don't 100% agree with everything this dude says, but he debunks the Texas myth http://enough_already.tripod.com/cliches.htm

    What I am saying, is that I would imagine top Catholic intellectuals must understand the implications of a world where everyone was following strict doctrine about the Theology of the Body. Catholics by definition must want that everyone follow the church and find the love of God in this way. Therefore, they are advocating a lifestyle that they know will increase the world population rapidly. I would imagine they have thought of scenarios for a world of 11 billion or even 15 billion. I just cannot understand it. I am assuming that somewhere in the theology they understand that God will say, "OK, enough. Slow down the procreation. The world is reaching its capacity." Or maybe they think that point is at the end of the world?

    Also, the Green Revolution sparked an amazing development of making more calories available to the world since 1950, fueling the 4+ billion people growth and avoiding famine. The Green Revolution depends of Phosphorus, a relatively limited substance that is in perilous scarcity. See here: http://sustainablep.asu.edu/.

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  23. JoAnna,
    No I do not think one inevitably leads to the other. I (and several others I know) contracept but would not have an abortion. We are in solid marriages. If a baby should come along, we would accept it, even if it was not in the plans.

    I think legal abortion laws lead to abortion. I think encouraging cohabitation, delay (into the late twenties and thirties) of marriage, and a sexed-up media encourage abortion. I think lame maternity leave laws encourage abortion. I think that telling women and men that having lots of sex before you are married is normal causes abortions. But...if it were ILLEGAL, then you would see that behavior change overnight.

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  24. The Texas stat is terrible. Please don't use it. It makes you look uneducated, and that is not the case.

    Mary, surely you understand that we use that for a visual. We are showing that the world is not in any way, shape or form "teeming" with people falling off the face of the earth. Forget the oceans, just think of land. We still have all of the continents basically empty, even with 7 billion people. Why are you arguing otherwise? Of course most folks gravitate towards cities for economic reasons, but most of the world is empty. Surely you get that. That is the point of the stat. It is to debunk the "image" (purposely promulgated by the left) that the world is overcrowded, literally. From a land mass perspective. And that is so untrue. Please tell me you understand that.

    Now, to talk about how to feed all the people on the earth, logistics, resources, human ingenuity, etc., is a whole different subject. Agreed?

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  25. What I am saying, is that I would imagine top Catholic intellectuals must understand the implications of a world where everyone was following strict doctrine about the Theology of the Body.

    Indeed, yes! In a world where everyone was following strict doctrine about the Theology of the Body, the birth rate would plummet dramatically because no children would be born to teenagers or to unmarried parents! (In 2007 alone, 1.7 million babies were born out of wedlock.)

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  26. No I do not think one inevitably leads to the other. I (and several others I know) contracept but would not have an abortion.

    Mary, I understand that you like your contraception and want to keep it. I also understand that you do not like abortion and would not have one. I was exactly, exactly of the same mindset as you a few years ago.

    But we are talking about a society's acceptance of contraception leading to that society's acceptance of abortion. Can you show me a society which accepts abortion but which did not first accept contraception?

    You are saying you disagree with the Supreme Court liberals and the Pope, who both see the same truth. Where is the breakdown? In your own situation? Fine, but they are not speaking of Mary's personal situation. I hope you can understand what I mean.

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  27. No I do not think one inevitably leads to the other. I (and several others I know) contracept but would not have an abortion.

    Here's what I don't understand, Mary... in every subject but this one you demand facts, statistics, scientific evidence.

    But when given facts, statistics, scientific evidence, and even a statement from the U.S. Supreme Court on the link between contraception and abortion... you fall back on purely anecdotal evidence, relying only on the personal knowledge you have of yourself and others.

    Why is that?

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  28. Leila,
    I don't agree that the "full truth of the sexual act" as the "proper expression of conjugal love", is only achieved through unprotected sexual intercourse. I think having children is rightly connected to marriage (most of the time) but I don't think having the strong or likely possibility of conceiving every time you engage is necessary or desirable at all.

    Catholic Chastity in a marriage means never using contraceptives and being faithful to your spouse and not masturbating. I see only the being faithful to your spouse part as true chastity. Masturbating with pornography also crosses that line, but I am more worried about the sin of treating the other women as degraded objects, and then again that line is hard to discern.

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  29. Katherine,
    This my be a linguistic difference, but NFP cannot be contraceptive or promote a contraceptive mentality because nothing is being done to "stop conception" other than avoiding sex. (I guess its akin to calling the person who doesn't eat dessert the same as a bulimic: its just not true.) By definition, to use NFP you have to be cognizant of the two purposes of sex: procreation and pleasure. For couples with using NFP, sex is never 'just for pleasure' however, there are times during a woman's cycle where it is medically impossible for her to get pregnant. Is it wrong to have sex when they can't get pregnant? NFP helps couples identify when those periods of infertility are, but sex still has the same consequences. IF NFP were the same as contraception, everyone would be using it, right?

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  30. JoAnna,
    The Supreme Court is a bunch of lawyers. Did they cite any scientific studies to back up their claims?

    What statistics are you talking about? What about this one: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/4/gr060407.html
    Look at the data from Russia.

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  31. Mary, soooo many ironies in that Guttmacher article you linked to!

    First: In countries around the world, women who are determined to limit their family size and time their childbearing will use all available means to do so; if contraception is not a viable option, women will turn to abortion—even if it is illegal.

    The very first sentence proves the link in the mindset between contraception and abortion!!

    Also, Guttmacher is the research arm which gives the statistic that 54% of women who have abortions in the US did so because of failed contraception!

    And, did you ever wonder why Guttmacher (pro-abortion) and NARAL (pro-abortion) and all the other pro-abortion groups are always promoting contraception? If there is not linkage between the two, why? Why do the two have anything to do with each other, and why to those who don't even apologize for abortion (NARAL, Planned Parenthood), push contraception in the same breath as abortion?

    Really, no links there?

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  32. Mary, see Leila's earlier post on this subject.

    As for this:

    The Supreme Court is a bunch of lawyers. Did they cite any scientific studies to back up their claims?

    Interesting. Do you believe that Brown vs. Board of Education was likewise an incorrect decision given that the Supreme Court did not cite any scientific evidence that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional?

    As for scientific evidence regarding the link between contraception and abortion, see here.

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  33. Then in 1992, the Russian government, which had always subsidized abortion services, began subsidizing family planning programs and promoting contraceptive use by distributing free contraceptives.

    This is an example of a nation which was not anti-contraception. They just used abortion as contraception to begin with! There is no real philosophical difference in the Russian example! So, the connection is the same. The mindset is the same. "If we can't have contraception, we will just abort instead." This is the same mindset that I am talking about in the post, that the Supreme Court is talking about in their ruling, and that the Pope is talking about in Evangelium Vitae! So, this article confirms that contraception and abortion are simply two sides of the same coin!

    Do you see?

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  34. Mary, your statements at 10:23, those are simply your personal opinions, right? What are they based on? And is anyone else's personal opinion on the use of sex just as valid as yours?

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  35. Mary,
    Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts and feelings on these very intense topics.
    I would like to direct to this website about masturbation. This information was very convicting to me and I think many Catholics are unaware of the evils of masterbation.
    http://www.couragerc.org/Masturbation.html

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  36. OK JoAnna and Leila,

    What about this: http://www.fhi.org/en/rh/pubs/network/v21_4/nwvol21-4abortcontception.htm

    It would seem (including the Spanish study) that the jury is still out.

    Also, I think the birth rate would not drop substantially if people did not have sex out of wedlock. I think they would wed younger and more frequently. MOST of my many aunts confessed to some of us grown cousins that they got married young because they were dying to have sex. Sure some would wait, thankfully.

    About the Brown decision. I have no problem with it, but, at least to me, it was self-evident from data looking at the difference in the quality of the schooling under the "separate but equal" thought process that a change needed to be made.

    I seem to remember that there was some "evidence" listed, or at least, precedent.

    Your argument is odd, given that you use Supreme Court arguments to back up your reasoning about the link between birth control and abortion, but decry the decision in Roe. They are humans, therefore they are fallible.

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  37. Your argument is odd, given that you use Supreme Court arguments to back up your reasoning about the link between birth control and abortion, but decry the decision in Roe.

    Roe was based not on science but on ancient theories from pre-scientific times. That is what is so bizarre about that decision. It was contrived. But remember, I am not in any way agreeing with the decision of the majority in Casey v. Planned Parenthood! I think the decision was wrong, obviously. But that doesn't mean that their acknowledgement that contraception and abortion are two sides of the same coin is wrong. They are dead right on that issue, and you have yet to touch that argument. How are they two different animals? Even your study of the Russians show that contraception and abortion are viewed in the same way, with the same mentality.

    Please address that if you have a chance.

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  38. Mary,

    Also, I think the birth rate would not drop substantially if people did not have sex out of wedlock. I think they would wed younger and more frequently. MOST of my many aunts confessed to some of us grown cousins that they got married young because they were dying to have sex. Sure some would wait, thankfully.

    Not true, because those aren't the parameters of the hypothetical scenario that your proposed. You said, "...a world where everyone was following strict doctrine about the Theology of the Body..." NOT a world where no one got pregnant out of wedlock.

    In a world "where everyone was following strict doctrine about the Theology of the Body," people would not get married just because they were "dying to have sex." They would understand the nature and purpose of both sex and marriage, and they would also learn methods to restrain their sexual impulses and channel them into different activities.

    Your argument is odd, given that you use Supreme Court arguments to back up your reasoning about the link between birth control and abortion, but decry the decision in Roe. They are humans, therefore they are fallible.

    By all means, take a look at the decision for yourself and tell me where the Supreme Court got it wrong based on their cited evidence.

    Also, regarding the FHI article you cited, it was written in 2002. The study from Spain I cited earlier was published in 2010. How does an article published in 2002 prove that "the jury is still out" on study results published in 2010?

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  39. Correction to my post above - the study from Spain I cited earlier was actually published in January 2011, not 2010.

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  40. I certainly agree with the first one. When I was in 8th grade, we had a classroom debate on stem cell research, and the "pro stem cell research" said, might as well use the leftover embryos from IVF, since they whould be thrown out anyway.

    Would you be OK with IVF if they figured out a way not to have to kill any?

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  41. Chelsea, great question!! No, the Church is against IVF even if the embyros were not destroyed. Children should never be made in a lab, with a third party doing the conception. Remember that the Church teaches that the unitive and procreative aspects of sex are not to be artificially separated. So, one cannot have sex without babies or make babies without sex (to put it in simple terms). Also, there are so many other problems with treating children as commodities. Children are not a "right" to be had at all costs, they are a gift.

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  42. Leila, this is excellent. Thank you for taking the time to put it all together. Now, to get the world to listen!

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  43. Mary, I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I just want to ask straight. Do you categorically deny that the following is true?

    ...for two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

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  44. Emily, thanks so much! Be sure to spread it around, link it to your facebook, etc! I wish I had a bigger megaphone!! :)

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  45. I think having children is rightly connected to marriage (most of the time) but I don't think having the strong or likely possibility of conceiving every time you engage is necessary or desirable at all.

    Seriously, Mary?!?!?! It's biology, the way human beings were created (evolved), it's what's supposed to happen. Desirability is utterly irrelevant. The fact that there is an incredibly small window in a woman's cycle where she can get pregnant, automatically dictates necessity. Only the extremely paranoid are overwhelmingly concerned that nature (and ultimately GOD) won't be able to figure out how to help the planet maintain a healthy level of inhabitants.

    I mean the planet has only been doing it for 4 billion years, but apparently we humans of the 21st century are too smart for God and nature to figure out how to "stymie" the population if and when necessary.

    Whether you believe in God, or simply (only) in the product of natural selection and evolution- nature - neither of them need our help in reducing the population. Do they want our help in being good stewards of the planet, being resourceful and not wasteful? Yes! But, they've been taking care of the planet a WHOLE heck of lot longer than any of us have been here, they don't need our sub-par techno help for what they already know how to do, and when to do it.

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  46. Bethany,those are good points that I hope Mary will answer. I know that Mary looks at things from an evolutionary standpoint, so I'd like to know how what you said fits in with her thoughts (as well as how contraception is compatible with evolution??).

