Tag Archives: Humanae Vitae

Contra-ception: Against Life

By guest writer Nellie Edwards.

As most know by now, Ireland just declared open season on unborn lads and lassies, not to mention their mothers, who will suffer the aftermath of great emotional upheaval!

So tragic that there weren’t enough faith-full Catholics to defeat the foes of Life!

Relative to this, a few thoughts on Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), now in its 50th year. Everything that Pope Paul VI warned would happen to society has indeed happened, because of its acceptance of contraception! (contra literally means “against”, ception=conception/life, so literally it means AGAINST LIFE.)

This, the Church teaches, is a grave sin against God, whose most fundamental attribute is Life-giver.

Paul VI warned that by tying the hands of God’s divine prerogative to create life, serious consequences such as promiscuity, infidelity, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and other perversions of God’s plan would soon ensue and we see that clearly today. Anything goes!

The Catholic Church alone has, from the beginning, held out to the world, the “hard saying” that we must practice sacrificial love, not selfish pleasure / using others for sexual gratification. God spoke though Paul VI no less than any of the prophets. Too bad so few listened. Too bad the Protestant churches, as well as too many Catholics did not see that contra-ception was the forbidden fruit.

___

Nellie Edwards is a Catholic artist. Her most famous piece is of Our Lady of Guadalupe, kneeling in adoration for her unborn Son.

Image via MEV Pro-Life.

Remembering Another Time the Media Predicted the Church Would Change: 1968

Over the last few months, especially with upcoming Synod on the Family this Fall, lots of rumors are swirling about what the Church will or will not say.  Chief among those is a speculation in some circles that the Church must, should, and is bound to adopt a new policy legitimizing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitation as a legitimate good, and the hot-button issue of the day, a positive evaluation of homosexual unions of some sort.  Not so long ago, in the 1960s, a similar set of rumors was ruling the press of the day that the Catholic Church would join other Christian groups in recognizing a legitimate use of contraception for married couples.  I think it’s well worth pointing out some of the high points of that era to help navigate through the headlines of today.

In 1963, while Pope St. John XXIII was still alive, he initiated a special commission to study the issue of contraception. The group was called the Commission on Problems of the Family, Population, and Natality  Members of the commission included clergy, people from the medical and psychiatric fields, as well as married couples.  Their work continued even after John XXIII died, and when they had finished their study and completed their final report, it was submitted to Pope Paul VI, in 1966.  This is where the story of Humanae Vitae gets really juicy.

In what is now a classic story, the report of the commission actually recommended that the Church could adopt a policy which allowed for married couples to use contraception.  They argued from a principle of totality, stating that the use of contraception in a marriage in some instances, while leaving the sexual act open to conception in the long term, and with the plan of having children during their marriage, would be morally acceptable.  There are, of course, more points to their report, but this was the critical argument.  As fate would have it, their report, or at least a part of it, was released to the press before Paul VI had issued a response.

George Weigel notes in his biography of John Paul II that while Paul VI was preparing to write Humanae Vitae, he was known to be carrying around a copy of a moral theology book written by a Polish prelate named Wojtyla. The title?  Love and Responsibility, which was a reflection by Wojtyla on sexual morality written after years of regularly meeting with young adults and married couples.  In fact, Wojtyla was supposed to be a part of the final meeting of the commission, bu this government refused to give him permission to leave the country.  Instead, he and some other Polish priests gathered and had their own commission, and wrote their own report, which affirmed the Church’s long-standing teaching on contraception.  Later, Pope St. John Paul II would give a long series of reflections on Humanae Vitae, confirming the teaching and expounding upon it at length.

In the two years between the commission’s final report and the release of the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, rumors started flying, and as the months went on, the assumption by many people was that the Church would open the door to contraception, at least by married couples.  All of this sets the background for the controversy that followed when Paul VI released his final answer to the question.

As I’ve shown in previous posts, the teaching Paul VI gave was nothing new.  It had been the teaching of the Church, was based on Scripture, had been taught in Canon Law, and no single Catholic theologian in the history of the Church had ever expressed an opinion to the contrary.  What set off the real firestorm was the leaking of the commission’s report as well as the speculation that, along with all of the other changes resulting from Vatican II, the contraception question would be just another piece of the puzzle.

A group of theologians from the Catholic University of America kick-started the dissent in America, but statements of questionable orthodoxy were sent out all around the world.  Interestingly, even according to the presentation of some of the lead dissenters (Charles Curran’s group), no group of Bishops explicitly rejected the teaching, much to the chagrin of many who had been hoping for a change.

