Monday, March 21, 2011

How about Ordered vs. Disordered?

A few posts back, a reader made a plea for "middle ground" regarding our culture's view of sex. She rejected what she saw as the two "extremes" of 1) sex as recreation with any and all "consenting" partners, i.e., the Planned Parenthood view, and 2) sex as a privilege of marriage only, i.e., the Catholic view.

Initially, it struck me that those aren't actually the two extremes. As I see it, the extremes would be 1) sex as recreation, the Planned Parenthood view (she was right about that extreme), and 2) the puritanical (i.e., prudish) "body is bad, sex is dirty" view. So using the "extremes" vs. "middle ground" lens, the Catholic view would actually be the "middle ground", falling in between these two unhealthy extremes.

But then I realized there was something wrong with framing this (or any moral issue) in terms of "extremes" vs. "middle ground". After all, the commenter herself said that the Catholic view of sex "makes sense" and even seems "wonderful". In fact, far from being extreme, the Catholic view of sex used to be the cultural norm, not so very long ago!

I believe we are using the wrong terminology, because we are looking at morality through the wrong lens.

I suggest a different paradigm entirely: Instead of shooting for some mathematical mean between the "extremes", why not instead speak of what is ordered vs. disordered?

Our minds understand order and our souls crave it, because where there is right order, things flourish, thrive and strengthen. Where there is disorder? Not so much.

Some things are still easy for us to recognize as disordered:

Rape is disordered.
Pedophilia is disordered.
Murder is disordered.
Lying is disordered.
Theft is disordered.
Physical or emotional cruelty of any kind is disordered.

Some things that are fuzzier for us moderns become clearer when we look at outcomes. For example, it's popular to act as if sex with multiple partners is ordered and natural, but reality shows us differently: Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are nature's blunt way of saying that human beings are meant to be monogamous. Also, 50 million dead unborn babies is a (blood-red) neon sign that our use of sexuality (and our mindset about it) is gravely disordered. There are many other such signs, too, if we have eyes to see.

We know innately that the virtues are ordered. Think of patience, justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, charity, truthfulness, and so on -- all these represent moral order, not "extremes" to be dismissed for a "middle ground". Chastity has always been included in the virtues.

Our human dignity requires that we aim our sights at what is ordered and then strive for that. Will we always hit the mark? Hardly! The virtues are habits, and moral habits must be cultivated over time (sometimes a long time!), with the help of God's grace. The goal should always be to leave disorder behind and head towards order, which will bring refreshment and interior peace to the soul.

All that to say that from now on, instead of talking about "extremes" vs. "middle ground", I'm going to speak in terms of ordered vs. disordered.



  1. I like how you are putting that catholic is the middle....PP and their version of sex is frightening and the cost to society financialy and emotionaly is staggering. The stereo typical "uptight" side that is just as dysfunctional. Then you have one of the greatests gifts given to the catholic church by blessed JPII, the Theology of the Body. I picked up the book "Theology of the body for beginners" by Christopher West. IMO it should be required reading for marriage prep courses. But for this old gal, you are never to old to learn eh ;-)

  2. Yes, we SHOULD be striving for virtue. Why is that such a bad thing these days?? I'm so sick of the "well they're going to do it anyway..." argument. There's that silly soft bigotry of low expectations again! No wonder our schools are performing so terribly (for example). We don't expect anything out of anyone!

  3. I like this Leila. Thank you! You can think about it in steps too. If you aren't sure if a decision leads to order or disorder, you can ask yourself what the next step is and question whether that leads to order.

  4. Another wonderful post!

    And you are so right about the catholic approach to pre-marital sexuality
    being the middle ground. When I was engaged in grad school and would get grief for not yet having intercourse I so wanted to introduce them to my two close evangelical friends both of whom were waiting for their wedding day to begin kissing their fiancé (btw meaning no offense to evangelicals, just not sure why the catholic approach gets so much flak).

  5. you need a "like" button on your posts!

  6. Interesting, but I would be careful with the parallels. You wrote, " Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are nature's blunt way of saying that human beings are meant to be monogamous." Do you think strep throat, influenza, and rhinovirus (cold) are nature's way of telling us to stay in our homes, homeschool and avoid contact with larger groups of people? (Not meant to be snarky!)

    Again, as a biologist I know that disease takes advantage of all human behavior, but I don't think it makes the behavior immoral. I just think it is moral to be more continent than not because you can have a baby from sex and want to avoid abortion. Also, it is normal for women at least, to feel emotionally close to those they have intercourse with, and it seems entirely immoral to pretend otherwise.

    I realize that some men feel this way too, but after countless conversations with men (husband, brother, cousins, friends, brother in law etc). They sheepishly admit that the think men are very capable of having sex without getting emotionally attached, especially when they are younger. Not that they feel this is something to be encouraged, but it is true.

    Despite many ultra-femminist protestations to the contrary, I simply am not convinced the same is true about women. Even the girls I knew who slept around a lot because they did like sex, seemed to get utterly crushed every once in a while by the guy who never called back.

  7. I was going to make Mary's point about disease. But she beat me to it.

    Leila - something I NEED you to understand is that I don't want everyone to come to the middle ground regarding sex. I want people who feel strongly about remaining virgins to do so. I have never in my life criticized anyone who was a virgin. I haven't slept with many people myself.

    But you were horrified at the thought of a teenage girl masturbating. You think that gays can just turn off their sexual needs and drives for God and it's no big deal, just a cross to bear. As can anyone who doesn't wish to be married, whether they are open to life or not, Or any couple who is married, but doesn't want children.

    While Catholic sex may be wonderful and beautiful and all that jazz, the rule of who can and cannot partake in sex is extreme to me.

    HOWEVER, I would never dream you doing it my way.

    I think it is natural for humans (I believe we are animals - special animals, for sure, but animals nonetheless) to express their sexuality in multiple ways, but prudent of us to reign it in -this is why humanity is special. We can think and reason with many of our baser instincts to ensure the betterment and survival of our species.

    Now, this (in MY view) doesn't mean we have to swear off sex until marriage for family. But it means we shouldn't be making snap decisions about who we sleep with. Respect and trust should always be involved.

    It's like the 'ol dessert analogy. Eating some pie before dinner once in awhile is fun, it's good, it makes you smile. But gorging yourself on pie all the time will make you unhealthy (and sick of pie.) It doesn't mean that pie is bad (like some diet/health fanatics claim) it just means it is a treat to be tempered.


  8. Do you think strep throat, influenza, and rhinovirus (cold) are nature's way of telling us to stay in our homes, homeschool and avoid contact with larger groups of people?

    Not at all! But unlike colds, STDs are completely avoidable by living virtuously. Sex is a very special "animal" so to speak. Going outside is not disordered. And even staying inside does not mean you won't get sick. Sicknesses are a disorder in themselves. But some sicknesses are brought about by disordered behavior.

  9. It's like the 'ol dessert analogy. Eating some pie before dinner once in awhile is fun, it's good, it makes you smile. But gorging yourself on pie all the time will make you unhealthy (and sick of pie.) It doesn't mean that pie is bad (like some diet/health fanatics claim) it just means it is a treat to be tempered.

    L, can I steal "every once in a while"? Would that be okay, morally, as long as I don't steal a lot?

    But you were horrified at the thought of a teenage girl masturbating.
    When did I say I was "horrified"? That is an emotion, and I don't remember having that emotion or expressing it here. Help me out.

    You think that gays can just turn off their sexual needs and drives for God and it's no big deal, just a cross to bear.
    No big deal? Oh, my, I have never, ever said that. And as for a "cross to bear" -- bearing a cross is the most difficult thing we do. Bearing a cross is a HUGE deal. We are all called to do it in some way, and if you ever examine what it was like for Christ to carry the Cross (did you watch The Passion?) you would know that carrying a cross is immensely painful (to say the least), but is temporary and leads to salvation itself.

  10. Leila - so sometimes disease can be brought about by ordered activity and sometimes disordered? Convenient. (How about that just isn't a good argument?)

    While having sex in any other way than the Catholic one once in awhile is equivalent to stealing?

    How about sometimes sexual activity can lead to disorders but not always. Just like disease can happen if you are behaving orderly, but some occurs if you're behaving disorderly.


  11. You forgot to mention the ordered way to do things is way more enjoyable!

  12. L,

    Some viruses float through the air or are transmitted by breathing. Breathing and going outside are ordered acts (no society has ever thought otherwise). Some diseases (physical disorders) are open to anyone, regardless of moral behavior.

    STDs are very specific, aren't they? If a couple saves themselves for marriage, they do not get STDs. There is a morality attached to sex (for good reason). Acting virtuously regarding sex will ensure that you do not pass along STDs. Sex has a moral component that no one would assign to something like "going outside".

    Do you like all the virtues I mentioned above? Do you see them as human virtues? Do you think "chastity" should be kicked off the list? I really am curious about that.

    What about the rest of what I said?

    While having sex in any other way than the Catholic one once in awhile is equivalent to stealing?

    I'm talking order vs. disorder in the moral realm. The Church believes that sex outside of marriage is disordered (sin), and the Church believes that stealing is disordered (sin).

    So, can you answer the question? Or, do you not believe there is morality attached to sex?

    Do you think we should look at morality as "ordered" vs. "disordered" or do you reject that concept out of hand?


  13. Leila - so sometimes disease can be brought about by ordered activity and sometimes disordered?


  14. Leila, I just wrote a response and lost it all. I will do it again as I think that your attack on puritans is completely unfair. Before I do so, let me give a summary of Catholic church's views on marriage and sex during middle ages.
    "The dominant attitude of the Catholic Church
    throughout the Middle Ages was that sexual love itself was evil and did not cease to be so even if its object were one’s spouse. Tertulian and Ambrose preferred the extinction of the human race to its propgation through sin,that is, sexual intercourse. For Augustine,the sexual act was innocent in marriage. But the passion that accompanies it was sinful. "These rejections of sex resulted in the Catholic glorification of virginity and celibacy. By the Fifth Century clerics were prohibited from marrying…Augustine frequently commended married couples who abstained from sex…Jerome said that while there have been married Saints, they have always remained virgins. According to Ambrose, married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living… Chrysostom said Adam and Eve could not have had sexual relations before the Fall…Bishop Gregory of Nyssa said that they were not
    Created with sexual desire and that if the Fall
    Had not occurred, the human race would have reproduced itself by some harmless mode of vegetation! The tradition culminated in The Council of Trent’s denouncing people who denied that virginity was superior to the married state". (here's my sourse Even Mary had to be declared a perpetual virgin by Catholic church despite the fact that Scripture mentions Jesus having brothers. That is not surprising in view of Catholic church's position on virginity being superior to marriage. Even today, how many married priests, bishops, clergy in higher power that have not been converted from Anglican church do you know? In fact, isn't the vow of celibacy one of the vows priests make upon entering the priesthood?
    Now, in contrast, here's puritan view on marriage:
    "It is accounted a doctrine of devils to forbid to marry."(William Gouge)
    "It was the devil that brought in a base esteem of that honorable condition of marriage".
    (Richard Sibbes)
    "The marriage bed is itself free from filth (saith the Apostle), but the spirit of Satan, speaking by these men—or rather beasts—saith marriage is dishonorable".
    (Thomas Gataker)
    Ahh, the truth is refreshing.
    Please, note that I am not trying to start a debate on Mary's perpetual virginity (which would have been a big problem in that time in history (divorce would have been the very least of her problems should she decide to deny her husband sex for the whole duration of their marriage) and is against God's design and will clearly expressed in the OT), both you and I addressed that issue already. Please, respond to the positions of Jerome, Ambrose,and others mentioned here.
    Thank you.

  15. Sorry, Olya, I just got it out of spam jail!

    Okay, oy vey, Olya! That is a heck of a hodge-podge of quotes from various Fathers and saints (and at least one non-saint), all mashed up with your objections to the unbroken teaching of Mary's perpetual virginity (which we already covered) and all sourced by a stunningly anti-Catholic "source" which wouldn't know how to process Catholic teaching any more than a rabid atheist would be able to process the Scriptures.

    So, for now, I will let that slide, and I will ask that you only used Catholic sources and context when you want to challenge Catholic teaching.

    Meantime, you never finished the discussion on idols that was going so well over on this post:

    Please, we would love if you would continue that conversation before starting a whole new one!


  16. Olya, maybe I should put it this way: I've got a lot of kids, and only so much time. I like to keep things very focused when I write a blog post. I don't mind tangents in the comments, and I don't mind addressing any and all controversial topics regarding the Church. But what I can't do is address comments which throw in everything but the kitchen sink, using a questionable source which gets 10% of things right, and misses the facts or context of the other 90%. I just don't have the time to wade through it and sort it out for you. Stick to one objection at a time, using a Catholic source, please. And, if you could answer the idol questions first, that would be awesome!


  17. Leila - ordered vs. disordered is one way to look at things. I do not think it should be rejected, but understood as a perspective. You can use order vs. disorder to reinforce why rape is wrong or how sociopaths are "disordered."

    But what about our IF friends here? Aren't they "technically" disordered? Their bodies are not working in the way that God intended, does that make it wrong? Or is it perhaps something that just is?

    And if God, humanity and the universe craves order above all, please explain entropy.


  18. L

    Those of us stuggling with infertility are not disordered but our bodies clearly are. Disease, malforamtion, sickness - these are all "disordered" in that they are not as God intended. These things happen because of original sin and the fact that our world does not retain its intended and original perfection. The blessing of this is that allows us to move toward holiness in a way that perfection would never have provoked.

  19. In other words, there's nothing you can say about it. Then, please leave the puritans alone. I am not going to use Catholic sources as they distort the truth. If you want me to quote Church Fathers directly, it will probably take me a couple of days to find the books and the quotes. Again, Catholic sources can take Anything out of context to prove their point. The reason the author uses different Fathers is because they ALL viewed the topic at hand in the same way and it goes to prove the point to put them side by side so that a certain Catholic educator wouldn't claim that that might have been one (non-Saint's! LOL) position. When there's a multitude of them, it's hard to argue with (and so you don't) I put the virginity of Mary in there because it goes to show that the view of virginity being superior to healthy marital relationship influenced Catholic church's interpretation of(reading into) Scriptures.
    I am not surprised you don't like my source, in your world, if it contradicts Church's teaching it HAS to be wrong. In fact, when you claim the source is 'misunderstanding' the Church, it means that the author is RIGHT on the button. Catholic church's position on marriage and celibacy is no secret, Leila. It is (was) what it is (though it might be different today from what it WAS.LOL.)

  20. Olya

    There is so much here I am not sure how to respond. So I’ll start with your first statement about Tertullian. The first thing to know is that neither spoke on any topic with the authority of Magesterium and for a teaching to be infallible, it must have that authority. The Magesterium is the teaching authority of the Church – in short it is the Bishops, speaking in union with the Pope and in alignment with scripture and tradition. You also need to understand that the teachings/writings of no person should be seen as without flaw and accepted whole without evaluation. Even our most brilliant theologians and philosophers have stepped outside of the Church’s authentic teaching on one topic or another. Tertullian offered major gifts to the Church and has a role of honor in human history – but he also struggled with the heresy of monatism and those aspects of his teaching have to be rejected.
    In looking up your own sources please remember that taking non-catholic sources (or even Catholic sources that separate themselves from the teaching of the Church) as authentic Catholic teaching can be problematic. I would never look to a Mormon to explain Calvinist theology or a Baptist to understand Hassidic Judaism.

