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July 10, 2011 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Sam and Bethany Torode published a book in 2002 called Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Conception, a book that captured the growing movement among conservative Protestant Christians toward the use of natural family planning. In 2006, the Torodes' announced their perspective had changed slightly (Archive.org capture of full statement). In 2009, the Torodes divorced. Bethany is now writing candidly about her life as a single mother with 4 children on her blog, In Full Bloom. Sam recently published a novel called The Dirty Parts of the Bible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (130 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
A conservative Mennonite friend of mine told me that any couples she has known who didn't believe in using contraception when they got married usually changed their minds about three years and three kids later.
posted by orange swan at 1:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the "divorced" link:
“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.”
It's one thing to believe and quite another to live that belief.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah. So Bethany Torode was 19 when she got married, 20 when she had her first kid, and 22 or 23 when she published her anti-birth-control book. I'm awfully glad that nobody published the manifestos I would have written when I was in my late teens and early 20s.
posted by craichead at 1:56 PM on July 10, 2011 [29 favorites]


Young, idealistic, naive couple grow up and come to their senses, film at 11.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


While the title suggests a raunchy read, this rich and soulful novel is actually a rather well-done bildungsroman [coming-of-age story] steeped in wanderlust and whimsy that at times recalls The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and at others a tamer On the Road.

This does not make me want to read The Dirty Parts of the Bible. As for the dirty parts of The Bible, I was a preacher's kid; what do you think I spent my early teen years doing?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


For some, dogma is the mother of a pack of pups. For others dogma is a way to make life more difficult.
posted by SueDenim at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2011


Young, idealistic, naive couple grow up and come to their senses

…at the expense of several children.
posted by Nomyte at 2:00 PM on July 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


I read this yesterday in the NY Times and the whole article made my inner dialog's Nelson Muntz hyperventilate with Hahas.
posted by wcfields at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


A married Catholic friend, living in Rome, had his first child. I asked if he was planning to have another. By way of evading the question, he mentioned that to have a second child in his part of Italy would cause raised eyebrows, and maybe a hushed, leaned-in, inquiry of, "accident?" With a third child, you risked being ostracized as some kind of crazy.

How can everyone be so sure not to have the second or third child, I asked, if they are practicing Catholics? He responded with a little wink. I asked again, he winked again, something I'd never seen from him before he married a devote Catholic, and was married by a Cardinal, in a Cathedral in Rome.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:04 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


My wife and I know a couple who are big fans of the long, sometimes TMI-laden Christmas letter. One year this letter was all about the amazing virtues of natural birth control, and then segued directly into the announcement of the wife's pregnancy.

It was like, "Hmm. Hmmmmmm."
posted by selfnoise at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


As for the dirty parts of The Bible, I was a preacher's kid; what do you think I spent my early teen years doing?

I used to really enjoy showing the others kids things from the Song of Solomon and the part about Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. during chapel at my Christian school. They were always very wide-eyed.

Underneath all my indoctrination, kilt and monogrammed blouse beat the heart of a libertine.
posted by orange swan at 2:06 PM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sam Torode, a 23-year-old Chicagoan, replied in a letter to the editor that Ms. Patchin’s piece could not help but “drive young Christian men mad with desire.”

I can't stand the way he pouts...
(Cause he might not be pouting for me)
posted by TedW at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2011


Sex is “a joyous song of praise to the Creator,”

u r doing it wrong
posted by puny human at 2:09 PM on July 10, 2011


u r doing it wrong

Oh I don't know... if the name of the Lord is invoked while you're doing it, chances are you're doing it right.
posted by klanawa at 2:11 PM on July 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


I knew a catholic couple once who had 6 kids, who kept a large statue of mary at the corner of the bed. seeing the blessed mother of god mid coitus wasn;t a turn on for me, but it seemed to be for them
posted by PinkMoose at 2:13 PM on July 10, 2011


Nelson Muntz is kind of a dick.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2011


My husband and I once considered NFP and I phoned a contact for the local NFP organization. She couldn't get two sentences in a row out without hushing or scolding a whiny toddler or child. I decided that wasn't great evidence for this method of birth control and later learned the following riddle:

Q: What do you call people who practice NFP?
A: Parents.
posted by angiep at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


From her blog:

