Saturday, February 26, 2011

A sad reminder that the Pill was never designed to improve a woman's health

A wonderful blogger emailed me recently, telling me of a terrible medical emergency unfolding in her extended family. She wanted to let others know about the circumstances of this upsetting situation without posting it on her own blog. I offered her this forum, and here is her story:

We got a call a few days ago from my husband's aunt. His cousin "Jane" was in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs. Jane is 21.

Jane has been on the Pill since shortly after her 16th birthday because her mother believed that sex was a natural thing for young people to want to do. Since Jane was going to sleep around, it was her mother's responsibility to ensure that her daughter was safe. She has repeatedly informed us that our standards of no sex before marriage are unrealistic and that we "need to come into the modern age."

The modern age caught up with Jane last Saturday when she began having a sharp pain in her chest. She called 911 and told them that she was sure she was having a heart attack. The ambulance responded and whisked her to the hospital. Testing revealed that the pain was not from her heart but from the blood clots in her lungs. She had 6 large clots and numerous smaller ones spread throughout both lungs. Blood thinners were started and she was sent for further testing. A full body scan showed diminished blood flow in one of her legs and almost non-existent blood flow to her uterus.   

After several days in the hospital, the clots in her lungs looked better and the blood flow to her leg was at a normal level. Circulation to her uterus is better but is still at a level that causes concern.

The doctors determined that her condition was caused by her use of the Pill.

She was such a healthy person. She didn't smoke, ran regularly, and ate a mostly vegetarian diet (she just couldn't walk away from the occasional steak). She had no risk factors for blood clots except for those birth control pills that were meant to keep her safe.

Jane will be on blood thinners for the foreseeable future. She will have to give up running. She won't graduate in May as was planned, but may get her diploma in December if she is well enough to attend class by then. There is a good possibility that she is now infertile. She is on bedrest until the clots are dissolved and she is out of immediate danger. As of tonight, there are still clots present. She could still die.

Her mother is devastated that her child is in danger, but maintains the stance that this was the right decision because she would "do it anyway."

The slick TV ads and magazine pictures show the sexual "freedom" that the Pill has come to represent in modern society. These ads always include a blurb that the Pill has been linked to blood clots and death. Young women like to think that they are immune to such things. They are not. 

The medical community will tell us that these things happen to such a small percentage as to be statistically insignificant. The problem is, there is no way of predicting which 1-2% of women will die or be affected by medical calamity. They could be fine, or they could be like our cousin, Jane. Last week she was planning her graduation party and had just accepted a new job starting in June. Her life was full of possibilities.

Tonight she just hopes that she won't die.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Answering L, for clarity's sake

An anonymous commenter known as "L" left a comment yesterday that I thought was worthy of its own post, as it covered many topics that begged to be addressed. 

Her comments are in red italics.

I agree with college student about sex since the beginning of time and will one up that with "read up on human history." After all it was a long, long time ago that the Catholic Church itself was waffling on the sticky issue of "ensoulment" (for college student, this was the notion that a fetus did not have a soul until 40 days gestation for a male or 90 days for a female... because the church, like most folks at the time, did not see females as equal.) 

L, thank you so much for this opportunity to publicly correct this very common error. The issue of "ensoulment" was a theological concept, a pondering put forward by theologians at the time. There was never a time when the Catholic Church condoned abortion. The Church, regardless of the "ensoulment" discussion, has always and everywhere taught that abortion is an inherent evil. Moral truth does not change

Has there been sexism in the Church through the ages? Because her members are human, and sinners, yes. There have been sinners of every stripe in the Church, as much yesterday as today. To read what Pope John Paul had to say about sexism and the dignity of women in general, please read his Letter to Women. If you truly desire the Catholic response to this concern, it's worth your time.

Some Popes denounced any abortion regardless and some said it was okay as long as they did it before ensoulment. 

Some popes "said it was okay"? When you make a statement like that, you really need to cite your evidence. The truth is that no pope ever -- at any time, in any era -- taught that abortion was okay.

There have always been drugs, teas, tinctures to induce abortions - even hundreds of years ago. It is WELL DOCUMENTED. 

You are absolutely correct. Not only has abortion existed hundreds of years ago, but thousands of years ago. Catholicism has stood against abortion since Christ founded the Church over two thousand years ago; after all, abortion (and infanticide) was quite common in pagan Rome. No one on this blog, nor any Catholic I know, would dispute the fact that abortion has always existed. Murder, rape, theft, lying, cheating, and myriad other sins have also always existed. There is no new sin under the sun.