  21. I am not going to use Catholic sources as they distort the truth.

    Olya, this alone shows me that we cannot have a reasonable conversation. You are saying that you will not use Catholic sources when you represent what Catholics believe. Olya, Catholic sources should be the only sources you use for what Catholics believe. You may not think the Catholic position is "true", but it is the Catholic position. I've told you sooooo many times that you do not have permission to misrepresent Catholic teaching, just as I do not have permission to misrepresent Protestant teaching.

    If I have misrepresented Puritan teaching on sex, then I am happy to stand corrected. My point was that there is an "extreme" which sees sex as dirty.

  22. Elisabeth - understood. How do you strive to be holy when the ultimate Catholic holiness is creating new life? What do you do? Do you have to keep trying to conceive? Or can you say "this isn't going to work" and stop trying? Or is that up to the individual? And if you cannot conceive - are you allowed to have sex?


  23. PS - so we are all on the same page - I am sincere and sensitive to IF struggles. I have a few IF relatives whom I love dearly and I absolutely sympathize with any woman who wants a baby but her body won't cooperate.


  24. THANK YOU Leila. Finally, in the middle!! We're not radicals!!

  25. Olya, you said: I am not going to use Catholic sources as they distort the truth.

    What proof do you have that "" does not distort the truth?

    What is your criteria for a reliable source versus an unreliable source?

    Do you believe that reliable Catholic sources (examples would be the Vatican's website, or authentically portray Catholic teaching? I'm not asking you if you believe Catholic teaching is true, or if you believe these sources teach the truth. I'm asking if you believe those sources provide an accurate account of what Catholics believe.

    Do you understand what I mean?

  26. Also, Olya,

    I am not surprised you don't like my source, in your world, if it contradicts Church's teaching it HAS to be wrong.

    That's not what Leila said, as I understood it. She objects to the site's portrayal of what Catholics believe in the first place.

    In other words, that site is setting up a straw man argument and then knocking it down. How can it successfully refute Catholic teaching if it's getting the teaching wrong in the first place?

    It'd be like me saying, "All Baptists believe that God hates fags," and citing Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church as my source. Would you consider that to be an accurate portrayal of Baptist teaching?

  27. L,
    I tend to agree that Leila's choice of STDs to illustrate the disordered nature of sex out of marriage is confusing, considering ordered behavior can also lead to (non STD) diseases. (But I get it Leila!)

    Sex outside of marriage is also disordered because sex has, as it's biological and primary purpose, reproduction. Yet, study after study bears out that children born to single mothers fare worse than those born to a married and stable couple. Sociological studies confirm what we know instinctively, which is that stable (married) households produce more emotionally and economically stable children, and children more capable of lasting marriage themselves.

    This is not a sinble mother bash. We all know single moms who do great. But single parenthood is DISORDERED.

  28. How do you strive to be holy when the ultimate Catholic holiness is creating new life?

    L, this is not a true statement. No one has ever said this. In fact, as even Olya has said, Catholics have traditionallly seen celibacy for the Kingdom (as Jesus and St. Paul have said) as the highest state of life, because it is giving up a legitimate good (marriage is so good it's a sacrament) for union directly with God.

  29. So if STDs are the result of "disordered" sexual behavior, are earthquakes and tsunamis and natural disasters examples of "disordered" weather cycles brought about by climate change and global warming? Or would that be God's wrath on people living "disordered" lives? Or is this dichotomy of "ordered/disordered" only for human behavior?


  30. L, there is no sin in infertility, because it is not willed. It is a physical disorder, not a moral disorder (i.e, sin). We are only culpable for willfully choosing to sin. An infertile woman is no more culpable for infertility than she is for the tsunami in Japan.

    Hope that helps, but Elisabeth will no doubt say it better.

  31. JoAnna, unlike you, I do not believe in Church to be infallible. It is made of sinful people and one person's individual belief (especially the wrong belief that contradicts the Bible) is no representative of what I or my church (which is not baptist, by the way) believe. One of Catholic law scholars (forgive me I don't remember his name but I will ask Mark when he comes home, he might remember) himself said that his job is to search the Fathers and the Scriptures and pull every quote out to defend church's CURRENT position on issues (even if it is different from the one held before) That is why I refuse to use Catholic sources. I am not against going directly to Church Fathers writings but you don't like that because they weren't always in agreement with you, each other, or current church's teachings. As far as using secondary sources, I have every reason to not trust them, they will take things out of context and use the 'will you stop beating your wife' argument (which, by the way Leila often uses herself to prove a point. And, when nothing else works, there's always 'it's a church tradition, you wouldn't understand the beauty behind it' thing (though it's not the beauty behind it that I usually find objectionable but the obvious lack of Scriptural support).
    Regardless, you are obviously avoiding the issue.

  32. Olya,

    Many of those early Church fathers were neo-Platonists and viewed physical reality in general as lower than spiritual reality. Their speculations, while worth a strong look, are not the infallible teaching of the Church.

    If this was the dominant teaching of the Church during the Middle Ages (it clearly was not) then there wouldn't be so many Catholics would there?

    Also, almost none of your sources are from the Middle Age. Most of them are the early Church fathers from 100s of years before the middle ages.

    It's so much fun when Protestants attack us on one hand for rejecting contraception and having big families, and then on the other hand attack us for being celibate.

    I don't have time to look up the passages right now, but can you also comment on Jesus' praise of celibacy, and many of the Apostles (especially Paul's) praise of celibacy?


  33. The ultimate in Catholic holiness is not the creation of new life. The ultimate is union with the Trinity, to the extent we can here on earth and finally in perfect union in heaven. Neither the Church nor God requires or equates fertility with holiness. And the Church does not require that we take any steps (medical or otherwise) to try to conceive. Our physical union will always remain open to life – meaning that we will do nothing to prevent conception and that is all the Church asks.

    Not all women are called to biological motherhood. I want a child (although I have a beautiful stepdaughter whom I love dearly) but I recognize that I may not have one. I will find holiness (I hope) in the way that I love and serve those God puts in front of me.

  34. L - any doctor will tell you that some diseases come about through no fault of the patient and some come about because the patient acted in an unhealthy (disordered) way. This is not a "bad argument" but a reality of the broken, imperfect world we live in. Also, it can especially tragic for both the medical community and family when a person dies or becomes disabled in a way that was very preventable or within the patient's control. Again, this has nothing to do with a convenient argument but the reality the medical community sees every day.

  35. JoAnna, legitimate sources in my mind are Church Fathers' writings (not Vatican's representation of them). Confession of faith works, but only to the point of representing CURRENT teachings of the Church. I wouldn't use the confession as my only source because it lacks historical prospective.

  36. Gwen, every physical disorder is a result of the Fall. I think Elisabeth said it really well, above.

  37. Gwen - I think it could be accurate to say that plenty of environmental disasters could result from disordered behavior like trashing God's planet (we are supposed to be stewards of the planet, not abuse it).

    But like the medical examples, some disasters are simply beyond our control or knowledge. The Catholic perspective on this is what others have stated: We live in a fallen world where brokenness and disease and bad stuff exists.

    I think any rational person - not just Catholics - can grasp the idea that sometimes we bring harm on ourselves through bad decisions and other times stuff just happens. Again, this isn't just an argument of convenience but a reality we all live, every single day - a reality that fuels our decision-making (Hmmm, if I do A, will the outcome be helpful or harmful?).

  38. Hi L,

    As a Catholic that has struggled with infertility for a long time, I just want to second what Elisabeth said. There are physical disorders (disease, deformations, etc) and there are moral disorders, or disordered behaviors (which is what this post was about). Infertility is a physical disorder that God did not intend in His creation of the world, but is a consequence of man's rejection of God. And I hope it's ok, Elisabeth, if I address some of L's questions here; I can't help myself! :)

    "How do you strive to be holy when the ultimate Catholic holiness is creating new life?"

    The ultimate Catholic holiness is not creating new life. There are many people out there who bring life into the world who are not holy at all and many revered Catholic saints who were celibate, never had children and who are incredibly holy. Holiness is about being Christ-like and can be done in many different walks of life. Just looking at the diversity of the saints shows how holiness can take so many different forms: the academics like St Thomas Aquinas, the missionaries like St Francis Xavier and Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the contemplatives/mystics like Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, and sure, moms, like St Gianna Beretta Molla (who was also a gifted physician.) Holiness is not about being put into a box; it is about being like Christ no matter where life leads you.

    "What do you do? Do you have to keep trying to conceive? Or can you say "this isn't going to work" and stop trying? Or is that up to the individual?"

    It is up to the individual. I know many wonderful, holy women who pursue treatment for the physical disorder of Infertility, just like one could pursue treatment for another physical ailment. They keep trying to conceive and trying to heal their bodies. Others, more like myself, didn't pursue much medical intervention and didn't "try" all the time. I tried to let it go and just see where God wanted me to serve Him; maybe it wouldn't be through biological children, but through some other means. To my surprise, we discovered I was pregnant when we were just weeks away from adopting. God has some sort of crazy plan.

    "And if you cannot conceive - are you allowed to have sex?"
    Yes, sexual love is proper to married couples, even if they can't conceive. Sex has both a unitive and a procreative purpose. The procreative purpose means that you must be open to life each and every time you have sex. Couples who have difficulty conceiving or who very well may never conceive, can still be open to that life (in fact, they are often the most open to it!) But that openness doesn't always lead to life, whether it is God's perfect will that it doesn't or if it is because of a physical disorder.

  39. Oops, while I was typing away E and others commented. Sorry if this was redundant. :)

  40. Marc, according to the Catholic Church her teachings are ALWAYS unchanging and ALWAYS infallible. So why would you care if the Church Fathers I use are from 100s or later? According to your own (Catholic) position it really shouldn't matter. Once the same always the same or else not infallible. Can you please point me to the source of official Catholic church's teachings of the early fathers' time that is contradictory to their writings? If not, that I will hold their teachings as an official Church position. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the Catholic church claim apostolic succession? Aren't early Church Fathers Catholic? Then why would you mind me using them as a source?

  41. Okay, I get it (re:IF) and you won't find me disagreeing that IF is not the woman's fault. If she will always be open to life, it is okay to partake in sex.

    So can I draw a parallel for you to dismantle (I want to see your reasoning):

    A married woman has a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer. Not her fault. But she is fully aware that she cannot conceive life - not even through a miracle. Would you argue that she can no longer have sex with her husband? From here on out, wouldn't they just be using each other for pleasure?

    A homosexual is homosexual through no fault of his/her own. They know perfectly well that their sex cannot produce children. But maybe they really want children. Why is their sex sinful and the above couple's sex not? Is it just because they can't get married?

    Are IF women disordered as much as homosexuals?

    And if you find my 1st scenario (couple keeps having sex after radical hysterectomy) to be okay, why is a married couple who use condoms sinful? What I am saying is, how is couple #1's sex not using one another - as you take out the child equation from sex - and couple #2, you would consider using one another.


  42. I am busy, so I cannot give an adequate response. This will have to do. You could not be more wrong. Only the Pope, speaking ex cathedra, can claim infallibility. I mean no disrespect to the Church fathers, but they are not infallible, and they would be the first to tell you that. I brought up the time frame thing because the fact that most of the sources you brought up were writing at least 1,000 years before the Middle Ages called the entire comment into question. You would do well to look into Aquinas, who was a scholar during the middle ages. I will try to write more later, but it should be noted well, that your understanding of infallibility is deeply flawed.


  43. Olya -

    The Church's teachings are unchanging and many of them have been declared and are recognized as infallible. But just beause a Catholic - even a catholic saint - once said or wrote something that does not make it an official Church teaching. Just as you would not (I hope) accept the word of "Catholics for Choice" on the position of the Catholic Church on abortion you should not accept any other Catholic writer's opinion without checking to see if it is indeed the official voice of the Church.

  44. Olya, your position just makes no sense, I think because it is ridden with errors in understanding of the Church (errors which you may enjoy maintaining because they suit your argument well). If you want to attack Church teaching, then actually attack it. You prefer the Fathers of the Church, who can be right on so many things but still not infallible and do not speak definitively for the Church and her official teaching.

    Why do you shy away from what the Vatican proclaims officially as the deposit of the Catholic faith and instead cling to what others say? If you want to attack the Church's teachings, then attack the CHURCH'S TEACHINGS.

  45. L - any doctor will tell you that some diseases come about through no fault of the patient and some come about because the patient acted in an unhealthy (disordered) way. This is not a "bad argument" but a reality of the broken, imperfect world we live in. Also, it can especially tragic for both the medical community and family when a person dies or becomes disabled in a way that was very preventable or within the patient's control. Again, this has nothing to do with a convenient argument but the reality the medical community sees every day.

    Thanks for this, Sarah. You know what is interesting? There are some diseases which are behaviorally induced (so to speak) such as many lung cancers (smoking), and cirrhosis of the liver (drinking). However, sometimes you can get lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver through no behavioral issues. What is fascinating to me is that STDs really cannot be gotten in any way other than disordered sex practices. It's like a really huge gigantic sign from God and nature that on this most important of issues (sex, which creates new humans) there is no confusion or gray area. If a couple waits for each other, living out the virtue of chastity, they will not get sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

    Monica is also right that the emotional and social disorders brought about by disordered sex are massive, and affect society in hugely negative ways.

  46. Marc, please let me know what the official Papal position on this issue was back then, I am dying to know (besides, if the church's fathers' writing were contradictory to the official teaching of the time there would have been writings to refute them and they would have been excommunicated). The argument of the timing is irrelevant, since the Church's position on this did not change.
    Elisabeth WHO are those declaring and recognizing? Aren't they people like you and I? Why do you believe them as opposed to the Bible? How can I be sure that current Pope's position will not be declared invalid a couple of hundred or 1000 years from now? How do you yourself not get lost in who said what and who was later declared fall able or infallible? This is a very shaky ground you are standing on. Why not go to the Bible directly? Is it not an inspired word of God? Did He not give you everything you need for life and righteousness in there? Are you not trusting the Holy Spirit to illumine it for you? Is He not God? Is He not capable?
    CL, no one is attacking the Church, we are just debating here.
    I explained one (or twice) why I do not trust Vatican's proclamations but let me repeat myself. Their scholars (according to their own words) will do anything to defend the CURRENT position of the church. Should the position change, they will do the same with the next position, because, obviously the previous position didn't qualify as infallible. How can ANYONE argue with that? The only thing to do here is wait and pray that the church will once again declare the Biblical truths to be truths.

  47. Pardon my vulgarities.

    In the case of a hysterectomy. First of all the hysterectomy is obviously licit – the body was diseased and the diseased portion needed to be removed to sustain the woman’s life. She and her husband are still allowed to have sex. While conception is impossible they are still engaging in the unitive aspects of sexuality. And no, they aren’t just “using” each other for pleasure. Even with marriage sexuality is never seen as a “gets your rocks off” kind of activity. Ideally sex is a gift – a profound gift – of one spouse to another. I give myself – without barrier (physical, emotional, psychological or chemical) to my husband and he reciprocates. To that end even in marriage some types of sexual activity are permitted. If I was passed out drunk my husband couldn’t have his way with me – that would be about his pleasure and nothing else and as such is not licit.

    Seem in this light the use of a condom is obviously wrong. It places a physical barrier between husband and wife. It effectively says I will not give you all that I am – I will hold something back. The gift of self is then incomplete.