My ex-husband raped me, and is also a good father. Humans don't like truth like this. I don't like truth like this, but I'm living in the paradox. I'm doing the best I can. Your cross will find you and take you up on it whether you want it or not.
posted by J.W. at 2:36 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeesh...
posted by PenDevil at 2:46 PM on July 10, 2011


I read a great deal of her blog last night- her blog was the piece of this story that made me want to do this post. Sort of reminds me of Penelope Trunk- some of it is amazingly wise and insightful and some of it is so candid it's a little crazy (see the part J.W. posted above). I'm always grateful that people are willing to share their lives like that because it's thought-provoking, but I don't think I could ever do it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:46 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


"How can everyone be so sure not to have the second or third child, I asked, if they are practicing Catholics? "

Something like 85% of practicing Catholics of childbearing age in the U.S. are actively using birth control. My Catholic university provided the pill at student health as a matter of course ... "for regularity," of course. I'm not sure what the free condoms were officially for ... water balloons?

I have a Catholic ob/gyn who's with a Catholic practice affiliated with a Catholic hospital. Just happenstance, not for religious reasons; they're the best practice in town, and half the practices in town are Catholic anyway. Through a series of humorous happenstances, when I was pregnant with my first child the nurse at my ob/gyn was under the misconception (see what I did there?) that I was an unmarried, pregnant college student, so when I burst into tears when I got the pregnancy test results at the appointment (hormones. so many hormones. happy tears), she thought I was unhappy about my "situation" and very gently said, "Do you need *cough* a referral? You do have *ahem* options."

I don't know a married Catholic man over 40 without a vasectomy, seriously. (Well, the ones whose wives I talk to, anyway. I don't really go around interrogating people about the state of their plumbing.)

All of which is to say, being a devout and practicing Catholic does not necessarily mean following all the dictates of Rome. Especially the dumb ones. Especially in Italy, where religious rules (and driving laws) are looked on as good ideas but not necessarily binding on individuals.

Personally I don't really understand why God is fooled by "birth control" in the form of NFP where you try to have sex without getting pregnant, but is all pissy about birth control with a condom, where you try to have sex without getting pregnant. The intent is the same, and intent matters quite a bit for sin, and what, like an all-powerful God can't poke holes in condoms? Or tell that you're trying to trick him with your sex-timing?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on July 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


From her blog:

My ex-husband raped me, and is also a good father. Humans don't like truth like this. I don't like truth like this, but I'm living in the paradox. I'm doing the best I can. Your cross will find you and take you up on it whether you want it or not.


Ok, I had not originally read the blog when commenting on this article.

...Yikes.

It doesn't seem like culturally sanctioned male power over women in a relationship ever ends well. Or non-horribly.
posted by selfnoise at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2011


I know of a young conservative catholic girl who was dead set on having a huge family, which seemed to me kind to be kind of a social statement about conservative catholicism. She had three kids in 5 years and now blogs sadly about depression, weight watchers, and attempts at a part time career.

It is really NOT cute to turn your fertility into a social statement.
posted by yarly at 3:10 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


The problem at the root of NFP, as pointed out, is that you are abstaining at your peak of horniness every month. Eventually, you are going to listen to your hormones and go for it, and since you're not using anything and are fertile, well, there you go.

I never was tempted to try it for that reason and also because all four of the kids in my family were, my mother swore, accidents. I think it's more likely she and Dad got forgetful with the birth control, but either way, I'm not chancing it.
posted by emjaybee at 3:12 PM on July 10, 2011


It's really charming of her to talk about her husband forced anal sex on her in her blog. I'm sure the attention is going to be great for her children.
posted by borges at 3:15 PM on July 10, 2011


It's really charming of her to talk about her husband forced anal sex on her in her blog. I'm sure the attention is going to be great for her children.

Um, where is she supposed to talk about it? Or will it be "oh no! Think of the children!" any time she needs to talk about it? Because, I imagine it would be good for her to talk about it somewhere....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


And, because I'd rather say something positive, I liked this:

I consider evangelizing spam of the soul. It's about you and your rhetoric, it's not about love. It's about what you are telling yourself inside your own head to keep things together, and that's usually not what hurting people need. I understand it because I *was* it, thoroughly.