Ever since men have had the upper-hand over women, there has always been rape, incest, domination and subjugation throughout history. But here, in modern times we have a voice to say "NO MORE."

The wording here makes me think of the first part of this story. You are correct that sinful men have oppressed (and continue to oppress) women. Rape, domination, and subjugation are evil and unjust, and I thank God that we live in a nation where we do have a voice to fight that evil and assert our innate human dignity. If you "read up on human history" (to borrow your words), you will see that Western civilization has provided women the greatest freedom and dignity, as well as the loudest voice with which to oppose misogyny. In most cultures outside of Western civilization, women are still systematically and/or legally dominated, subjugated, dehumanized, raped and even murdered. I encourage you to investigate why Western civilization has been so good for women, while other civilizations have continued to oppress and misuse them.

What about suffrage? Thank you feminists. NOt Being the PROPERTY (not partner) of one's husband? Thank you feminists. Being able to breastfeed in public? Thank you feminists.

Oh, how I love the suffragists! Thank you, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, Sarah Norton, and so many other strong, courageous women! The early feminists knew that the violence of abortion was a crime against both women and children and an affront to human dignity. Their stories are compelling and inspiring, and I join you in lauding these amazing women.

Now, "women as property" is a non-Christian concept, as the dignity, equality, and partnership of spouses is made clear from the beginning: 
1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," i.e., his counterpart, his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. 
1662 Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love.  [Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Breastfeeding, in public or otherwise? You've come to the right place! God Himself designed breastfeeding, which is so beautiful that it's actually theological
…[Breastfeeding] benefits the child and helps to create the closeness and maternal bonding so necessary for healthy child development.  So human and natural is this bond that the Psalms use the image of the infant at its mother’s breast as a picture of God’s care for man.... [Pope John Paul II's Address on Breastfeeding, 1995]

So, thanks be to God for breastfeeding! And thank you to the seven courageous and devout Catholic mothers who founded the La Leche League in 1956 to support nursing moms when the rest of society had turned to bottle feeding. Even if modern feminism never existed, Catholics are all over breastfeeding.

You may hate contraception and abortion and the using of sex as a cheap way to fill carnal and sinful desires (secular people don't like a lot of this lifestyle either) But stop with blaming feminism. 

I hope you are correct that secular people don't like that lifestyle either. But what part of  secular/liberal philosophy will lead to the cessation of that lifestyle? Can you show me in feminist literature where the "free love" mindset is being fought against or repudiated? Help me understand why modern feminist thought is not an accessory to the sexual mess we find ourselves in today.

Stay out of FoxNews type talking points. 

That came seemingly out of the blue! But let's address it: Fox News talking points on what? Contraception? I have never heard a FoxNews reporter or commentator oppose contraception. I assume they use contraception at the same rate as the general public. In fact, I remember when Sean Hannity (a Catholic) fought on air with a priest, vehemently defending his own use of contraception!

Or perhaps you believe that Fox News has talking points in defense of Catholic moral teaching? It's quite the opposite. Bill O'Reilly (a Catholic) has bashed John Paul II and the Church's teachings on sex more times than I care to remember. I was so offended that I stopped watching Fox News for years because of it. Fox News is most definitely not a mouthpiece for the Catholic Church.

These are effects of the human condition, they don't exist because some women don't want to get pregnant and take a pill to keep from doing so. 

You are absolutely right that sin is part of the human condition, a result of the Fall. And as we humans have the strong tendency to be drawn toward sin (virtue ain't easy!), any mindset or philosophy that facilitates or encourages sin is best avoided. There are better alternatives, which keep us happy and healthy.  :)

L, in conclusion, I can't assume that your misrepresentation of the Catholic Church is due to bigotry or malice, so I will assume it's just that you didn't know. I like your passion, I think we do have points of agreement, and I do hope that you will continue to comment. However, if you are going to make your case against Catholicism, please check Catholic sources to make sure you first understand what Catholics believe. That way the debate is fair and honest, and readers can see both sides presented with integrity. I truly appreciate it.