    Homosexuality is a painful subject and there is almost no way to address it without upsetting the modern sensibilities of most Americans. When I converted it was a deep issue for me because I saw the Church’s unwillingness to accept gay marriage as intolerant and uncharitable. I doubt I can defend it in a way that will make you understand why traditional Christianity and many other religions forbid homosexuality activity. The Church recognizes that being homosexual is not anyone’s “fault” any more than being infertile is my “fault”. But just as the Church acknowledges that they are moral and immoral ways of dealing with my infertility it recognizes that there are moral and immoral ways of handling homosexuality. When I was single I was still sexual in that I still had sexual desire and a sexual nature but I could not act on that nature or desire. This would require miles of text to explain, so all I can do for now is hope Leila does a post on it.

  48. I really should be getting other things done today, that's why I normally don't comment because then I get sucked in! :)

    "A married woman has a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer. Not her fault. But she is fully aware that she cannot conceive life - not even through a miracle. Would you argue that she can no longer have sex with her husband? From here on out, wouldn't they just be using each other for pleasure?"

    They can still have sex. First, the intention of her hysterectomy was not to avoid children. It was treatment for a legitimate medical issue. They never intended to sterilize their sex. Even though they are aware that they will never conceive, they are still open to conception, as is their sexual act. They are not doing anything intentionally and for the purpose of sterilizing their sex.

    "A homosexual is homosexual through no fault of his/her own. They know perfectly well that their sex cannot produce children. But maybe they really want children. Why is their sex sinful and the above couple's sex not? Is it just because they can't get married?"

    Yes, a homosexual has homosexual attractions through no fault of his/her own. Yes, homosexuals cannot produce children. But here is the problem- they also can't have sex. Now I know that our culture has redefined sex to mean a plethora of things: anal penetration, oral stimulation, mutual masturbation, and vaginal penetration. However, according to the Church (and history), sexual intercourse is vaginal penetration by the penis. (I feel like there should be a more eloquent way of saying all this...oh well.) Homosexuals cannot complete the sex act with one another as it is traditionally understood and as it is defined by the Church. For the record, if a heterosexual man is aware that he is impotent and thus unable to complete the sexual act, he is not permitted to marry. The same would go for a woman, but I am unaware of a disorder that would preclude her from being able to complete the sexual act.

    "Are IF women disordered as much as homosexuals?"

    Infertile women (and men) have a physical disorder, like an illness or a disease. Homosexuals have a disordered attraction (the reasons for which are unknown-could be genetic, psychological, etc). Neither of these disorders are sinful. However, acting on the homosexual attraction (which again, in and of itself, is not a sin) is sinful.

    "And if you find my 1st scenario (couple keeps having sex after radical hysterectomy) to be okay, why is a married couple who use condoms sinful? What I am saying is, how is couple #1's sex not using one another - as you take out the child equation from sex - and couple #2, you would consider using one another. "

    Intention. The first couple does not intend to sterilize their sex; it is the consequence of a legitimate medical treatment. The condom using couple's intention is to avoid children and they use an immoral means to do so.

    Someone else can probably elaborate on all of this more clearly than I can.

  49. ooops, I just realized we have been talking about different things here. Three weeks of sick kids is getting to me :) When Vatican says this is what they CURRENTLY believe on the issue, I believe them. When they quote church tradition is support of that position I prefer to go back to the source (though you can prove ANYTHING with as rich a history of different things being said by different people) The problem is it's usually not as clear cut as that.
    I have already spent half the day on the computer, I am afraid this is all I can afford now. Unfortunately we have never even touched the puritans vs. Catholics on sex. Oh, well.

  50. L, I'll let women who deal with IF issues answer that part of your comment. But you asked, A homosexual is homosexual through no fault of his/her own. They know perfectly well that their sex cannot produce children. But maybe they really want children. Why is their sex sinful and the above couple's sex not? Is it just because they can't get married?"

    You're right about one important thing: "A homosexual is homosexual through no fault of their own." Yes.
    But, you added that they know their sex cannot produce children. It cannot ever produce children, and this is the lynchpin. Two men or two women, even in love, even committed, even with great desire to do so, cannot produce a child. Looking at the biological function of sex (to produce babies, although pleasure/bonding is a big part of it too), sex between people of the same gender can therefore never actually be called sex, since sex is not just defined as "achieving pleasure/orgasm." Sex from a biological standpoint, means a male and female coming together in their biological complementarity with the possibility to produce children. So using that definition, two men and two women cannot actually have sex, though they certainly can show each other affection in sexual ways. See the difference? It's very subtle.

    I understand where your comparison between IF couples comes in, but there's a fundamental disconnect. A man and woman who struggle with IF, or the woman in the hysterectomy scenario you described, may not be able to produce children, but they are still having sex: remember, sex is a man and woman coming together in biological complementarity. As we learned from the NFP post, women are not fertile all the time. It's still ok (more than ok!) for couples to have sex during infertile times, because the reason they won't conceive a baby is based on the natural, biological consequences of a woman's cycle. Older people (post menopause) can't conceive either, but it's still morally good for them to have sex because the infertility of that act is determined by a natural process (menopause). I won't speak about the IF couples, because there are many here who can draw out the analogy from their own experience, but let's look at the hysterectomy scenario in greater detail.

    Remember the prolife post(s) from a few weeks ago? Someone brought up the principle of double effect in terms of an abortion for a mother's health: if, for example, a woman has an eptopic pregnancy, in order to save her life the fallopian tube must be removed, and in doing so the baby implanted there will die. This is morally permissible because the act (cutting the fallopian tube) was done with good intention (to save the mother's life) in appropriate circumstance (she will 100% die otherwise). Therefore, its other effect, the abortion, is tragic, but not gravely evil.

    Okay, so let's look at the hysterectomy couple. The woman had cancer. Had her ovary not been removed, she would have died. As such, it was absolutely the right choice. Now, one of the effects of that action is that she no longer produces viable eggs. Does that mean that she and her husband can no longer have licit sex because they are now sterile? No. Her hysterectomy was not done out of a desire to sterilize herself against children, but rather an attempt save her life (a great good).

    Remember, sex from the Catholic perspective has two purposes: babies and bonding. In the hysterectomy scenario, babies are no longer possible, but bonding sure is, and is very important to the couple.

    Does that help?

  51. Olya, if it helps, I will change the part about Puritans, as I do not have time to research them today. I will change it to "puritanical".

    And, I find all your talk about the Catholic Church's "changing teaching" to be ironic since the Protestant churches change teachings like changing t-shirts. What is the Protestant position on baptism? Eucharist? Justification? Church? Oh yeah... there are a thousand positions. Sigh.

    And one last thought: If you don't believe that humans can teach infallibly, then how can you believe they can write infallibly (Bible)?

    I'd still love if you can go back to the idols discussion and answer those questions. You sort of left that hanging....

    To everyone else, I am so glad people are stepping up with the Catholic position on this thread. I am swamped elsewhere today, though itching to get in the mix! Mostly, I will just keep checking to get comments out of spam jail!

  52. Olya, I made the change, above. Uncapitalized the "P" in puritanical, so that it does not disparage the Puritans, but merely take the modern definition of "prudish" which I also added. I hope that is more correct and clear.

    If you could be clear about representation of Catholicism, that would be much appreciated, too. Thanks!

  53. One scenario that may not have been mentioned: Elderly or post-menopausal couples are infertile, but they may marry and engage in wonderful, healthy, holy sex! Infertility is not and never has been a barrier to marital union.

  54. I was just coming in to make the point about the infallibilty of Bibilcal writers being accepted on faith just as much as the infallibility of the Church's teachings. :-)

    What a shame it would have been, if God had given us a textbook, but no teacher to help us understand it.

  55. Wow - I didn't know impotent men couldn't marry. Thank you all for clarifying & understanding that I am not challenging you. I went to a Catholic school for grades 1-8 & picked up nothing. (Through no fault of theirs, it just didn't grab me) I did get a good education otherwise, though!

    The only thing is... if a (pardon me) penis in a vagina is the only definition of sex, I can see why some people might think oral is no big deal. This has always struck me as bizarre, because oral is something I always viewed as more selfless & "giving" and withheld until marriage.

    BTW, if all of it isn't sex, then the gays aren't having sex anyhow... so stopping gays from having sex is moot, isn't it? (LOL! You don't have to dismantle that one, it's a joke)


  56. Olya,

    The Church has taught since its inception that sex within marriage is licit, and even desirable, with some caveats. I don't need to tell you what Pope officially defined that.

    If you can show me a Pope who has infallibly taught differently, then I would consider leaving the Church, because then Christ's promise to preserve the Church from error would be called into question.

    The Church fathers disagree on things here and there. So what? The Magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) is constant, and consistent.

    Show us where a Pope in any time in the history of the Church has reversed or changed an infallible teaching. We maintain this has never happened. The burden of proof is on you to show that.

    Inconsistencies in the Church fathers prove nothing other than the fact that the Church approves of intellectual freedom.


  57. L,
    Re: oral. Yes you're right, according to the definition I gave you (which, I believe, is in accordance with Church teaching), oral sex isn't actually sex. That's true. However, that doesn't mean it's "no big deal." In fact, this book (which is a great resource about Catholic sexual morality) explains that oral stimulation is totally acceptable within marriage, just that the husband should never intentionally deposit sperm anywhere other than his wife's vagina.
    Sorry if it seems like it's getting technical!

  58. L,
    I'm glad the explanations helped. And re: Catholic education, it very well may have been their fault, or at least partly! There are lots of Catholic schools that don't do a very good job of educating their students in the faith (though they're usually very good at education in general!)

    Isn't it funny how "technical" things seem to get? It seems to take the affection or emotion out of all of this, but it's just applying principles, and those principles are so wonderful and freeing (at least in my opinion).

  59. Olya, I apologize if the word "attack" bothered you; I typed it without much thought. Go ahead and insert "debate" where I put "attack."

    You know what I think might help all this Catholic misunderstanding? Explaining the development of doctrine. How about it Leila? As if you don't have a couple dozen posts in queue. ;)

  60. Olya,

    I'm finding it difficult to logically follow your reasoning, so I'm going to break apart your argument into a series of statements. Let me know if I'm getting your position wrong in any respect.

    You believe: the Catholic Church takes the early fathers out of context and/or misquotes them.

    You believe: your church teaches correctly and does not misinterpret or misconstrue the early fathers.

    You believe: no church can teach infallibly.

    So, given that all of the above is true... how do you know that your church has correctly interpreted the teachings of the early fathers?

    How do you know that your church teaches correctly if it cannot teach infallibly?

    Put another way, what makes your interpetation of the Bible superior (i.e., more correct) than mine?

    By the way, I know you're not Baptist, that was just an example. The parallel remains, however. Do you agree it would be unfair to Baptists to take Fred Phelps' beliefs as a legitimate source of mainstream Baptist teaching?

  61. Oyla and Leila,

    Try for a discussion of Augustine, Ambrose and Jovinian. I'll try to condense and put forth some relevant and short points.


  62. Leila, I think I was one of the people who called for middle ground.

    I understand wholeheartedly your position. You have truth. You believe it is absolute truth and you cannot advise anyone against absolute truth because they find it inconvenient or unwilling to do it. I really understand that, my comments were more about my concern that there is not enough middle ground in the world not that you should provide it.

    Young women need to be reminded that while their bodies are not only sources of pleasure; they are sources of reverence. We need to be reminded that our boyfriends want to put us on the pill for their own convience even though it may negatively effect our health. We need to be asked; do you want to have sex with someone when the only purpose of that act is to get the man to ejaculate, do you want to sleep with someone when they would insist on you getting an abortion afterward?

    There are a lot of people who need to be reminded of this, but none more than college students, as our culture is one built around hook ups. But college students, the ones you need to hear this are notoriously liberal. Once you start talking about how Gays shouldn’t marry and how women should always always be open to pregnancy, well your going to loose them. Like your truth, this is the truth too.

  63. college student, can I hug you? Yes, that makes absolute, perfect sense! I totally, totally agree. We have to meet people where they are. You are so right! If this were a blog primarily for college students, then I would be saying things in a different order. I would start at a different point and talk in a different way.

    I am having a hard time finding a "voice" that will fit every reader here, from atheist to Protestant to lapsed Catholic to friendly to hostile, to open to closed, and everywhere in between.

    But you are 100% correct that college students will not "hear" what I am saying, or what the Church is saying, unless it is presented in a way they can understand.

    And at this moment, I don't have the resources to address the college crowd specifically. But others do a good job.... in fact, the ASU (young) priest at the Newman Center there has good outreach (his blog is Undoing the fall, on my blog roll). Also, there are "Theology on Tap" programs on campuses, and also FOCUS, which is college grads talking to college students on all sorts of campuses.

    But you are so right. I just want you to know that.

  64. College Student,
    That was so well put! Thank you!

    Just to give you the perspective of someone who is in the field of reaching different people and teaching them...

    I've done ministry with all different ages and demographics (jr high and high school youth in public and private schools, grade school kids, college students at both Catholic and state schools, adults out of college, and incarcerated men). How the faith is presented changes often and is always in the context of a personal relationship, which in ministries to high school and college aged students is particularly important and actually the primary means of reaching them. However, the truth we convey doesn't change. I don't shy away from telling college students that homosexuals shouldn't marry or that sex must be open to life each and every time. But you know what, in the context of the relationships we've built, it goes over fine. People may not agree at first (or even "at last"), but to love them means to share the truth with them.

    Of course, this isn't the purpose of this blog. While Leila can have some sort of relational context with regular posters that she gets to "know" in this capacity, her objective is to clearly articulate the truth for anyone who reads. The pastoral/relational side of it isn't primary, because she isn't talking to just one person or even one group of people.

    Anyways, I just wanted you to hear that perspective for fear you thought that Catholics who work on college campuses to reach students wouldn't do so in a way that would be effective.

  65. Just wondering what you all would have to say about this:

    Disordered when used for the purpose of saving endangered species? Or only for humans...


  66. Hi Curious...

    There is no moral problem with sterilizing animals, euthanizing animals, and creating animals through IVF. So, no problem there.

    I can get you more on that in a bit, but wanted to just reassure you that that is not anything Catholics would say is immoral.

    Great question!

  67. That kitten is so utterly adorable. Thank you for the link, curious!

  68. Olya, I must say something here. I understand that Leila prefers everyone to be polite and considerate on her site, and I respect that and will certainly attempt to abide by it. But your arguments against the Catholic Church are infuriating. You are, in fact, attacking it, no matter how much you claim to be debating. Furthermore, you are attacking it without even understanding it. Several people have tried to explain the true position of the Church, as well as what constitutes an authority to you, and you reject them based on some ridiculous claim that

    "Their scholars (according to their own words) will do anything to defend the CURRENT position of the church. Should the position change, they will do the same with the next position, because, obviously the previous position didn't qualify as infallible.

    This is absurd and not true. The understanding of individuals within the Church always changes, of course, because people are always changing and knowledge is always evolving. But the Church herself is a rock. What she has said remains, unchanged and as true now as it was when it was proclaimed.

    This is a personal matter to me. I left the Protestant faith I was raised in to convert to Catholicism because I came to understand it as true. A great rift has come between my family and I, primarily because so many Protestants do what you are doing...make up things about the Church that are not true, and then insist that they are no matter what you are told. It has been very difficult for me to try to explain the official teaching of the Church and what it means to be Catholic to my family because they are so convinced of what they think the Church is due to lies and half-truths spread among Protestants and secularists alike. I would appreciate it very much if you would actually make an attempt to understand the Church before lashing out at her. I think you would be very upset if someone did that to your belief system. And whatever you claim, that is in fact exactly what you are doing.