    Mary, I promise I am not picking on you! But this sounds so arbitrary to me:

    Catholic Chastity in a marriage means never using contraceptives and being faithful to your spouse and not masturbating. I see only the being faithful to your spouse part as true chastity. Masturbating with pornography also crosses that line, but I am more worried about the sin of treating the other women as degraded objects, and then again that line is hard to discern.


    Can I ask this way: What if the Catholic position suddenly made sense to you? Would you stop using contraception? Or, what if God Himself revealed to you that contraception was wrong. Would you give up contraception then?

    I'm just curious.

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  47. Oh my gosh!! This is weird (well, or just providential)!!! Just after I wrote that last question to you, Mary, I skipped over to Jen's latest post at Conversion Diary:

    http://www.conversiondiary.com/2011/08/first-you-must-be-willing-to-lose-it-all.html

    That is what I am asking! I hope you will read it and understand my question.

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  48. Bethany said, "Whether you believe in God, or simply (only) in the product of natural selection and evolution- nature - neither of them need our help in reducing the population. "

    Bethany...I really don't know what you mean by this. Are you suggesting that we should consider famine and widespread disease as God's plan for reducing the population? Because, these have been the norms for most of history. I thought Catholics understood these things to be disordered and against the will of God. Part of a fallen world.

    Our reproductive abilities evolved in a world of death. With no modern medicine, antiseptics and poor nutrition, you bet it was necessary to reproduce like crazy.

    In most societies, we have moved far beyond that. You and I can thankfully expect most of our children to live past the age of 70. In the current scenario, it seems irresponsible not to understand that we have to limit our reproduction sometimes.

    For a microcosm of what happens when you let nature take its course, look at Easter Island.


    Bethany said this: "Only the extremely paranoid are overwhelmingly concerned that nature (and ultimately GOD) won't be able to figure out how to help the planet maintain a healthy level of inhabitants. "
    I know many considerate, thoughtful and bright people who would utterly disagree with this statement.

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  49. Leila quoted the following: "for two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail."

    I really don't know what you are trying to say with this. So what? People will have to get smarter about birth control. You could say the exact same statement, changing the wording to be about slavery. Slavery is evil. When it ended the South had to change its way of life. Too bad.

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  50. Mary, my question was if the statement is true. You won't directly answer. I'm confused by your response.

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  51. Leila asked, "
    "Can I ask this way: What if the Catholic position suddenly made sense to you? Would you stop using contraception? Or, what if God Himself revealed to you that contraception was wrong. Would you give up contraception then?"

    The Catholic position does not make sense to me in its entirety, so no to it suddenly making sense. I have thought about this many years, and don't really think it is going to suddenly pop into clarity.

    But...if I had an undeniably supernatural experience where I was 100% convinced (and had been examined by trusted doctors and skeptics to make sure I was not delusional, even to myself) that God contacted me and told me not to use contraception, I would absolutely stop using it, but that would be the least of my concerns. I would spend every last second and breath trying as hard as I could to convince my loved ones and everyone else that I did indeed meet God and that there is a world beyond etc. I would try very hard to frame this in a way that would not send atheists running for the hills. (PS I am not sure my husband would ever comply though). Also, I really don't think God would be so concerned with my contraception...I would imagine or hope that God would give me some amazing insights on how to stop evil wars or how to use my remaining moments of life to bring more people to love and peace.

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  52. Leila, yes, the statement rings true for some people. Just as organizing their life around the legality of slavery was true for the entire South. But...that doesn't make it just!

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  53. Mary, I don't remember if you addressed Bethany's point at 9:06 am. I always wonder why pop control folks think it's okay for their own carbon footprint to grace the world, but no one else's? If they really cared, wouldn't they sterilize themselves? Some do. There is a funny t-shirt that says, "I'm not overpopulation, so it must be you" or something like that!

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  54. Leila, I know lots of people concerned about the population who stopped having kids at one or two or none for that reason alone. I know lots who live well below their means trying to be green.

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  55. if I had an undeniably supernatural experience where I was 100% convinced (and had been examined by trusted doctors and skeptics to make sure I was not delusional, even to myself) that God contacted me and told me not to use contraception, I would absolutely stop using it

    This is an incredibly high threshold to give your "yes" to God on something. And then all your caveats after that.

    Did you read Jen's article? I feel like it hits at the heart of the ability to find God in the first place.

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  56. Leila, I know lots of people concerned about the population who stopped having kids at one or two or none for that reason alone. I know lots who live well below their means trying to be green.

    Wait. If their two kids have four kids total and so on, that doesn't help the planet. My point is, why are they having any kids at all if they really cared?

    It's a serious question.

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  57. Leila, yes, the statement rings true for some people.

    It not only "rings" true for some people, it actually "is" true, right?

    Just as organizing their life around the legality of slavery was true for the entire South. But...that doesn't make it just!

    Exactly! It is true that people organized their lives around the availability of slavery. And it was unjust! Just the same with abortion, of course. And abortion is the back up to contraception in our society, isn't it? Isn't our current law even based on that fact? Of course it's not just, but it's the current reality.

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  58. This article JoAnna sent me here is amazing:

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=3417

    It is scholarly and answers so many of the problems we discuss here. It's about the contraceptive mentality. I hope you will find time to read it at some point. Some excerpts:

    The purpose of contraception is to separate intercourse from procreation so that the contracepting partners can enjoy the pleasures of sex without the discomforting fear that their sexual activity could lead to the procreation of another human being. The "contraceptive mentality" results when this separation of intercourse from procreation is taken for granted and the contracepting partners feel that, in employing contraception, they have severed themselves from all responsibility for a conception that might take place as a result of contraceptive failure. Somewhat ironically, this practice of using contraception to relinquish responsibility for one's own offspring is, in the minds of many, consistent with "being responsible" and even with "responsible parenting."2 At any rate, the "contraceptive mentality" implies that a couple have not only the means to separate intercourse from procreation, but the right or responsibility as well.

    And:

    There is only one way to reduce abortion, and that is to reduce its cause, which is in the contraceptive mentality. And the contraceptive mentality can be reduced only by recognizing that procreation is good and by repudiating the attitude that endorses the violent negation of that good. It is surely illogical and unrealistic to try to establish a truly humane civilization where every human being has a right to live by beginning with the idea of reducing abortion, and remaining unconvinced that the natural and procreative consequence of sexual intercourse is a real good. We cannot restore the moral health of civilization merely by eliminating something that is bad; we can restore it only by loving and embracing what is fundamentally good. We begin to build a humane civilization not backwards from the charred remains of a burned-out civilization, but forwards from the realization that new life is a great good. The Russian existentialist philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev is right when he says, "If there were no child-bearing, sexual union would degenerate into debauchery."25

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  59. Mary, this line touches on the idea that you never answered from way back: Is there something different -- sacred -- about sex, since it produces human beings? Is sex different from other human activities somehow?

    It is precisely the possibility of invoking new human life that raises sexual intercourse to a suprapersonal, transcendent level and gives to the married couple a focus for their commitment that is truly theirs and not something that belongs exclusively to one or the other.

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  60. Leila said, "This is an incredibly high threshold to give your "yes" to God on something." Something that I cannot come to with reason and information and love alone. Something that goes against that...

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  61. Those people who had two kids reasoned that if they had two they were only replacing themselves. Many had one or none. Read Bill McKibben. They wanted the joy of raising a child or children, but thought long and hard about the impacts on the world. I respect this. I know a few who had none. These are not angry terrible people, although a few are frustrated and very blind to the good of religion.

    Certainly some limit their children due to wanting other experiences in their lives, or jobs or whatever, but some were thinking about their personal carbon footprint.

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  62. I understand that your position is that contraception is a moral good and abortion is a moral evil. I contend that they are intimate bedfellows and flow from the same mentality. I think NARAL and Planned Parenthood agree with me. Why do they see it and you don't? I don't know why. But I do appreciate the clarity, I really do. And like I said, I once held your exact same position.

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  63. ...but some were thinking about their personal carbon footprint.

    Forgive the question, but why didn't they think of suicide, then? I'm sincerely asking.

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  64. Leila said, "I understand that your position is that contraception is a moral good..."

    No...it is sometimes used in moral ways, sometimes immoral ways. It is inanimate.

    About suicide....well, maybe some have thought of that. Are you saying that they should follow the following logic: "I will kill myself so that the yet unconceived child that could take my place for that neighbor couple over there with two already can come into existence."

    It seems to me you can reduce or eliminate your fertility without having to go whole hog and off yourself. I don't think their lack of suicide negates the other good intentions and things they might do. Why do you think it has to be that extreme?

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  65. OK...gotta go, but the sacred question remains, and I am thinking about it. Right now, I think, "what is the definition of 'sacred' "?

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  66. Our reproductive abilities evolved in a world of death. With no modern medicine, antiseptics and poor nutrition, you bet it was necessary to reproduce like crazy.

    In most societies, we have moved far beyond that. You and I can thankfully expect most of our children to live past the age of 70. In the current scenario, it seems irresponsible not to understand that we have to limit our reproduction sometimes.


    The bolded part, Mary, is my point. Why should we, simply because we are already born, be the ones trying to extend our lives, while at the same time claiming we must kill humans in the womb (simply because they're in the earliest stages of development) or even prevent them from conceiving, in order to protect the world from overpopulation. Aren't we overpopulating the world simply by taking actions to live, longer and longer? I'd love to see the ratios births to deaths for 2010 and births to deaths for say 1850 and compare them (I'd love to do even 1500, but I don't think that would be anywhere close to accurate)

    Are you suggesting that we should consider famine and widespread disease as God's plan for reducing the population? Because, these have been the norms for most of history. I thought Catholics understood these things to be disordered and against the will of God. Part of a fallen world.

    Part of God's "PLAN", no, I wouldn't say they are part of God's plan. But, our not having complete and utter control over EVERYTHING in nature (including our own biology). In a way, yes.

    Now I'm not currently spouting Catholic dogma or doctrine, this is more just my work-in-progress series of thoughts. However, I don't think God ever meant for us to be in control of our own biology. So no, EACH and EVERY sexual act is NOT, by definition, going to produce a child. I consider that a sort of "built in" checks and balances system to the way we're designed. If we were meant to have a child with every sexual encounter, and meant to have as many as we can, then I would think God would have created us to be able to have more than one child - more often than not (twins are still rare, comparatively speaking) - at a time. (Likewise if speaking purely from an evolutionary standpoint, evolution would almost certainly benefit from the larger gene pool offered by the most children. If you ask me contraception and abortion, both human beings taking evolution into their own hands.)

    To say that contraception and abortion is the way to limit the population of the world, can easily be turned into, "Since people begin losing their viable productivity by age 60 and since modern medicine is the only reason WHY more and more people live past age 60 then we should just quit providing medical care for anyone over the age 55 - then we will have adequately reduced the population, and simultaneously giving us the most productive (and most reproductive - in order to make more of the most productive) members of society.

    Neither scenario really makes much sense.

    Leila - I'm not sure if what I've answered here, answers your question. I wasn't entirely clear on your question, but I've had a lot on my mind recently, not the least of which are the random contractions I've been having for the last few days. And the poor kid still doesn't have a name.

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  67. "I understand that your position is that contraception is a moral good…"

    Sorry, I should have said: "I understand that your position is that the use of contraception is a moral good."

    When I speak of morality, for the record, I am always speaking of willful acts, not inanimate objects.

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  68. For a definition of "sacred", let's go with one I found online:

    connected with a deity and so deserving veneration; holy.

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  69. "Since people begin losing their viable productivity by age 60 and since modern medicine is the only reason WHY more and more people live past age 60 then we should just quit providing medical care for anyone over the age 55 - then we will have adequately reduced the population, and simultaneously giving us the most productive (and most reproductive - in order to make more of the most productive) members of society."

    Bethany, you've hit on utilitarianism here, and I think you can even find some of this mentality in the euthanasia movement, and also certain nations' health care systems which won't pay for certain health care past a certain age (65). Sad and scary stuff! But, it should be something that secular humanists and overpopulation people should consider, if they are consistent.