“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”  
G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Human dignity

The great conversation continues about the "hook-up" culture, a culture that I contend is the natural result of the the sexual revolution and modern feminist philosophy. I want to thank Complicated Life for making an excellent point during a discussion of sexual purity:
Sexual purity is rightly to be valued and honored, but it is not the source of a woman (or man's) self-worth. We have worth because of our human dignity. Sexual purity is proper to our DIGNITY as human persons; a dignity that is inherent in being a person.

This cannot be stressed enough: No one has to earn or apply for human dignity. Not the unborn, not the elderly, not the disabled, not the mentally ill, not the hardened criminal. Not anyone. No one has to prove his innate value. Human beings have value simply because we exist. Our dignity is inherent.

Are you a nasty gossip? You still have human dignity.
Are you a lazy slob? You still have human dignity.
Are you a lecherous creep? You still have human dignity.
Are you a greedy corporate raider? You still have human dignity.
Are you an unrepentant serial killer? You still have human dignity. 

Do you feel like the most worthless, unloved, unknown person on the planet? It's not true. You are worthy, loved and known. And you have human dignity.

But why? 

Because human beings were made in the image and likeness of God. It's that simple. 

It's true that we can speak against our human dignity, we can act against our human dignity, we can deny or denounce our human dignity, but we cannot erase it or change the reality of it.

Pope Benedict XVI said it beautifully:
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.

You are not a random product of chance. You are not a fluke. You are not here by accident, just waiting to go "poof" into non-existence someday. You are known. You were planned. You exist because Someone wanted you to exist. 

As I've said before and will continue to say, you were made to love and be loved.

And if you understand what true love is, and Who true love is, you will never doubt your own human dignity again, and you will begin to live as a child of God.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The "hook-up" culture and a question for feminists

Wow. The commenting has continued at a steady pace for the past three days over at my last post ("How Planned Parenthood talks to your teen"). When a new commenter, "college student", piped in with her own sad experience of the "hook-up" culture on an elite college campus, it had us all -- atheist and Christian alike -- advising her, commiserating with her, and rooting for her.

It's not that we Catholics don't know what the Culture of Death looks and feels like, but her heavyhearted words and resigned attitude made a lot of us pensive, and a bit melancholy. I'm still processing it all, and frankly, I'm angry that we've gotten to this place in our society, and that she and countless other young women are suffering this way.

So, now I'll state the obvious: The situation "college student" describes is the predictable and natural consequence of the sexual revolution: Sex without boundaries, sex without "hang-ups", sex without commitment, sex as recreation. Sex when I want, with whom I want, how I want. Most especially, the free sex must come with no guilt or bad feelings. Yes, the "hook-up" culture is the manifestation of everything feminists wanted, complete with easy abortion to make it all work. They gave us the blueprint, and it's been built to order on a college campus near you, and almost everywhere else.

That leads me to a question that I've often wanted to ask a feminist: How do you think it's working? Do you truly believe that women are happier now that they are experiencing sexual freedom as your philosophy designed it? Does it bring more peace, joy and contentment to a woman's heart? Are women less broken and more whole?

I'm sincerely asking.

Friday, February 18, 2011

How Planned Parenthood talks to your teen

Warning: This post contains sexually explicit language and offensive material. I apologize in advance. 

I love teenagers. I am currently the mother of four teenagers (and four future teenagers) whose moral and spiritual formation is my highest priority.

As a Catholic, I believe it is a parent's sacred responsibility to give children truthful and complete information on sex and sexuality, carefully considering the individual latency stage of each child. As a mother, I speak with reverence for the beautiful gift of human sexuality, always mindful of the children's inherent dignity and innocence. That said, I have never refused to answer any of the many question posed to me by my children.

Planned Parenthood approaches the education of children a bit differently. To help illustrate the difference in philosophy, let's look at Planned Parenthood's outreach to our children, via their website for teens called TeenWire.

Once there, you will find a plethora of options:

Our Bodies
Sex and Masturbation
Ask the Experts
Health Info & Services

Believe it or not, the following is some of the milder stuff on the site:

From What is Virginity?

Who's a virgin, and who’s not?

Most people would say that a virgin is someone who's never had sex — and by "sex," they often mean penetration of the vagina by the penis. This dictionary definition sounds simple enough, but it leaves a whole bunch of people out of the picture. There are a lot of straight people who don’t think of themselves as virgins because they’ve had lots of other kinds of sex. And then there are all the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people who may never have penile vaginal sex, but who hardly think of themselves as virgins. For all these folks, sex and virginity aren’t so rigidly defined.