    Now, regarding Puritans, Catholics and sex. Tell me, what could be more degrading than being told that you are depraved? Wicked? A snow-covered dung-hill? That you can do no good yourself, and only the Holy Spirit can do good through you? Trust me, that view is pervasive. I was raised with it, and sex was something I saw as dirty, wicked, a disgusting act of my depraved body. I went from flat-out running from this by having as much sex with as many people as I could to being caught in a frozen marriage in which I wouldn't have sex because I thought it was so wrong. The only thing that freed me and finally allowed me to believe that my body was not evil and that sex was beautiful and good was the Catholic teaching, in particular Theology of the Body. And trust me, those scars run deep and my husband and I still battle them.

    I think that's what Leila meant in referring to Puritans. If that isn't true of you and your belief then know that I say with all sincerity that I commend you. But it was true for me, painfully so. I think Leila's classification stands.

  69. JoAnna, my church does not teach on the early fathers, the sermons are on the Bible. I do believe that if we ever had a class, the information would be presented truthfully. After all the books are out there for anyone to read and make up their own mind.
    I do not believe that ANY church has it right, but I do believe that the one I am a member of is the closest to the truth. If I ever found that my pastor was teaching contradictory to scriptures, there are steps the Bible tells us we should take. First, go talk to the pastor alone, present your argument and proof. If that doesn't work, take two witnesses with you. If that doesn't work, I can go to the Presbytery and ask for investigation. If that doesn't work and the pastor is still teaching the wrong doctrine, I would go to the church that does teach the truth.
    I am sorry, I really don't have any more time to spend on this, hope you don't think I am abandoning the conversation.

  70. Olya, actually you abandoned the idol conversation at a very interesting moment. I hope you will go back to that (and Mark, too) and finish that conversation.

    Also, you didn't answer: You say that men are unable to teach infallibly. So, how were they able to write the Bible infallibly?

    Of course you think your church has the fullest truth, or you wouldn't go there. But we all think that. We can't all be right. So, if it goes back to the Bible, then who actually vouches for the fact that the Bible is the Word of God? How do you know for sure, when there are no original copies of all the books? Who do you trust copied and handed down those Scriptures accurately, and canonized the books?

    Just some food for thought. After all, as a.k.a. the Mom said so rightly: The Catholic Church is not only a Bible believing church, it's also a Bible writing book. But that's a post for another day!


  71. Sorry, Calah! Your comment was in spam jail!! Frustration!

  72. Oh hahaha that's ok! No problem! Thanks for setting it free ;)

  73. Yes, I'd like to hear more about what you think about animal IVF, when you have the time


    (p.s. I am not religious, so the "we are specially created beings" thing won't convince me that it's any different than with humans. Just looking for an ordered vs. disordered argument)

  74. That's too bad, Olya, but I'll ask this question anyway in case there are lurkers who might want to respond.

    How do you know your personal interpretation of the Bible is right?

  75. I'm calling myself Anonymous Hope, so I'm not confused with the other anonymous people.

    It is hard to be over 35 and a virgin and told to wait. When you tell that to young adults or teen-agers, that assumes they will indeed be married one day. Um, it doesn't always work that way.

    I waited and waited. No one wanted to date me, so I didn't choose celibacy. I was celibate because I didn't have a choice.

    Then finally, I had a choice.

    I'm still unmarried.

    Wait, what was your blog post about anyway? I forgot because I got caught up in reading the comments.

  76. It's Anonymous Hope again.

    I thought sex was about expressing sincere true love to one another.

    It's still an expression of love, right?

  77. @Hope:
    Yes yes yes yes!! Sex in the Catholic world view has two equally important functions: babies and bonding (or as you would describe it, an expression of love). In fact, our theology teaches that in sexual expression, the marriage vows are made flesh.
    So we definitely like sex for more than just babies, but are clear that those two purposes can't be separated without terrible consequences.

    And I would really encourage you to read this blog, Seraphic Singles. It's written by a lady who didn't marry until age 38 (or 39?) and she's witty, faithful to Church teaching, and gives a lot of great advice to those of us still hoping to meet our Mr. Right :-)

  78. Hope, welcome! I am sorry, I am a little bit confused about what you mean... Are you saying that because no one wanted to date you, you decided to just have sex with someone? Please forgive me for not understanding.

    And just as a point of clarity, to be celibate is to "unmarried". It implies "having no sex" but technically it's about a marital state. So, if we are talking about being unmarried and having sex, it's that you gave up chastity, not celibacy. Just thought I would throw that out there.

    I am glad you are here and commenting! Are you Catholic?

  79. Curious, I hope I am understanding that you only want my view on animal IVF and the "order" or "disorder" of it.

    It is not morally disordered for people to use animals as needed, whether for food, work, experimentation (as humanely as possible, of course, as intentional cruelty to a living creature would be wrong).

    Many farms and ranches use artificial insemination to breed animals. And of course, animals may breed with multiple partners, devoid of love. We don't hold animals to the human standard for faithful marriage and all that. :)

    It is morally ordered for us to use animals. It is morally disordered for us to use people.

    I would go into a further explanation of why humans have a dignity that animals do not have, but you said that is not something that would resonate with you, as a non-believer.

    Does that help at all?

  80. College student, maybe someone secular like Dr. Drew could help get through to the college kids and the hook-up culture. This video is only a minute or so long, but it's full of wisdom!

  81. I think she's gone but I wanted to say something too about Olya's comments.

    The Catholic Church, it's theologians and Fathers gave Christianity the Bible.

    And just to put it very simply because I'm studying Ambrose and Austine in graduate courses right now, the whole history of the Church has been a journey to understand revealed Truth in scripture and in tradition. Some ideas have been determined heretical and some not. Not every idea from every Christian theologian over the history of the Church has been accepted as dogma. Much of it is rejected as heretical.

    Great discussion, as always, Leila! Very ordered. :-)

  82. "JoAnna, my church does not teach on the early fathers, the sermons are on the Bible. I do believe that if we ever had a class, the information would be presented truthfully. After all the books are out there for anyone to read and make up their own mind.
    I do not believe that ANY church has it right, but I do believe that the one I am a member of is the closest to the truth."
    Dear Olya,
    You do not believe that ANY church has it right? What do you think about 1 Timothy 3:15, which says that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth? You seem to understand that there was only one church at the time the books of the New Testament were compiled, so I am just curious how you read this passage yet still accept a schism of the original Church as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church which was in fact the original.
    How about 2 Peter 1:20, which states, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,"
    How do you accept that your church took the bible which was compiled by the Early Church Fathers, who, according to you, were Catholic, and decided to interpret the scriptures outside of the Church and come to their own conclusions?
    How about where the bible says to avoid schisms, or where Jesus prayed that we all be one (that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.-John 17:21)
    I am sincerely interested to know how you understand these scriptures and reconcile them to the fact that you belong to a church which broke off from the original church which had Peter (who was given the keys to the kingdom!) as it's first pope, and apostolic succession with the ability to bind and loose on Earth and in Heaven.

  83. Wow!! I'm really enjoying reading this thread of comments....very interesting to say the least!!

  84. Oh, my. This is MaiZeke, checking in again. My baby is 2 months old, and I thought I would take a look. And I see the level of debate has taken a decided turn for the worse (on the Catholic side). L is holding her own quite well.

    THis is rich:

    a stunningly anti-Catholic "source" which wouldn't know how to process Catholic teaching any more than a rabid atheist would be able to process the Scriptures.
    Way to toss in a passive-aggressive comment on the intelligence of your debaters. Nice, Leila, very high-class. So inclusive and Christ-like of you. Makes me sorry I left here for so long.

    This is nice, too:
    So, for now, I will let that slide, and I will ask that you only used Catholic sources and context when you want to challenge Catholic teaching.
    This is comparable to saying that Catholics should only use non-Catholic sources when challenging secular ideas. WHich is completely ridiculous because the Catholics on this blog can't make a single argument without checking in on what the pope or some other catholic 'authority' says.

    This interaction was also very typical of when I was around. Leila reprimands Olya for not finishing a debate elsewhere, and says that Olya should finish there before starting here. But then the next comments continues Olya's new argument here.

    It was hard to keep your rules straight three months ago, and I see nothing has changed at all.

  85. Hi Mai! Good to have you back (I think? ;)) Congratulations on your little one! But why are you so hostile?

    Do you think that a rabid atheist (wouldn't P.Z. be glad to be called that?) knows how to read the Scriptures with the mind of the Church? With the sense of the faithful? I don't think so.

    Mai, if you had a set of beliefs that were very official, and very available, and if I went to a source that was totally against your beliefs, even distorting them greatly, and then used that as my source to understand your very official set of beliefs, wouldn't you think that was unjust?

    As it stands, there is not a single set of "secular" beliefs, so your argument just fell apart right there.

    WHich is completely ridiculous because the Catholics on this blog can't make a single argument without checking in on what the pope or some other catholic 'authority' says.

    You put forth this lie, and then you expect to be taken seriously in this debate? I think you owe an apology for that one, or at least show your proof. Utterly ridiculous.

    I guess if there is one thing that can unite you (and atheist) and Olya (a fundamentalist Christian), it's hatred for the Catholic Church. I guess we Catholics will continue to wear that as a badge of honor.

    And, Mai, you might want to try a little courtesy. Seriously, I know you are a fan of P.Z. and all, and I have read the comments on his blog (which seriously scare me with their ugliness) .... I would ask for a little more respect here. Thank you.

  86. It was hard to keep your rules straight three months ago

    One rule only, Mai: Be polite.

  87. Mai, congratulations on the birth of your child! I hope things are going well.

    Regarding your comments:

    "Way to toss in a passive-aggressive comment on the intelligence of your debaters."

    Huh? Mai, it might be better to ask for clarification making nasty inferences. Most atheists aren't well-versed in Scriptural exegesis, and most Protestants aren't well-versed in Catholic methods of exegesis. It's not an insult, it's a statement of fact. How exactly did Leila insult anyone?

    "This is comparable to saying that Catholics should only use non-Catholic sources when challenging secular ideas. WHich is completely ridiculous because the Catholics on this blog can't make a single argument without checking in on what the pope or some other catholic 'authority' says."

    You misunderstand, Mai. What Leila is asking is for Olya to consult a Catholic source when stating "This is what Catholics believe."

    Perhaps this analogy will help: if we were to debate a particular pro-abortion law under consideration in the Arizona Senate, would you think it fair if I were to get the text of the bill from anti-abortion sites only, or would you prefer that I get the text of the bill from the website of the Arizona Senate?

    Leila is not asking for COMMENTARY on Catholic doctrine from only Catholic sources. She is asking Olya to get her information about WHAT CATHOLICS TEACH from Catholic sources. Do you see the distinction?

    "Leila reprimands Olya for not finishing a debate elsewhere, and says that Olya should finish there before starting here. But then the next comments continues Olya's new argument here."

    Do you know the difference between a reprimand and a request? Also, why do you blame her for responding to Olya's newer posts, or when other posters do so? If Olya wishes to continue the idols debate, we'd be happy to carry them on concurrently.

    "It was hard to keep your rules straight three months ago, and I see nothing has changed at all."

    I'm sorry you feel that way, Mai, but the last time I checked you weren't forced to read this blog at gunpoint.

    Do you see anything wrong with chastising Leila for alleged insults while offering the same?

  88. I didn't read all the comments - some good ones for sure - to all those reading as well it helps to clarify even more that something can even be disordered but not sinful. That is what the Church teaches with regard to homosexual attraction - disordered but not sinful.

    The person who commented about the Church thinking that homosexuals can just cast off their attractions - the Church doesn't think that at all - the Church believes that it is a VERY difficult thing to work at, just like anyone else who struggles with strong desires - and that person needs to realize that the Church urges people to work on what they are attracted to, but attractions are never, in this moment, sinful, even if they are disordered.

    Great post Leila!

  89. Thank you, Fr. Hollowell! That is an important clarification. And, I am so honored to have you comment on my blog!

  90. Another crystal clear explanation from a great mind! Congratulations Mai!

  91. Mark Shea just wrote an article that reminded me of this post, Leila. An excerpt:

    ...this notion that Truly Evil people are distinguished from us because they desire evil ends is false. That's because every sin, whether venial or mortal, is committed in the disordered attempt to achieve some good end. Everything from the Holocaust to your hand in the cookie jar is the disordered attempt to obtain some good. And indeed, the more exalted the good end, the more the sinner can feel justified in doing something monstrous to achieve it. For this reason, sins do not become "not sins" merely because we intend some good end. For the simple fact is that everybody, from the kid fibbing about the piggy bank to Adolf Hitler, is seeking some good end. What makes a sin a sin is not that the end sought is not good, but that a good end is sought by evil means. The severity of a sin is measured not by the nobility of the end we seek -- Hitler, after all, sought a glorious renewed Germany risen from the ashes of World War I -- but by how radically disordered are the means we use to achieve that end (e.g., the death of millions innocent people).

  92. Hi Ladies - I was wondering what you think/know/feel about this: I took my daughter to the doctor today & had a short conversation with the pediatrician who told me that she and a few other doctors were talking about promiscuity among teens. She believes it has gotten worse, but was interested in a statistic that says the inner-city girls seem to have their babies more often than suburban girls. She thinks it is because in the inner-city that is all the girl has & wants - a little baby to love - and in the suburbs, girls are pushed more into career-oriented thinking (aka - baby is a burden to my life) and they have the means and the desire to "hide" the effects of her promiscuity.

    I don't know if this is valid or not, though when I did live in the city - there was a hispanic neighborhood I'd drive through every morning and the amount of pregnant YOUNG girls walking about always amazed me. (When I say YOUNG, I mean, 14-18)So I have an anecdote for inner-city.

    But I think It may correlate more to their ethnicity - hispanics are very much more family-oriented than your average white, suburban household. Moms and Grandmas often live together & help with the children.

    Maybe that is a big part of what it takes. For us to be more culturally accepting of families and children. I know you all don't like premarital sex, but it's going to happen. So what then? Maybe we need to figure out how to create an atmosphere that is more family oriented and supports mothers so they may still go to school and have their life. Maybe then they wouldn't be scared into aborting?

    I am reiterating a little of College Students theories, too.

    Just thoughts...


  93. Hi L! I hope others will chime in, but here are my quick thoughts.

    Yes, you are absolutely right that we need to create a more family-friendly and supportive culture for young girls (or anyone) who become pregnant. I live in Arizona, with a large Hispanic population. It is true that they are much more family-oriented than some of the white suburban types. I think that is because the upwardly mobile have oftentimes succumbed to a materialism that is just death to the family and family ties. When "things" and possessions and vacations and cars and toys become the most important thing, the family suffers. The richer people are, the fewer children they tend to want and have (ironic, no?).

    While the Hispanic culture is beautifully family-oriented, their is a problem: Marriage has not been a priority lately. So many pastors of our churches here are working to marry the men and women who are committed and living together but not married. Kids do best with married parents, of course. And, with so many single girls having babies, we have the problem of poverty. Single motherhood is a huge marker for poverty.

    So, we have to find a way to promote both life (having a child instead of an abortion) and chastity/marriage (to give everyone the best chance, and break the cycle of poverty).

