For an overview of the research study “What Catholic women think about faith. conscience, and contraception“, see my previous post “What the Church needs to know“
Mary Hasson Rice and Michelle M. Hill draw stark, thought-provoking conclusions from their study “What Catholic women think about faith, conscience, and contraception”. The study highlights the underlying problem of the Church’s ‘contraception problem’ – poor conscience formation, as well as identifies an important and often overlooked group within the Church which they term the “soft middle” (Hasson, 19). The study also emphasised the need for practicality – the truth needs to be presented in practical, real-life ways.
Now that the information has been provided, where is the Church to go from here? What needs to be done to reach the “soft middle”, better form consciences, and support those women who already follow Church teaching?
Hasson and Rice suggest that more research needs to be done especially within the Hispanic community and amongst Catholic clergy. Hispanic youth are often recipients of aggressive sexual education – “education” which undermines the faith of their family and so it is vital that Hispanic women are empowered and strengthened by Church teaching so as to better combat the societal pressures they and their children are facing. Since Catholic clergy are hierarchically and socially responsible for upholding Catholic teaching, it is important to understand how (and if!) they present teaching, as well as what they believe they will require to accurately and persuasively express Church teaching.
Catholic women who already understand and follow the Church’s teaching are in an interesting and exciting place. They are the best witnesses the Church could ask for as they are in a unique position in our culture – where the world seems to scream that women are best served by contraception and the likes of Planned Parenthood, these women stand out. They are doing exactly what society claims will make them miserable and proving them wrong. By upholding Church teaching they are shining lights (dare we say, Guiding Stars?) to other women, able to light the way toward greater fulfillment and peace. These Catholic women (who make up 13% of the women Hasson and Rice studied) can address both the consciences of women, as well as provide the practical, nitty-gritty details.
I’m happy to say that the 13% have not been silent. Catholic women have been finding creative, impactful ways of presenting the teachings of the Church to wide audiences since the beginning of the Church. In our time too, women have been reaching out to other women to offer support, encouragement, and knowledge where they would otherwise be alone, torn down and find confusion.
- Kristin, one of our contributors, founded the website Living The Sacrament: A Catholic NFP Community which is a place for Catholic women to go for more information about NFP. Their private forum also fosters that sense of community, where members support one another, ask and answer questions, and can go to find like-minded women.
- Mommy blogs. There are too many to list here, but I think that mommy blogs are a great tool for Catholic mothers. Not just mommy blogs, but Catholic women blogs too. The Bright Maidens are “ from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women.” They have been known to host blog-link up about topics from NFP to modesty to vocations, all while striving to live authentically Catholic lives. (Ignitum bloggers Elizabeth and Julie are two of the three)
- NFPandMe, Real Catholic Love and Sex, are two blogs written specifically about NFP (Natural Family Planning) and Catholic morality. They are real, honest glimpses into the lives of Catholic men and women trying to abide by Church teaching.
- Leah Jacobson, one of our contributors, founded the Guiding Star Project and is working to “create centers that honor Natural Law and promote New Feminism; Guiding Star Centers to serve as beacons of hope, joy, and truth in a world that often treats women and family as broken and insufficient.”
- I and my friend Katie (from NFPandMe) founded iusenfp.com, a place where women from all walks of life – Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist, whatever – can come to find information about NFP. We want all women to proudly say “I use NFP!”
- 1flesh.org - “A bunch of college students rebelling against the sexual culture” by promoting natural family planning and abstinence while breaking down the myths of contraception and bringing sexy back!
Where did you learn about Natural Family Planning and how/why did you decide to practice it? If you aren’t, what would you need from the Church and the rest of us to consider it?