Many people define sex in broader terms. For some, "sex" means vaginal, oral, or anal sex, while for others, it could mean mutual masturbation, manual stimulation (“hand job”), dry humping, or using sex toys to penetrate the vagina or anus. Lots of people feel that they "lose it" the first time they share an intimate sexual experience with someone else — not simply the first time penetration happens.

Some also believe that people have to give consent to lose their virginity — that virgins who are raped, for example, do not lose their virginity.

Do girls masturbate?
The myth is that girls don’t masturbate.  Some people think that it's O.K. for guys to masturbate or have other kinds of sex, but that girls shouldn't. Unfortunately, our society is often more comfortable with men expressing their sexuality than with women, so many girls are taught not to masturbate — or not to admit to doing it. But the truth is, girls and women do masturbate, and there's no reason they shouldn't. In fact, one study showed that women who masturbate have higher self-esteem than those who don't.

From All About LGBTQ (FYI, that is "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning")

What’s a sexual orientation?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight are sexual orientations. All these sexual orientations are perfectly normal. Scientists are not yet sure exactly what causes someone to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight, but recent research shows that there are biological factors in place before birth that influence people's sexual orientation.

Our sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to sexually. A woman who is sexually attracted to other women often calls herself a lesbian. A man who is sexually attracted to other men often calls himself gay. People who are attracted to both women and men often called themselves bisexual. And people who are attracted to people of the other sex often call themselves straight.

Why do we say "often"? Because some people don't think these labels describe them accurately. Some people don't like the idea of labels at all!

From Your Vulva, Vagina, and Breasts:

What do breasts have to do with sex?

Breasts can give you a lot of sexual pleasure. They are basically "freebies," since you can't get pregnant or catch sexually transmitted infection by going to "second base." Most girls' breasts and nipples are sensitive to stroking, touching, and kissing. Looking at, feeling, and kissing breasts turns on a lot of people. Some partners are clumsy in the way they handle breasts and need to be told or shown how to do it in a pleasing way. Some women, of course, aren't crazy about having their breasts touched, and this is normal, too.

From What is Sex?

What is oral sex?

Oral sex is using one's mouth to stimulate a partner's genitals.

Just as with any kind of sex, everybody is different — with various likes and dislikes, so communication is the key. In order to make sex more satisfying, it's important to be clear with yourself and your partner about what kinds of sex you want to do and don't want to do.
Learning how to give oral sex is usually done by letting each other know what feels good and what doesn't — so both partners can learn what’s pleasurable.

Although there is no chance for pregnancy to happen from oral sex, unprotected oral sex puts both partners at risk for a number of sexually transmitted infections, whether they are giving or receiving genital stimulation. Although the risks of infection are generally quite a bit lower with unprotected oral sex than they are with unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, using a barrier during oral sex can further decrease those risks. For safer oral sex, use a condom to cover the penis, or a Sheer Glyde dam, cut-open condom, or plastic wrap to cover the vulva or anus.

{deep, cleansing breath...}

There are links to other (more adult-oriented) sites and sources for teens to explore, and there are lots of creepy pictures of gay and straight teens in various romantic/sexual poses, including a shot of a girl putting her hand down her pink polka-dotted panties to masturbate.

Yes, this is the same Planned Parenthood that comes into your public schools and talks authoritatively to your children about responsible sex. They are the "experts" after all.

(By the way, if you want to know what "the experts" told a teen about how to facilitate anal sex, you'll just have to go see for yourself. I can only imagine what I would find if I had the time or the stomach to look through all the kids' questions.)

Okay, I think that's enough for now. That's about all the "non-judgmental education" I can take.

The only part of this post that doesn't make me queasy?

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to defund Planned Parenthood! 

We are one step closer to ensuring that not a dime of our taxes goes to this stalwart of the Culture of Death.

Next step? Call your U.S. Senators and ask them to do the same.

And pray.

{The conversation continues here.}

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Curious: Lenten Reading

Okay, so I am very curious about any spiritual reading you have planned for Lent!

Every year before Lent rolls around, I get so excited about picking a special book for the season -- which I never actually read. Sigh. For years, I intended to read What Jesus Saw From the Cross. Then, for a couple of years, I was going to read Holy Thursday. Both still sit on my shelf, unread.

Descending Fire: The Journal of a Soul AflameSo this year, I have a new strategy. I am going to read a book that I've already read and loved.