    But you are right that the more family-oriented a culture is, the more they cherish their babies. We must bring back the reverence for families and children, first and foremost. People have to be more important than things, or we have lost our souls.

    Great thoughts, thanks!

  94. Hi L.,

    You said, "I know you all don't like premarital sex, but it's going to happen."

    This attitude frustrates me beyond all belief. (I'm not saying that YOU do -- just this attitude in general.)

    Have you ever seen the movie Pollyanna? She had a quote written on a locket: "When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will. - Abraham Lincoln"

    When you tell teenagers, "You're going to have sex anyway," they will.

    Nicole C. calls this "soft bigotry," as in, "We don't think you're capable of controlling your sexual impulses, so we won't expect you to." It's demeaning, insulting, and thoroughly demoralizing.

    No, no, NO! We are not going to progress as a society if we don't set high standards for our children, equip them accordingly, and expect the best out of them! If we expect them to fail, they will! If we don't give them a reason to succeed and show them that we care if they succeed, then they won't.

    That's not to say that kids should be flogged unmercifully or shunned if they don't meet said expectations, but it shouldn't be presented as a eventual certainty.

    This fatalistic attitude is so prevalent and I just don't get it. I waited until marriage for sex and I was raised Protestant, in a very laid-back denomination (ELCA). I don't recall my mother ever having a sex talk with me other that to tell me not to get pregnant. Granted, I wasn't the most socially outgoing nor attractive of individuals in high school, but I'm sure I could have found the means to have sex if I'd wanted to. I had several pregnant classmates when I graduated, and all of them came from families where they felt undervalued and under-appreciated. (Just my perception, granted.)

    THAT is what we must change instead of handing out contraception and saying, "We know you're going to have sex, so at at least be 'safe'."

    Would you give them a gun with one bullet in it and say, "Here, we know you're going to shoot yourself in the head anyway, so I've taken all the bullets but one out."

    I'm sorry for the long-winded rant, but I get so TIRED of people saying, "Well, teenagers will have sex anyway..." Yes, some will. But that doesn't mean it should be an expectation or a foregone conclusion. I know that people will always rape, murder, and steal but I'm not going to enable them to do it.

  95. Hey Leila
    You said, "While the Hispanic culture is beautifully family-oriented, there is a problem: Marriage has not been a priority lately."

    This has been so much on my mind in the last few months. I was at a class on diversity of ethnicity and rite in the Diocese of Phoenix and someone pointed out to me that those who are in the country illegally cannot get married in the Church - they have no way to get a marriage license which the Church requires. While in theory this only affects the initial immigrants it becomes an acceptable way of life to live together without the sacrament for future generations.

    I see this as a completely separate issue from the one of US immigration policy. It seems to me that as a Church we cannot deny people the sacraments because of their legality but I don’t know that I see a way around the situation.

  96. Elisabeth, I totally agree! I'm a religious ed coordinator and my mantra (with my pastor) is "we can't deny sacraments, that's canon law." Meaning that if a parent tells me their child is ready for first communion or confirmation, I can't withhold sacraments, even if they haven't been to class or completed any of the preparation. It drives me crazy, but that's the way it is.

    However, because we take marriage so seriously as a church, the marriage prep process is very stringent, and rightly so! But I agree with Elisabeth in that it breaks my heart to know that some Hispanic couples would be denied marriage in the Church because they are illegal.

    The day is soon coming when marriage of state and marriage of church will be two separate things. Because of the unstoppable train of the gay marriage movement, soon marriage as the state understands it will have no connection to the Catholic understanding of marriage. Tragic as this is, perhaps it will provide an opportunity for the church to no longer be at the mercy of the state in such matters as immigrant weddings.

  97. Maggie -

    You made me smile! I do a lot of sacramental prep at our parish and my mantra has always been, "err in favor of the sacraments"!

    I hope you are correct that the blessing of a true distinction between religious and civil marriage might be to pave a way for immigrants to marry licitly.

  98. JoAnna - I get what you're saying.

    I don't like the "everyone is screwing everyone" mentality either. And that means adult-themed media and attitudes as well as teen-targeted media & attitudes. To be honest, I CANNOT STAND Sex in the City and even shows like Grey's Anatomy, that portray adults as having sex in hospital broom closets. Premarital sex is one thing, hopping around from bed to bed every time you fancy someone is quite another.

    The good news is, I am a geek. And geeks are "cool" lately! Geeks are proud of their lack of sexcapades and often make fun of modern media's obsession with a-holes (the E! show "The Soup" comes to mind) and vapid, materialistic people. We like character-driven, smart TV shows (that always seem to get cancelled), comics, video games and all kinds of hero/good guy rises above the bad forces mythology (Hello, Star Wars.) We value having brains. I'd say "We are legion" but you Catholics might think the wrong thing... ((ha ha)

    We are never going to see eye-to-eye on premarital sex, but I'm with you on not lowering the bar and setting a good example.

    My husband and I will never do a condom jar thing or assume our kids are going to "do it." I will always do the best I can to give them high self-esteem and tell them to wait. My mom always used to say, "Your body is a temple, not an amusement park" and I think I will say the same.

    So far, our kids are geeks like us and reject being a crappy person in all it's forms. (Everyone is drinking is another myth I HATE.)

    So while your expectations are a notch higher than mine, don't misread that mine are low.


  99. L, methinks you'd make a great Catholic. ;)

  100. Maggie and Elisabeth, I do think that would be the only glimmer of hope if this whole "gay marriage" movement becomes the norm: The Church must continue to define marriage as it has always been, and not be associated with things that may call themselves marriage but never can be. There must be a break, and no confusion. It is terribly sad if illegals cannot get married here.... Everyone should have access to the sacraments. :(

  101. Aah, JoAnna, you took the words right out of my mouth! (literally...haha!) I'll just reiterate how frustrating it is to keep hearing that "well they'll [fill in the blank] anyway, so we might as well make it as easy as possible for them!" attitude. It's condescending. It's like we're just throwing up our hands and saying "I give up. I don't even want to try anymore." What ever happened to setting the bar high? Sorry...this is all redundant. Just echoing JoAnna's sentiment!

  102. L - a few things:

    1) I have a hunch maybe, perhaps, you were a Firefly fan? Is that a safe assumption? :) (I just saw it on Netflix!!)

    2) "Your body is a temple." YES! You're getting so close to "getting" us!

    3) "Everyone is drinking." Exactly what was going through my head when I wrote [fill in the blank] in the above post! "So we only let them drink at home." Suuuure. I bet that's the ONLY place they drink! Really????? Come on!!!!

  103. L and others,

    Its so funny how different people think. I would tend to think the young Hispanic girls who bring home babies to live with their parents are extremely selfish, where I imagine many of you would think they are brave.

    I can see merits in both sides. I am not white, actually. So I cannot speak to that. But I have a good grasp on what the upper-middle class want for their children, and what these children, my peers, want for themselves. We see great value in family but we understand this value REQUIRES materialism. Child rearing is incredibly expensive. College alone is upwards of 50k a year now. If you want the ability to pay for your kids to go to school ( and most of us do) you CANT have kids as 14. (Most of my friends parents had then at over 35.) You need to have a damn good education and a damn good job so you can give your children your family, a good life. This is not (overly) materialistic, this is logical.

    We as a society, are overly critical of mothers. But we have to decide to what extent we want to change this. In May, I will have a degree in something relatively useless ( smile) and by most measures of our society I will be more accomplished than a girl my age who has a baby, even if she is married. Is this really something we want to change? On one hand we want to value families, but do we want to encourage women to have children young, frankly before they can financially take care of them? I am not sure which system is better or how the two sides can be reconciled.

  104. college student, that is so interesting. I would say that we bring it back to the concepts of order and disorder again. Materialism (placing things or money above people) is a disorder. It is not good. On the other hand, we do want to be able to provide for our families. But why? Why do we provide for our families? Because we love them and providing what we can for them is a good. But not to the degree that we become selfish.Again, it's about order and disorder. If we are working to get "things" instead of providing for our families, and if the "things" are the goal, and not the people, then we are disordered in our view of things.

    If we won't have more than two kids because we want a big home, nice cars and great vacations, then we have it all wrong. We should put our lives at the service of God and others. Materialism robs our souls of peace and may rob us, ultimately, of everything: Jesus said: "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?" You cannot serve both God and the world.

    The Church has balance here: Materialism is condemned just as vigorously as communism is condemned. There is a need to provide, but not in order to collect things and degrees. Things are important (and we can have lot of things as long as we are not ultimately attached to them), and college degrees can be good (the Catholic Church founded the university system as a place to find Truth), but not at the expense of our own humanity, of our human dignity.

    Mother Teresa used to say that the spiritual poverty of the West was much more tragic than the material poverty of the Third World. She was right. Material poverty cannot kill the soul, but spiritual poverty does.

    The two sides you mention can only be reconciled by a practice of the virtues. And unfortunately, the virtues are largely rejected and forgotten by the post-Christian modern world. But the Church will still hold strong in them, and the saints will continue to be our role models in how the virtues are lived. It's awesome!!

    Anyway, great discussion. Thank you!

  105. By the way: I have eight kids, and every one of them has been told since the beginning that they have to find a way to put themselves through college. We will help all we can, but we will not withhold brothers and sisters from them in order to finance a degree that is not remotely worth the cost these days. They know that if they work hard in school, they will earn scholarships. They also know that they will have to work to pay off loans or avoid loans. I don't feel bad about it in the least. Not in the least. And I was someone who was raised as a princess and had an expensive private college paid for.

    I also want to say that merely wanting to provide comfortably for your family is not materialism. That is simply the right thing to do. But materialism is when we go too far and we love money and things more than God and people. I hope that makes sense.

  106. Leila,
    I confess my choice of the world materialism, was not a careful one. So to your point materialism isnt needed to support a family, money is. I was using the word materialism for money.

    I think pretty highly of money. And i think reasonably highly of people who make lots of money. Why? Well money is important, not just for clothes and shoes but for medicine and food. The top 1% in this country pays 40% of the taxes. The bottom 50% pays 2.7% of the taxes. Some people think the rich are selfish.I think those who don't aspire to be rich are selfish. The more money you have the more you can give away. The more food, medicine and shelter you can buy for the less fortunate.

    I will not pretend that money is the only way to make a difference in this world. I do not underestimate the contributions of MLK and Mother Tereasa. But I also don't under estimate the contributions of Oprah Winfrey. She didnt devote her life to her family, arguably she gave that up and devoted it to something bigger. She never said 'i have enough money' and as a result kept amassing billions upon billions to give to charity.

  107. I am a few years out of college and still paying off a chunk of my education because I took out loans. My parents helped some, but I knew that I needed to be invested (personally and financially) in my education. While I'd rather not have the debt, it isn't burdensome and I intend on doing the same with my own children. We may help them a bit, but they will take out loans and hopefully get scholarships, and I think that it is a good thing that helps one become more invested in their education.

    I'd also add that not everyone has to go to college. I may have to dodge fireballs for that comment, but seriously. My husband got a degree that he doesn't even use; instead he self-taught computer programming, is absolutely gifted at it, and makes a very good living from it running his own business. Second, for someone without a natural ability/skill set in a more "professional" field like my husband, there's trades. My cousin became a mechanic like his father. He learned under his father and a family friend and works with the family friend now. He's not wealthy, but he's not poor. He never went to college, but he owns his own home, puts food on the table, and can enjoy his hobbies (like snowmobiling) and the occasional vacation. Nothing wrong with that.

    And College Student, I don't think by encouraging people to value families that we are, at the same time, encouraging them to have children young, before they can provide for said families. In fact, if family is valued so highly, then wouldn't we want the best for our families? Such as stability by means of strong marriages and financial security? Those things are important, and the financial side doesn't mean moving into materialism, as Leila defined it, but making sure there is enough for what is needed. But nonetheless, if a child is conceived and the timing isn't right (not in marriage or maybe not even in a strong relationship, with little financial security,etc) the child in and of him/herself should be valued, and as a member of the family.

    As a somewhat related aside, one thing that is neat is the philosophy of "open adoption" which my husband and I were pursuing just a couple months ago. In an open adoption, the birthparents have an ongoing relationship with the child and the adoptive family. It is sort of like they are one big family, depending on everyone's comfort level. I thought of this because even for those children who are placed for adoption, they can still be valued members of their birthfamilies and have relationships with biological relatives, as well as be valued in their adoptive families.

  108. College student,
    50k a year for college? Come on! I graduated in '09 (w/ 3 kids), went to a respectable university, and paid practically nothing because I kept a "b" average and my state has the HOPE scholarship.
    I'd also like to say something in support of Leila's decision to have her children pay for their own college-- FOR THEIR OWN GOOD! It teaches them to be more responsible. I went to a private high school where my friends all had rich parents. Their parents gave them condos and cars and paid for their college and expenses. Those kids are still kids! We are all turning 30 this year and their parents are still supporting them because they don't know the meaning of hard work! Meanwhile, I had to buy my own car, house, pay for school, etc. and I'm not trying to brag but I'm appreciative because I feel like I'm better off for it. We're not rich by Earthly definitions but this house is full of love and laughter and I just sit here in awe of God and how abundantly I've been blessed. Charlie Sheen can have his success!

  109. I'm still paying back my student loans (and will be until I die, lol), but my TOTAL amount for four years of school was less than $50k.

    My parents are both public school teachers, so if the criteria to have kids was that you had to afford to send them to college, they never would have had children in the first place. My siblings and I all financed our educations with loans, grants, and scholarships, and we're none the worse off for it. Granted, I wish I didn't have student loan debt to pay off, but I'm glad my parents didn't decide to kill me because they couldn't pay for my college education!

    L., I'm glad you have high standards for your kids. Why don't you have those same standards for all teenagers? (BTW, I'm a geek too -- big Star Trek junkie was well as a rabid D&D and WoW fan!)

  110. college student, thanks for the clarification. I understand better what you mean.

    I would say that money is morally neutral. It's what we do with money that is either good or bad. If we are attached to money, that's bad. If money is an end in itself, instead of a means to an end (a good end), then that's bad.

    It's all about our will, and what we do.

  111. Just for clarification,

    I wasn't saying people who cant pay for college for their children should abort them or shouldn't have kids or should get sterilized or anything so ridiculous.

    The 50k thing was also just a number. Many many private schools cost that much. Mine cost that much. I don't have loans or scharorships. And I'm very thankful to have had the chance to go to the best school I could go to without worrying about loans. I think many parents would like to be able to finance their children's education. I know that I hope to be able to finance my children’s education.

    I was just using college as one of the many examples of the many expenses associated with having a child. We could use health insurance too! Ha. I was also trying to address a little of what L was saying about white suburban values v Hispanic family values. I was saying a lot the attitude in the middle-upper class areas that encourages girls to 'have a career! Have a career!' is there because that’s what you NEED to have a family.

    But our definition of NEED is different than yours. I personally would want (doesn’t mean I would abort just saying I would want) to have a child when I could give them at least what I had. Which means I will def have to wait until later into life. I certainly don’t think it is a bad goal to want to pay for your children’s education.

    Like I said before I would think a 14-year old who came home with a baby was very very selfish. Having sex and a child when you will have to live with your parents and infringe upon their lives when they have already raised their children is so irresponsible. I was just saying all of this to point out the differences ( or some of them in values) and the difficulty in reconciling them all.

