February 16th, 2012
Jen Rubin does not seem to understand the reasoning behind Catholic opposition to artificial contraception: “The impression that Santorum finds the prevalent practice of birth control ‘harmful to women’ is, frankly, mind-numbing.”
I’d recommend she read John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. (She could either order it from Amazon or get the individual speeches free from EWTN.) She might not end up agreeing that a regime of artificial contraception diminishes the dignity of the human person and fosters a culture where women are increasingly objects to be used. But I suspect she’d be struck by how many of the predicted social evils have followed it. (There are, of course, many reasonable counter-arguments she could make–beginning with correlation/causation and ending with lesser-of-two-ills.)
Even so, at least she’d understand the theology and theory of the position and wouldn’t be so confused.
So the choices for a married couple are:
1. Don’t have sex
2. Have 14 kids
3. Use birth control
In America we have almost universally settled on option 3. Any advocate for either 1 or 2 is decidedly outside of the mainstream and also sort of weird. I don’t think America is ready for a weird president.
Dave, I’m not a Catholic, but I tend to agree with the idea that female contraception diminishes the dignity of women and fosters a culture where they are used as objects. That’s why I tend to think of your 3 options as 4 options:
3a: female birth control
3b: male birth control (condoms)
I think it is possible to to avoid your first two options while avoiding the dangers of mass female contraception if men were more willing to use condoms. I understand this does not address the theological problems Catholics have with contraception, but I think it is a far more pragmatic solution than mass birth control for women.
You left off a fourth option, endorsed by the Catholic church: use natural family planning (NFP). Now, even with NFP, the church emphasizes that the primary purpose of sex should be procreation, so we should expect larger families in the ideal Catholic world. But I don’t think a pro-natalist President is necessarily “weird”. I do think that given America’s secular culture and the liberal media’s hostility to religion (not to mention certain Jewish conservatives hostility to Catholic thinking), it would be better for Santorum to refer folks to Catholic theologians and philosophers, or even smart social scientists like Mary Eberstadt, who can do a better job of articulating Catholic thinking and its implications than Santorum.
I was going to post on NFP but FakeHerzog beat me to it. My wife and I have been using NFP for several years and know dozens of other couples who use it. It does work – not only from our own personal experience but from knowing the other couples the pregnancies are planned. Yes families who use NFP are larger, we used to joke during the NFP sessions about the instructors who had 6 or 7 kids and would claim that all the kids were planned, but I think alot of that is the willingness to have kids and not because of a lack of artificial contraception.
Note NFP is not going to work well for everyone as you have to be dilligent about charting and it is a change in the relationship when you cannot have sex at a drop of the hat – it sure was for me – but it’s not that much of a sacrifice and we see it as part of overall spiritual and personal development. We are not slaves to our desires but we can master and channel those desires. Plus my wife feels much different and healthier now she is off the Pill.
I’m trying not to read too much into what Dave is saying since it was just a short comment but I do run into a lot of people who see large families – 6 to 8 kids (we see them in Church over the years and state how they are going from a basketball to a hockey and then a baseball team) – and think that is too bizarre for polite company and it doesn’t help matters that the families in question are often Mormon or Catholic. The funny thing is that these are often people who see scream the loudest about “multicultural” or “tolerance.”
I have the feeling – based in part on the debate question on contraception the other month, the idea that the Church is trying to ban contraception for everyone, and the general vileness of the Obama Administration – that Obama is doing an Alinsky on the Catholic hierarchy of freezing, personalizing, and polarizing. That might bee too nice – I think more in terms of Arendt’s “Other.”
Note I’m Protestant, my wife is the Catholic, so I don’t go in for the Apostolic Succession or successors to Peter bit and yes there is much not to love about many of the bishops. However this is not a popularity contest or about mainstream or about weird – it’s about one’s faith. Just imagine what they’ll do to Romney’s Mormonism by September
Hang on, I think that’s the international emoticon for “I’m ovulating.”
I just burst out laughing.
🙂 Oh, wait.
“I refuse to understand or accurately describe my opponent’s position” is not an argument.