    Hope that baby is ready to come!! How far along are you? :)

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  70. I really appreciate this post. Thanks!

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  71. It seems to me you can reduce or eliminate your fertility without having to go whole hog and off yourself. I don't think their lack of suicide negates the other good intentions and things they might do. Why do you think it has to be that extreme?

    Well, of course I don't think it should ever be that extreme, since I disagree with them on every point to begin with, and suicide is a grave sin. But from their perspective, wouldn't suicide be a great good for the planet? Shouldn't they consider doing something that heroic? For them, and their philosophy, wouldn't that be like "taking one for the team"?

    I am not personally advocating suicide! I am Catholic and life is always good! :)

    Also, as far as what is God's plan… I'll throw in the Catholic understanding that there is God's active will and His permissive will. Whatever happens on earth, good or bad, is at the very least allowed by God (permissive will). All things (good and bad) ultimately serve God's greater (perfect) plan. It's how even the crucifixion of His sinless Son (God Himself) could at once be the most horrific sin man ever committed, and at the same time the greatest good that could have ever happened to mankind. Why? Because God always brings a greater good out of evil. That whole subject is fodder for another post!

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  72. Hope that baby is ready to come!! How far along are you?

    I think so... I'll be 37 weeks on Wednesday. Unfortunately if the pattern holds, this little one will be here about 3 days after the due date. But I'm secretly praying for an August baby (no real reason why, just am).

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  73. Somehow, contraception and IVF made me uncomfortable as a teenager or when I first heard them discussed. There was something that seemed wrong about both, though I couldn't articulate what. It was only when I became Catholic, and began learning about what the church teaches about both, that I understood my initial hesitance to the ideas. I'm so thankful for the Church's teachings. Just wish more Catholics would take the time to learn what the Church teaches - and why - and try to live it out. Thanks for your efforts to do so. :)

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  74. Bethany, yay! I am so excited for you! But make sure you can still comment while you nurse your baby, ha ha!

    Koala Bear Writer, thank you! It's interesting, isn't it, that no one is uncomfortable with the idea of marriage producing babies, because we instinctively see it as a good. No one has to be "convinced" that a married couple with children is a lovely thing. It's natural law, and we get that goodness instinctively. But it took a lot of convincing and propaganda before the culture accepted contraception, and now abortion (and gay "marriage"). Your young self had the sense that those distortions of sex were just not right. It must have been a relief to come into the Church!

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  75. Leila,

    The explanation of contraceptive mentality you provided above from catholicculture.org seems to be exactly what many well meaning Catholics are doing by practicing NFP without serious reason. Simply replace NFP with the word contraceptive, the result is the same.

    The Church has never taught that couples can regulate the size of their families at will. You are misinforming people to state that it is acceptable for Catholics to regulate family size if a couple so chooses without qualifying that statement.

    matchingmoonheads: you said "NFP cannot be contraceptive or promote a contraceptive mentality because nothing is being done to "stop conception" other than avoiding sex." Using the word, contraception, as an adjective, this sentence is not a good argument to my reasoning. "Nothing is being done... except."

    The dessert analogy falls flat as well. Is sex dessert, or is it breakfast? If it is only done during times of infertility to purposely avoid conception I think it's more of a Twinkie...

    It is not wrong to have sex when a couple cannot possibly conceive, except when that couple ONLY has sex when they can't conceive BECAUSE they don't want to conceive (barring serious reasons as defined by the Church.)That's contraceptive mentality.

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  76. Katherine, unfortunately you are someone I would say it "more Catholic than the pope". Please provide those "serious reasons as defined by the Church", because I have not seen "the list". Is it really your place to tell folks that they must have sex when you want them to? I believe when couples have sex is completely up to them and God. What constitutes a just reason for spacing children is different for every couple, and you cannot possibly be the judge of someone else's situation.

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  77. **Someone I would say is more Catholic than the pope.

    Sorry for typos!

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  78. Excuse me Leila, I never intended to come off that way. In fact, in more ways than one I am playing devil's advocate as I shape and solidify my own understanding of Church teaching. Which is only done using Church documents and tradition.

    I'm sure you know full well the intruction that use of the moral means for spacing births must be for serious reasons according to a conscience that is well formed according to Divine Law.

    I'll be back later with quotes, if you want. Time to put the littles to bed!

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  79. Leila, thank you for your response to Katherine. I can't thank you enough.

    My dh and I are avoiding a conception right now because of many reasons, including the fact that we have a 7 month old baby, I have mild PPD, he is recently unemployed, and our health insurance situation is in the air. I also have PCOS and very long cycles, meaning that some months we go for up to four weeks without making love because we have discerned that we are not able to welcome another baby right now.
    We forgo the good of married love out of a sense of sacrifice because not having another baby right now is what is best for our family. People like Katherine then have the nerve to come onto a website like this and basically accuse me (and anyone else using NFP to avoid a pregnancy right now) of committing a mortal sin.

    Katherine,if you are still reading this, that is pretty darn serious, to accuse someone of a mortal sin without knowing anything about them or their reasons for postponing a pregnancy. How dare you accuse me. I have spent hours in prayer about our family size, have shed a lot of tears over it, and this is what we have discerned for now. Our sacrifice can not be likened to strapping on a piece of plastic and doing whatever we want, nor to manipulating my hormones so we can have consequence free sex. We are so respectful of the awesome consequences of our lovemaking that we choose to give it up during times of fertility (which for me can be up to one month at a time), out of love and respect for one another. For you to take that and use it to accuse me of a mortal sin is a gross lack of charity. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Sorry Leila, but I had to get that off my chest.

    -- Sarah

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  80. Katharine, could you clarify something? Do you believe that NFP itself is sinful, or do you believe that NFP for avoiding pregnancy is morally neutral but should only be used in dire circumstances (and is sinful if used for reasons that may not pass some sort of arbitrary litmus test for "grave" reasons)?

    If it's the former, I encourage you to read this article by Fr. Brian Harrison: Is NFP A Heresy?

    If it's the latter, then I encourage you to read this excellent article by Simcha Fischer: Why Doesn't the Church Just Make a List?

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  81. Sarah, thank you. I am okay with you venting here. :)

    Here is a great article about why the Church does not "make a list":

    http://simchafisher.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/why-doesnt-the-church-just-make-a-list/

    I hope, Katherine, that you will read it all the way through.

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  82. Katherine,
    I guess if we follow your 'logic', you think that its morally unacceptable for Catholics to have sex during pregnancy then? Or that medicine interferes with God's will?

    If that's true I don't know how to appeal to your set of reasoning then...I assume you had been around this blog before and read the NFP related posts. The eating analogy is one of the best ones...

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/03/important-follow-up-to-natural-family.html

    Just reasons are always a part of using NFP but of course that is up to the couple and God to decide when that time is. There certainly is no list. I think Leila has been more than crystal clear on this throughout all of the NFP posts on her blog.

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  83. Of course we can't make those distinctions for our neighbor... but I do agree with the heart of what Katherine says here. I do, unfortunately, know many of my own clients who used NFP to avoid pregnancy for years and years to "space" or avoid children, and I never really knew the reasons why. They may have had their reasons, but in our sessions, I am usually privy to those reasons, and it just seemed to me that "waiting until DH gets his graduate degree and we move into a larger house" constituted a "serious" reason. But again, I (we) should not judge others so it's not really our place to say whether that was right for them or not.

    Anyway, to give a bit of comic relief here, and to answer Mary's question about what is sacred, I thought I'd share how "sacred" was once used in context by my very devout Catholic grandmother.
    "Yuck, I just saw a commercial all about diarrhea... is nothing SACRED anymore??!!"

    TCIE

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  84. *didn't constitute.

    To clarify (because I just read some more recent responses, primarily Sarah's), I do think it should be the couple's decision after prayerful consideration with God, and only those 3 people KNOW whether the choice is a licit one or not. Sarah, I hope I did not offend you with what I was saying. I just do believe that there are some couples (in the minority) who take advantage of NFP to avoid pregnancy in the absence of any reason at all, let alone a serious one.

    As for your PCOS and PPD issues, might I suggest charting the Creighton Model System and finding a good NaPro Dr in your area? I hate to see women suffer when there are treatments for these issues... and avoiding 4 weeks at a time, how aweful for you!! :( You can learn which days of mucus are part of your base infertile pattern with Creighton and use those days effectively to avoid.

    God Bless.

    TCIE

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  85. You know, if couples are using NFP to avoid pregnancy, for whatever reason, it is at least a step in the right direction. Even if their reason is that they want to be able to buy a boat or take a trip to Disneyland in six months, at least they're not using contraception to achieve that goal. I"m sure my husband and I didn't use NFP with "perfect" discernment when we first became Catholic, but our spiritual lives have grown in leaps and bounds since then, and our use of NFP was part of the reason for our growth.

    So, I never judge couples who I know or suspect are using NFP to avoid if their intentions, from the outside, don't seem perfectly in line with Church teaching on being open to children. At least they're doing SOMETHING right, and that can lead to greater spiritual growth down the road.

    Plus, you just never know if one spouse as a mental illness that s/he hasn't told the world about, and needs to get under control before another child comes along... or similar "hidden" reasons. Simcha's article goes into much more detail.

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  86. I just do believe that there are some couples (in the minority) who take advantage of NFP to avoid pregnancy in the absence of any reason at all, let alone a serious one.

    TCIE, you are right. I agree that even good things (NFP) can be abused. But the abuse of something good does not negate its proper use. And in this case it's so private and subjective that no one aside from the couple and God (and a spiritual director) can really know.

    I know we are on the same page. The problem is, there is a subset of Catholics who truly believe that there are, practically speaking, virtually no reasons why a first world American woman would be able to legitimately use NFP. I think the "Why Doesn't the Church Make a List" article is the best to explain the problem with that mindset.

    And, even for the minority of those who use NFP for very selfish reasons, it's still better than using contraception, which is objectively a mortal sin and changes the nature of the sex act itself. The chance of even selfish NFP users ultimately coming to a greater understanding of the beauty of married love is high, just by the fact that they are living within the moral law in their conjugal union.

    And, I hope Sarah lives near you and can get wanded by you, ha ha ha!

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  87. Leila, it's a good thing we have a picture to prove we aren't the same person!! :P

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  88. TCIE,

    I actually am using Creighton! I switched to it from STM, and got pregnant with our daughter on my first cycle doing it. Now am trying to learn long distance with a teacher, but my cycles are so weird because of post-partum, I think. We are using the BIP and yellow stamps (starting this cycle), which has helped a lot. Before that it would be white baby stamps for 30 days out of a 42 day long cycle (or something like that).

    Thanks for your comment, I wasn't offended at all!

    --Sarah

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  89. Sarah - If you read what I wrote again you can plainly see that I did not set out to define what the serious reasons are. I simply stated that one must have them and later, that they must be in line with a correctly formed conscience. This is Church teaching, I'm not making it up to put anyone down, and I don't feel ashamed for speaking the truth. I am sorry that you read too much into my comments.

    My beef here is that Leila has often come across to me as promoting NFP as Catholic birthcontrol. Pro-contraceptive persons have called her out on it, and she has never given me a convincing argument that in many cases her view of NFP isn't just another form of birthcontrol.

    In the comments here she stated that "NFP use could never, ever lead to an abortion mentality. Contraception does." Which I suppose is not true because NFP can create a contraceptive mentality which naturally leads to ...

    She also stated, "I'm saying that if married people in any culture feel the need to limit their family size, they can do so with NFP." Without qualifying that it must be for serious reasons. To say, "if they feel the need" leaves the door wide open for any old reason.

    And now, just a couple of posts above she says, "And, even for the minority of those who use NFP for very selfish reasons, it's still better than using contraception, which is objectively a mortal sin and changes the nature of the sex act itself." Which isn't really true either. It is still a sin to use NFP for selfish reasons even if it leads to "coming to a greater understanding of the beauty of married love"

    Just calling it as I see it. I didn't even attempt to say what constitutes a serious reason, that's up to you, God, and a well formed conscience.

    I fully open for someone to disprove what I have written in a convincing manner. Until then, I consider my conscience formed to the Church on this matter.