  112. I wanted to back up Complicated Life and say that I have also been seriously considering "trades" as a very honorable goal for my kids. The "everyone must go to college" idea has only brought down the meaning of a degree and brought up its price. Supply and demand. In addition, because of this, people in the trades tend to make very good money, because their skills are suddenly rare in a world of white collar college grads. Ultimately, my kids will have the choice of careers based on their skill and interest. Those who are meant for higher studies, will go to University. Those who are not can look to the very honorable skilled trades.

    I went to a top 10 and came out with 7k of loans, which I paid off myself. My parents helped with plane tickets and my initial supplies. There is a happy medium to being uneducated or paying 50k+ per year for a piece of paper. Trade schools, academic merit scholarships, need-based scolarships, reasonable loans, and military service are all pathways to giving yourself a solid financial future.

    Of course it's irresponsible for a 14 year old girl to get pregnant. But bringing home the baby will wear the selfishness right out of her. Having a baby is like wearing your heart outside your body- and I don't doubt the maternal instinct and love of a 14 year old is any weaker than mine, though it may be inconvenient and incredibley difficult for all.

  113. It's funny that people are suddenly talking about money...what is it about money lately? Yesterday I went to Mass and the sermon was about who are you going to choose, God or the world? And earlier that day, I was at Adoration, picked up "Imitation of Christ" (a very good book) and the first thing I read was about materialism and the world and how a person needs to put God first.

    Ironically, just the day before I was approved for Social Security. I got $10,000 for back pay and my husband and I have almost been afraid to touch it.

    Does the temptation to go on a shopping spree come to me? I would be lying if I said no. I am sparse on clothing (have only 2 pair of jeans and 1 pair of shoes) and of course, there's always something we need, or want, or we could get something off of our "wish list".

    Yet, though the money is needed and some will be used for what is needed most, such as paying off medical bills, paying for one of my medications that is $500 by itself(!) and also paying off my school loan, it will most likely be put in a savings account.

    Truthfully, as others have said, there is nothing wrong with money if used wisely. But I know myself and how easily it is to be tempted. I'm not so much worried about going out to do a little spending as I am more worried about losing a little bit of the simplicity and practicality that my parents have instilled in me as a child. "Money doesn't grow on trees" and "eat your food-there's starving children who would love your supper" is something that has been burned into my conscious.

    I know I always talk about Bl.Mother Theresa (can you tell she's my hero?)but her frugality inspires me. It's said that after 8:00 each evening, the electricity and water would be shut off, because as she said, "we don't spend any more money on electricity and money than absolutely necessary because that is money that could be used for the poor."

    Extreme to us, maybe. But a good lesson as I remember to turn off the lights, turn off the TV--this is money that could be used to help others.

  114. college student, I know that is the prevailing secular understanding of life, money and children, but you are talking to people on this blog who have discovered something different: Many of us have (or desire) many children, and although the material costs are said to be prohibitive, they really aren't. Anyone can adjust their lives to accommodate more children. Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa have said that the greatest gift you can give your children is the gift of brothers and sisters. If I had to finance a college education for each of my eight children, I would not have the joy of knowing or raising about six of my children! I can tell you that if I asked my kids if they would rather have their college paid for, or have their siblings, they would pick their siblings in a heartbeat, and they would probably look at me like I had six heads just for asking that question! Their are many ways to get an education and make a living, but their siblings are irreplaceable. They will be partners on the journey of life forever, and then into eternity. The college education? Not so much.

    And these days, at least in the liberal arts, it's almost like a parent is financing their child's corruption, really. I sometimes cannot get over the junk that is being taught to my daughter at her public university. And we pay for it? Ugh. Anyway, off my soapbox, but just knowing what is taught these days (or what isn't taught) is reason enough for me to put my investment in more people, rather than financing things that go against my principles.

    Anyway, all that might be a whole other blog post, ha! I will say that siblings are much more valuable to a human being's development than a (questionable) college education. Again, I am saying this as a woman who has a university degree and whose husband has two degrees.

    Ultimately, God cannot be outdone in generosity. If you are open to welcoming His children, you will be blessed with gifts and a peace that money cannot buy.

  115. Again,

    We are just arguing from fundamentally different places.I was raised in the tradition of the importance of education, so not going to college was never an option for me. And the idea of other people not wanting to send their kids to college is pretty foreign to me.

    This is going to get me into trouble,but relying on financial aid to pay for your kids college seems eerily similar to relying to food stamps to feed them. Its one thing to need something because you have tried and really cannot afford it, but to know that you will need something all along and not make concessions to pay for it seems like a very non-conservative idea.

    I not saying that college educated people are so much more educated than other people. Some are some arent. but many of the jobs people want to do require that little piece of paper... thats really just a fact and a good enough reason for me to value that means to an end.

    You think it is materialistic to have less children so they have more stuff. I think that 'stuff' that helps you lead the sort of life you want is essential, not elective.

    I think people are generally happy with the lives they have which is good. This explains why Leila's children would trade their siblings for anything and I would never trade my life for more siblings.

  116. "This is going to get me into trouble,but relying on financial aid to pay for your kids college seems eerily similar to relying to food stamps to feed them."

    Food stamps don't have to be paid back. Loans do, and most grants and scholarships are based on need or merit (and most grants rely upon your school performance to be awarded or rescinded, so they're merit-based as well).

    To me, saying that it's silly to rely on loans or other financial aid to finance an education that costs tens of thousands of dollars is like saying that no one who wants to buy a house should get a loan for that, either. If everyone who wanted to buy a house had to wait until they saved up $200,000 cash, then very few people could be homeowners.

    And what of people who do save the money to finance their kids' education, and then someone gets cancer or there's a natural disaster, or some other calamity, and they're forced to use that money to stay afloat? Would you then say that the kids have no right to a college education?

    Saying that only those who can afford to pay for a college education outright should educate their children is elitist, and sets a dangerous precedent.

  117. I also want to add that we do, in a way, "pay back" food stamps via our taxes. After my son was born, my husband and I were struggling financially and we were on food stamps for a period of time (about six months, I believe, but I can't remember for sure). We used that program as it was intended -- as a hand up and a help until we could better our situation, which we did.

    I don't condone the abuse of government programs, but I don't think that the majority of those who utilize such programs is a lazy slob who is sucking on the government teat instead of working to pay their own way, either. I believe that most are using those programs as intended, and sometimes it could take a while longer to get into a better situation.

  118. sorry about my sloppy subject-verb agreement above -- I revised one part and forgot to revise the verbs, oops!

  119. Interestingly, my husband's parents used contraception and decided to only have him and his brother so that they could pay for their entire college education, which, as I mentioned, actually was not needed for my husband or for my brother-in-law. They both self-taught and excel in their fields-my husband in computer programming and my BIL in graphic design, so my in-laws basically wasted their money on college education for their sons, but that was, admittedly, unforeseen by them early in their marriage, but not later on when my husband knew he could take a job right out of high school as a programmer with a huge sign on bonus from the dot com boom, but went to college anyways b/c his parents paid for him to do so.

    But back to my point, my husband has often mentioned how he much rather would have had more brothers and sisters instead of living the cushy life they had and having his education paid for entirely.

    "relying on financial aid to pay for your kids college seems eerily similar to relying to food stamps to feed them."

    It's really not similar. Food is necessary to sustain life and should be one of the highest things on the priority list for where your money goes; college is not. I was raised in a home that valued education tremendously and my brother and I were expected to get a higher education; we never considered anything else. But now that I've been through college, I have a few thoughts on it:

    1. Debt obtained for the sake of a college education is often considered worthwhile, along with home loans, because education and home ownership are considered strong investments for the betterment of individuals and society. It's debatable in my opinion, because of #2 that I'll mention, but still often considered worthy debt to take on.

    2. Bachelors degrees are becoming increasingly obsolete. With almost everyone getting that level of degree, it's almost like college is becoming the new high school. People will need Master's degrees to really have an edge.

    3. In many fields, especially technology-related ones, degrees don't matter, portfolios do. Show your work; people don't care what your degree or GPA was. My husband majored in Theology, but no one who contracts with him knows that or cares.

    But I do think we're coming at this from two different world views, which is why our priorities are different.

    "You think it is materialistic to have less children so they have more stuff. I think that 'stuff' that helps you lead the sort of life you want is essential, not elective."

    Besides money for a higher education, what else do you mean by "stuff." I'm just curious to see what are the more important things you value.

  120. JoAnna,

    I agree we should tell young people that it is virtuous and prudent not to be promiscuous, but I do think it is very important to understand the truths of human sexuality and be realistic. Read Lost Babes: Fornication Abstracts From Court Records Essex County, Massachusetts 1692-1745 (Derry, N.H., 1992). It turns out that by comparing birth and marriage certificates, fully 40% of colonial era women in Essex County were having premarital sex. I would not call this a sexually permissive environment!

    How about being very clear about the reason for sex, i.e. that sex and sexual feelings are primarily for making babies. Drive that point home. Also give all the information about STD's, and about the different biology and mentalities of women and men, and then realize that many of them are still going to have premarital sex.

    I actually think that making girls aware of how to chart their fertility at a fairly young age with a comprehensive course would benefit them, as they might be able to objectively notice their own risky behavior as it coincided with their fertile periods. This has been documented and observed in several truly remarkable studies (Haselton, M. G, Mortezaie, M., Pillsworth, E. G., Bleske-Rechek, A., & Frederick, D. A. (2006). Ovulatory shifts in human female ornamentation: Near ovulation, women dress to impress. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 40-45. ), and I have observed it in myself as I charted. It was stunning. Giving them this information about their own bodies will doubtless result in some of them using it to avoid pregnancy while having pre-marital sex, but I think many others would benefit from the awareness, and they will gain more control over their behavior.

  121. college student (and others), I hope you will read the latest post by This Cross I Embrace. It was inspired by some of the "hook-up" conversations we've had here:

  122. Joanna, no I don’t think only children whose parents should pay for college should go to college or anything so ridiculous. I am saying that there is nothing wrong with paying for your kid to go to college because it not only helps your child but also pays for other people’s children to go to school and so it is an admirable (not materialist) goal to have.

    You do not agree with the premise of what I am saying and thus an argument is arising. I believe that most parents WANT to pay for their children’s education. They may not be able to but I believe they WANT to. You are saying this is apparently not the case. I don’t think someone wants their children to have to amass loans or wants them to have to join the army to pay for school. Scholarships are great , but frankly what happens if your kid isn’t smart? I would still want my B kid to go to school, scholarships are a large variable and I wouldn’t have to rely on them.

    Yes complicated life some people do not need college. Bill Gates certainly did not neither did Lady Gaga or your husband. Its nice that your husband makes a nice salary, but typically people with college degrees make more(minus celebrities)
    To your point college degrees are becoming devalued as more people are pursing masters degrees. That is why I support getting them; college degrees are the new high school degrees. and everyone should have a high school degree, it is difficult to be taken seriously without one.

    What other stuff do I value? Health insurance is big; money to pay for the things health insurance doesn’t cover is big. Quality food! I think the food supply is poisoning so organic, organic, organic. I’m also big on education. Sometimes kids need tutors in school; I think that’s important. College of course. Private school if the public one is too dangerous.

  123. Mary, I would question that data because there's no way to ascertain the veracity of the record-keeping. We don't know if marriage dates were recorded accurately and in a timely fashion. We don't know how many conceptions occurred on the couple's wedding night or shortly thereafter. We don't know how many of the children were several weeks premature.

    My son was born a month early (36w3d) and I know my dates are accurate because I was charting when he was conceived, and all my early ultrasounds confirmed my estimated date of conception. He was 6lbs, 4oz and perfectly healthy; he required no NICU time and went home with us two days after his birth. If I'd gotten married the day he was conceived, people could have easily assumed that I'd been lying about my dates and was a month pregnant when I was married.

    But I agree with you regarding sexual education that clearly and factually shows the negative consequences of sex as well as displays why abstinence is preferable. I also agree about teaching teens NFP. I wish I had known as a teenager how to chart my cycles -- I was ALWAYS getting surprised by my period (it usually came the one day I was wearing white jeans or khakis and didn't have a pad or tampon with me) and it would have been very beneficial to know when my period was due to arrive. I plan to teach my daughters to chart their cycles once they are of an age to begin menstruation.

    College Student,

    "I am saying that there is nothing wrong with paying for your kid to go to college because it not only helps your child but also pays for other people’s children to go to school and so it is an admirable (not materialist) goal to have."

    I agree. But that doesn't mean that parents should be required or encouraged to limit their family size to this end, or feel that if they don't do so, they are somehow culpable.

  124. I think that rapid procreation is disordered because it is leading to unsustainable growth that will eventually overwhelm the planet. 2 kids per couple max would be ordered since that is equal to the # of parents involved in their birth. And then there are always people who have 8 kids and people who have none, but we need to strive for an average of 2 kids if we want to halt growth. That means after 2 kids the orderly thing to do would be to cease to have sex with your life partner because the chance of additional children leads to more disorder in the planet

  125. OMG, you're absolutely right, downtowner!

    Except... countries such as Australia and Germany are paying women to have more babies due to the potential negative economic consequences of a plummeting birthrate. Hmmmm.

    Visit the Population Research Institute at to see how your viewpoint is seriously flawed.

  126. downtowner, actually, an inverted population pyramid is the disorder. And when Europe and the western world collapses because of the population dearth, you will see an economic disaster that won't be pretty. It is entirely disordered to purposely limit ourselves to 2 children. Demographers have put the warnings out there for years now, and several countries are begging, even paying, their citizens to have children.

    I agree with JoAnna that is a great source for the actual demographic numbers and consequences.


    Read more about the overpopulation myth, above.

  128. Do you have any unbiased links with population statistics I could look at? The site seems to have a clear agenda towards one side of the argument.

  129. Do you have any unbiased links with population statistics I could look at? The site seems to have a clear agenda towards one side of the argument.

    Do you not see the irony in this statement? What about the biases inherent in the other side of the argument? There's no such thing as "unbiased" data. Each side claims the other has an agenda and a bias.

    Take a look at the data they present. What do you find wrong with it? I'd really like to know.

  130. I would really encourage anyone who believes in overpopulation to check out the DVDs Demographic Winter and its sequel, Demographic Bomb. On the disk in the special features they provide full scholarly citations for all the data they cite. Especially since they do not have any religious agenda, and argue solely from a standpoint of demographics and economics, they are more credible than a religiously funded group, at least in the eyes of those who are not themselves religious.

  131. I second JoAnna. If you find the stats problematic, can you explain why? I find the overpopulation movement to be full of "agenda" and bias, as JoAnna points out. To the point of absurdity at times, sadly. :(

  132. Maggie, thank you. That DVD should have a wide viewing, much wider than Al Gore's DVD which has been proven erroneous in a secular court (England has found a slew of errors). But the media pushes the pop-con message reflexively, ignoring any evidence that supports the opposite conclusion.

  133. Hi Leila,

    I read the piece by the Cross I embrace. I think definitely, took the wrong message from it lol. It made me remember what a great tool hooking up can be to find a guy ( how much can she bash it its how she met her husband?) I wish I was kidding sadly I'm not..ha

  134. College student, that is absolutely heartbreaking to hear.

    But why do you say you "wish you were kidding"? Somehow you know that the hook-up culture, even to "find a guy" is a very sad thing.