Years ago, when I was in the aftermath of learning all of this, I discovered the diary of an anonymous French priest who lived a hundred years ago, published in a little book called Descending Fire: The Journal of a Soul Aflame. While I read, I was completely swept up into the mystical and very real relationship between a sanctified soul and God. Oh my word, talk about a thrilling, fulfilling romance! Knowing the spiritual delight that I am in for, it will be easy for me to accomplish my Lenten reading this year. (Is that cheating?)

Okay, how about you? What will you be reading this Lent?

*Note, I promise I did not steal this idea from Jen at Conversion Diary!! :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

My correspondence with a sex educator, Part III

Read Parts I and II, here and here.

A few days later, we responded to the sex educator:

November 20, 1995

Dear Mrs. [Name],

Thank you for your letter. It is clear that you and your husband truly do care about the children you are trying to educate, and we respect that.

However, you misunderstand much of what our article was about. You claim that we don't want information about sex to be taught at school. Clearly, that's not what our piece said. We simply want the truth to be told to young people, and that truth should be told in the context of the very highest societal standards.

Some of your implications about us and our beliefs are a bit far-fetched. For example, we know that many children do not come from homes that follow "traditional fundamentalist Christian beliefs." Neither of us is a fundamentalist, and in fact, both our husbands are quite secular (one of them is Jewish).* Nevertheless, they and we believe that the highest standard for sex is within marriage. Surely you must realize that teen abstinence is not simply an arbitrary issue of morality as you imply, but a standard of civilization. You want to teach kids about "responsible" sex, but there is no such thing as "responsible" unmarried teen sex! It is by definition irresponsible, and for an adult in a position of power to remain non-judgmental about that fact is hard for us to swallow.

Forget religious morality -- isn't abstinence the best thing for teens' emotional and physical health, as well as for the stability of society? You already know the answer, yet you won't hold up abstinence as the expected standard for teens. And you say the word "marriage" is "judgmental," which left us completely stunned. Who in the world and among all the world's cultures, ethnicities and religions -- except for the tiniest minority of fringe groups -- is offended by the standard of marriage? The day marriage starts to become a negotiable, even undesirable institution, is the day that a society starts to collapse. Surely you must know that all societies that survive are built on marriage. To refuse to hold up marriage as a standard for our society is itself irresponsible and is an attitude that directly helps fuel the very problems you are trying to address!

You admit that many of your students have irresponsible and neglectful parents. Yet you claim that your concern is not to offend the values of these families or parents! Do you see the tragic inconsistency with this posturing? What values of those homes do you wish not to offend? The value of drug and alcohol abuse? The value of neglecting and/or abusing children? The value of moving from one sex partner to another while the kids watch and ultimately imitate? The value of complete lack of parental involvement or concern in any aspect of a kid's life? Yet somehow you are afraid of offending these parents' (if you can call them that) religious or moral values? These kids -- who most need someone, some adult in a position of power or influence (maybe you) to actually hold up a societal standard for them for the first time in their lives -- are instead getting more of what they have (haven't) gotten at home. What a missed opportunity! Shame on all adults who don't hold up the highest standard of behavior for those kids who need to hear from some adult in their life that there are expected standards, standards that will serve them well.

You've admitted that the values you model for your kids and grandkids are the values of marriage, commitment and parental responsibility. You know the values that kids need to succeed in this world. Forgive us, but if the highest standards are good enough for your kids, whey aren't they good enough for less fortunate kids? Isn't it a bit condescending (liberals might even use the term "racist") to assume that the less fortunate kids you teach are somehow incapable of living up to the high standards that you and we set for our own kids? And aren't they the ones in our community who most need to hear about high standards? And isn't it selling out those kids if you teach them the lowest common denominator of sexual behavior? 

We realize that "while AIDS is sexually transmitted, so is life," as you said. But unmarried teens should be transmitting neither! They have no business having sex, risking their own lives as well as the lives of the children they will very likely bring into the world. You surely know that where abstinence programs have been tried seriously, they have worked. We received a letter from a school nurse who gave us some fantastic and dramatic statistics from her school district after it committed itself to teaching abstinence. The same results are found around the country when abstinence-based programs are tried. Can it be that you are not aware of this?