    "To embrace the married state, to make frequent use of the faculty proper to it and lawful only in that state, while on the other hand, always and deliberately to seek to evade its primary duty without serious reason, would be to sin against the very meaning of married life." (Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, October 29, 1951)

    Yeah, it's a pre-Vatican II quote, just to rile you up :)

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  90. Bethany,

    I think it is radically different to kill a fetus than to not conceive it at all. I'm sorry, I thought I made that eminently clear. The way I read your comment, is that you think it best to conceive as many children as you can, as you should not prevent any child from being conceived.

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  91. Pro-contraceptive persons have called her out on it, and she has never given me a convincing argument that in many cases her view of NFP isn't just another form of birthcontrol.

    Actually, Katherine, I don't need to "give you" a convincing argument. The Church gives her own teachings on it. And my view of NFP is the Church's view.

    I do suspect that your point here is to "rile us up". How about this: What do you think about JPII and Theology of the Body? Lay it all out.

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  92. Katharine, the problem is that when you're writing to a secular audience who sees no problem with contraceptive and doesn't even realize that the contraceptive mentality exists, you can't use "pre-Vatican II" language. It especially won't work with people who aren't Catholic or even Christian. You have to engage people where they are and go from there.

    Did you read either of the articles that Leila and I posted? (NFP is Not a Heresy and Why Doesn't the Church Just Make a List?)

    Also, Leila did NOT say that using NFP selfishly was not a sin; she only said that contraception was an objective mortal sin. A couple's use of NFP for "selfish" reasons MAY be a mortal sin, but that very much depends on if the criteria for mortal sin has been met -- however, a couple's use of NFP to space pregnancy is not objectively a mortal sin. That is the distinction you've missed.

    Also, here's another pre-Vatican II quote right back at you (all emphases mine):

    53. And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.

    54. 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.


    Note that NFP is, in effect, periodic continence consented to by both parties, and that it is NOT a deliberate frustration of the marriage act.

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  93. Katherine, you said:

    "...you can plainly see that I did not set out to define what the serious reasons are."

    Yet earlier you mentioned that couples have no right to postpone pregnancy "barring serious reasons as defined by the Church"

    Surely you can understand my confusion?

    You alluded to it from the beginning, so please, name the "reasons as defined by the Church".

    You said: It is still a sin to use NFP for selfish reasons even if it leads to "coming to a greater understanding of the beauty of married love"

    Yes, just as it's a sin to be lacking in humility or to be devoid of charity in one's heart while still outwardly doing good things -- but those are things we cannot judge, can we? Those dispositions of the heart are subjective, and we cannot read another's soul or intentions. Agreed?

    "I consider my conscience formed to the Church on this matter."

    Ditto, sister. :)

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  94. Katharine, apologies for spelling your name wrong!

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  95. Katherine,
    Your points are interesting to me, because Leila and others (Simcha Fischer) have answered that it would be entirely OK for a woman to use NFP to limit the size of her family if she felt population pressures mounting, or if she found it hard to work at her high-stakes surgery job while pregnant, assuming she had already had her three kids or something.

    So what you are saying Katherine, is that married life is for large families only. If you want to have sex, you get married and accept many children, unless you have infertility. So in your view, the Catholic Church is telling married people they need to have large families.

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  96. Ah, I just said that because I know you all think I'm a zealot. I don't want to rile you up, I already did that for daring to suggest that you qualify your statement with Church teaching. My view of NFP is the Church's view as well, am I misinterpreting it somewhere? That's what I want to be convinced of if that's the case.
    About Theology of the Body, I think in many cases it's been misinterpreted against the traditions of the Church, especially in the promotion of NFP. That's all I have to say about that.

    Serious reasons... that's all I wrote. Was that really so wrong?

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  97. if she felt population pressures mounting

    Not sure I said that…?

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  98. Katharine, what are those serious reasons? Do you (personally) know what they are?

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  99. About Theology of the Body, I think in many cases it's been misinterpreted against the traditions of the Church, especially in the promotion of NFP. That's all I have to say about that.

    That says a lot in itself. So, in general, you don't believe in the promotion of NFP?

    Serious reasons... that's all I wrote.

    What are the serious reasons "as defined by the Church"? That was my question, since you brought it up.

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  100. Oh, I would love to write more and bring citiations to the table but I am 9 months pregnant with so many little ones to wake up to in the morning...

    I do think that married Catholics are called to have large families... barring serious reasons, of course. It is a Cross, and I embrace it.

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  101. Bethany said, "I don't think God ever meant for us to be in control of our own biology." I really find this strange. If I had cancer, which would be my own biology, I would want someone to be in control of it.

    Do you vaccinate your kids Bethany? If so, you are trying to fundamentally alter their biology.

    Being in control of your biology also means that you use controlling willpower not to eat too much food even if you want to, and not to sleep around, even if you have the urge to. I am just trying to point out that most people view being in some control of their biology to be good most of the time.
    I think that thinking that famine is somehow OK because it is part of the larger plan is horrid. I can never think that. Please tell me you don't think that.

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  102. Mary, Katharine has an opinion, but let's go straight to what the Popes (JPII and Paul VI) and Vatican II said on the subject of "responsible parenting:

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP840801.HTM

    It won't let me post this in the same box, so to be continued….

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  103. Ruled by Conscience

    2. Before the passage quoted, the Council teaches that married couples "shall fulfill their role with a sense of human and Christian responsibility and the formation of correct judgments through docile respect for God" (GS 50). This involves "common reflection and effort; it also involves a consideration of their own good and the good of their children already born or yet to come, an ability to read the signs of the times and of their own situation on the material and spiritual level, and finally, an estimation of the good of the family, of society and of the Church" (GS 50).

    At this point there follow words of particular importance to determine with greater precision the moral character of "responsible parenthood." We read: "It is the married couple themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God" (GS 50).


    ….

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  104. and….

    those are considered "to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family, or who, for serious reasons and with due respect to the moral law, choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period" (HV 10).

    Amen.

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  105. Leila, I am remembering you and Nubby and others commenting that NFP could be ethically used in crowded places like India.

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  106. Leila, I agree that your last post seems to support the view that it is totally up to the couple, but I think the highlighted piece from 54 by JoAnna leans more towards Katherine's view, not against it.

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  107. You guys know what they are, don't be silly .

    Determining if they are sufficiently grave is between you, God, and a well-formed conscience. Speak to a faithful priest to help decide as well.

    Good night!

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  108. I do think that married Catholics are called to have large families…

    I've embraced the calling as well, but I need you to comment on this statement from the Church:

    "It is the married couple themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God"

    Do you agree that the Church leaves it up to the couple and God to determine what for them constitutes a serious reason? Unless you have a list….

    Blessings to you and your little ones!

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  109. Mary, number 54 was referring to artificial contraception, if you read carefully. It was not referring to continence.

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  110. You guys know what they are, don't be silly .

    ???

    But I do agree with you that it's between the couple and God, and certainly the guidance of a spiritual director if needed.

    Mary, oh, I see. Yes, I was thinking about someone like a population control couple who are living just fine, but won't have kids because they believe Al Gore.

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  111. I should have listened to my husband and pulled the quotes out, but I knew you knew them.
    From the USCCB website.

    "The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment." (GS, #50)

    "From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are . The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creatorwhile the constant teaching of the Church spells it out." (HV, #10)

    "Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong—following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God's law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him." (Paul VI, PP, March 26, 1967, #37)

    "Serious reasons, often put forward on medical, eugenic, economic and social grounds, can exempt from that obligatory service even for a considerable period of time, even for the entire duration of the marriage."(Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, October 29, 1951)

    So, serious reasons - "medical, eugenic, economic and social grounds."

    "...following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God's law authentically interpreted."

    "bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator"

    "spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office"

    Sorry, I can't just bold the pertinent parts, my html is not working on this site.

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  112. There's your answer to what I think about that comment. It has to be qualified. Which is what my original argument was.

    Good night, really!

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  113. Yes I know we do! Though I'm sure we would come to blows over the interpretations of the "reasons".

    I just asked that you qualify your statements for the use of NFP with something from the above quotes. "Serious reason, with a conscience correctly formed by the authentic interpretation of Church Teaching."

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  114. Though I'm sure we would come to blows over the interpretations of the "reasons".

    Years ago, when I was newly back in the Church, I might've, but now I let a lot of prudential judgment issues go. After all, it's not up to each of us to interpret for others.

    As for the caveat, I will repost what JoAnna so eloquently said:

    Katharine, the problem is that when you're writing to a secular audience who sees no problem with contraception and doesn't even realize that the contraceptive mentality exists, you can't use "pre-Vatican II" language. It especially won't work with people who aren't Catholic or even Christian. You have to engage people where they are and go from there.

    Milk first, not meat. NFP is the moral alternative to the mortal sin of contraception. You meet people exactly where they are, with love and full understanding of what it was like to be there. Believe me, people are not dumb, and when they "get it" they will continue to grow in holiness and knowledge. I have a very different approach to evangelizing than you do, perhaps, but this is my blog and bubble after all. :)

    Blessings!

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  115. Maybe you missed my anniversary post?

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/07/21-years-and-how-weve-changed.html

    It ends like this:

    NFP may start as a dutiful obligation on the part of some newly convinced yet still-fearful couples, but when we put our trust in God's promises, it ends in a transformation of hearts, souls and marriages, for the glory of the One who is both Love and Life.‎

    Amen!

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  116. No, I commented on that post. I didn't like that you added a blurb about NFP, though I see your point better now. I came to the same transformation by jumping in feet first and having lots of babies after my conversion.

    Some people are looking for meat in this soft, everything for pleasure society. I agree with your evangelizing methods, only without the slight bit of compromise in any way. Sometimes it seems to me as though you were enticing contracepting couples to convert with the lure that NFP is just as effective! But, we can't forget just cause for it's use.

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  117. Ugh, so tired... seriously. Typos hurt. Thanks for your time and love your blog... most of the time!

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  118. Sometimes it seems to me as though you were enticing contracepting couples to convert with the lure that NFP is just as effective!

    Actually, it's a way of allaying fears. We all have fears when we consider changing our lives and turning to God. God is very gentle with us, he knows our fears, and he walks with us on our path to holiness. It's a process. God met me where I was, and I am so grateful for that.

    I get that you don't like NFP, generally. But the mind of the Church says that it is a gift. I love the gift, and I by presenting it as a gift, and a moral option for couples who need to space babies or postpone pregnancy, I am not "compromising" in any way. On the essentials and objective Truth, I stand firm. Where there is freedom, I leave people free. Where we are not to judge others, I try hard not to judge. Where there are issues of prudential judgement and subjective realities, I do not provide binding "rules" or "lists" (nor can anyone). And in all things, charity, assuming the good intention of the other, kindness and humility. I don't do all those things very well, but I'm trying…

    I'm glad you like the blog most of the time. :) Go to sleep, you need your rest! How old are your children?

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  119. Just popping in to post a quick comment about "overpopulation."...

    On today's news, I heard about the millions dying in east Africa RIGHT NOW due to famine and civil war. Last March, thousands died in an hour as a giant tsunami crashed over Japan's coastline. Gang wars are alive and well in our cities. There is still no cure for cancer. Or diabetes. Millions of babies are being aborted while millions of dollars are being spent on infertility treatments. Russia and France are offering women financial incentives to have more children.

    Where is this "overpopulation"?

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  120. Russia and France may be too late. This guy from L.A. was sitting at my bar the other night and once I told him I was pregnant with #4 he went on this rampage about pollution and how I'm going to kill Earth with all these babies. I asked him who was going to pay for healthcare, SS, etc. and he quickly changed the subject and said "we're all going to hell in a handbasket anyway" or something of that nature. It's a serious question, Liberals. Who is going to support your entitlement utopia???

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  121. Embryonic Stem Cell Research and In Vitro Fertilization - You are correct.

    Contraception and Homosexual Marriage - You are correct. This is why gay marriage will be legalized in most of the US.

    The connection between abortion and contraception is absurd. "Devout" secularists and "devout" Catholics who think that there is a connection are simply wrong.

    I will not remain for further comment.

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  122. I will not remain for further comment.

    Probably because you know there's no way you can support your opinion given the evidence already cited...