All around awesome comment although one thing did stick out for me: “it [NFP] is a change in the relationship when you cannot have sex at a drop of the hat.” I thought the change came after about the first year or so of marriage, definitely after the kids, and now after 14+ years of marriage — fuhgidabowdit — but I guess YMMV 😉
To Fake Herzog,
That’s the only time the wife and I do have sex: when it’s unplanned. I think the whole idea (NFP) is a stupid workaround the Official Catholic Teaching™. What if your wedding anniversary or New Year’s is when your wife is ovulating?
Way to make foreplay fun…let’s check the chart honey!
Anonymous Mike: Thanks for the considerate response, which was indeed far more thought out than my hastily constructed initial comment deserved. I was interested to read about NFP and appreciate the pointer.
My comment “we have almost universally settled on option 3” was not intended to be a statement about morality, but one about politics. Santorum’s opinions on birth control are not just outside of mainstream public opinion, but well outside of mainstream Catholic opinion, at least in the U.S. To me, it seems like the U.S. Catholic opinion on birth control is “don’t ask, don’t tell” or perhaps “use it, but then confess”.
I’m not old enough to have benefited at the moment from Griswold v. CT, but I do remember that my significantly older cousins cheered loudly. They were, it hardly needs be said, males. The Pill eliminated young women’s greatest argument against The Deed.
Woody Allen was just starting his standup career at the same time. This was how he ended his routine: “I had my first experience with oral contraception. I asked a girl to go to bed with me…and she said no.” It usually took audiences about 15 seconds to start laughing.
What Dave said. Even if Santorum is right on the theology, he’s dead wrong on the politics of this.
I have to agree with you on those points.
I believed that Santorum started off as, maybe not a single issue candidate, but perhaps as someone who tried to make sure the cultural conservative viewpoint was represented during the primaries. I don’t think anyone thought he had a chance of getting this far as a two-term Senator with no executive experience who just got creamed in 2006; if he thought he would get this far then that should disqualify him from seeking any public office, he is simply the last non-Romney candidate standing. I still cannot see him winning the nomination, let alone the presidency.
Yes he’s way outside of the mainstream thinking of the Catholic laity on this let alone mainstream America; I guess I should say I am too and I’m not even Catholic. This however provides an opportunity.
I think the trick for the Republicans to beat Obama is to take the fight to him. The past 14 months have shown that when they take the offensive to him on the airwaves, he gets defensive and crumbles; when they play passive not wanting to seem too extreme they get caught – note the debt ceiling and payroll tax extension where the Republicans proposed bills but allowed Obama to set the terms of the debate and the GOP crushed. Such are the problems when the other party is in the White House.
However now we are in primary season and we have a red hot issue picture perfect for Santorum as he is not only an anti-contraceptive Catholic but has a national stage as a leading candidate for the nomination. The question is does he want the nomination or does he want to see Obama lose?
The tricks to beating Obama on the issue:
1) Keep the focus on liberty, not anti-contraception – see today’s Krauthammer article. Note K’s description of not only the unfairness of the accommodation in regard to private property and the insurance companies, but also the right assumed by government bureaucrats to define what is religious. Paul Rahe had a piece the other day about this leading eventually to abortions in Catholic hospitals – which of course would mean they would no longer be Catholic
2) Make Obama a target of humor and ridicule I’m starting to like the sound of King Barack I (or King Barry if you like) – the man is incredibly thin-skinned
3) Keep up the pressure. The only way for the liberty issue to fight it’s way through the fog put up by media and the left is to stay in the public square and keeping making the case. Santorum has a decision to make on how wants to use this (temporary I think) position of prominence.
With his “accommodation” announcement last week, Obama gave up his remaining flexibility on the issue and fixed his position which makes him an excellent target, if you wish to bring your fire to bear
You are really good at this — time to start your own blog I think 🙂
Meanwhile, we have Joe Sixpack who has apparently refused to think seriously about this issue beyond what some of his leftist friends say or poorly catechized Catholic friends say (or am I repeating myself?)
But I thought doing it on New Year’s was the highest moral good?
But one of the basic assumptions here is flawed: that women can and do control all aspects of when and how they have intercourse. It would be lovely if all women had the ability to say no, or had husbands or partners who abided by “the chart”. But it’s not the case that they do, and oral contraception gives them at least one alternative to help them have control over when they have children (and to when and how they enter or stay in the workforce).