You say you hope our kids will never need our services -- but that's one of the points of our article, that parents too often don't have a say (or even know!) what their kids are being taught in their public school! While we work hard to teach our children (against the prevailing culture) that sex is more than recreational activity, you are in the schools teaching moral relativism to our kids. Whether you admit it or not, you are undermining the values our kids are taught in the home. That is why many caring, concerned and responsible parents are up in arms these days. We should be able to send our kids to taxpayer-supported schools without you or another educator teaching our kids that heterosexual marriage is no better than any other sexual pairing -- something you yourself don't even believe! Bottom line: Adults should not implicitly nor explicitly condone teen sex. Kids should have age-appropriate information, but the message that unmarried teen sex is wrong must be unambiguous.

We know we won't convince you that every child, even the most disadvantaged, needs standards. All we ask, then, is that the truth be told. That's all we said in our article, as you'll see if you read it again critically. And the truth is, like smoking and drinking, sex is not an acceptable teen activity. We are baffled that the same people who have no qualms about teaching children that teen smoking is WRONG and dangerous (even though "they're gonna do it anyway"), will not also say to teens that having unmarried teen sex is WRONG and dangerous! And the consequences of teen sex are much more devastating than teen smoking. Telling teens that a condom or the notion of "serial monogamy" will protect them is flimsy protection to be sure. If teens are not mature enough to raise and nurture children, then they have no business having sex. This should not be controversial!

We are sorry if we sound harsh, but we are so frustrated by this philosophy that says societal standards are bad, or that adults should remain neutral. Too many kids these days have no adults who love or respect them enough to have high expectations from the, either at home or at school. We think that's a tragedy, and the kids are suffering mightily. Setting standards is not a mean and judgmental thing, it is the loving thing to do for our children, within our own families, and within the greater culture.


Kim Manning    Leila Miller

I still remember waiting eagerly for her response to our letter. What surprised me then -- but does not surprise me today -- is that we never heard from her again.

I think the most disturbing part for me is knowing that adults in this society have abdicated their role. The most vulnerable, neglected children are the ones who most need to hear a message of hope and truth and dignity, and yet all they seem to hear is: "Let me help you to facilitate your catastrophically bad choices." It makes no earthly sense to me.

And the idea that "marriage" or "heterosexual" are judgmental concepts? I am still flabbergasted. But it's the same left-wing, social engineering mindset that recently proposed dropping the (discriminatory!) words "mother" and "father" from U.S. passport applications. Thankfully, that idea was shot down and scrapped. For now.

Anyway, this woman's letter is a perfect example of good intentions gone horribly wrong. I hope those at-risk kids she taught ultimately found their human dignity and worth somewhere, because Heaven knows they weren't ever going to find it in a condom.

*Within two years, both of our husbands became Catholic. Kim and I were their RCIA teachers! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My correspondence with a sex educator, Part II

Read Part I here.

So, shortly after the Arizona Republic ran our column on abstinence-based sex ed, we received the following letter:

November 6, 1995

[Name and address of sender]

Dear Ms. Manning and Miller,

My husband and I read your column "Just say yes to abstinence for students" and then checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads. We are both American Red Cross trained and certified HIV/AIDS educators. We have done that educating in public schools on occasion. That probably puts us in your "free-love liberal" category.

Actually, we are the parents of nine and the grandparents of 13 (with another on the way). We are also in a "monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage." That is what we live and what we modeled for our children (something they took to with enthusiasm, judging from the number of grandkids!).

We feel you are giving "sex educators" a bad rap. Number one, the Red Cross treats AIDS as health education, not sex education.

It is true that we are taught to be what you call "non-judgmental," meaning we don't include moral teaching in our instruction. The reason should be obvious. We go into public schools where there are children of every conceivable racial, ethnic and religious persuasion. It is our job to try to reach all those children, not just the ones who belong to "our" group.

This is where we disagree with you. You seem to be saying that information about sex should be taught at home, and morality (in this case, your particular moral beliefs) should be taught in school. You have it backwards. This is the United States of America, and our Constitution guarantees that no one religious group will impose its beliefs on all its citizens.

Like it or not, there are children in the public schools whose families do not follow traditional fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and they have that right. Religion and morality should be taught in the homes, according to each family's belief system. Schools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.