In the end, as history now is bearing out, Paul VI’s teaching stands as the correct one. From a certain perspective it seems almost miraculous.  He had a commission study the issue, they argue for a change, and everyone in the world was heading down the same path to accepting the morality of contraception.  He had to know the controversy he would face.  And indeed, not too many people follow the teaching today.  But, his predictions about the fallout are starting to really loom large in the discussion of the issue today.  In any case, now, those of you who have read all these posts, you know the rest of the story.

Pax,

Luke

Savior Siblings, Designer Babies and Godlike Doctors

my-sisters-keeperSavior siblings are the topic of Jodi Picoult’s novel “My Sister’s Keeper,” but they are also a reality. Savior siblings are children conceived for the purpose of providing a tissue match for an older sibling who is in need of tissue transplants to treat a life-threatening illness. In England, this practice has been explicitly allowed by the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 under some strict conditions. In France it is authorized by the Bioethics Law of August 2004 (Madanamoothoo, 2011). Several cases have been performed in the United States since Adam Nash was born as the first successful example of the use of Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD, described below) to select and implant a Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA, described below) compatible embryo for the purpose of being a savior sibling (Lai, 2011).

These savior siblings are typically used for the purpose of donating cord blood stem cells (this procedure does not affect the child in any way) or bone marrow in extreme cases (the harvesting of bone marrow is associated with significant pain and some risk). Savior siblings are not currently created to provide non-renewable tissue such as a whole organ (Sheldon & Wilkinson, 2004). The creation of children for the purpose of harvesting organs is still condemned by the international medical community at large.

The question of savior siblings is a contentious legal and ethical debate in the secular world. Arguments in the secular world, both for and against, tend to center around issues of autonomy of the donor child, and the purpose for which the embryo is conceived. Briefly, opposing arguments may be summed as follows:

  • The children so created are essentially commodities
  • It is a short slide down a slippery slope from Savior Siblings to “Designer Babies,” babies genetically tested and selected for traits such as intelligence, athletic ability, disease resistance, etc.
  • The claim that donor children will be inadequately protected from physical or psychological harm (Sheldon & Wilkinson, 2004).

Amy Lai (2011) adds the argument that the only person who can make a decision about whether or not to be a donor is the person donating, i.e. the child, effectively denying the ethicality of savior siblings.

These arguments are of varying strength with Catholics. The argument that creating a child as a means to any end is wrong rings especially strong with Catholics raised on John Paul II’s crystallization of Catholic Personalism: “This personalist norm, in its negative aspect, states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as the means to an end” (Wojtyla, 1960).

This primary insistence upon the absolute uniqueness and intrinsic worth of each individual human person cannot be overstated, and the fact that secular commentators such as Lotz (2009) and Sheldon &Wilkinson (2004) both answer this objection by comparing conception in order to save another child to conception for any other reason (e.g. to create an heir, to “complete the family,” to please a parent, to save a marriage, to have more children to work the farm, etc.) is not without merit. There are, of course, many selfish reasons to conceive a child, it is simply that with a “savior sibling” you cannot even pretend that it is primarily about the good of the child so conceived.

For a Catholic, however, these three objections are not the primary reason for objecting to savior siblings. The conception of a savior sibling involves three separate procedures, two of which are incompatible with Catholic moral teaching.

Creating and implementing a savior sibling is a three step process:

  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF):
    • IVF involves creating embryos in test tubes by combining sperm and ova from the prospective parents. The Church teaches, of course that creation of human life outside of the marital embrace is contrary to human dignity, and so IVF is a show-stopper for faithful Catholics: There is an “inseparable connection, willed by God, and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning” (Pope Paul VI, 1968, Article 12).
  • Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis
    • Of the embryos created, not all are compatible with the diseased child who needs the transplant. Human Leukocyte Antigen is a complex string of proteins that is attached to the membrane of every cell in the human body. It identifies that cell as “self” so that the body’s defenses will not attack it. Every human being’s HLA is slightly different, and the more different it is, the greater the likelihood and severity of a rejection reaction. Therefore the embryos have to be tested for two separate criteria. They must be free of the genetic disorder they are created to treat, and they must be HLA compatible with the diseased sibling (Thomas, 2004). All embryos that do not match these criteria are deemed unusable and are discarded or frozen as raw material for later research.
    • The old way of doing this selection was to implant the embryos created in IVF into the woman’s uterus, and conduct pre-natal testing on them, aborting ones that did not meet the desired criteria. PGD allows the testing to be conducted in-vitro, prior to implantation, and therefore is touted as an advance because only the desired embryo is implanted, reducing the need for abortions (Thomas, 2004). This completely ignores the Catholic objection that human lives are being created and discarded as waste.
  • Harvesting Stem Cells:
    • The harvesting of stem cells from cord blood does not harm or even affect the baby in any way. It simply extracts pluripotent stem cells from an umbilical cord before it and the placenta are discarded as medical waste and so far as I could tell is not a morally contentious process. The creation of another person primarily so that there will be cord blood to harvest, is very morally contentious. However, cord blood may not even be the end of the story. Hematopoetic stem cells (cells that differentiate into blood cells) may be required, and involve bone marrow transplants, a painful and moderately risky procedure (Thomas, 2004). The repeated used of a child for such procedures prior to the age of consent is certainly morally problematic to say the least.

