Archive | June, 2015

What’s the Use?

30 Jun

marriage1In the last post, I recalled St. John Paul II’s first reason why natural family planning (“NFP”) differs from contraception. Namely, contraception speaks a “language” contrary to that of NFP. Contraception contradicts the “body language” of sexual union as a complete gift of self and a total reception of one’s spouse. Meanwhile, NFP speaks a language of openness to each other as husband and wife. With NFP, a total gift is given and received, which remains faithful to the language given in the marriage vows.

The second reason John Paul develops is similar, but he offers a further distinction based on his deep respect and understanding of human dignity. Because of their dignity as persons, men and women should never be used. The only proper response to a human person is love and acceptance. In the mind of the Holy Father, the opposite of love is “use,” not hate.

We understand this truth instinctively. Think about your reaction to a tragedy being exploited for political gain, or a family member performing acts of kindness simply to get written into the millionaire uncle’s will. Situations like these make us angry, because we perceive that persons should be accepted and loved not merely for what they can do or produce, but rather for being who they are. If this is true in ordinary human interactions, how much more should this principle apply to marriage, the most intimate of relationships?

Obviously, spouses do not set out to “use” one another through the marital act. However, because the conjugal act is supposed to be a complete gift of self, to make a partial gift or to receive a partial gift where one’s fertility is withheld or rejected is contrary to the full love and acceptance that one’s spouse deserves. A contracepted union is not a true union. It reduces the attempted union of husband and wife to a mere activity where each is using each other for a pleasurable goal.

Surely we’re not denying that the conjugal act is pleasurable. Yet, when it is divorced from the true union of the spouses, then it necessarily involves selfishly using each other. In other words, it places the focus on “what am I getting out of this” instead of “what can I give my beloved.” It’s beneath a person’s dignity to give only a partial gift of self or to receive only a partial gift. The contraceptive mentality reduces love from the unconditional love that we all desire to a conditional love or use, which is the opposite of love. Using each other is not in keeping with our human dignity.

The beauty of NFP is that it opens up spouses to a greater respect and understanding of each other. NFP allows for the total giving and receiving of the gift. Speaking as a man, I can honestly say that learning the ups and downs of how my wife’s body works has increased my respect for her and indeed, enhanced my respect for all women. I am in awe of how beautifully and wonderfully made women are. As I look out into the culture, it seems to me that there is a great lack of respect and understanding between men and women, and I wonder if that could be remedied somewhat if we were more open to the gift of NFP.

So why is fertility so integral to our human dignity? That will be explored in the next column.

These articles are running in preparation for NFP Awareness Week, July 19-26, 2015. For more information on activities celebrating this week, visit http://www.archkck.org/NFP

Guest columnist Brad DuPont is a consultant for the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. He credits Dr. John Grabowski’s talk at the 2014 Theology of the Body Congress, “Something Old, Something New: Tradition and Development of Doctrine in the Theology of the Body’s Teaching on Marriage” for inspiring this series of articles.

Celebrating NFP

23 Jun

nfpNext month, on July 23rd, Archbishop Naumann will celebrate a Mass to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. Yes, I said celebrate. Contrary to popular belief, the Church wishes to celebrate the encyclical that affirms the long-standing and beautiful teaching that the sexual love between a husband and wife is meant for two purposes, to unite the couple more profoundly and to have their love take flesh in the form of new life.

Many believed that Pope Paul VI would allow for artificial means of birth control, and many still believe he should have. Still, there are others who say that the Church does allow for contraception under the name of Natural Family Planning (“NFP”), but is this true? Is NFP simply “Catholic Contraception”?

Pope Paul VI believed there was a significant difference, and St. John Paul II, building on his predecessor’s teaching, articulated five main differences between NFP and contraception in his catechesis on human love in the divine plan that has come to be known as the theology of the body. Over the next few weeks I will explain each of these differences.