If it makes you feel better, Red Cross instructors do teach abstinence as the best way to avoid AIDS. Of course, permanent abstinence would lead to the extinction of mankind (while AIDS is sexually transmitted, so is life) so we then recommend what we call "mutual monogamy." We leave out judgmental words like heterosexual or marriage, because we know some of the children listening to us are gay (homosexual monogamy is every bit as effective as heterosexual monogamy in avoiding AIDS), and many are from backgrounds where marriage is not held in high esteem. We need to reach those children, too! Every child deserves the information necessary to make intelligent, educated, responsible decisions about their sexual behavior.

We do tell the older children (high school age) about condoms. They need that information because many of them are sexually active. We also tell them that condoms are not 100 percent reliable. We explain that there is no such thing as "safe" sex, only responsible sex. I share the story about a young woman I knew who did all the right things. Unfortunately, her husband did not. She died of AIDS at the age of 26. That's why we use the term mutual monogamy.

My husband and I recently did an AIDS "teach in" at [a local Phoenix high school]. The majority of kids were non-white, and from disadvantaged homes (where parents are often absent or too burdened by life to parent effectively). I asked the students (as I do at the beginning of every talk) to give me a show of hands if their parents had ever given them any information about AIDS transmission. Not one hand went up. I then asked if they had previously had been given HIV/AIDS instruction in the school. Not one hand when up.

I didn't have to ask them if they were sexually active. There is a nursery and preschool on campus for the use of students with children.

In a perfect world, all children would grow up in homes with happily married, financially secure, socially and religiously correct parents who treasure their children and lovingly pass down the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior.

In reality, there are millions of kids outside that cozy picture.

These are the children we are trying to reach.

So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services.

Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job: which is not to morally corrupt children from good homes, but to try to save the lives of those who are not so fortunate.



Our response to come, in my next post....


Footnote: I am NOT comparing the despicable criminal abortionist Finkel with this kind-hearted, if terribly misguided, sex educator, but as I transcribed her words today, I noticed that some of them bore a striking resemblance to Finkel's words. Liberal talking points? I have no idea, but it got my attention:

They refer to themselves as the devil, as if I had said it:
Sex Educator: My husband and I...checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads. 
Abortionist Finkel: It made me want to polish my horns and my cloven hooves!

They remind me that they do their jobs without a moral compass:
Sex EducatorSchools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.
Abortionist Finkel: I do not project or inflict my personal spiritual beliefs into the personal tragedies of my patients.

They consider themselves heroic servants of the less fortunate:
Sex Educator: So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services. Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job....[trying to save the lives of the not so fortunate].
Abortionist Finkel: I am a servant of women. I provide them with service that they want, need, and seek out. I am a physician; not a prosecutor. ... I take a great amount of pride in being there for the woman of Arizona when they need a physician and a friend. 

There were other similarities as well. Anyway, it's not a scientific analysis, I just thought it was interesting.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My correspondence with a sex educator, Part I

So apparently when I have writer's  block, I reach back in time for material.

This time, I will recount an interesting exchange with a sex educator.

In our November 5, 1995 Arizona Republic column, Kim Manning and I lamented the "deluge of morally relative, 'non-judgmental' sex ed programs that have torn through public schools" and "failed to protect America's youth." We went on to laud a newly signed North Carolina sex education law, which included some good stuff:

  • "...[P]arents have the primary responsibility for providing for the health and well-being of their children... for instilling values, ethics and character in their children... for educating their children in all areas, including the area of sexuality, and the state should not abridge this responsibility."
  • Students will be taught "the positive benefits of abstinence until marriage and the risks of premarital sexual activity."
  • Students will be taught to deal with peer pressure and will be given "reason, skills and strategies for remaining or becoming abstinent" with instructors providing positive reinforcement.
  • "...[A]ny instruction concerning the use of contraceptives or prophylactics shall provide accurate statistical information on their effectiveness and failure rates for preventing pregnancy and [STDs], including AIDS, in actual use among adolescent populations."
  • Students will be taught that abstinence "is the only certain means of avoiding out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and other associated health and emotional problems" and that "a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means" of avoiding STDs and AIDS. Abstinence before marriage is to be taught as the expected standard.

After praising the law, we went on to say:
Some won't like this conservative approach. After all, the liberal approach has been forced on the rest of us for a generation. Everyone's best bet is to support school choice, and we parents will all be free to choose the education we want for our kids. But in the meantime, adults have an absolute responsibility to tell children the truth, and above all, to set the highest standard of behavior. 
It's no coincidence that when the greater culture once supported abstinence, the teen culture encouraged virginity. We've since done a 180-degree turn....
If almost half of high school students today have stood firm against the unrelenting cultural pressure to have sex, imagine how many more might abstain if they were supported in that decision.
Our column didn't sit well with some, and we soon received a letter from a local sex educator, respectfully taking us on.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sophie and others: Am I being unclear?