FOUNTAIN VALLEY,CA. SEPTEMBER 24, 2008: Dr. David Diaz, Medical Director of the West Coast Fertility Centers in Fountain Valley holds a petri dish containing embyos suspended in a growth media September 24, 2008. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)In summary of the above, it must be clearly understood that IVF assisted reproductive technologies always involve the creation of many embryos, only one of which will be implanted and allowed to develop. The rest will become what Nicholas Mason calls “Sub-versions” in his dystopian novel, “The Sub-Version Complex.” That is, they are frozen, unwanted, humans that have no legal standing or protection and can be incinerated or experimented upon by anyone who signs for them.

A troubling possible consequence of the use of PGD is the advent of so called “designer babies.” Brazil has already used IVF/PGD to screen embryos for parents at risk for B-Thalassemia (Figueira, et al, 2012). China has done the same, citing higher parent expectations of their children following the implementation of the one-child policy (Sui & Sleeboom-Faulkner, 2010). Australia has done likewise even earlier (Spriggs & Savulescu, 2002) and as of 2004 had done more IVF/PGD savior sibling procedures than anyone else, (more than 140 babies born after IVF/PGD between 1997 and 2004, with a 20 – 42% success rate) (Thomas, 2004).

Once we create and test embryos for genetic abnormalities, why should we not also create and test them for traits that we personally happen to value, such as sex? Sex selective abortions are a sure way to raise an outcry from the feminists, but if we are discarding embryos before they are implanted? What’s the problem?

Or maybe you want your baby to have an IQ of 150? With advances in genetic technology, it shouldn’t be too hard (eventually) for scientists to run genetic sequencing on a batch of embryos and determine which ones have the best genetic combination for intelligence. Or athletics. Or blond hair and blue eyes. In the popular press when people talk about “genetic engineering” they evoke images of scientists in white lab coats carefully and deliberately mixing and matching the parts of the genetic code that they want to create a carefully designed organism. In reality, it is more like a crap-shoot with loaded dice. Most of the time it doesn’t work, but sometimes you get the results you want. If you have no respect for human life that isn’t a problem. Just discard the unwanted results (i.e. the human embryos) and concentrate on the ones that happened to come out right.genome_editing

Even the most advanced technique for editing DNA, known as type II Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) system has not improved beyond a 50% success rate. It is a hugely promising technology that might one day allow scientists to repair genetic defects down to a single base pair substitution (Sander, & Joung, 2014). However, it can also be misused and abused.

The science is amoral, even laudable in and of itself. All real advances in human knowledge of God’s creation glorify God, at least indirectly. The problem is not the knowledge or the ability, but the underlying attitude with which these are applied. The problem is our lack of gratitude and humility. The current and possible future abuses are consequences of what I call “godlike doctor syndrome.”

When I went through the trauma lanes in the Special Forces Medic course the instructors had a scenario that they would put one student in each small group through. In this scenario the patient was an IED blast victim, and he was unsaveable. No matter what you did, even if you performed flawlessly, the patient continued to deteriorate, and as he did so you would see your grade deteriorating as well. At the end of the scenario the instructor would reveal that it was rigged, and the patient was never intended to survive. The moral was simple: people die. Medics cannot fundamentally change that fact. We can sometimes delay it, but we cannot ultimately prevent it and we must absolutely know this about ourselves.

In our technological world, however, researchers and more “advanced” doctors are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this truth. We want power over life and death. We have discarded God as the author of life, and so we are without hope. Without hope suffering and death are the prime evils, and any means whatever become licit to stave off that death. The person, particularly the person in the lab coat, becomes the final arbiter of right and wrong. This is not so different from Adam and Eve who wanted to be like God, deciding for themselves what is right and wrong, good and evil.