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  123. I think it's because he's been asked nicely to leave before because he doesn't ever truly engage in discussion... Paul, hope you have a great day-be praying for you! No need to respond to that. ;)

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  124. I'm sure my comment has been long forgotten at this point...
    but, my major flaw (as a writer... because as a person there are MANY to choose from) is that I write as if everyone reading is already in my head. I've done this since the time I was in high school, and for example when I wrote a paper on "The Monster In 'Frankenstein'" and referred to Dr Frankenstein as the true monster of the story, my first grade was a C+. When I explained to my teacher that I took the topic "how was the monster in 'Frankenstein' justified in his actions?" and decided instead of choosing the obvious monster of the story to choose the Dr (who was, actually, pretty monstrous), my teacher re-read it and I got an A.

    Long story short - what JoAnna and Leila said in response to my feelings about avoiding pregnancy while using NFP are completely true, and I feel the exact same way.
    Sarah, I'm so happy to hear you are able to navigate those crazy mucus patterns post-partum with PCOS! If you don't mind, I'd like to keep you and your DH (and new baby!) in my prayers :)

    Ciao, everyone!
    NFP is great! :)

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  125. The way I read your comment, is that you think it best to conceive as many children as you can, as you should not prevent any child from being conceived.

    Artificially preventing a child from being conceived, and abstaining from the act which conceives a child are two DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT things. So yes, "it is best to conceive as many children as you can", but one person's "many" and another persons "many", are two different quantitative notions. But abstaining or engaging in sexual intercourse, with one's spouse, is the only acceptably moral way to achieve that "many".
    Does that make sense?

    The other quoted below, I think you're misunderstanding me, I'm playing a sort of devil's advocate. Of course I'm for treating cancer, 3 of my 4 grandparents died of cancer. But let's see if I address one thing at a time, if that makes more sense.

    I really find this strange. If I had cancer, which would be my own biology, I would want someone to be in control of it.

    Yes, exactly. But if the goal is not to overpopulate the earth, why? If we're in such danger of overpopulating the earth, then WHY are we trying to control these diseases and cure them, so that we may live longer?

    Do you vaccinate your kids Bethany? If so, you are trying to fundamentally alter their biology.

    This true, and I think the chicken pox vaccine is ridiculous, Chicken Pox is a right of passage among children.

    But when it comes to contraception, we're not talking about preventing disease (unless you believe the new healthcare "junk"). We're talking about preventing fertility. Something that is supposed to be there. What right do we have to increase the longevity of our own lives through vaccines, or cures of diseases or any other medical procedures and then have the audacity to claim that the world is over populated so we shouldn't have any more kids? We're the ones who are manipulating our biology in order to live longer and then manipulating our biology in order to prevent new humans from being conceived.

    Being in control of your biology also means that you use controlling willpower not to eat too much food even if you want to, and not to sleep around, even if you have the urge to. I am just trying to point out that most people view being in some control of their biology to be good most of the time.

    While I understand what you're saying here, I'd think most Catholics understand that the "control" used in that type of willpower succeeds only with the Grace and help of God. They are not trying to alter their biology as with contraception.

    I think that thinking that famine is somehow OK because it is part of the larger plan is horrid. I can never think that. Please tell me you don't think that.

    No of course I don't think that famine is "okay". Though I believe the secular atheist, following through on a thought process, would have to see famine as the planet taking action to regulate species population. Let's face it, the planet doesn't recognize that we have intelligence and will and the capability to love. As far as the planet is concerned were animals, and just as random forest fires and other occurrences of nature help the planet to regulate the amount of a species living in one area, why would we be treated any differently than say the dinosaurs?

    To be continued...

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  126. The shorthand of all of this rambling and the previous ramblings, is that I think it's disingenuous at best, and downright dishonest at worse to claim overpopulation is such a danger that we must prevent ourselves from having children, while at the same time taking measures to extend our own lives, thereby contributing to an increase in population.

    Nature and ultimately God, will take care of us, with, without, or even in spite of our "help".

    Am I still making any sense, or have I breached the threshold of complete and utter nonsense? After all, the baby and I have been up since 4 am this morning, I'm afraid of the night schedule this kid is going to have after it's here.

    So yes, I do vaccinate my children, with some vaccines, and I do advocate for treating, ethically, diseases. But then again, I gave up contraception a long time ago and I don't see overpopulation of planet Earth as something that will ever be faced by the human race.

    (mosquitoes, and spiders are a completely different matter)

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  127. Bethany, I get your point, as this said it beautifully:

    is that I think it's disingenuous at best, and downright dishonest at worse to claim overpopulation is such a danger that we must prevent ourselves from having children, while at the same time taking measures to extend our own lives, thereby contributing to an increase in population.

    Mary, what would your friends (the liberal "green" ones) respond to such a statement?

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  128. TCIE, you are awesomeness, as always. A light to me and everyone else.

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  129. So Bethany, as you see it. A child that does not exist...has not even be conceived, has equal rights to exist as a person who is already existing, say, my mom, for example.

    A person who exists has fundamental rights. We should always try to help that person within the realm of reasonableness (certain life-extending measures in the last months seem unreasonable to me). A person who does not exist yet does not have any rights because they are a non-entity. I really cannot believe that any serious person cannot distinguish the two.

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  130. Mary, I think you totally missed her point. The question is: If someone is so concerned about the planet that they won't even have children, then why do they work so hard to prolong the lives of the elderly and sick? After all, the goal is saving the planet, right? All these old and sick people used to die a lot earlier, thus lightening the population. Why prolong it all if "letting them go" will help the planet and reduce carbon footprints?

    I hope you see she is not arguing what you are saying she's arguing (no one is arguing that non-existent persons have rights!). It's a philosophical question, and I've never heard an answer.

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  131. Bethany said, "Though I believe the secular atheist, following through on a thought process, would have to see famine as the planet taking action to regulate species population"

    In fact, although I am not an atheist, I do understand that periodic famine (population burst and decline) is what we see in nature for all species. This is a fact. As humans we have partly exempted ourselves from this phenomenon, but many learned persons would argue that we are like a speeding train headed for a clif, but we haven't hit the clif yet, although they have in many places.

    I would argue that moderating birth rates in many places faced with terrible population explosions in relation to the resources available to them, is very good. It allows families to raise their children with adequate food and shelter etc.

    I have to say that this whole discussion is really enlightening. It seems that you all like to claim (not Katherine) that Catholicism is not against moderating birth rates if that is what is deemed necessary by a couple as long as you do it with NFP, but really, underneath it all, your thought is to open people to the idea, as Bethany said, that "it is best to conceive as many children as you can, but one person's "many" and another persons "many", are two different quantitative notions." I'm sorry because in my lexicon the word "many" never means one, or two or even three. Clearly, you see the highest good as bringing children into the world.

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  132. Leila said, "If someone is so concerned about the planet that they won't even have children, then why do they work so hard to prolong the lives of the elderly and sick?"

    I never said the people who won't have children work so hard to prolong the lives of "sick and elderly". I would surmise that most of the extreme ones believe in assisted suicide for sick and elderly. I know one guy who is very extreme, and he has a plan to die by such a method when he is 85 if he is in poor or declining health.

    I think many people working to cure cancer and disease are trying to alleviate suffering. I don't think that is a bad thing, to desire a world with less suffering.

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  133. Bethany said, "I don't see overpopulation of planet Earth as something that will ever be faced by the human race."

    Bethany, let's say that everyone followed your path...all women the world over. If you understand exponential math, you would see that it would not take long at all to literally cover the entire land mass of the earth with humans. Of course that will not happen...wars, conflict, disease, high cost of food will keep the population down. We already see this in very dense areas; people moderate their reproduction...but they do it with artificial means...mostly. I suppose what you would say is that in such areas people must abstain from sexual intercourse entirely.

    I think you are missing my point. I have no problem with an individual person having a large family, if they raise it with love and learning and can feed and clothe them all. But, I have a huge problem with an institution to spout a "Truth" that could not possibly be adopted by the entire world. For me, all truths must be universally applicable to be "true".

    But, again I will ask, do you think that once the entire world gets to it's carrying capacity in your mind, that God will return? So the end of the world is then sort of built in? At least this is an answer.

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  134. Or do you envision an entire world looking like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmorgan/32606683/
    where only the very rich have access to the natural world?

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  135. I think many people working to cure cancer and disease are trying to alleviate suffering. I don't think that is a bad thing, to desire a world with less suffering.

    I agree. And the Church is the biggest charity on the face of the earth, so no worries there. The only thing forbidden to us is the use of immoral means to reduce suffering. We must always live within the moral law.

    For atheists and radical secularists, they do not acknowledge an objective moral law. So, it seems to me that for them, the best way to alleviate suffering is to gently euthanize and commit suicide. If one is dead, one cannot suffer.

    And actually, that idea is consistent with the abortion movement (kill the child because it has the potential to suffer) and the euthanasia movement (to alleviate grandma's suffering, or Terri Schiavo's, we must kill her) and the "death with dignity", aka, suicide movement (I don't want to suffer or cause others to suffer, so I need to kill myself).

    There is a reason why it's called The Culture of Death.

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  136. But, I have a huge problem with an institution to spout a "Truth" that could not possibly be adopted by the entire world. For me, all truths must be universally applicable to be "true".

    The Truth and meaning of human sexuality is applicable to all.

    I suppose what you would say is that in such areas people must abstain from sexual intercourse entirely.

    ??

    Again, what do you have against NFP? I know that you personally do not like the idea of having to give up sex during the days that you most want it, but is that your objection for the rest of the women in the world?

    Also, marriage was instituted by God for the creation of families, specifically the bonding of spouse for the procreation of children. Every marriage is called to be open to new life. There is no other reason that God created marriage and sex… otherwise, we'd all be just good friends. :) As to exactly how many kids a couple is called to have? That is between them and God. But one thing that we know we cannot do is use immoral means to limit our family size.

    I will let Bethany respond now, as I tend to be a comment hog…sorry!

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  137. One more comment (sorry)...

    But, again I will ask, do you think that once the entire world gets to it's carrying capacity in your mind, that God will return? So the end of the world is then sort of built in? At least this is an answer.

    As long as God sees fit to keep creating new people, He will provide in abundance for our needs. For example, the continent of Africa is rich beyond belief in natural resources. We have abundance on this earth (even if sin and corruption and horrible governance and bad ideas keep that abundance from everyone). When there is nothing left (highly unlikely anytime soon!), I can imagine that God would then renew the heavens and the earth (the Second Coming, the end of the world as we know it). I can also see Him coming waaaaaay before that point. So, you never know.

    But as it stands now, we still live on a planet that is basically empty of people and full of natural resources.

    Okay, I will try to be quiet now...

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  138. Okay, there's a lot to sort through here, I'm a tad short on time at the moment, so let's see what I can address relatively quickly.

    I would argue that moderating birth rates in many places faced with terrible population explosions in relation to the resources available to them, is very good. It allows families to raise their children with adequate food and shelter etc.

    And I would argue that instead of moderating (forced moderating in many cases) birth rates in these areas how about getting the resources to the people that need them without the greed and corruption heading them off. The areas are only unable to provide for themselves if you look at them as autonomous societies rather than a world issue. I mean yeah, if I look at at New York City, as if it is an autonomous culture without any possible resources from outside the city limits, it would be overpopulated, too.

    The world can provide for all the people on it, and quite well I might add. And even as a potential last resort, help people who are willing to relocate to areas of the world that do have the "room" for them. Many stay because they don't want to leave their homeland, but many would gladly leave and make a new and better life elsewhere if they had the means and opportunity.


    *as Bethany said, that "it is best to conceive as many children as you can, but one person's "many" and another persons "many", are two different quantitative notions." I'm sorry because in my lexicon the word "many" never means one, or two or even three. Clearly, you see the highest good as bringing children into the world.


    I think the words "as" in the bolded part of my statement put the conditions on it. It doesn't say "to conceive many children", but AS many AS one CAN (can meaning "are able to" either financially, emotional, psychologically, physically). For some that may mean 1 child, for other that may mean 14 kids (my great-grandmother).

    But yes, bringing children into the world is one of the highest goods. Why is that so revelatory?


    To be continued...