Heh. That is a pretty good metaphor.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


She should talk about it with her therapist and if she wants to press charges, she should, by all means, go ahead. But it is a pretty serious thing. It's not something to be bandied about on a blog.
posted by borges at 3:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


She should talk about it with her therapist and if she wants to press charges, she should, by all means, go ahead. But it is a pretty serious thing. It's not something to be bandied about on a blog.

Yes, it's serious. Should she not discuss it because it's a crime? Because it's an uncomfortable topic? Because her kids might see it some day? Women talk about rape on blogs all the time, it seems like a good use of the space, assuming that's what they need to write about; why is this instance so lacking in charm?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 PM on July 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's really charming of her to talk about her husband forced anal sex on her in her blog. I'm sure the attention is going to be great for her children.

Um, where is she supposed to talk about it? Or will it be "oh no! Think of the children!" any time she needs to talk about it? Because, I imagine it would be good for her to talk about it somewhere....


Maybe she should talk to a counselor, a psychiatrist, her friends, her sisters, her mother, i.e. discrete and trustworthy confidants. Hell, maybe she should talk to the cops, although I doubt charges would stick to the guy.

I grew up as a Baptist preacher's kid, and I fled the evangelical world as soon as I felt clear enough from my family to get away with it. Through the subsequent years I've gone through various stages of feeling a spiritual vacuum and have tried to recover Christianity through its more mystical and/or left-radical manifestations. But, finally, thankfully, I just can't bring myself to try to apologize for something so fundamentally irrational. And, damn, it feels good to be a non-believer. It would seem that Bethany is working through that phase of attempted recovery; I hope for her sake she gets right with God by never ever considering him in a theist sense again.
posted by Roachbeard at 4:00 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


She should talk about it with whoever she feels is appropriate.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


I agree with borges, and I happen to be a rape victim myself. Here's why:

If she had decided she wasn't going to prosecute (and I understand that) that's one thing. But she and her husband share custody of the kids-she wants it that way-and according to her she says he is not a monster and he is a good father.

Okay, if she wants to tell everyone including us that he is a rapist, that is one thing, but those children are getting old enough that they are going to know she said it publically. That is not good or wise for the children. If he is good enough to be a caretaker, then she needs to think about when and where she shares what happened in their marriage. Because to share that kind of information is like dropping an atomic bomb. Her kids are going to be collateral damage.

I don't dispute in general her right to tell this, but I think the way she has chosen to do this-right when his book deal is coming out-is a bit, well, interesting.

I do not think a public blog is the place to share what she shared. Just like I will not share my rapist's name online publically. Not the place, not the time.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


(one other thing. What I say applies to this one case. I just think this case smacks more of revenge telling than anything else. I've read her blog for a very long time.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2011


being a devout and practicing Catholic does not necessarily mean following all the dictates of Rome

Actually, it really kind of does. One of the central pieces of the Catholic church is that you believe that God directly guides the Pope and the Church itself. If a person doesn't like that part of it, there's any number of other churches that are almost identical in doctrine other than that.

To deliberately go against the Church's statements about what is sinful or not is to go against the will of god. You can't be a devout Catholic and ignore the "dumb" dictates of Rome any more than you can be a devout Socialist and ignore all the "dumb" dictates about sharing wealth, because following the dicates of Rome is a defining characteristic of being a devout Catholic.
posted by Candleman at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the way I can't remember if it has been mentioned, but for a time this couple were members of the Orthodox church. Which, like Catholicism, does not condone birth control.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2011


In other words, a religion which has self-denial and self-control is at the core of its moral teachings is 1) not easy, 2) not very well understood, and 3) not terribly popular amongst 21st-century Americans.

I'm trying to figure out which of those is supposed to be the insightful observation, but I'm not coming up with anything.
posted by valkyryn at 4:18 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


To deliberately go against the Church's statements about what is sinful or not is to go against the will of god. You can't be a devout Catholic and ignore the "dumb" dictates of Rome any more than you can be a devout Socialist and ignore all the "dumb" dictates about sharing wealth, because following the dicates of Rome is a defining characteristic of being a devout Catholic.

E pur si muove...
posted by ibmcginty at 4:21 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks St. Alia of the Bunnies, that is basically what I was trying to say, but much clearer.
posted by borges at 4:32 PM on July 10, 2011


By the way I can't remember if it has been mentioned, but for a time this couple were members of the Orthodox church. Which, like Catholicism, does not condone birth control.