Without the infallible and unchanging voice of the Church, moral questions become “ethical” and “legal” questions. The reasoning about them and the answers is based upon the unquestioned assumptions of the age, the values of a particular cultural milieu, rather than transcendent moral realities. The result is guaranteed to be chaos. There is no limit to what humans can and will mess up when we refuse to be guided by God in His Church.

 

References:

Figueira, R. C. S., Setti, A. S., Cortezzi, S. S., Martinhago, C. D., Braga, D. P. A. F., Iaconelli, A., & Borges, E. (2012). Preimplantation diagnosis for β-thalassemia combined with HLA matching: first “savior sibling” is born after embryo selection in Brazil. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 29(11), 1305–1309. doi:10.1007/s10815-012-9862-3

Lai, A. Y. (2011). To Be or Not to Be My Sister’s Keeper?. Journal Of Legal Medicine, 32(3), 261-293. doi:10.1080/01947648.2011.600169

Lotz, M. (2009). Procreative reasons-relevance: on the moral significance of why we have children. Bioethics, 23(5), 291-299. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00656.x

Madanamoothoo, A (2011) Saviour-sibling and the psychological, ethical and judicial issues that it creates: should English and French legislators close the Pandora’s Box? European journal of Health Law, May 2011, Vol.18(3), pp.293-303

Pope Paul VI, (1958) Humanae Vitae. Retrieved June 02, 2015 from http://ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1234

Sander, J. D., & Joung, J. K. (2014). CRISPR-Cas systems for editing, regulating and targeting genomes. Nature Biotechnology, 32(4), 347-355. doi:10.1038/nbt.2842

Sheldon, S., & Wilkinson, S. (2004). Should selecting saviour siblings be banned? Journal of Medical Ethics, 30(6), 533–537. doi:10.1136/jme.2003.004150

Spriggs, M., & Savulescu, J. (2002). “Saviour siblings”. Journal of Medical Ethics, 28(5), 289. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216348026?accountid=2280

Sui, S., & Sleeboom-Faulkner, M. (2010). Choosing offspring: prenatal genetic testing for thalassaemia and the production of a ‘saviour sibling’ in China. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 12(2), 167-175. doi:10.1080/13691050902914110

Thomas, C. (2004). Pre-Implantation Testing and the Protection of the “Saviour Sibling”. Deakin Law Review, 9(1), 119-143.

Wojtyla, K. (1960) Love and Responsibility. Translated from the Polish 1981 by Willets, H. T. Ignatius Press, San Francisco.

Pope Paul VI’s Playlist

In an attempt to stay plugged in to American culture while I live overseas for 16 months, I have regularly acquainted myself with the Billboard Top 40.

Not surprisingly, in reflecting on the love proposed by Humanae Vitae, the concept of faithfulness is glaringly absent from mainstream media and culture.  Not that freedom, totality, and fruitfulness are overwhelmingly present either, but out of the top 40 singles in the U.S. right now, there are maybe 5 songs that even mention any intention of monogamy.  Why the lack of commitment?  Probably the same reason my guitar skills plateaued 15 years ago: commitment and discipline are harder than immediate gratification.  Why practice scales when all I need are “three chords and the truth”, right? (Or so said country singer and song writer Harlan Howard.)

Faithfulness, a gift of self to one person forever, without rescinding and re-gifting, is unpopular because it generally has very little immediate payoff and it requires basically everything from you.  Forever.  And let’s face it, when immersed in a self-perpetuating market of immediately breakable and obsolete products, it can be difficult to see why we should view relationships any differently than we do our culture of disposable products.

After all, if Beyonce is right, and people are replaceable “in a minute” (“Irreplaceable” sat at #1 for ten weeks in its day), then where does JPII’s idea that we are all “unique and unrepeatable” fit in?  The foot in the door is the fact that, beneath all our scrambling to “find new ways to fall apart” (Fun.’s “We Are Young“, currently #15) and become “wide awake”(Katy Perry at #2) to the apparent futility of relationships, we’re actually just putting bandages on the wounds that are a direct result from trying to live contrary to our created nature. Life becomes an endless chug-fest of Pepto-Bismol because of a 3-meal-a-day McDonald’s habit or daily blister care because you bought too-small shoes on the clearance rack.