The first difference can be called the “linguistic argument.” In John Paul’s view of the human person, the body is not just a collection of cells that happens to be connected to an invisible soul. Rather, the body is what actually communicates and makes visible the soul. The body makes present the invisible mystery of a person’s maleness or femaleness, the two equal but different ways of existing as a human person. You might say that the body speaks a “language.”

We recognize this truth in so many ways. In fact, nonverbal communication is incredibly powerful and, often times, reveals the truth of a situation far more convincingly than verbal communication. Think of a child who tells his mom that everything is “fine,” but his body language communicates sadness through shrugged shoulders, a slumped posture, and a frown as big as a clown in face paint. Any good mother would not believe the empty verbal response of “fine” and but instead would believe what the rest of the body is communicating. We would say that the child’s body is revealing the truth of whole person.

Bodily gestures, like a kiss, communicate affection. This is why Jesus remarks to Judas that he is betraying the Son of Man with a kiss. A kiss is not meant to communicate betrayal and, in the case of Judas, is an ironic and false communication. In John Paul’s thought, body language can speak truths or falsehood in the same way that words do, so it is important to always speak the truth with our bodies. For John Paul, the conjugal act between a husband and wife says in a bodily way what the couple expressed in words at the altar on the day of their wedding. It is a renewal of their wedding vows each time the couple comes together to have this most “intimate conversation.”

In the wedding vows, the couple pledges to give the entirety of their lives to one another as a complete gift of self. The language of the marital act says the same thing, but through the language of the body.

With contraception, the language of the body goes from a language of giving everything to a language of withholding. What is withheld? When a couple contracepts, they say to each other, “I give you everything but my fertility.” Contraception makes the renewal of vows into a partial gift instead of the complete gift which was expressed at the altar.

Obviously, most couples who have contracepted did not intend to speak a language that contradicted their wedding vows. They most likely were a victim of the surrounding culture that offers contraception as the “only reasonable option.” Hopefully, this series of articles will dispel some of the myths about Natural Family Planning and allow couples to find a new hope and way to rejoice in the renewal of their wedding vows.

Many couples are changing the course of their marriage by reconsidering the choice of how to regulate births–and are looking into NFP as a reasonable option. If you have practiced NFP, chances are you know someone who has doubts about it. It is not always easy to have conversations about the beauty and gift that NFP can be to a marriage. Hopefully, this series of articles will better equip you to have meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones.

The truth is that NFP is a treasure that is waiting to be discovered and a source of good news for couples!

Guest columnist Brad DuPont is a consultant for the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. He credits Dr. John Grabowski’s talk at the 2014 Theology of the Body Congress, “Something Old, Something New: Tradition and Development of Doctrine in the Theology of the Body’s Teaching on Marriage” for inspiring this series of articles.

Fighting the good fight on Same-Sex “marriage”

9 Jun

gay cogsWow, I got a good deal of  Hate Push-Back Email  on my recent Leaven Column, What’s the price of equality if it comes at the cost of conscience?  which is about what a Supreme Court ruling that States must recognize same-sex “marriages” would mean for our Catholic schools.

People were mad that a Catholic in a Catholic paper would push back against the wave of history for what they “know” to be the great good of same-sex “marriage”.

Sometimes trying to defend one man, one woman marriage can be difficult because it is hard to see how anyone could object or how to go beyond the emotional appeal.  It’s like arguing with someone who thinks motherhood is bad.  You know on the face of it the person is wrong but don’t know where to start.

In charity I wanted to respond to these people, but hey it took a while so I thought maybe you all might appreciate reading some of reasons why as Catholics we can be against same sex marriage and not be haters. It is a discussion we are going to need to engage.

If you are like me, you have a bunch of friends and family that think like the people in these emails. I have kept the content pretty much the same but I have changed the names of the senders to keep them anonymous.

So here is the first in the series…

Email 1 The Madisonian.