Right, which is why I've always wondered why NFP is allowed. It's still birth control. It's still an attempt to control conception. It's still trying to thwart God's presumed plan. Seems dumb to me.
posted by gaspode at 5:15 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't dispute in general her right to tell this, but I think the way she has chosen to do this-right when his book deal is coming out-is a bit, well, interesting.

I dunno, I am not too comfortable with "she didn't talk about her rape in the right way, and, anyway, she has a book coming out."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 PM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Gaspode, that's one of the things I found frustrating about this NY Times article. It didn't provide much if any background necessary to answer basic questions about the story.
posted by Jahaza at 5:27 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, Boundless (the Focus on the Family college webzine Patchin and Torode wrote for back in the day) has scrubbed their existence off the site, so much background information is no longer online.

Here's one of Bethany's first articles, about wanting to be a stay-at-home mom (written during college), and here's the "(Don't) Kiss Me" article that got Sam's attention. I can't find Sam's response to her. She wrote this one later, after marrying him. "Confessions of a Teenage Mom", Bethany's post-honeymoon piece, is also lost to the ether. They wrote this Christianity Today article about eschewing contraception together, after Gideon was born.

(Yes, I have been following them since the original articles came out...)
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2011


I do not think a public blog is the place to share what she shared. Just like I will not share my rapist's name online publically. Not the place, not the time.

and

Maybe she should talk to a counselor, a psychiatrist, her friends, her sisters, her mother, i.e. discrete and trustworthy confidants. Hell, maybe she should talk to the cops, although I doubt charges would stick to the guy.

Well, luckily, you two aren't in charge of deciding when it's socially appropriate to discuss one's own experience with rape. Because the truth is that this attitude you're taking, "ugh, why can't she just not be so garish about it?" is why a HUGE percentage of rape still never gets reported, even today, in a culture that has made general advances toward acknowledging the existence of sexual assault. Because survivors are afraid of this very brand of judgment that you are not qualified or entitled to make. Way to support your fellow human beings.
posted by so_gracefully at 5:58 PM on July 10, 2011 [21 favorites]


If the kids who STAY HALFTIME AT HIS HOUSE weren't involved, she could shout it from the rooftops for all I care. She either wants them to have a good relationship with him or she doesn't. Like I said, I have been reading her blog for a long time.

I really don't care that much about him. I care quite a bit about the kids. This is not information that would be useful to them and it has a great deal of potential to cause great confusion to them. Again, I'm not saying telling is wrong, I am saying putting it out there in a public blog right before your article comes out in the NY freaking Times and right before your ex's book comes out.....this woman has had years to come out and tell this.

As a matter of fact in a prior post a long time ago she said that she felt that the issues between them were private and because they lived near each other, were friendly to each other, and were coparenting the kids that she felt it would not be the right thing to be specific about their issues. Guess she changed her mind.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It looks like she posted it (the rape statement) on the blog after talking to the NYT reporter but before the NYT article came out.

I wonder if she somehow said this to the reporter without really meaning to, and then wasn't sure if he would put it in the NYT article, and so decided she would put it on her blog preemptively.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:26 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually she said on the blog she did mention it to the reporter and wondered if he/she would mention it.

The reporter didn't.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I think she should talk about the rape (and other less traumatic but still negative parts of the marriage) wherever she wants. On the other hand, there's stuff about my parents' relationship that I don't want to know. My mom died 15 years ago, and I have all of her journals. I haven't read any of the ones from the years when she was with my dad. Maybe I will, some day. But I'm also not going to accidentally run across the information on the web, or have a "friend" send me the text, so it's my choice to confront the information, or not.

I don't think she's absolutely wrong, and I can't possibly judge her choice. But it's one I'm glad my parents didn't make.
posted by rtha at 7:45 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely judging her choice: she is being incredibly irresponsible.
posted by borges at 7:48 PM on July 10, 2011


Life was too precious to be so incredibly opposed to its conception. And life was too sacred to even accidentally abort a baby through use of contraceptives.

And yet for people like this it seems life is not so very precious and sacred that they need to care vey much about overpopulation, and the destructive effects it is having on the security of future human existence. On life, in other words.