If JPII and PVI are right, then each of us bears an intrinsic desire for faithfulness and we should be able to infuse healing and understanding into our culture by speaking to the illness, not merely the symptoms.  What would that speech sound like?  In some cursory ways, it would look like Jason Mraz’s current hit “I won’t give up” (chillin’ at #23), with statements like “I’m giving you all my love” and “I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily” and, yes, “I won’t give up”.  On a slightly deeper level, this would sound like a resounding “YES”–fiat–an answer to the cries for fidelity found in Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side“(#40 in the UK):

“Will you stay/ Even if it hurts/ Even if I try to push you out/ Will you return?/ And remind me who I really am/ Please remind me who I really am.”

Later in the song, she pleads:

“Don’t run away/ Don’t run away/ Just tell me that you will stay/ Promise me you will stay”

Picture this: you, Jesus’ wounded and terrified Bride, kneeling next to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, echoing the same words, pleading with Him not to run away; and, because real love is always faithful, He stays.  He takes the whips, thorns, splinters, nails, and tomb out of love.  It is in Christ’s choice to be faithful and to never leave or forsake, that we may see the deepest root of the illness we’re facing: we’ve forgotten–or haven’t been told–whose beloved we really, truly are.

The fraudulent love that media and mediocrity seeks may tell us who we should be (even offering us helpful “Steps to Keep Your Partner Happy and Satisfied!” suggestions) but these are always merely conjecture and bravado.  The culture of lust says you’re only worthwhile as long as your desirable attributes last, which JPII tells us, “casts a permanent shadow over the relationship”; those lies shake people to their core with doubts as to their own dignity and worth.

So, instead of enjoying “She Likes Me For Me“(Blessed Union of Soul’s #8 hit in 1999), we now get “Somebody That I Used to Know“(Gotye at #6).  All the while our Groom quietly and resolutely reveals to us who we are through His unwavering faithfulness.  His true love says to each of us, “I created no one else like you and you are forever worthy of my life and death.”

It is love of this high nature that we are called to; we have in our hands as Christians the responsibility to inform each soul that they are “someone willed by the Creator ‘for his own sake'” and that they are “unique and unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love” (Theology of the Body lectures, 15:4).

In marriage, we have the opportunity to freely and totally give ourselves to a singular someone, who cannot be rivaled, thereby proclaiming the faithfulness of God to the world .  This fidelity can be glimpsed in Journey’s “Faithfully”, Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”, and yes, even in Bieber’s new “As Long As You Love Me” (#30, UK).  This, however, does not fully seize upon the highest, deepest, and truest degree of love in the Eucharist and our Lord’s words: given up for you, shed for you.

For you.

It is in His eternal sacrifice, ever-available to us, that we see our real worth, for He deems us worthy of His flesh and blood at each Mass, regardless of our estimation of ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, may we as bearers of the Good News, fix our eyes on Him and begin to harmonize His truest of love songs in our every breath and by our every action.  He taught us the melody very clearly when He said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Get plenty of rest, treat your vocal cords well, and work on breathing from the diaphragm, because we have quite the concert to give.  As one great conductor wrote in his most famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, “…fidelity…can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble… [and] is a source of profound and lasting happiness.”

Take a deep breath.  The curtain is rising.

Free Love And Other Redundant Phrases

We’ve all had that “ah-ha” moment, right, men? The one where you’re baking a meringue, blaring J-Lo, and you suddenly ask yourself, “Does love really not cost a thing?”. Or, ladies, when you’re working out to The Beatles and, right as you reach your personal chin-up record, it hits you that indeed, money CAN’T buy you love. Alright, so maybe those specific moments are unique to me, but I’m sure we’ve all had instances that came out of the blue and caused us to spend some time at our own Roxbury, asking the deep, eternal question: “What is love?” (On a complete side-note, I once walked into a gym full of weight lifters and the radio was blaring “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee-Gees, and it was one of the most surreal moments in my entire life)

Anyway, with a large majority of media being centered on using (and mis-using) the word “love”, it would do us all a world of good to pause for a moment and take stock of how we, as followers and friends of the God Who IS love, define and use it. I’m not referring to things like “I LOVE corduroy” or “I absolutely LOVE Fabio’s performance in Zoolander“; I’m speaking more along the lines of how we use it in relationships and sexuality. (Though, I HAVE met a few extreme types with an unnatural devotion to noisy, grooved trousers.) Considering that Enrique Iglesias’ hit “Tonight (I’m loving you)” is only the edited title (swap “loving” for “f*@#ing”), and the same goes for Akon’s “I’m gonna love you” (swap “love” for….), it seems that we need to find a way to wade through the mire of contradictions and euphemisms and arrive at solid ground. Fortunately, we have just such a path.

