“I was 19 when we got married,” Ms. Patchin said by telephone from Nashville, where she and her former husband live and share custody of their four children. “And I was 20 when we had Gideon. My parents weren’t anti-birth-control; they were pretty middle-ground evangelicals. So I kind of rebelled by being more conservative. That was my identity.”
The book she and Mr. Torode wrote two years into their marriage is quite short and quite sweet, an earnest work whose hopefulness one badly wants to share. Procreation is “the umbrella under which the other aspects of marriage are nurtured,” they wrote. Sex is “a joyous song of praise to the Creator,” and “having children (or adopting them) brings husbands and wives closer together and expands the community of love.”
They concluded succinctly: “When we should be saying ‘I do,’ contraception says, ‘I do not.’ ”
“Open Embrace” also embraced the view that children stabilize marriage, for “with each child a couple has, their chances of divorce are significantly reduced.” So what went wrong for the Torodes, whose children now range in age from 4 to 9?
Among other challenges, Ms. Patchin, now 30, had unplanned pregnancies. “I got pregnant nursing twice,” she told me. “So my first two kids are 15 months apart, then there is a three-year break, then the younger two are a year and a half apart. That was intense. Beyond hormonally intense, it was relationally intense. It was nothing I would ever want anyone else to have to experience.”
In their 2006 statement on the Web, the couple wrote that natural family planning could harm a marriage, even when it worked.
“Wanting to make love to your spouse often is a good thing, but NFP often lays an unfair burden of guilt on men for feeling this,” the Torodes wrote. And it is “a theological attack on women to always require that abstinence during the time of the wife’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.”
I don't mention the full name of my former husband anywhere on here, and my kids don't know me under my maiden name. You can search the site for our last name and it doesn't show up anywhere.
The true opposition is not to be sought between some material conformity to the physiological processes of nature and some artificial intervention. For it is natural to man to use his skill in order to put under human control what is given by physical nature. The opposition is really to be sought between one way of acting which is contraceptive and opposed to a prudent and generous fruitfulness, and another way which is, in an ordered relationship to responsible fruitfulness and which has a concern for education and all the essential, human and Christian values.
In commenting on the single controversial issue of Humanae Vitae, the late Bernard Lonergan, S.J., a renowned theologian, remarked: ’The traditional views [on contraception] to my mind are based on Aristotelian biology and later stuff which is all wrong. They haven’t got the facts straight" (Catholic New Times, Oct. 14, 1984).
What Lonergan was referring to was the analysis of the sexual act found in Aristotle’s De generatione animalium. Male seed was viewed as an efficient cause that changed the nutritive material supplied by the female. According to this view every act of insemination (intercourse) is of itself procreative.
We now know, of course, that Aristotle was wrong. It must be recalled here that it was only in 1827 that Karl Ernst von Baer published his discovery of the ovum. The relation of insemination to procreation, we now know, is not that of a per se cause to a per se effect. The relation of intercourse to procreation is statistical, the vast majority of acts not leading to conception. Paul VI stated that "the conjugal act ... capacitates them for the generation of new lives." That is true of only very few conjugal acts.
Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different. In the former the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature. In the later they obstruct the natural development of the generative process. It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.
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