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  139. If you understand exponential math, you would see that it would not take long at all to literally cover the entire land mass of the earth with humans.

    Now, Mary, I'm well aware given our strong principles and at the very least my inability to make a clear and concise point might be making you a little defensive, but this statement is down right condescending... considering I graduated high school with A.P. Calc 3 on my transcript. (granted, that was 15 years ago, I feel old.)

    But, again I will ask, do you think that once the entire world gets to it's carrying capacity in your mind, that God will return? So the end of the world is then sort of built in? At least this is an answer.

    I don't think the world will get to it's carrying capacity. The problem I see is with many of the overpopulation equations is that they run the assumption that the world's population will grow to this imaginary excess amount in a hundred or few hundred years, but the way they're adequately distributing the food and resources among all these people are by today's standards. Now if you really think that we haven't managed to figure out how to better take care of the people of the world through food and resources in the last 500 years, then maybe you'd have a point, but 500 years from now we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how science, both with technological advances and the adaptability of the human species, will have changed to allow for even greater food and resource sharing.

    I honestly believe that either the entire human race will die off, long before the world truly gets overpopulated (and not because of overpopulation) or yes, Christ will return, again, long before the world is overpopulated.

    I am assuming that you're also aware that the world's population is not growing exponentially. In fact it's slowing down in it's growth, and will top out, most researchers believe, around the year 2050 with about 10 billion people and then begin to recede.

    The conservative estimate I've read for the "maximum" amount of people the planet can sustain given the current allotted food and other resources available, as well as current harvesting and manufacturing practices and our own need for material gluttony, is 100 billion people and I've even seen it as high as 250 billion people.

    But what I find most telling in all of that is, unless something changes, for the first time in all of HISTORY, the human race will cease to keep growing at all, in about 40 years.

    And it's not because of disease or famine, or the destructiveness of nature. But we as species, who have managed to exist on this planet for, at most, 3/100000 of the life of the whole planet, have the arrogance to think we know what's best and how to do it better. Instead of letting God (or for the secular atheist: evolution,) do His (it's) job!

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  140. And appreciate your "comment-hogging" Leila. The next couple weeks will be touch and go. And I think we're pretty much on the same wave-length.

    (besides us English majors have to stick together)

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  141. Bethany and Leila,
    Could you provide some resources for your facts? Bethany, you cited a lot of numbers. Where are they from? 250 billion? Really?

    Leila, you say the world is still rich with natural resources. Can you show some evidence for this? Seems like last time I checked with experts, they were talking about the collapse of worldwide fisheries.

    PS Did not mean that to be condescending. I would be interested if either of you have ever taken an economics or resource economics class.

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  142. Bethany, I'll miss you when you have your maternity break, but come back soon!

    Mary, I thought the fact that Africa was chock full of natural resources was common knowledge? Anyway, I googled and here is the first link that popped up, and it's from Africa itself:

    http://www.newsfromafrica.org/newsfromafrica/articles/art_10808.html

    Also, I have not taken an economics class since high school, but I read a lot, combined with a tiny bit of common knowledge and common sense. I worry about economics classes now, as the "experts" seem to be Paul Krugman types and Keynesian economics? Oy, vey!!!!!

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  143. Bethany,
    But here is the irony! You say you are not worried about overpopulation in the slightest and consider those who do concern themselves to be crazy because, as you stated, "[The Earth] will top out, most researchers believe, around the year 2050 with about 10 billion people and then begin to recede."

    So overpopulation is not a problem, partly in your view, because of such a stat., but my point is that declining fertility rates are BECAUSE of women's education and access to family planning! The availability of contraceptives are what is causing lower birthrates. If you take away the contraceptives we would have much higher birth rates! Then you could not say that the world population was looking to cap out any time soon. Therefore, if everyone was to accept strict Catholic doctrine, the scenario would be wildly different.

    Also, you did answer that you think the human race will die out or God will end the world before population becomes a problem, but why do you think the human race will die out? Are you one of those folks who says, "Well, we might be hit by an asteroid tomorrow, so it does not matter?" I am honestly asking, because I am not sure why you think the human race would die out.

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  144. Could you provide some resources for your facts? Bethany, you cited a lot of numbers. Where are they from? 250 billion? Really?

    I will admit, the 250 billion is a rough estimate based on some extreme numbers from the following page. Pay particular attention to the Caveats section because it also provides some interesting points for and against...

    http://fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-many-people-can-earth-support.html

    His ultimate conclusion is that if all the world's current cropland could be harvested for corn with U.S. productivity standards then the earth could support 100 billion people. But his scenario 4 (which I'll admit is unrealistic - until you read the caveats) has his top number 324 billion.

    So overpopulation is not a problem, partly in your view, because of such a stat., but my point is that declining fertility rates are BECAUSE of women's education and access to family planning! The availability of contraceptives are what is causing lower birthrates. If you take away the contraceptives we would have much higher birth rates! Then you could not say that the world population was looking to cap out any time soon. Therefore, if everyone was to accept strict Catholic doctrine, the scenario would be wildly different.

    Mary, your assumption is that every woman followed the objective morality and the Church's teaching then every woman would end up with 10-12 children. And that's blatantly false. If everyone followed the Church's teaching, the moral law, then, yes, there would continue to be an increase in the world's population, not exponentially, but increases in similar proportions to past generations. Along with those increases, the ability to create better ways of growing and harvesting food as well as making better use of resources will also grow and increase (just as as they have in the past), making the ability to sustain MORE people feasible.

    Yes, if there weren't contraception there would be more children being born, and if they're weren't cancer treatments and cholesterol medicine and transplant surgeries etc... etc..., there would be more people dying. The idea that it is our "civic and worldly" responsibility to limit the amount of children a society has, while at the same time prolonging our own lives is backwards. The world's population should be growing, slowly and steadily. The reason it jumped and grew so quickly in the last 150 years has nothing to do with the amount of children being born, it has do with the amount of people who AREN'T DYING.

    To be continued...

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  145. Also, you did answer that you think the human race will die out or God will end the world before population becomes a problem, but why do you think the human race will die out? Are you one of those folks who says, "Well, we might be hit by an asteroid tomorrow, so it does not matter?" I am honestly asking, because I am not sure why you think the human race would die out.

    I guess you could say the law of averages. I suppose if space travel akin to something seen on Star Trek or Star Wars were to ever become a legitimate possibility that might make me change my mind. But barring the ability to travel at the speed of light, we're kinda stuck to our solar system, which should supernova and be destroyed in approximately 4 billion years. Given the fact that even the dinosaurs couldn't manage to make it for a half a billion years, and the fact that the world still has enough currently deployed nuclear warheads (2000 alone on high alert status) that could, if all launched at the same time, quite possibly destroy the entire planet like the "Deathstar". And while I do NOT accept the premise that the world cannot sustain a growing population of humans, I do believe that if humanity doesn't stop being so materialistically greedy then we will cause our own demise via nature. But that won't be because the planet couldn't sustain us having more children, it will be because we tried too hard to control it in order to get what we wanted and not what we needed out of it.

    And I suppose, yes, an asteroid could hit the earth tomorrow. Of course, a freight train could fly off the tracks and crash through my living room window, but I'm not holding my breath for either of them.

    I'm not usually a true pessimist, but even saying "the odds are stacked against us living for another million years" is unrealistic at best.

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  146. Bethany,
    You said, "If everyone followed the Church's teaching, the moral law, then, yes, there would continue to be an increase in the world's population, not exponentially, but increases in similar proportions to past generations." Um....the world population crept along for eons, kept in check by a high death rate (we agree there). But...if you don't think we experienced exponential growth once the death toll came down in "past generations", then you have not really looked at the numbers: http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/P/Populations.html (scroll down to the graph for the "population of the world" to the right). This is exponential growth, and note where it took off...right when modern medicine and science were dawning.

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  147. Mary, I looked around that site but I couldn't find any citations for those numbers and calculations, or any information/credentials about the person crunching those numbers... is there a page I missed?

    If you want us to take these stats seriously, they have to come from a better source than some random person on the Internet who may or may not have a hidden agenda or could be pulling numbers out of the air.

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  148. JoAnna, (and Bethany and Leila)
    Ah...what is your issue? With the graph? Do you think that graph is wrong? I really only linked because of the graph which showed the exponential growth. Are you questioning the historical exponential growth?

    How about "figure 1." from this U of Michigan site :http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/human_pop/human_pop.html#Past

    The point was simple: The exponetial growth of the human population (a fact) in history began once the death rate started coming down due to the advent of modern science.

    Bethany was claiming that we could continue to "reproduce like previous generations" without exponential growth. I don't see how she can come to such a conclusion.


    PS I find it funny that you call me out on using some guy's random site, while not calling Bethany out on it (even if she herself did admit to using a far out number from a far out source).

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  149. Mary said: The exponetial growth of the human population (a fact) in history began once the death rate started coming down due to the advent of modern science.

    I said, previously, The reason it jumped and grew so quickly in the last 150 years has nothing to do with the amount of children being born, it has do with the amount of people who AREN'T DYING.

    Aren't these tantamount to the same concept. And exactly MY point. It's not the children being born into the world, it's the amount of people in general who are no longer DYING thanks to the advent of modern medicine.

    My intention was to simply point out that it is completely dishonest to "blame" the relatively recent exponential growth of the human race on babies being conceived and born, saying that it's somehow responsible to frustrate and interfere with the act of conception in order to "prevent" the overpopulation of the planet, without acknowledging (and thereby doing something equally drastic - and probably equally immoral) that the advent of modern medicine and therefore the extended longevity of people's lives is equally (if not more) to blame for that exponential growth.

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  150. Mary,

    That's because Bethany's source had a clearly identifiable "About Me" page, and the blog author also listed the sources used for his/her calculations. Your site didn't so I have no idea where those numbers are coming from.

    Did you read the post from Joe at Shameless Popery that I posted upthread? It has lots of pretty graphs, too (with cited sources!):

    http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/01/overpopulation-debate-at-glimpse.html

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  151. JoAnna,
    That first graph is interesting; I read the Economist regularly, and indeed commodity prices dropped for years as mass-production and low energy prices helped. I do not dispute this, nor the much-needed, (and under-appreciated) work of Norman Borlaug during the Green Revolution. But, if you notice, food prices (indeed all commodity prices) have been steadily rising for 11 years, even through a massive worldwide recession. Some herald this as the beginning of worldwide food shortages, some think it is merely a blip on the radar. I don't know. But I do know one thing, and that is that even Norman Borlaug was greatly concerned about the lack of further arable land on this planet, and that even until the end of his long life he served on the board of several notable organizations concerned with population growth. Mr. Shameless Pope fails to mention this fact.

    (I do conceded that the environmentalists who were screaming to prevent fertilizers and GM foods into Africa drive me TOTALLY NUTS and I think they should instead be trying to start lots of Monsantos to encourage some healthy competition among the Agribusiness Giants).

    But here is the question again with a new graph (really the same graph) from a source you like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_curve.svg

    Direct question: Do you agree with Bethany that this graph shows that world without birth control would return us to a model where "there would continue to be an increase in the world's population, not exponentially, but increases in similar proportions to past generations." ?

    I really don't see how anyone could see this data as not exponential growth.

    I don't mean to pick on Bethany as she has been very forthright about her opinions and is gamely willing to discuss. I give her a lot of credit for that.

    See, in my dealings with any person who believes that birth control is sinful they seem to follow one or more of the following thought processes:

    A. They do not think about global issues at all

    B. They do not understand how individual behaviors (particularly those affected by institutional laws) affect global issues.

    C. They do not understand the math of exponential growth

    D. They believe the Earth is actually infinite (I really don't understand how).

    E. They don't think it is their problem

    F. They do not think the population was ever expanding exponentially in the past

    G. They think God has a limited number of human souls waiting to be born and this number is less than that number that would truly overwhelm the earth. (The Mormans)

    H. God will come before the point is reached (Bethany said this idea played into her thinking).

    I. A worldwide catastrophe will occur (nuclear war) long before the overpopulation point. (Bethany also subscribes partly to this idea).