In his encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Pope Paul VI gives us what I call a litmus test for finding authentic love, a test comprised of 4 characteristics, generally referred to as the “Four Marks of God’s Love”. These four marks, or signs, are: Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. (Yes, it drives me insane that the “T” ruins the alliteration). This post is the first of four in which I’ll take a stab at giving a brief, cursory explanation of God’s love–and therefore, perfect love–as defined by Humanae Vitae.

Because the very essence of real love is the act of giving (which is why “actions speak louder”), for love to be authentic it must entail a true gift of self on the part of the one who is professing love. However, though our intention might be to love, there are myriad ways in which our struggle with weakness, selfishness, and sin can taint our attempts and chip away at these four marks. As today’s title makes clear, we are first going to address the need for true freedom in love.

We’re all familiar with phrases like “After all I’ve done for you…” or “The least you could do in return is…” or “You owe me this…”. Statements such as these get right to the heart of one enemy of freedom in love, namely that of expectation. Whenever we put on the guise of giving, yet hold within us the expectation of ANY form of reciprocation, then we are not truly giving and, therefore, not truly loving, either. If we clean the house expecting accolades and/or a foot massage, not only do we almost invariably set ourselves up for disappointment, but we also remove true giving from the equation, since the “recipient” is now expected to give something in return. Whenever someone says, “I work all day long to put food on the table, and all I ask is…..”, then all others involved are no longer free to simply receive the gift of food, since there is now, apparently, a contract of sorts in play.

This is even more poignant and relevant in regard to relationships and sex. How many women have felt obligated to “put out” as a result of some guy purchasing dinner and movie tickets? How many marriages are soured by the unwavering, incessant expectation of one spouse exacted upon the other? Conversely, though, I’ll wager we can all remember a moment in our lives when someone simply GAVE to us, and we could clearly tell that nothing was expected in return, be it a parent, a partner, or even a postman. (Ahhh, alliteration)(Plus, my postman has NEVER asked for anything in return for delivering my mail…)

The other primary enemy of freedom in love can be summed up by saying, “If you can’t say no, your yes means nothing.” Whether you’re being pressured into something or you “just can’t say no” to your hormones in the moment, if you feel (or are) unable to say no in any given circumstance, then freedom is lacking and, therefore, so is true love. Regardless of how much someone professes their undying love for you, if you don’t feel free to say no, then they don’t love you, at least not completely; likewise, if you can’t say no to your sexual urges, called “the launch sequence” by Ray Romano, then what you’re feeling towards the other person is not love, it is the force of chemicals, instinct, and attraction. As powerful as desire can feel, if you can’t say no to it, it is merely a powerful slavery. Saying you’re free simply because you give in to desire is like saying a nation is free simply because its citizens don’t resist invading powers; in actuality, behavior of that nature signifies defeat.

So, in the muddle of whims, urges, misconceptions, lies, and pain that we see around us, possibly in our own lives, how in the world are we supposed to find good examples of this free love? Well, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, our perfect example of free love lies in God’s love for us. (4 marks of God’s love) In God’s love for us we see complete freedom. We were created simply because He loves. Each of us was made “for our own sake”, as John Paul II put it. God made you with NO strings attached. He never says, “After all I’ve done for you….” You actually owe Him nothing. His love has already been 100% freely given, whether you accept it or not. Though He longs for intimacy with you, He is in no way disappointed in you, nor is His love diminished, when you don’t feel the same.

Likewise, when He became man in order to suffer and die for us, He showed us what true, free love looks like. Starting from His fervently human prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (“let this cup pass”) to His miraculously divine prayers on Golgotha (“Father, forgive them”), he showed us what freedom looks like by saying no to the urge to run, the desire to flee. He was so free to love you that He could embrace every suffering necessary to gain intimacy with you. His only goal was redemption, not reciprocation.

So, brothers and sisters, let us begin to love freely, without expectation, pressure, or shackles. Let us feed people because they’re hungry, not because they do what we think is right. Let us give our time, treasure, and talent simply to be loving, because everyone is always worth it. Let us crush the bondage of passions we are told to give in to. Let us scrub, clean, and organize our houses simply for the glory of the Lover of our souls. Let us love freely. However, first, let us open our hearts wide to the free, unconditional, expectation-less love of God, for it is only by continually receiving His free gift of love that we learn how to truly and freely love anyone else. (Though, you CAN start by making a Bee-Gees mix disc for the postman…)

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Bio-Pic.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God.  He has been a youth minister for the past 4 years and is currently working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attends Med School there.  He is also writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN.  Since youth ministry and missionary work are his bread-n-butter, there are ZERO normal pics of him for the bio pic. So, what you see is what you get, and what you see is him in a valley of volcanic steam vents.[/author_info] [/author]

Parenting Between the World and the Church

Told you so!