  135. BTW, I know of some folks who have found their spouses through adulterous affairs. Do you think that is a good way to "find a guy"? Can you see that though "finding a guy" is a good end, the means need to be moral, too? Remember, the ends don't justify the means, order vs. disorder and all that?

    Do you believe in God? Do you believe you have a soul? I don't know if I've ever asked you that.

  136. WOW! I step out for half a day and another lively convo....

    Nicole - LOVE Firefly! AND I have done posts on my personal blog lambasting parents who condone & host drinking parties for their High School kids graduations. I feel that kids stop caring about their own actions when the adults in their lives disappoint them.

    College Student - I think ambition is good. We never would have made it to the moon if everyone was having kids. I absolutely understand why you would want to get yourself sorted before you go off and have children (If you want to,that is - I'm not Catholic, so even if you never want kids, it wouldn't matter to me & I do not think you are selfish for that.)

    I guess, now that I am in a position where I have had kids and I can mother them, I feel that if my daughter were to come home pregnant while she was in High School, I would probably try to encourage her to have the child and do everything I could - INCLUDING co-raise it - while she goes to school. Ultimately, the decision would rest with her, but I would happily raise my grandchild in lieu of her having an abortion or giving it up for adoption. BUT, I see why I can say that - I am in a place of motherhood and not career.

    I feel that the people who want children should have them and the people who don't can do what they wish. Some people need to pull all-nighters in labs trying to cure diseases. Some people need to pull all nighters so they can afford that BMW. Either way, it is none of my business. I am pro-choice ultimately, but I would like to see our culture in a place where family and children are seen as "blessings" instead of "burdens" and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. For the most part - there is no such thing as Utopia - it never existed & never will, but it is something to aim for.

    Amanda - 1. Charlie Sheen has quite a few kids... 2. come on, now, we don't need to be extreme like that. Just because someone chooses career doesn't mean they are anything like him.

    Leila - You can't ask if your kids would have preferred not to have their sibs after the fact, you know that.

    I have one brother 9 years younger than me. Frankly we don't have a good relationship. He is a loser. But I never wished for more or less. Never felt a hole for all those sibs that never came. I made my own relationships with extended family and friends that are wonderful and fulfilling. It's not the hand you are dealt in life, it's how you play your cards - that's what I always say.


  137. Leila - You can't ask if your kids would have preferred not to have their sibs after the fact, you know that.

    Actually, before they even had most of their siblings, they were asking for more and more and more. They love life, and children. They knew all along that more children means less materially for them. I think many kids are raised to not want siblings. I've heard more than one mother say to a kid who begged for a sibling: "You don't want to have to share a room, do you?" Teaching kids to be selfish... I don't get it.

    We never would have made it to the moon if everyone was having kids.

    You don't think the people in the space program, from bottom to top, had children? I'm betting they did, and they still did just fine. :)

    Bottom line, I hope you don't think we Catholics are talking about a numbers game. What we are advocating is a mindset. Openness to life, respect for marriage and sexuality, and the inviolable right to life for every single human being created.

    That's a different paradigm, but not so long ago was pretty mainstream.

  138. "You don't think the people in the space program, from bottom to top, had children? I'm betting they did, and they still did just fine. :)"

    Yes, some had children, but you understand some of them had to be absent for much of the raising part. Also - if ALL of them had kids, we wouldn't have anyone left to devote their lives to their vocations. Gotta have the balance is all I am saying.

    "I hope you don't think we Catholics are talking about a numbers game. What we are advocating is a mindset. Openness to life, respect for marriage and sexuality, and the inviolable right to life for every single human being created."

    Actually, the more I am understanding about Catholicism, the more I "get it" & the less I feel miffed about what some of your positions are. HOWEVER, I feel your above statement sounds very wonderful in a general way, but then I realize "openness to life" means more than seeing children as blessings, it means no sex without wanting said children. "respect for marriage and sexuality" means more than regarding sex as special. It means no sex unless you are married, hetero and want to have children so you have the seed deposited accordingly. "inviolable right to life" means more than taking care of our weakest members of society - it means that even if the fetus will kill you, you still cannot terminate that life. It mens that a terminally ill person doesn't have the right to a lethal vial of morphine if they don't want to spend the next few weeks drowning in their own fluids. It also means a woman can refuse a DNR for her conjoined twins who keep crashing, but she won't let them go.


  139. L, I like you a lot, and I enjoy your comments. And I know you don't mind my pushing you a bit further:

    1) it means that even if the fetus will kill you, you still cannot terminate that life.

    First, a fetus cannot "kill" anyone. An unborn child is helpless and is not an aggressor in any way, shape or form. The only aggressor in any abortion situation is the one aborting the child.

    So you are right that we cannot "terminate that life" because innocent life is not ours to "terminate".

    But let's put that statistically insignificant situation (abortion for life of the mother) aside, and lets talk about the tens of millions of other abortions performed here in the U.S. The 99.9%. For all those, will you join us in saying that at least those lives need protecting against those who would kill them? Are they not the most weak, defenseless and voiceless in the human family? Are you with us on protection for that group of unborn babies?

    more coming...

  140. 2. Yes, some had children, but you understand some of them had to be absent for much of the raising part. Also - if ALL of them had kids, we wouldn't have anyone left to devote their lives to their vocations.

    I'd still venture to say that in the '50s and '60s, most of them had children. Yes, many jobs require a parent being away for long periods. Has been as true in the past as today. That is why it is all the more important for families to be strong and stable, with two parents. It's the best shot for every child. Also, if a person feels called to a life of travel and being out of the home most of the time, many people of all religions have opted out of marriage and family life altogether. Nothing wrong with this, if that's one's calling. I did a double take when you used the word "vocation" only because in Catholic parlance, that means one of three main things: marriage (and parenthood), religious life or priesthood, and single life. Most people are called to the vocation of marriage. In our Faith, we believe that we are sanctified primarily through the living out of our particular vocation. So, if a man does a great job in the corporate world and yet neglects or abuses his wife and children, he will have a really hard time on Judgement Day, as he has failed in his most sacred of duties, his vocation. Same with priests or sisters, who neglect or corrupt their vocation and vows. Very few people are called to the single life, but that is also a vocation, and the way of sanctification for them.

    Not expecting you to agree, just explaining Catholic thought on what a "vocation" is.

    More coming...

  141. 3. I feel your above statement sounds very wonderful in a general way, but then I realize "openness to life" means more than seeing children as blessings, it means no sex without wanting said children.

    Yes, but the alternative is why we have abortion. If everyone understood (as they used to) that sex makes babies, then no baby would ever be a completely unwelcome shock. If someone does not want children, they should not be having sex. Because sex (not just "unprotected" sex) makes babies. I will use someone else's analogy: If you turn the ignition on a car and put it into first gear, why are you shocked when the car moves? Sex is for making babies. That's why it exists. If a person cannot accept a child, then the person should forgo sex.

    more coming...

  142. 4. "respect for marriage and sexuality" means more than regarding sex as special. It means no sex unless you are married, hetero and want to have children so you have the seed deposited accordingly.

    This is God's amazing design and plan for the protection of children and for the protection of our own souls. Sex is not "special" just because it feels good to have one's genitals stimulated by another person (or inanimate thing), it's sacred because it exists to bring about new human life! If sex is about genital pleasuring only, then anything should really be okay. I don't think you think that sex is about genital pleasuring. I think you know it's so much bigger than that. It has a purpose (procreation) and a meaning (love) and those two aspects of sex cannot be separated without some serious unwanted consequences (even Freud and Gandhi said that).

    Actually, the more I am understanding about Catholicism, the more I "get it" & the less I feel miffed about what some of your positions are.

    This makes the whole blog worth it. Seriously. All we want is a little understanding. :) Isn't that a song? Of course I'd love you to be Catholic, but I'm happy with this!

    More coming....

  143. You are right, each of our values have a core that cannot be violated because to violate that core would invalidate its meaning. We cannot say sex is sacred and then say “unless you want it to be otherwise”; we cannot say life is inviolable and then say “unless it requires a sacrifice on my part”; we cannot say life is worthy of protection from conception to natural death and then say “unless it is too difficult for me or my caregiver.”

    As for the DNR – the church never says that we must take extraordinary measures to protect life. Ultimately our destiny is in our death. If a mother who refuses to allow her twins to die a natural death in the situation you outlined could be any parent afraid to let her children go – I am sure that is not a uniquely Catholic foible.

  144. 5. It mesns that a terminally ill person doesn't have the right to a lethal vial of morphine if they don't want to spend the next few weeks drowning in their own fluids.

    Oh, gosh, that is awful! Where do you get this stuff? We Catholics have a lot of educating to do. Catholics believe that committing suicide is never morally licit. This is nothing shocking or bizarre. Our life is not our own, and we have been bought at a price (the blood of Jesus). Also, we are not permitted to kill the elderly or disabled. That is murder, even if they want us to kill them. (Just think: Would you kill a teenager who said he was depressed and needed you to shoot him?)

    If a dying person is uncomfortable, they may receive morphine, and any other help to be comfortable. Any and all means may be used to ease the suffering of the dying -- except murdering them! It's really not a barbaric teaching, it's respecting the human dignity of every human. There are sooooo many reasons why this teaching is not only just, but also a safeguard from involuntary euthanasia (which is done all the time in some countries such as the Netherlands) and mercy killing or suicide for non-terminal illnesses as well as terminal. In many places, the "right to die" becomes the "duty to die". While the intentions may be good, as we become "fuzzy" on the moral principles, there are ugly consequences. I haven't done a post on end of life issues yet, but I hope to soon! God willing, ack!

    More coming...

  145. I was going to say something about the conjoined twins, but I think Elisabeth said it well. Also, from my perspective, it's better to have a mother who clings to hope for the life of her children, rather than the opposite, which is a mother who actively seeks to terminate her child's life. I will take hope over sin and death any day. Any day.

  146. Leila,
    In reference to your comment to me. How right you are! I have difficulty with this moral means and ends thing, meaning I really want a boyfriend, and have now compromised the 'how' as long as the end result is good. I hate when 'bad' things work for people because as someone who exhausted the 'good' it makes me want to try their way. I have just admitted to about 4 sins, :) I know I'm wrong but I'm working on it with difficulty,

  147. college student, yet again I want to hug you! You are on a journey, just like the rest of us! We all stumble, fall, get up, and try again! God is merciful to us, happily, and we get so many chances! He is happy to meet us where we are, but like a good Father, He is easily pleased, but not easily satisfied. :)

    You are wonderfully self-aware, and that is so wonderful. It's a rarity. You are light years ahead of where I was in college....

  148. Leila - one day I am going to write you a letter about why I am here having these conversations. But not today, I don't have time... ha ha. Thank you for your willingness to go toe-to-toe with me and 'pushing buttons'. (Not that we're fighting - I don't think we are at all, even if we disagree.)And when you point out words I use in the wrong way - I meant vocation as a strong calling to a particular job or career. So rocket science, to me, may be someone's "calling." That is what I meant.

    And though I think sex is primarily special, sometimes it is about the genitals. (though I mean that in more of a self-type way, not a mindset with other people - with a few exceptions) And though I do respect your opinion on the matter, and understand it is coming from a place of holding sex and it's consequences as sacred, I am never going to be convinced that someone who doesn't want kids shouldn't have sex, period.

    "If everyone understood (as they used to)"
    Can you tell me more about this notion? When was this time?

    and end of life, it would be in the case where the patient wants/takes it. NOT, "Oh I think Gramps has had enough and I don't feel like hanging out at the bedside anymore... so..." It would all have to be in writing, of course.I know suicide is a no-no in the Catholic Church, but I've been by a few bedsides already (some peaceful and some pretty gnarly) and can say I wouldn't stop someone who wanted to do that.

    And since I do not live in the Netherlands, I cannot speak for what is going on over there. I would say if you think that people are "offing their burdensome elderly" over there, you might want to investigate those claims a little deeper.


  149. L

    I know you directed this at Leila but I thought I would address the situation in the Netherlands. About 3% of deaths in the Netherlands are reported/documented cases of euthanasia. These numbers are under close scrutiny and even a number of non-religious medical sources feel there is significant under-reporting, if this were taken into account that would raise the number to somewhere between 6 & 9%.

    Another disturbing trend (more pronounced in Belgium than the Netherlands) is the rate of doctors who euthanize without patient knowledge or consent.

    There is also an issue of infanticide. As much as 8% of pediatric deaths in the Netherlands are cases of Euthanasia – both with and without parental consent and knowledge.

  150. Hi L! I am with you, I really enjoy our challenging but friendly conversations! I actually spent last night working on answering some of your questions from a past post. Got one in the queue before that, but stay tuned!

    I'm getting ready for a visit from my father-in-law for the weekend, but I will quickly say these few things:

    And since I do not live in the Netherlands, I cannot speak for what is going on over there. I would say if you think that people are "offing their burdensome elderly" over there, you might want to investigate those claims a little deeper.

    I've actually been following their situation and laws there since the mid-'90s. (Is that long enough to be considered "digging deeper"?) Many of us watch with horrified interest as the slippery slope keeps getting slipperier (as religious conservatives predicted). Now there is involuntary euthanasia and infant euthanasia, etc. It's hard to get that genie back in the bottle, just like with abortion, "free love" (genital play based on urges), and every other moral morass.

    As for the elderly and the infirm: If you are truly talking about someone who is dying, then the Church has no problem with withholding extraordinary care. What the Church has a problem with is suicide, mercy killing/euthanasia. There is a huge moral difference. I am a stickler for distinctions. I hope to do a post on it soon, ha ha ha (my standard line, but it's true!)

    The time that everyone understood the Catholic view of sexuality was prior to the sexual revolution. The general population, young, old, black, white, poor, rich.... all understood that marriage was between a man and a woman. The thought of homosexuals "marrying" was not a blip on the screen. I remember when I was writing my column 16 years ago, it was not considered seriously by the mainstream. It all harkens back to the 1930s, and the acceptance of contraception by the first Christian body. That was the very beginnings of the end of the cultural understanding of the truth of sex and marriage. Even the secular media saw the writing on the wall and, just as the Catholic Church did, they condemned the move by the Anglicans. Here is The Washington Post, in an editorial on March 22, 1931:

    “It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of the divine institution of marriage with any modernistic plan for the mechanical regulation of or suppression of human life. The Church must either reject the plain teachings of the Bible or reject schemes for the ‘ scientific’ production of human souls.

    Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be ‘ careful and restrained’ is preposterous.”

    emphasis mine.

    More when I can, and I would love to hear why we are having these talks, ha ha! Email me someday soon!

  151. Elisabeth and Leila - Another time, let me know exactly what you mean by euthanasia to infants and elderly. It sounds vague. Is this elderly person dying of emphysema and wants to let go on their own terms? Or is some evil cackling doctor giving them an injection when they've outstayed their welcome at the hospital? Is someone euthanizing their baby who cannot function or is brain-dead? Or is it some sort of post-partum "snap" on an otherwise healthy child? Or someone who doesn't want to have a child with downs syndrome? I am confused as to why you'd euthanise an infant.

    I know either way wouldn't jibe with you, but there is a difference between letting someone who is dying go on their own terms and smothering them with a pillow just because you've had enough of hearing their rattling breath. (BTW, not something I would do, no matter how painful it is to watch.)

    Anyway - have a great weekend, I have a lot to do myself - catch up with you all next week sometime.