    Yes, some countries, such as Japan, Russia and Italy are in a serious bind with their extraordinarily low birthrates. But...there is a large difference between a TFR of 4 or 5 and one of 1.2. Why not a TFR of around 2, which is what you seem to magically get when you educate women and give them access to contraceptives (I hold out the hope this can be achieved without abortion).

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  152. See, in my dealings with any person who believes that birth control is sinful they seem to follow one or more of the following thought processes:

    Wha...?

    Mary, your list is so bizarre. It's not that Catholics DON'T THINK about these things, it's that they DISAGREE WITH THE CONCLUSTIONS OF THE DATA PRESENTED.

    I don't understand how you can read Joe's blog post and draw from that the conclusion: "Catholics don't think/don't care about overpopulation."

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  153. I agree with JoAnna. That list is bizarre. It's borderline insulting, but I don't think you meant it that way, right Mary?

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  154. Why not a TFR of around 2, which is what you seem to magically get when you educate women and give them access to contraceptives (I hold out the hope this can be achieved without abortion).

    And if it cannot, would you then accept abortion as necessary?

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  155. Mary, to backtrack just a bit, do you concede the point that Africa is a continent rich with natural resources? I don't know if we settled that.

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  156. JoAnna,
    Please answer my question.

    Also....not just Catholics. The Quiverfull movement folks and Mormans too.

    Also...Why is it insulting? I is what I honestly have encountered through my life. Also, when I talk to people who are rabid anti-natalists, and mostly anti-religion, they always ask me some of the questions I am asking you folks. MY answer is that I am not against birth control (barrier methods and withdrawal etc.) I also don't believe the world is overpopulated per say on a global scale right now, (but many pretty smart folks do think this) but that does not mean that overpopulation is never a problem or that high birth rates cannot be a problem.

    The way I see it, because I really want to see God in this, is that when you educated women and give them some choices (NFP can certainly be a part of that!) we get to more of a steady state or a slow, slow increase in some places...maybe decrease in some places too.

    I guess I would ask you to elaborate on your view of this because you don't think my list reveals authentic Catholic thinking.

    So, given that all Catholics must desire the salvation of all people, and that can only be achieved through Christ and the one church, and that one must follow and accept all Catholic doctrine, then Catholics must desire that it would be a good for all married couples to understand the Theology of the Body and practice NFP (but as Katherine has pointed out, more children is always better unless your immediate situation is serious).

    So....if the Catholic Way is Truth, and it leads us to a RAPIDLY growing (exponentially growing) population curve (as it did in the past)...you must have some idea about how it will go, or how it will go until the end. I would be interested in how you think it will go. I have never read anything Catholic that touches on these future ideas (other than Bethany's thoughts on the end of the world).

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  157. Leila,

    Yes, I have been to Zimbabwe and certainly that country is a very good example of a breadbasket country that went south due to corruption and evil...would love to see it get back on track.

    But...30% of Africa is desert...non arable. Much of Africa is also old growth rainforest, and some of that rainforest is needed for ecological reasons...so mowing it all down is not really tenable...but I will conceded that Africa is definitely the continent to look at when you look at a place that could be MUCH more efficient.

    But, what does that say about infinity? Africa is not infinite.

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  158. Mary, I am going to quickly say that if you think the Church does not care about these issues, then you haven't read much that comes out of the Vatican or the scientists associated with the Church. I am not a scientist. But to say that the Church does not care or think on these issues is not true.

    Quiverfull folks, from my understanding, believe NFP to be immoral. This is not a Catholic understanding.

    In general, please, please, make sure you are always making a distinction between the Catholic Church (full of intellectuals and scientists) and the group of Christians who believe that Adam and Eve lived with dinosaurs, or that the earth is 6,000 years old, etc.

    I am not bashing them, or the Quiverfull folks, because there are points of agreement we have on things! But please give the Catholic Church (which founded the university system and has always, always supported and driven science) a little more credit for deep thought and intellect.

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  159. About the abortion question...I want to think about it...not really sure.


    But...sorry I forgot to include one other response to my list. I did ask Darwin from DarwinCatholic about this. Clearly a smart, erudite guy. He said he did not view the Catholic idea of Theology of the Body to be a Kantian Imperative. So, I guess that means he thinks that it is true...even if not true for all creeds.

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  160. Why not a TFR of around 2, which is what you seem to magically get when you educate women and give them access to contraceptives

    Um... Europe has educated women and has not only access to birth control but has held a contraceptive mentality for a LOT longer than the U.S. has, and if 2.1 is the replacement birthrate then:

    119 New Zealand 2.08
    120 El Salvador 2.08
    121 New Caledonia 2.07
    122 Dominica 2.07
    123 United States 2.06
    124 Antigua and Barbuda 2.05
    125 Tunisia 2.03
    126 Korea, North 2.02
    127 Ireland 2.02
    128 Azerbaijan 2.02
    129 Bahamas, The 1.99
    130 Bermuda 1.97
    131 Isle of Man 1.96
    132 Gibraltar 1.96
    133 France 1.96

    134 Suriname 1.95
    135 Costa Rica 1.93
    136 Saint Vincent and the
    Grenadines 1.92
    137 Vietnam 1.91
    138 Seychelles 1.91
    139 United Kingdom 1.91
    140 Uruguay 1.89
    141 Uzbekistan 1.89
    142 Iceland 1.89
    143 Bahrain 1.88
    144 Chile 1.88
    145 Iran 1.88
    146 Cayman Islands 1.87
    147 Kazakhstan 1.87
    148 French Polynesia 1.87
    149 Brunei 1.86
    150 Aruba 1.84
    151 Wallis and Futuna 1.81
    152 Maldives 1.81
    153 Saint Lucia 1.81
    154 Virgin Islands 1.80
    155 Mauritius 1.79
    156 Saint Kitts and Nevis 1.79
    157 Australia 1.78
    158 Lebanon 1.77
    159 Luxembourg 1.77
    160 Norway 1.77

    161 Anguilla 1.75
    162 Algeria 1.75
    163 Denmark 1.74
    164 Palau 1.73
    165 Finland 1.73
    166 Trinidad and Tobago 1.72
    167 British Virgin Islands 1.71
    168 Sint Maarten 1.70
    169 Turks and Caicos Islands 1.70
    170 Barbados 1.68
    171 Sweden 1.67
    172 Thailand 1.66
    173 Jersey 1.66
    174 Netherlands 1.66
    175 Belgium 1.65

    176 Puerto Rico 1.62
    177 Macedonia 1.58
    178 Canada 1.58
    179 Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da
    Cunha 1.57
    180 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 1.55
    181 Guernsey 1.54
    182 China 1.54
    183 Liechtenstein 1.53
    184 Malta 1.52
    185 Portugal 1.50
    186 Monaco 1.50
    187 Albania 1.48
    188 Spain 1.47

    189 San Marino 1.47
    190 Switzerland 1.46
    191 Georgia 1.45
    192 Cyprus 1.45

    193 Cuba 1.44
    194 Estonia 1.44
    195 Croatia 1.44
    196 Bulgaria 1.42
    197 Russia 1.42
    198 Germany 1.41
    199 Hungary 1.40
    200 Austria 1.40
    201 Serbia 1.40
    202 Italy 1.39
    203 Greece 1.38
    204 Slovakia 1.37
    205 Armenia 1.37
    206 Andorra 1.35
    207 Latvia 1.32
    208 Slovenia 1.30
    209 Poland 1.30
    210 Moldova 1.29
    211 Romania 1.29
    212 Ukraine 1.28
    213 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.27
    214 Czech Republic 1.26
    215 Belarus 1.26

    216 Montserrat 1.26
    217 Lithuania 1.25
    218 Korea, South 1.23
    219 Japan 1.21
    220 Taiwan 1.15
    221 Singapore 1.11
    222 Hong Kong 1.07
    223 Macau 0.92

    So tell me, what is the "magic number" you get when you educate women that they don't have to take responsibility for the consequences of having sex, and just give them a little pill or latex cover to try and avoid the consequential outcome of their actions?

    The number I got was approximately 1.47 (I may have missed someone, or added someone in that I mistook for a European country). FAR below replacement birthrates.

    Yeah, I believe you might get to replacement levels if you educate women in, among other things, the virtues of chastity, self-control, and self-restraint. But when you add contraception to the equation....
    well... you get a 1.47 birthrate. And a slowly shrinking, and over-burdened workforce.

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  161. So....if the Catholic Way is Truth, and it leads us to a RAPIDLY growing (exponentially growing) population curve

    I'm still trying to understand WHY the Catholic teaching regarding sex and marriage and children seems to be the ONLY "problem" when discussing the concept of a potentially "RAPIDLY growing population curve".

    I am also trying to figure out why it seems so completely unbelievable to you, Mary, that some nature related even would ever occur and say "thin the heard" of humanity. I mean the Earth has seen volcanoes, comets, hundreds of "ice ages", random, chaotic, and relatively quick climate changes, extinct species of animals and what, because we humans are here, now, none of that will EVER happen, EVER, EVER again? Seriously????? (Again, not Catholic teaching, but me and my logical, analytical background coming out)

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  162. And one more thing: God can be trusted with His earth and creation. When the "experts" (Erlich?) were predicting doom based on science, everyone got on that bandwagon. When he was proven DEAD WRONG, did the secular folks recant? I think they retrenched.

    Humans can always rise to the occasion, as long as they do not turn to sin to solve their temporal problems. We are to serve the good, not effect the good.

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  163. Mary,

    Direct question: Do you agree with Bethany that this graph shows that world without birth control would return us to a model where "there would continue to be an increase in the world's population, not exponentially, but increases in similar proportions to past generations." ?

    Yes, and I disagree with you that living according to Catholic teaching would cause an exponential increase.

    See this article, for example. An excerpt:

    Even if there were a looming global population crisis, the reality is that there is only one humane way to rein in population growth: by reining in sexual behavior. The population control advocates’ energy would be far better directed trying to re-link sex and marriage and children in the minds of the populace: this study from MIT points out that pre-contraception societies had natural population control checks when people understood that sex meant marriage and marriage meant children and thus waited to get married (and therefore have sex) until they had accumulated enough resources to support their offspring. This meant that some people had to wait a very long time to get married, and therefore had fewer total children. It reduced population levels in times of need without creating that dangerous disconnect between the sexual act and the new life it creates.

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  164. Did you read the link JoAnna? It doesn't work (the MIT link). I would like to read that study, because every study I have ever seen talks about how people used all sorts of birth control methods to try to do this (albeit most of them were not very effective or they were actually abortive).

    So....JoAnna...to reiterate...you think that graph DOES NOT show exponential growth? I really cannot understand that. We are looking at the same graph!

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  165. Bethany, my gosh, those TFR numbers are horrifying!!! What are we doing to ourselves?

    Well, at least the Muslims are having tons of kids. You can say good-bye to western civilization, but say hello to you descendants who are going to be Muslims!! (If you have any descendants.)

    *that was the generic "you"

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  166. Bethany:
    "I am also trying to figure out why it seems so completely unbelievable to you, Mary, that some nature related even would ever occur and say "thin the heard" of humanity."

    It is not unbelievable to me, but since it is a totally random event that might happen five minutes from now and might happen 200 million years from now or effectively never, then I consider it nihilistic to form my world view around it. But, I do respect you giving that as an answer. You are saying that it is OK to reproduce exponentially where the end-game is that many (even most) will be annihilated by a natural event.

    In terms of the birthrate falling below replacement levels, I do think in some countries it has swung back because those countries realized they had to address the problems that were keeping women from reproducing who wanted to also work. Italy (I know this from first hand experience) has, not only an abysmal record for accommodating working mothers, but also the remnants of a harshly patriarchal social system. Most of my Italian friends cared not to marry and become slaves to their spoiled husbands. The same is true for Japan.

    I do think radical feminism lied to women, in that it told them to delay childbearing with no regard to biology and I think there is going to be a generation of women who regret they listened to those lies. But that being true does not make the converse true: that no birth control is good.

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  167. You are saying that it is OK to reproduce exponentially

    And if it is not OK for married folks to "reproduce exponentially" (i.e., married couples remain open to life in their marriage) then what do the fertility restrictions look like, and who enforces them?