It is one thing for the world to be against you. If I turn on the television for more than five minutes, I”m bombarded with the fact that the world is dead-set on my children becoming delinquent, amoral, slaves of the state. Consequently, my wife and I both realize that in today”s culture a heavy dose of vigilanteism is required to raise saints. Game on. Well, mostly game on. To use an analogy, at times it feels like we are on the game-show American Gladiator, and I just feel like saying:

“Hey, you! Yeah you, dude with the awesome mullet. Lay off with the massive cue tip thingy. Seriously, stop whacking me in the head. This is ridiculous. Go get a normal job or something.”

Yet the dude with the red, white and blue spandex keeps whacking every God fearing, faith practicing, family raising person in our country. No problem. I expect it. But when we get to the Eliminator, the guy with the red, white, and blue spandex better know he”s got it coming to him. You know, the whole goats and sheep thing.

Which leads me to my real dilemma. 

My real dilemma is the scandal of the HHS mandate. However, I”m not talking about gulag-esque state coercion of faithful Catholics footing the bill for what is contrary to their conscience. That bites, but it is a second bite. Second bite? Yep, it”s a second bite. What”s the first bite? Well, it”s a really long bite. You see, the first bite is the 40-year anesthetization of US Catholics with regards to the evils of contraception. And by US Catholics I mean everybody: priests, lay and bishops.

Proof?

Go into your parish and look around. Maybe not your parish, but just go to the one the next city over. Notice something? Catholics have been contracepting themselves off-the-map for 40 years. Our catechesis and vocations crises, which became a catalyst for the new evangelization, are crises that started in the bedroom. Why? Because the bedroom leads to the delivery room, which leads to the baptismal font, which leads to the…

You get the drift.

They say that men think between their…ehem, you know. I say that if God doesn”t have what”s in between your…ehem, you know, He don”t have you at all. Sorry to be so blunt. What a man does outside his body is one thing. What a man does with his body is quite another (1 Corinthians 6:18). Okay, so maybe St. Paul kind of put it the same way.

Random Question Generator: Why is my family of (soon to be) 7 an anomaly in the Catholic world?

The HHS mandate exposed us — it exposed our hypocrisy. But if we know anything, we know that God disciplines the children he loves and that the heart of the king is in the Lord”s hands, so we should not imagine even for a moment that God is watching the current state of affairs in disbelief. He saw this coming 40 years ago (actually a few years before) — all of it. When Catholics in the USA and abroad thumbed their noses at Humanae Vitae, the seed of the HHS mandate was sown. Don”t be surprised. God is not mocked. We reap what we sow.

Less Random Question Generator: Why do we expect the godless to uphold what we ourselves will not?

Which leads to my dilemma. As a parent, I”m trying to pass off the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith in an American Catholic culture that is more red, white and blue than One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Sadly, the world is beginning to stop asking, “Are you guys Catholic?”, when the large family walks in the door. They don”t ask the question because we sold our birthright for a bowl of chemically enhanced soup, and now our Body is riddled with the side effects. To be frank, this very issue (and the general issue of nominal Catholics who seem dead set on praising my children”s cuteness while simultaneously noting that my children are the only one”s who genuflect every time before our Lord) has me deeply concerned. It is one thing for the world to be against you, quite another for those in in the Church.

Relevant Question Generator: What can we do?

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Hope Incarnate promised us that “the gates of hell will not prevail”!  So we have hope. It is why I”m Catholic. There is no promise for the sect or cult. There is only the promise for His Church. Therefore, we must repent and do penance. We must make reparation for the temporal evil that befalls this culture, not because of their sin but because of our own. No one will care about health care like they should until they realize the inestimable worth of every human life — starting with the one”s we contracept.

Let us remember the words of St. Peter (1 Peter 4:17):

“For the time is, that judgment should begin at the house of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the gospel of God?”

Disclaimer: I understand that a Catholic family with 2 children is just as Catholic as one with 10 children if the family with 2 children could only have 2 children. However, if Catholic families are on average the same size as their non-Catholic counterparts (which they are), and if that difference is primarily due to fertility issues, then given Catholic teaching on human sexuality, Catholics would have to be the most infertile people in the world.