Response:

Good discussion “James” 

As Catholics, we sincerely believe that God created sex for two combined purposes: the happiness of a man and woman uniting in married love, and the happiness of new life being born from that union. Take away either one — for instance with adultery, prostitution, masturbation, premarital sex, or homogenital activity — and sexual activity turns negative and limiting, because those two purposes are built into us. We are made physically for loving and for generating new life. Sexual acts which are anything less than that will separate us from part of our selves and from what God wants for us; they leave out and suppress part of what sex is and part of who we are.

My basic position is that for Catholics to condone same-sex unions by recognizing such unions as a “marriage” goes against Christian conscience.  As a consequence, people of conscience should not be compelled to witness such “marriages” or be forced to hire the practitioners in positions that give moral witness on behalf of the Church.  However, the LGBT forces have made it very clear their intent is not “to agree to disagree” but to use the force of law to compel religious organizations to publically endorse their lifestyle. The Catholic Church cannot do that because as much as we love people and have compassion for people who experience strong same sex attraction (SSA) we would be sinning against charity to endorse such practices.  Not because we are being mean or hating but because that kind of sex is going to hurt the practitioners and society as a whole.

 Let me respond to some of your points…

Gays and Lesbians have the “Right to seek personal fulfillment through marriage”

There are no rights without God and we never have a right to do something that is inherently bad for us and others, and goes against God’s plan for us.  I don’t have a right to smoke crack cocaine because crack is bad for me and the addiction it causes has devastating fallout for my family and community.

However, even if we assume the false premise that people who self-identify as “gay” or “lesbian” are exercising their right to the pursuit of happiness it does not follow they have a right to marriage as same-sex partners.  The reason no one has a right to same-sex “marriage” is because marriage is NOT a recognition of a special adult friendship.  Marriage is a public recognition of an exclusive sexual relationship that has the potential to produce children and bonds the father and the mother to those children that sexual union produces. The institution of one man, one woman marriage serves the common good as the number one way our society protects children.  Every baby that is born has a mother not far off, but not necessarily a father nearby.  What marriage does best is protect the children by bonding the dad to the mom and the children.  The reason the State privileges man-woman marriage is because these unions produce the future generation of the State not so the participants can feel validated.  Just because a citizen has a kind of sexual proclivity doesn’t entitle that person to a public recognition of that sexual expression.  Pick any sexual expression that by its very nature prohibits offspring, do those practitioners have the “right” to have society affirm their pursuit of personal fulfillment by calling that sex marriage?

“equal rights under the constitution matter”

All citizens have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex.  Many men and women who experience same-sex attraction enter real marriages all the time and go on to start families.   What this issue is seeking to do is to create a special class of citizen with a special right.  What about all the other people who want to express themselves sexually outside the traditional, moral norms and have that legally defined as marriage?  Why can’t bigamists marry many, or zoophiliacs marry their pets? I ask this not to suggest that same-sex unions rise to that level of perversity but to point out that once the good of offspring are taken out the equation there is no ratio for denying any kind of sex the moniker of marriage.

Also, what about the children?  Don’t children have a God given right to have a mother and a father?  Isn’t it sexist to say that 2 dads can fill the void of a mother or 2 moms can fill the void of a father?  Now sadly, not all children get a father or mother. However, it is one thing when the situation arises by accident of circumstance.  It is quite another and indeed cruel when it is done on purpose.  It is rightfully considered shameful to be a dead-beat dad by a man abandoning his child.  Is it not also shameful for two moms to deny the child even the possibility of ever have having a dad?  (And of course vice-versa two dads denying the chance to have a mom)

 

“people regardless of sex must have equal rights”

I agree, and they do have equal rights to enter man-woman marriages, or not.  We have many rights that we may not choose to exercise because we are not attracted to the object of that right, for instance the right to bear arms.  My 2nd amendment rights are not being violated if I choose not to be a gun owner because I lack interest in guns.

 “we have the first amendment so you and others like you will not force people who do not see you way into inequality.”