  152. Euthanasia in the Netherlands is generally done with sodium triopethal (sp?) and pancuronium- although other combinations of drugs have been reported. The whys are theoretically clear – the person must be in suffering (courts have allowed clinical depression to fit this category), they must be at least 12 years old, they must be able to consent, etc.

    Given the number of unreported cases and the number of cases believed to have occurred without patient consent we have to assume that some percentage are done for medical or caregiver convenience.

    As for pediatric euthanasia – the Dutch say those with no chance for survival, those with a “poor prognosis” who require intensive care or who might experience poor quality of life or those who doctors and parents feel are suffering can be euthanized. Once criticism in North America of these standards is that it heavily impacts children born with Spina bifida, the effects of which American and Canadian doctors now routinely dress surgically. The other is that they are very subjective and thus easily manipulated. Here too is the concern for doctors behaving paternalistically and make decisions without parental consent.

  153. Elisbeth - understood, but it is still a lot of speculation. I am not saying you are wrong, I am saying to have a little faith that most cases are not so insidious. There is a distinction between "believed to be" without consent and "without consent."

  154. L, do a little research on your own, as it will be illuminating.

    Also, don't be gone for too long, as I hope to post "your" post by tonight or tomorrow!


  155. L, here is a good place to start withs some facts and numbers:

  156. Haven't read the whole thread of comments, but want to reply to Olya's comment about the Fathers of the Church and official Church doctrine, specifically in regard to Tertullian.

    Tertullian died officially separated from the Catholic Church. Discouraged with the Catholic Church and their forgiveness of mortal sin (which - in Tertullian's view - included a Christian's unwillingness or cowardice to become martyred for their faith) he invented a distinction between what he termed the "Spiritual Church" and the "Church of a bunch of bishops", and he joined the Monastic sect, first, and then finally, after finding fault with the Monastic sect too, invented his own sect, the Tertullianists (which lasted until St Augustine's time.) His earlier passionate and insightful writings about the faith, and his original coining of the term "Trinity" make him a valuable part of the early teachings of the Church, but his writings - as a whole - have never been considered (not even in his own time) official Church teachings.

  157. I did a little research in the matter of world population growth and I found a very interesting site that I thought I would share with you all for a different perspective than the one you have been advocating. Hope you find it to be as interesting as I found your link:

  158. downtowner, that is an interesting site. It's a pro-abortion blog, and a radical environmentalist blog, and when I read stuff like this:

    We must restructure the world economy, especially in energy. If there's a coal-fired power station near you, organise to close it down.

    I think "totalitarianism is coming". I mean, oh my. My husband is an energy expert (in the desert of Arizona no less) and this is straight up Leftism that the site is advocating.

    Could you do us a favor and give very specific numbers to refute what is being said by the demographers who warn of population dearth? Then we could have a conversation that would be meaningful.


  159. I'm Anon. Hope
    Maggie, thanks for directing me to the Seraphic Singles blog.

    Leila, Yes, I'm Catholic. I started to tell my story. Because I just gave you a tiny piece of it, I'm not surprised that you got confused.

    Eventually I had a relationship and eventually I made love with my boyfriend. I kept telling him I was looking for a Catholic loophole before we made love.

    I thought about what if I conceived a child. I KNOW that birth control is not 100% effective. Seriously, I wondered if I could fit a crib in my one bedroom apartment. I had to consider STDs.

    Then I created a loophole in my mind. So I was not chaste. I was happy and felt loved and beautiful. I felt like God loved me for the first time ever. I am chaste now. I'm chaste and lonely.

    I would like to be married the next time round.

    From: Anon. Hope

  160. Hi Anon. Hope,

    It's true, sex is a powerful thing, and it makes us feel as close to God and another person as can be physically had on earth. But out of the proper order of marriage, it does leave you lonely and empty, because it's only a temporary "happiness."

    I pray that you will find your spouse! And until then, your true Spouse, Jesus is the perfect man. He can satisfy every longing of your heart.

  161. Maggie, Leila and Joanna,

    I have ordered Demographic Winter and will refrain from much further comment until watching it but it is ENTIRELY untrue that it does not have an agenda. The producers, filmmaker etc. are all right-wing Christians. I don't mean that in a terribly bad way, as I am Christian myself, but I would not consider myself terribly right-wing (and the term is used to disparage).

    I will watch it this week, but really, as a biologist the question is about energy and resource depletion. These countries with declining birthrates are terrified about what is going to happen to their ECONOMIC systems that are built on rapid demographic growth. Yes, maybe the economic systems are in peril, but perhaps that means that those systems are faulty to begin with, as they are contingent upon exponential growth. If, these men:

    are correct, our rapid population expansion is entirely dependent upon energy sources, and will decline rapidly as the availability of easy-to-access, ENERGY-DENSE (remember that wind, solar, hydro are not energy dense), supplies dwindle.

    From what I can tell, most of the people interviewed for Demograhic Winter were DEMOGRAPHERS, not ECOLOGISTS or GEOLOGISTS or BIOLOGISTS, or PHYSICISTS. BUT!!!! I will stop now and go watch it for certain. Please do the same for the websites I listed.

  162. Mary, thank you! Yes, there is a debate about energy for sure. We have plenty of coal, oil, natural gas, etc. Environmentalists (of the radical bent) don't want to tap into the earth's abundance. Yet, human ingenuity has always found a way to rise to the occasion. I will read your links and also discuss with my husband, who works with the utilities, including solar, coal, natural gas, nuclear. He has a pretty good background in that stuff.

    I'm gone the bulk of the day, but I look forward to reading more.

  163. Also, Mary, what kind of economic system could sustain an inverted (unnatural) pyramid of population? How can increasingly fewer young workers provide for increasing numbers of elderly and infirm?

  164. Downtowner, although I find some of the info on to be useful, I do think they exaggerate one stat.: the number of women dying from illegal abortions.

    Who is correct? (scroll down to Mexico, where they (Reuters) claim abortion is the fourth leading cause of death for Mexican women)


    I really don't know the answer. Who does?

  165. Leila,
    Hi. I am not an economist, but do follow economics a bit. I realize that, in the past, all of our economic systems have been built on rapid growth, and I worry that this is not sustainable, but I do see that significant increases in worker productivity might be a significant part of the solution as it has served us in the past throughout our transition from a farming economy to a services economy.

    Also, from my perspective, the future world will need (perhaps fewer) highly skilled, and highly educated people. Right now, so many of our own citizens in this country get such a TERRIBLE excuse for an education that it is a crying shame. We are wasting the minds of so many kids in a bad educational system. (I am an educator, and I hate what tenure has done to the system. I was fully behind Michelle Rhee, and cried when she left Washington.)

    I do not count out "old" people from this pool of "those who need to be highly skilled". I think it is ridiculous to assume that people will retire at 65. So, so many are highly productive into their 80's and beyond! I personally know four women in their seventies who are utterly bored, and really should be back working at meaningful jobs. They don't even see themselves how the boredom is wrecking their minds and souls. My own mother really should be working in some capacity, but she cannot really work as a teacher now that she is collecting retirement. Sometimes she drives me crazy she is so needing of attention. (I love her very much and she helps me out and is a wonderful person, but I think there is ample room for her to fit in about 15 hours of paid work, which would benefit her (an our economy) very much!) I see this everywhere. These women should be out there working in some capacity.

    We need more focus on health, vitality, retraining etc. I don't think we are doomed if our population does not keep expanding at a rapid pace. I see great possibilities in expanding the productivity of each worker.

    BUT! I do think there is going to be a terrible "crunch" as countries like Italy, Japan and Russia transition through their periods of very low fertility. This will be hard. However, we must understand that their demographic pickle is not just a product of low birthrates, it is a product of low birthrates following a period of high birthrates and sinking death rates.

    Again, I am concerned that our run-up in population is dangerously and inextricably linked to our exploitation of fossil fuels, which are finite.

    The Green Revolution fed millions and averted major disaster worldwide, but it is well-known that this unparalleled increase in productivity in agriculture was highly dependent on the development of toxic pesticides and fertilizers created using cheap fossil fuel energy. As this energy becomes harder to access, the food will get more expensive.

    This will be very hard worldwide, especially for the poor. Of course we must do everything in our power to avoid worldwide famine, but I also sense that gradually declining--or even stable--Total Fertility Rates would be part of the solution.

    One idea I have to up the productivity of the oceans, is to find a way to build more reefs and man-made wetlands (floating)in the open oceans. Oceans are equivalent to deserts in terms of biological productivity. And, since about 70% of the earth is covered with ocean, we could possibly make some headway...but it might be a non-starter, as it would be very expensive (Deep Water Horizon comes to mind).

    Thanks! Also thanks for your clues about how I can get emails from the blog...sorry to be so dense!

  166. Mary, I don't disagree, so I am glad we are having this discussion! You know, as long as no moral law is broken, there is nothing wrong with any of what you have said. I may have a difference of opinion on this or that, but in general, a Catholic would not be averse to what you are saying. I still think the world is able to support all its people, no matter how many there are (our God is a God of abundance, and also our human ingenuity will serve us well with new ideas by the time fossil fuels run out -- which won't be soon).

    I think we should be looking at all options, but not forcing the shut down of oil and coal for solar and wind, since it's not efficient enough yet, and waaaaaay to expensive to be a viable option.

    You definitely have your wish for declining population, because it's happening and I don't think that is going to stop (and I think we can say good-bye to the western world if it keeps up).

    I am TOTALLY with you on the education thing. I cannot believe that Michelle Rhee left, either... I was heartbroken.

    So, being a Catholic gives us GREAT freedom! We can agree on many, many things. We simply cannot break the moral law in trying to get to our goals.

  167. Leila, Joanna and others: PART 1

    Several Points:

    1) Again, I am sincerely interested what you think of this:

    I point to him, although he is not one of the key scientists, as his graphs etc. are easy to synthesizes current science (the Hubbert stuff is very reputable, but dense).

    Although we might have remaining stocks of fossil fuels around (as Leila said) we don't have easily accessible fossil fuels left, besides coal, (and coal is VERY dirty), except in the Middle East, nor do we have an inexhaustible supply...and this makes it increasingly expensive. If you have to spend half the energy cost that you get out into extracting a barrel of oil, then it makes it rather costly...which drives up the cost of food...which makes it harder to feed billions.

    I would really like your views....Again...I have ordered Dem. Winter (oddly not available in any of our libraries here in Central Mass.)so as to view it, so I am trying to meet you in the middle! I also am very aware that many developed nations have declining birthrates etc., but I think although it will be very difficult economically as we transition, it seems that there is no other way (maybe a more gradual decline would be better to avoid the terrible crunch for countries like Japan and Italy).

    2. The thing is: Some of my friends are theists who are concerned about our rapid growth and impending decline...but MOST of my theistic friends (I am a theist, albeit with struggles), refuse to either read this stuff, or they just tell me it is all totally wrong and biased. Most of my atheist friends are willing to read this stuff, and some consider it. I guess I just think it seems misguided to declare that all the scientists are totally biased and to discount their combined years of experience...

    I do understand that there will always be bias, but it seems crazy not to read up on the details of the current science, as understood by the majority of those who publish in peer-reviewed journals.

    3. is NOT my wish(as you termed it) (ideal wish) for declining population...My ideal wish would be for us to find anther several earths to colonize, so that all moms like me could have five biological children or more if they so desired, but I just don't think the science points in that direction. I am very sad about what the science seems to indicate...not happy... I think it is a Christian responsibility to face truth and understand how our actions impact the world.

    more coming...

  168. Part 2
    4. I also want to clarify that I do not think abortion is to be part of the solution at all. To me, abortion might be a quick fix to a "problem" (hate to phrase it like that) but it is an immoral fix,just like killing off mentally disabled people to free up resources for others) and we have many other moral options. I do currently think education and access to artificial birth control are part of the solution...and this is one of my problems with Catholic teaching.

    5. The fact is that birth control through barrier methods and herbs have been part of a society's approach to keeping births in check for centuries (Collier, Aine (2007). The Humble Little Condom: A History. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-59102-556-6.)in addition to abortion and in infanticide. If we are to keep our population in check, and the latter two options are horrid, why is it wrong to responsibly use the former? We have so many medical advances in this area.

    I understand that the Church thinks that access to birth control will demean women and make a mockery of marriage etc., but I know many many many couples who are sterilized and are in their later years who are loving, caring and decent. Why are these couples not falling apart?

    The Catholic church has some wonderful teachings. Life is sacred...I agree, men and women are both very worthy, but not equivalent or interchangeable...(this is one of the failed ideals of radical feminism: that women could be men) Forgive and love God! I agree, but I also think that artificial birth control IN CONCERT with amazing and loving educational programs about the way the body truly works is part of the answer on how we are going to live harmoniously on this planet without destroying it.

  169. Hi Mary! I still have company for the weekend, but I will try to get back to you as soon as possible with thoughts on most of your points. My thoughts on birth control and sterilization are first that "the ends don't justify the means" (you cannot do evil to bring about even a greater good). And, contraception leads to abortion, so that is no solution at all:

    We may have a totally different premise in general, in that I don't believe that the world can be "overpopulated" with human beings. God is a God of abundance, and while we certainly must be good stewards of creation, we must remember that this earth was made for people, not the other way around. I will address your points though, just as soon as I get a chance to do so thoughtfully. Thanks for patience, and for great questions!

  170. Dear Leila!

    Thank you very much for that Link. It was really good. I keep learning great stuff from your blog! This is what a real, civil blog is about. REAL information, the room to disagree, and the room to learn from each other.

    I found the Spanish study very illuminating. BUT! Here is my question...What if abortion (especially past the first trimester in all cases) becomes ILLEGAL? There is no stop-gap measure. Then would contraception lead to abortion? I bet women would get much better about complying with the directions on their birth control packages if they knew there was no back-up plan. Would there be lots of "unwanted" children born? Probably some, but most could be lapped up by the huge pool of people hoping to infant. Would some women be burdened? Yes. Would some women find out they can do more than they thought? Yes. Would some women grow up and figure out what life is really about earlier? YES!!!
    As I read the legal remarks, especially Casey's, I find terrific logical flaws to equate the privacy provisions of the right to birth control with the right to abortion. This legal argument is not based on science at all. It is fundamentally different to kill an embryo than to prevent its conception. I think the faulty logic lies there. I prefer to think about personhood. If you consider that definition, then it becomes utterly ridiculous to offer life saving medical care to preemies born at 27 weeks while killing unborn babies at the same time or even a few weeks/days earlier. The fact is that nobody knows when personhood begins, and say that it begins at conception because a totally unique genetic entity has been formed is based in science and reasonableness. That said, I do think a rational, loving debate would be healthy to study all the known science about consciousness and pain and brain waves etc., but I personally would rather err on the side of not killing a being that "might" be a person.

  171. Mary, I agree with what you said. Knowing human nature, if abortion were outlawed, there would be huge behavioral changes in women and men. Sadly, sinful humanity seems to take the path of least resistance, and when the law helps facilitate horrible choices, it's not a good thing. To say the least. At the very least, the law should prevent killing of innocents. Without recourse to that killing (abortion), lots would change in our behaviors. Just like before abortion was legal.

    Roe v. Wade wasn't based on science either. It was based on ancient sources, not modern science! If you haven't read it, it's a shocker. And Casey's "right to privacy" is all the free sex crowd needed to go from contraception to abortion rights. Not scientific, just philosophical. Unfortunately, contraception and abortion really are part of the same (disordered) philosophy about sex.

    I'm glad you liked the link! :)


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