[author] [author_image timthumb=”on”]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Brent-A.-Stubbs-e1313148902233.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brent A. Stubbs is a father of four ( 1 in heaven and 1 in the oven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic.[/author_info] [/author]

Me and Humanae Vitae

There is no doubt in my mind as to why many Catholics call Humanae Vitae one of the most prophetic documents of the 20th Century. Issued in July 1968, in my opinion, has become the most sourced document when revering to Catholic pro-life teachings.  But why is one small (30 page) document so controversial?

Historically, this is what’s been happening and will be happening within a decade of  Humanae Vitae being released.

1960 –  “The Pill” receives FDA approval despite the Comstock Laws still being in effect. The Comstock Laws were passed in 1873 prohibiting the sale of any form of birth control. Many birth control devices were still sold as feminine hygiene items regardless of the law.

1962 – Vatican II begins.

1963 – Dr. John Rock, the gynecologist who lead the medical trials of “the Pill,” publishes The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor’s Proposal to End the Battle over Birth Control. The purpose of this book is to convince the Church to allow the use of “the Pill” as a supplement to the rhythm method.

1964 – Pope Paul VI starts his Commission on Population, the Family,  and Natality.

1965 – Vatican II comes to a close with no definitive statement on Artificial Birth Control. The U.S. Supreme Court eliminates the Comstock Laws by a vote of 7 – 2 in Griswold v.s Connecticut. The citing factor is that the Comstock Laws violated a couples right to privacy.

1968 – Humanae Vitae is released by Pope Paul VI.

1973 – Roe V. Wade allows for women to have the right to abortion.

1976 – The Inter-Uterine Device is approved by the FDA allowing for a form of removable Artificial Birth Control that can last up to 10 years. *

But what does this mini history lesson have to do with both me as a woman and as a Catholic? As you can see in the realm of Pro-Life issues there is a lot going on and Pope Paul VI did not leave any room for wiggling. In Humanae Vitae 14** Pope Paul VI states the following,

Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

In one small section of this powerful document, Pope Paul VI strikes down, artificial birth control, abortion (which at this time is still illegal in much of the world), and intentional sterilization.

I can hear many people starting to wonder though, what about those people who have had surgeries, procedures or accidents which have rendered them sterile? At the end of Humanae Vitae 14 Pope Paul VI makes a statement which addresses this. The essential part of  it is that in those cases, becoming sterile was not the intended effect of these procedures.

How all this effects me and others like me.

Humanae Vitae has had a greater effect on me and others like me than I will ever know. Pope Paul VI predicted a huge downfall in the ability of the young people to keep the moral law. Teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, and pornography has latched on and become a part of the world wide culture that most do not seem to find offensive. Pope Paul VI even predicted that government officials would one day create laws such as the Health and Human Service Mandate which is being pushed by the Obama Administration.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

Humanae Vitae 17

I, as a young Catholic woman and a professional who works with many teenagers and youth, am afraid. I am watching as the once most free nation on earth is imposing laws and regulations that are in direct violation of the Bill of Rights. I am watching as many of the youth I serve lack the support and education by those around them and tell them that the Churches teachings are outdated, oppressive, and limiting. I am watching a world that is loosing generations with a decreasing birth rate. I am seeing a culture that regards pregnancy as a disease to be controlled rather than a gift to be embraced, and all of this scares me.

What astonishes me is that we were warned about all of this less than 50 years ago and we as a culture don’t get it.  We get global warming, human rights, the need to help the impoverished and care for your fellow person, provided that they are outside of the womb and not in the bedroom.

We as Catholics have a right to stand up against this unconstitutional law. If you are an American Citizen over the age of 18, and would like to sign this petition, I encourage you to do so.

https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petition/rescind-hhs-dept-mandate-requiring-catholic-employers-provide-contraceptivesabortifacients-their/lBxr7SdP


* The information from this small timeline is obtained from the following.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/timeline/timeline2.html

** You can read Humanae Vitae in it’s entirety here:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

[author][author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Amanda-e1319548807143.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Amanda Castro is a Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at a small rural Iowa parish. Some of her students have begun a crusade to try and stump their youth minister, even so far as asking the local Bishop for help. If they could have remembered the Latin they would have succeeded too! Aside from being happily newly married to her best friend, her passions include (but are not limited too) her 9 nieces and nephews, the Mass, Adoration, and photography. You can find her new blog at Defined by Faith.[/author_info] [/author]