Certainly that Catholic Church does not wish to force people into inequality. In fact it is from the witness of the Church that all people are created in the image of God that our nation was able to declare, “all men are created equal”.  Therefore, the basis of our democracy is our common origin and destiny in God.

However,  I think that adults who wish to enter into consensual sexual relations (even same-gendered)  should not have that activity criminalized (which you might be surprised to learn is the position of the Catholic Church). Not all sin should be illegal because giving such power to the State would do more harm than good to the commonwealth.  Certainly, compromises could be made in which adults who wanted to have their unions recognized in a public way could be accommodated so they had access to benefits and hospital visits. And Church leaders have even advocated for civil unions as a way of compromise.  However, the LGBT agenda doesn’t want accommodation.  They want that legal status of “marriage” as a tool to coerce everyone into accepting their sexual activity as morally valid.  It is not even OK to be neutral.  We are the ones who are being forced into inequality because we won’t be coerced into blessing a sin.

 “As for the court making the church bless same sex marriages it will not happen”

I hope you are right “James”.  However, the State can coerce in many other ways by forcing Catholic Schools to hire people who openly practice and advocate the LGBT lifestyle.   Or the court will likely someday say that the Church can’t have a tax-exempt status because it prohibits LGBT activity.  I respect that LGBT advocates sincerely think the Church is wrong.  I just wish they had the honesty to tell people the truth that what they want is for complete acceptance of their lifestyle and the complete marginalization of anyone who disagrees with them.  They want to push us into the closet they just came out of.

One of the Church’s toughest duties is to speak the truth with love and confront the self-destructive ideas and behavior of any society, and often those societies resist. Our Christian “tough love” insists that God intends more for us than homosexual activity can ever offer. Our long standing Judeo-Christian tradition is coming under strong attack especially in America.  Madison would respect our right to dissent.   As well, he would never embrace the false notion of “marriage” that is being promoted today.

From: “James”

Subject: Re: what’ the price

Bill: your thought: this supposed quest for equality is the point. To deny individuals the right to seek personal fulfillment through marriage is at the most basic level a denial of equal citizenship. This is the first right in the constitution. How can you say you can only see marriage in a Christian way? This not a moral issue, you are making it one. This is an equal rights under the constitution matter. And people regardless of sex must have equal rights. First in this country marriage is a public matter which the church blesses. 50 years ago this week we went to the court house for a marriage license [public] then took our license to church [private] to get it blessed. You are trying to mix the public with the private. That is why we have the first amendment so you and others like you will not force people who do not see you way into inequality. Spend some more time with Madison and you will see this is no more than an equal rights issue. As for the court making the church bless same sex marriages it will not happen.

From: Bill Scholl

To: “James”

Subject: RE: what’ the price

Thanks for writing.

I think Madison would share my concerns as he helped to write the establishment clause to the first amendment.  If the Supreme Court should legalize same-sex “marriage” and define it as a fundamental right, any religious group that upholds the inherent immorality of same-gendered sexual unions, as Christians have held from the beginning along with all major world religions, will over time be coerced in recanting an essential moral teaching.  It will set us on course for a constitutional conflict in which Madison’s amendment: “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” will collide with the supposed right for same gendered people to marry as they use this ruling to pressure religions to embrace their lifestyle.

I have no problem with Madison as he saw to it that rights were clearly articulated as opposed to 5 of 9 justices mandating a new morality.  If LGBTQB activists want their unions to be a right they should amend the constitution.  I think this supposed quest for equality will come at the price of religious liberty.

 From: “James”

Subject: what’s the price?

Dear bill. I just put down my 4th book on James Madison. I am sure he would disagree with your opinion. Your opinion is “if the Supreme Court makes same sex marriage constitutional there will be no religious exemption “is just wrong. Madison taught us that. Your argument is with Madison. Your next opinion article should be “dear president Madison this is why you are wrong on same sex marriage”. I would like to read your thoughts. But until then I will stay with President Madison.