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  168. Mary,

    Sure, the graph shows exponential growth, but it's based on purely estimated data (the last time I checked, census.gov did not exist in 10,000 BC!).

    Furthermore, I disagree with you that the population will continue to grow at that exact rate (even if the world came to its senses and started following Catholic teaching), especially given the birthrates that Bethany posted and the fact that many countries are now giving their populace incentives to have more children due to a declining birthrate bringing on economic catastrophe.

    I would like to read that study, because every study I have ever seen talks about how people used all sorts of birth control methods to try to do this (albeit most of them were not very effective or they were actually abortive).

    The MIT document (I'll see if I can find a working link) says that people didn't use birth control to reduce the population. That's the whole point of it. It was just that they did a better job of putting sex in to its proper context (marriage) so fewer people were having children unless they were married and able to support them.

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  169. Ok...so I read that article, and I cannot figure out where it is from, though trying hard. I read it twice, and it seems the relevant book to read is by Tilley in 1978, which the author is citing as new evidence. I tried to follow several of the Biblio links and could not.

    Even so, I understand the premise of the short paper to be that preindustrial societies could and did delay the age of marriage to 24 or so for females and 28 or so for males when economic pressures called for this. Again, what does it matter if people still had 6 to 9 children? See http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft8f59p261;brand=eschol

    I would be interested if someone could dig up a more thorough reference from one of the biblio links. Again, not totally discounting this, but would like to see the data itself.

    To Bethany: Those data on low fertility rates are something. But...as I was thinking about it. What if you took abortion and the Pill of the table? I bet you would see quite and uptick. Maybe that would be the "magic" that gets us to 2.1. Anyone know of a sizable nation where abortion is illegal, contraception is not illegal and we have some fertility stats?

    Again, these numbers should be welcome to anyone who wants a large family in a developed nation.

    Also...look at France, a liberal nation that has had success at encouraging it's natives to have more babies through fabulous programs for working mothers.

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  170. Mary, from what I understand that document is comprised of a professor's lecture notes for an online History of Demographics course at MIT. Perhaps you could write the professor directly and see if he knows of an online data source? Looks like he's currently a professor at Yale; his contact info is here.

    Regarding this:
    Also...look at France, a liberal nation that has had success at encouraging it's natives to have more babies through fabulous programs for working mothers.


    Hold the phone! Isn't this a BAD thing, given that the earth is so overpopulated already? Shouldn't France be pushing contraception and abortion like mad in an effort to decrease the surplus population instead of encouraging women to have MORE babies?

    I don't see how you can be so concerned about overpopulation yet approve programs like the one in France.

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  171. Again, these numbers should be welcome to anyone who wants a large family in a developed nation.

    The Beckhams just had a fourth child (they are wealthy, married, all good), and they were ripped to shreds by folks in England for their "irresponsibility". Seems like one will pay a public price for having babies as a married couple, even in developing countries, thanks to the pop con folks. Most "regular folk" will see that the culture frowns on big families.

    Also...look at France, a liberal nation that has had success at encouraging it's natives to have more babies through fabulous programs for working mothers.

    Has this program had any substantial success? How many more children are being born now compared to before they started paying?

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  172. I see that Bethany, Leila, JoAnna, and Mary have covered a lot of ground in talking about population!
    I just want to add one thing; in economist Amartya Sen's book Development as Freedom, he devotes a whole chapter to looking at population control, the "missing women" phenomenon in China and India, and he very positively shows that the biggest indicator of fertility rates among women in developing countries is the rate of literacy among women.
    We're not talking college educations here, just basic literacy skills. If women know how to read, they will have fewer children.
    While I'm sure Mr. Sen (who is Indian) is not against birth control per se, he is very, very outspoken against any kind of coercion by governments or NGO's to try and force people to have no or fewer children.
    But his wider point, is that if we are really concerned with women in developing nations having children they cannot care for, then the solution isn't to force them to use contraception, or to try and manipulate them into using it, but rather to truly empower them by teaching them to read.

    Where is the feminist outcry for that? People claim (and it smacks of bigotry to me) that women in developing nations are (they use other words, but really mean) too ignorant/stupid to learn NFP, but what if we educate them? What if they learn how to read? The more education a woman has, even in the basics, the more able to truly participate in discernment of how best to space children for her family. If a woman knows how to read, she will be able to make healthier choices for her family, and her husband will be more likely to see her as an equal if they are both literate.

    I'm not saying women in developing countries shouldn't have large families if they are called to do so, but what I am saying is that if all of these people who are so busy shoving pills and condoms at everyone instead took the time to teach the women basic literacy skills, and how their bodies work (which they are more than capable of understanding), then the woman and her family get to decide how and when to welcome children. The Church teaches that we have two legitimite options for family planning: NFP or nothing. But it's up to individual consciences to discern what is best for their family. These women and families are being robbed of that option. They are being presented with mortal sin or nothing. So when they get overwhelmed by five babies in as many years, they take the free condoms or pills or whatever, and they never even know they have another choice! No one bothers to tell them how their bodies work, or how NFP works, or even how to read a basic sentence!
    But these societies would be so much stronger if all of these women learned basic literacy.

    I know this isn't exactly related to your discussion of population, but I do think it's relevant as we frequently discuss on here trends in developing nations.

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  173. Sarah, that is excellent! Thank you for that great contribution, which is totally relevant here. Great, great points.

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  174. Rockin' post Leila!----how do you have time to read 186 comments & post such brilliant work? :)

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  175. Sarah,
    Your points are valid, but there ARE great programs that are trying very hard to help literacy. Check out the amazing results from Bolsa Familia in Brazil. Another effort that is near to my heart is SEEDS international in Nepal. They are trying very hard to build and staff schools. It's a hard thing, because, for instance, in Brazil, there was little incentive for the poorest of the poor to educated their kids. They wanted them at home helping with chores. Bolsa paid them to send their kids to school. There are many many programs like this.

    My question to you. Does Sen say how these literate women were controlling their fertility? Seems that is the pertinent question. If you are literate, great. But how is that going to impact your fertility if you have no knowledge of NFP (this might have been part of the package there) or other way to reduce your fertility.

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  176. Leila,
    The French have had huge success. Remember, with TFR numbers, small point changes mean large demographic shifts. They were just under a TFR of 3 in the early sixties, and then plummeted to around 1.6 in the mid nineties. They instituted some programs to help women and encourage childbearing, and they are at the replacement rate today. What it means is that countries can encourage women to have babies even in a contraceptive world.

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  177. Mary, I don't have time to look it up now, but are you sure those higher numbers are not the result of Muslim immigrants who have about 8.1 babies per woman?

    It's not the French "Christians" (western civilization) having the babies. Europe is basically killing itself because of the contraceptive mentality. The future belongs to the fertile, and the future of France, and Europe, looks Muslim.

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  178. Also...the people lambasting the Beckhams must not realize that it is stupid to target individuals, when your national birthrate is below the replacement rate!

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  179. I am sure. There is some contribution from the Muslims, but the "white" French numbers are just over 1.8, (I'll try to re-find that stat.) and rising. I have a friend who is married to a Parisian (sadly infertile due to early cancer) but she talks about this all the time....that, and the terrible double standard of cheating in French marriages....but that is another topic!

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  180. They instituted some programs to help women and encourage childbearing, and they are at the replacement rate today.

    Actually, they are at just below replacement, but admirable that they have brought it up.

    What it means is that countries can encourage women to have babies even in a contraceptive world.

    I would more say, it means that countries can "bribe" women into having babies as long as they provide the women with the ability to continue to living the autonomous, materialistic lifestyle they've become accustomed to. I know that sounds harsh, but that's the way I see it.

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  181. Bethany, I've heard from Italians that the reason they won't have children is because they need total assurance that they will be provided for, by the state, from cradle to grave! Ugh!! Talk about the welfare/nanny state killing nations.

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  182. Bethany,
    I am really sorry you cannot see the success for France. How is it bribing someone to make nice childcare centers at work, give them sensible maternity leaves so they can breast feed their children, and allowing flexible hours? Fortune 500 companies that rate highly for working mothers are applauded here.

    When I was working, I was astounded at the horrid 8-12 week leave given to new mothers, the lack of flexibility, and the utter ridiculous joke of the daycare system. People routinely drive far out of their way to take their children to care centers that are very expensive and often close frequently for holidays the parents do not enjoy. I think the French understand something fundamental about educated women, and about the nature of being a parent that the United States and many other countries do not. I pumped at work for a while, and had to do it in a concrete bathroom with one stall while others waited to use the loo. Today things have changed at some companies, but it is still slow.

    Do you think mothers should never work at all?

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  183. Mary, that is a whole other issue, the nanny state. You may think that lavishing government largesse on every family is helpful, and it may be for a very short time, but eventually you run out of other people's money. This idea that the gov't is supposed to provide everything for all its citizens is why Greece and England and so many other countries (us!) are in the mess they are in. It's very sad! If private companies want to provide that stuff for working moms, I'm all for it! But to have the government taking care of everyone, from cradle to grave, and expecting that it can all be paid for? In my opinion it's a recipe for the death of a nation. And then where would women be? They would live in a bankrupt nation headed to anarchy! How is that helpful to anyone?

    Government should provide a safety net for anyone who is truly in crisis.

    Just my two cents.

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  184. I think the French understand something fundamental about educated women, and about the nature of being a parent that the United States and many other countries do not.

    Please tell me, honestly, what is about their policy that indicates a better understanding about the nature of being a parent?

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  185. I think the French understand that children are an investment in the future, and that being a parent is very hard to balance with today's commuting demands, work demands, educational demands etc. They realize that a parent in the workforce has many pressures that non-parents do not share, and they need to accommodate for these pressures (reasonably). Being a parent needs to be seen as a normal role, that might take extra support.

    In my work experiences (EVEN at teaching!) parenting demands were not even addressed. It was as if you wanted to hide the fact that you were a parent. People openly griped about having to cover for a person who left to tend a sick child, or who had to stay home during a snow day. There was no daycare assistance, and daycares that were high-quality were totally unaffordable. No companies had childcare facilities on their premises (although this is changing).

    In my last teaching job, we had a guidance counselor (childless) who used to bring in her two dogs all the time. Yet, the other counselor who had small children, was mocked for bringing her children into any meetings (even if they were routine informational sessions of a large nature).

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  186. Mary, that's all good and well, but who is supposed to pay for it all? It's all just a little more complicated than "just have the gov't pay for it".

    I'm not so sure the French have a better understanding of the value of children, frankly, seeing how they had to pay to try to get the French to have children in the first place.

    Sorry, I do not want to be like France.

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  187. I guess I'm asking: Should our entitlement obsessed nation add on some more entitlements? And when/where does that stop? I think we are a sinking ship as it is.

    My question assumes that you are advocating for more federal mandates, regulations and entitlements. If you are not, then I apologize for the assumption.

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  188. See my problem is this, I recognize that there is indeed an issue with the attitude, by employers (and in some ways the legalities such as FMLA, the government) that hinders rather than helps working mothers.

    But the solution to that problem is not advocating the government to provide for mothers, financially or otherwise, everything necessary so that mothers can continue "to hide the fact that [they are] a parent. [So that] people [can] openly gripe about having to cover for a person who left to tend a sick child, or who had to stay home during a snow day."

    The question is not "what can we do to help working women ignore that they have children, while in the workforce?" which, incidentally, is exactly what many of those programs do.

    The question is, why do women feel like they have to ignore the fact that they have children while they're working?

    Well working mother's feel like they have to ignore and hide the fact that they have children while working, because the assumption by so many others is, since birth control is so readily available, then it's the working mother's "fault" that they have a child (or God-forbid, multiple children) and so THEY have to deal with it, and they shouldn't even bother asking, let alone relying on someone else to help them out in those situations Mary mentioned.

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  189. Bethany,
    Thanks for your response, but I am confused. What should a government or private company do to accommodate mothers at work? If there were lots of high-quality, regularly-inspected, low-cost childcare centers near where people worked, if more companies were required by law to allow flexible or part-time work schedules for mothers, if new mothers got paid time off, then I think it would be good for everyone. What is your view of a good policy?

    I think we want to encourage educated, working mothers to have children. The country will be better for it.

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