Monday, September 22, 2008
THE BIRTH CONTROL COMMISSION
TURNING POINT by Robert McClory - chapter 10
Following the 1965 commission meeting
The CFM [Catholic Family Movement] publication ACT stirred the waters with a series of hard-hitting articles. The most analytical written by Father Walter Imbiorski, director of the Chicago Cana Conference, presented tough questions:
* "If contraception is forbidden by the natural law, why is that in Western society only Catholics...recognize and acknowledge this prohibition?"
* "If one were to permit contraception in marriage...what kind of compelling argumentation could be developed for premarital chastity?"
* "Is frequent and continued physical expression of love in marriage truly a necessity for the fostering and deepening of love and for the good of the marriage?"
* "If a wider use of contraceptive means is ever permitted, will this do anything significant to make marriages better?"
* "Is 'how many children can I rear well?' a question that must get more attention?"
Responses to the article included the following:
Wrote a young woman, "There is nothing more artificial about any form of mechanical contraception than there is about iron lungs, artificial limbs, or synthetic larynxes and heart valves. All of these are considered perfectly legitimate means of correcting or nullifying defects in the 'natural' man....The 'natural value' to be considered here is the totality of the human being's tendency toward monogamous mating for life, including reproduction, rearing and educating offspring....At present our entire morality of marriage is a negative eleventh commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Commit Contraception.'"...(p. 87)
"The old teaching is still official," said a priest from Missouri. "And that is true no matter how much evidence we gather for a change....The fact that dedicated Catholics disobey is no excuse."
More views expressed--the Crowley's undertook a scholarly survey to look at the effects of rhythm among their members. Results included the following:
* When asked if it was "helpful" in spacing children, some 43 percent said it was, while another 21 percent found it "partly helpful."
* About 32 percent said the rhythm method did not work for them despite efforts. Among those who failed, 65 percent reported unpredictable menstrual cycles as the problem.
* Twenty percent ascribed the failure to carelessness in keeping track of the calendar, inadequate information on the mechanics of rhythm, or an overwhelming need to express love.
* A sizable 64 percent asserted that rhythm was positively helpful in some ways to their marriage.
* Some 78 percent (including therefore a great number who had found rhythm at least somewhat helpful) claimed it had also harmed their relationship due to tension, loss of spontaneity, fear of pregnancy, etc. (pp 89-90)
Comments from the 78 percent included:
"We found the practice of rhythm very frustrating, artificial, and distasteful," said a young couple married six years with two children and three miscarriages. "It removed the natural spontaneity from marriage and generally distracts from or inhibits the intimate communication which is essential."(p. 90)
"I felt like a human thermometer," wrote a woman married eighteen years with two children. "My husband and I are very close and I felt like love was put on a business schedule. Instead of 'I love you,' I began to hear, 'How's your temperature?'"
Rhythm "makes a mockery of love," wrote a couple married fourteen years with four children. "No free giving of oneself, no joy in the union. The constant reference to the chart to determine safety takes on an aura of grudging obedience to Church law, with rebellion in the heart."
Only 22 percent could cite no harmful effects.
For many in the survey, the rhythm experience produced a crisis of faith in God or, more commonly, of faith in the Church. (p. 91)
I submit that this crisis of faith in the Church impacted the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of penance.
There is nothing natural about prefacing the conjugal act with "Is this a good day?" yet that is what using the rhythm method requires. Once the initial indication that sexual intimacy is desired, reference to the calendar or the thermometer is no more natural than any other barrier method. The intention remains the same whatever barrier method is used, a temperature chart or a piece of latex. Only the mechanics change, and reducing the sexual encounter to an argument over mechanics undermines the sexual bond that is essential to keeping a marriage intact, as God would appear to have known when He invented it.
If proper credit were given to the impact of the sexual bond, an argument could be raised that this is so important to marriage that it must be saved for only that purpose and not perverted by casual sex. But we have not done that. Instead we have reduced the discussion of the sexual bond to an argument about mechanics. That has been the result of Humane Vitae.