I admit confusion and frustration. There is a pattern happening with several readers, and I am not sure why it's as common as it is.

To understand what I am going to say next, please go to this post, then scroll down and read Sophie's first comment from February 3, at 3:24pm. Then read all subsequent comments up to the point of her exit from the conversation.

Done? Okay....

Please note that either I or another commenter addressed each of her questions. We did not ignore her points nor did we scoff at them and then refuse to answer. We even addressed her points when she changed the subject.

It's (now familiar) exchanges like those that make me scratch my head. 

Specifically, let's look at the way it ended:

Sophie (not to be confused with Sophie Fletcher) said:

Reading through previous posts, it's obvious that your requests for debate are purely rhetorical. Little Catholic Bubble is a perfect description of the site. The wider world's ethical and medical views are simply ignored. I can't see the point in requesting comments when you have no interest in anyone's views but your own.

I responded: 

As for whether or not I want to hear other opinions on the blog, I have said this before: I never censor what the other side says. You can put your best case out there, and I will put my best case out there. We let the readers decide. I don't know why that translates to "The wider world's ethical and medical views are simply ignored. I can't see the point in requesting comments when you have no interest in anyone's views but your own." I am allowing you free rein to give your side of things. So, I am very confused about why you say it's being ignored here in the Bubble? Help?

And then I added:

Sophie, right at the top of my blog, there is a link to "A Welcome to Liberals" [This is now under "Please Read First"]. Here is part of what it says, just so that we are clear:

Dear liberals/leftists/secularists/atheists:

You are welcome in the Bubble! In fact, I encourage your comments and perspective. I will give you a fair hearing, I will not misrepresent you, and I will remain respectful in my questioning and responses. I often use Dennis Prager's saying, "I prefer clarity to agreement," and I really mean it.

You should know up front that I do not dialogue in order to reach "consensus." Some issues can't be reconciled. I dialogue so that we can have clarity about what each of us believes, which facilitates understanding but not necessarily agreement. It also allows readers to see both sides presented, and from there they can form their own opinions.

If you do not enjoy being challenged in your philosophy, if you do not like being pressed to go further, if you do not like questions (and more questions), then this is not the forum for you. But if you like a Socratic-type dialogue, then make yourself right at home here in the Bubble!

Sophie's response? More skirting of the question, and insults: 

Leila: As I observed previously, Little Catholic Bubble is exactly that. It's Catholic propaganda on fertility issues. As a non-Catholic I find some of the content rather creepy and bizarre.

There's no place here for anyone who doesn't accept your core values, so I'm not surprised few dissenters take up your "challenge". What would be the point? My own participation was clearly a waste of of my time.

Thankfully, outside the bubble, you're not getting much of an audience even among Catholics. Most Catholics here use contraception, and many have abortions. I'd be surprised if the same wasn't true in the US.

Disappointed, but used to this pattern by now, I answered:

Sophie, so basically you avoided the questions.

Blessings to you, and you are always welcome here.

And therein lies my confusion. What did Sophie think going in? That I would change my mind and discover that abortion is a good, or at least agree that both sides can be "right"? 

That's not what this blog is about. I won't be changing my mind on moral truth, and I do not expect that Sophie will change her mind either. However, I did expect an honest dialogue, with reasonable questions answered, not skirted. 

It's not as if I have misrepresented my viewpoint. This blog is clearly marked as a Catholic site, and whoever visits can see immediately that I uphold the teachings of the Church. Nevertheless, I invite persons of any and all beliefs to make their case to the readers, through debate and discussion. We dissect ideas here; we do not cast aspersions and run as soon as we face a difficult question.

Anyway, as a preventative measure, I have revamped my banner links. I would love any feedback on the "Please Read First" link: Is it clear? Does it leave any doubt or ambiguity about what we do on this site?

Thanks for your thoughts.


News note: For anyone still following the Planned Parenthood underage sex trafficking scandals, yet another disturbing video has been released, this time from New York, showing two PP employees more than happy to aid and abet child sex slavery. Time to yank taxpayer funding yet?