This view is so damnably and damagingly narrow, and seems to extend not much further than "Aww, babies are so adorable and precious. Especially mine. Let's increase the chance of having one, even when we ostensibly don't want one."

I lack patience, sympathy with and tolerance for such attitudes. Once day we will be forced to implement mandatory controls on human reproduction - oh, make no mistake about that - and people who have taken this sort of narrow, starry-eyed view of human life will bear a heavy portion of the blame.
posted by Decani at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Back when I was first impersonating a graduate student, the university hosted a NFP advocate, Janet Smith, who gave a talk about the evils of hormonal birth control. My brand new husband and I attended out of curiosity.

It was interesting because the university I was attending was verrry secular. I'd still really love to hear a version of that talk as she'd deliver it to a Catholic audience. One thing Dr Smith emphasized was the difference between the "accidental" pregnancies that happen when hormonal birth control fails versus the Happy Surprise Funtime pregnancies which sometimes happen to folks using NFP. Hm. Really, what she was trying to sell us on was the idea that hormonal birth control makes you think wrong about fundamental things like fertility--I remember specifically that one of the bad things about hormonal birth control was that it "treats fertility as a defect."

It was weird, to say the least.

Reading about these folks is particularly poignant when I remember that one of Dr Smith's biggest selling points for NFP was that--unlike evil hormonal bc--NFP encouraged healthy, loving communication and respect. Maybe it can but it seems like those elements need to be in place already...at this point I'm babbling. But this is a subject that always fascinates me.
posted by Neofelis at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2011


Um, where is she supposed to talk about it?

The DPP (or equivalent)?
posted by pompomtom at 9:47 PM on July 10, 2011


Way to support your fellow human beings.

I think that's unfair. Imagine finding out this stuff about your Dad from something that had been published years before for all the world to see and judge. Yes, I do think rapists need to be named. And I appreciate her sense of moral nuance in acknowledging that he is not "a demon" and is a good dad, but acting as though it is prudish to think about the kids is just not fair. I'm not judging her right to talk about it on a blog--you're right, I'm definitely not entitled to do that--I'm questioning her judgment in putting something out there that can never be retracted. Maybe she'll have a sit-down with her kids right at the age they're getting web-savvy to tell them that their Dad forced anal sex on her--she'll have to to foreclose the possibility of them reading that stuff for themselves (kids google their parents.) If she hadn't talked about it online, she wouldn't have put herself in such a position.

Of course she has the right and responsibility to deal with her rape however seems healthiest to her. However, I know for a fact this whole thing would fuck me up if I was one of her kids. I don't think it's garish; I think it's going to blow up in her face.
posted by Roachbeard at 10:28 PM on July 10, 2011


I am absolutely judging her choice: she is being incredibly irresponsible.

Imagine you're another young conservative wife who reads her blog for inspiration and support. You read her story and realize that what your own husband is doing could be considered rape. That's why this is important. Her story reaches an audience traditional feminist voices don't reach. It reaches women who may think that because it's their husband, it can't be rape.

Still, I'm a cynical bastard and I wouldn't doubt it if she was partly writing about it to drum up sales for her book.

But regardless, if it's true and it brings awareness of the issue to more women, good.
posted by formless at 10:46 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of course she has the right and responsibility to deal with her rape however seems healthiest to her.

But... don't you think that's what she's done? I mean, do you think she just posted this in fugue without thinking of any of the context or possible outcomes?

However, I know for a fact this whole thing would fuck me up if I was one of her kids. I don't think it's garish; I think it's going to blow up in her face.

Well, you might be right, but doesn't she get to make that call? I mean, she is making all sorts of other decisions for her children, and this is somehow beyond the line?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:56 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Still, I'm a cynical bastard and I wouldn't doubt it if she was partly writing about it to drum up sales for her book.

As far as I can tell from reading back into the archives, she does not have a book deal yet and has no book she is currently working on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:24 AM on July 11, 2011


The revealization that she was raped is messy, that's all that can be said about it. No one knows if it'll be the right thing or wrong thing to do. No one knows if such blunt, black and white measurements have any place in her story, it's reveal or its aftermath.

We, as a society, have no map or agreed upon framework that applies to this sort of rape, so we, as a society, will be all over the map about this. No one knows how the discussion will turn out. About the only thing we can say is that it'll be painful.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:36 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's pretty astonishing that their book, subtitled A Protestant Couple Rethinks Conception, is still for sale; They stopped practicing NFP, they stopped being Protestants after joining the Greek Orthodox Church, and they are no longer a couple. So the entire book is invalidated by the authors' own experience.

I have to say when I first heard about this my immediate reaction was, "Who is taking marriage advice from a couple of 20 year olds?" and their experience is reflective of that. It is a joke to think that You have figured out how marriage works after being married for a couple of years. I guess the real joke was on the people who paid good money for their book.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:58 AM on July 11, 2011


If you say she shouldn't name the rapist because he's her kids' father, it makes me wonder about the implications.

I mean, what if her rapist was some other kids' father? At least if it's her own kids, she knows them and can think about their own needs and personalities, and how to talk about it with them. But if it's someone else's kids, all that is totally out of her hands.

And then, what if the rapist is no kid's father yet, but might father and parent kids in the future? And then they could get messed up reading on the Internet about how their dad raped someone.

Should a person really have to wait until her rapist's children grow up or he dies child-free before you would approve of her openly talking and writing about her rape?

That makes no sense to me, and seems so far into the territory of diminishing her agency and her ownership of her own experience as to be disturbing.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:12 AM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


To deliberately go against the Church's statements about what is sinful or not is to go against the will of god. You can't be a devout Catholic and ignore the "dumb" dictates of Rome ... because following the dicates of Rome is a defining characteristic of being a devout Catholic.

Looking at it from the outside, as I do, sometimes it seems that one of the defining characteristics of being a Christian is finding someone else to label as a 'bad Christian'.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2011


It's pretty astonishing that their book, subtitled A Protestant Couple Rethinks Conception, is still for sale; They stopped practicing NFP, they stopped being Protestants after joining the Greek Orthodox Church, and they are no longer a couple. So the entire book is invalidated by the authors' own experience.

In the NYTimes article, Sam Torode says he asked the publisher to stop printing it and "promises there will be no Kindle version". Too late! When I checked Amazon yesterday, you could get it on the Kindle.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:19 AM on July 11, 2011


I have heard it explained that NFP is ok because it is working with "nature" rather than thwarting god's will through the use of chemicals or latex. Underlying this is the idea (sort of paralleling transubstantiaion) that god is present during an act of "sexual congress" between man and wife, making it a sacrament almost. So in the same way that theologians fretted about what to do if you puke up the eucharist, they also fretted about the barrier of a condom (or withdrawal) spoiling the sacrament. But NFP was ok because it applied human rationality rather than disruptive technology.

Today, though, conservative catholics and their protestant admirers focus more on the "contraceptive mentality" caused by using condoms and pills. They argue that if you use contraceptive technology, your whole mindset is to avoid pregnancy, and thus you normalize the idea of abortion too. So in a real sense, it IS the very ease and effectiveness of condoms and pills that they object to. In addition, they really like he idea that a couple cooperates in NFP, and the denial. That serves to make sex more dutiful and domesticated, less individualistic.
posted by yarly at 7:42 AM on July 11, 2011


In the Christianity Today ariticle (page 5 of 6), the Torodes justified NFP like this:

Some readers may ask, "What's the difference between natural and artificial birth control? Don't couples who use either means have the same goal in mind?" The fundamental difference between spacing children by NFP and by artificial methods of contraception is that periodic abstinence (prudent self-control) preserves the integrity, symbolism, and sacramental wholeness of each sex act. The one-flesh union is neither diminished nor compromised.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:57 AM on July 11, 2011


I can't believe the people here who think it's better for the children if she keeps her mouth shut about their father. Put yourself in the kid's shoes. Wouldn't you want to know? My grandfather abused my mother, and when I found out I was upset that she hadn't told me sooner. Instead, she had spent my childhood allowing me to see him, quietly ensuring that I was never alone with him for one second, all the while pretending everything was fine.
posted by domo at 8:20 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The problem at the root of NFP, as pointed out, is that you are abstaining at your peak of horniness every month. Eventually, you are going to listen to your hormones and go for it, and since you're not using anything and are fertile, well, there you go.

No, there are several problems, and that is just one. Many women are simply not regular enough in their cycles to determine exactly when they are ovulating, and so couples can follow NFP perfectly and still get pregnant.

It's important, I think, to bring attention to how unreliable NFP is as a method of birth control no matter how faithfully practitioners follow its precepts. If we don't point out all the reasons why NFP doesn't work, people will keep trying it (and having kids) because they assume that others are just 'doing it wrong' instead of recognizing it is a flawed system.

I don't know a married Catholic man over 40 without a vasectomy, seriously

I also know of Catholics who had vasectomies. These procedures are considered 'sins' because you are fooling around with God's plan; the whole, "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply" part. And here's where it gets really bad, to me. Catholics are supposed to go to confession before mass each week, do penance for sins committed and then take communion. But, in choosing not to have more children, most feel like they made a responsible choice and are not repentant. The Catholic church does them a great disservice because, to be Good Catholics they either need to confess and pretend to remorse they do not have or lie by ommission (we all know it is going on but let's not talk about it wink wink). Some Catholics just stop going to church rather than facing those consequences.

I wish that instead they would speak up about these issues, but as a woman married to a 'fallen' Catholic I have come to realize that there is an unwritten Eleventh Commandment the Church seems to have instilled in the devout, "Thou shalt not point out the inherent flaws in the system." This institutionalized Code of Silence has done far more damage than good--it kept many molested children from coming forward and also protected the priests who molested them for years, and that's just one example--yet it doggedly persists.

I'm just gobsmacked by how many people go along with this. They don't leave the Church, they don't protest. They're complicit.

Even worse, this Code of Silence has now become ingrained in our entire society, under the guise of Protecting the Children. We really know better than to think that what we don't know won't hurt us. Yet some of you are doing it here: 'Don't write about this man raping you, because writing about it will hurt your kids!'

No. Just no, that's wrong, can't you see how wrong that is?! If good fathers can also become rapists, we need to know that, and do something about it--and that means bringing it to light. If a man is made uncomfortable because his kids find out he raped their Mom and he has to face up to what he did, that's on him, not on her for writing about it!

If kids will be damaged by hearing their Dad raped their Mom, then either we need to do more to make sure rape never happens or we had better teach the kids to toughen up, because women are raped every day, including wives and mothers. And most often they are raped, not by strangers, but by someone they knew and thought they could trust, like a boyfriend or husband or even the father of their kids.

And if you find that reality harsh but are okay with covering it up, then you just became part of the problem.
posted by misha at 8:27 AM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


She can obviously say whatever she likes. I wouldn't presume to squelch her right to speak freely about whatever she would like. However, I think she has a responsibility to her kids and I think she fails on this point. We are also implicitly assuming that her allegations are true. What if I isnt true? What if this amounts to a defamation of her
husband?
posted by borges at 9:00 AM on July 11, 2011


Bethany just posted an entry addressing the things we're discussing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:07 AM on July 11, 2011


Can I just say again IT IS NOT BETTER FOR THE CHILDREN if she keeps quiet about this. WTF are you people thinking? They are people, not pets. They deserve to know.
posted by domo at 9:09 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bethany just posted an entry addressing the things we're discussing.

She writes:
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.
She doesn't seem to understand how the internet works. It's perfectly clear exactly who she is and who her husband is.

Like I said before, anyone claiming to know where here posting this information is good or bad doesn't know what they're talking about. But Bethany's ignorance about the internet and how things can last forever may cause a reaction and result she never considered.

It would probably be good if someone pointed that out to her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:23 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bethany just posted an entry addressing the things we're discussing.

Is it my imagination or has she already deleted the post?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:50 AM on July 11, 2011


Not your imagination, the post is gone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2011


so couples can follow NFP perfectly and still get pregnant.

It's important, I think, to bring attention to how unreliable NFP is as a method of birth control no matter how faithfully practitioners follow its precepts.


People can use non-NFP methods of birth control and still get pregnant.

I'm not disputing that it can be hard to adhere to the rules, but when, as you've written, the rules are adhered to, the method has been shown to be very effective (see studies like this one [or ScienceDaily "article" on same study]).

I also know of Catholics who had vasectomies. These procedures are considered 'sins' because you are fooling around with God's plan; the whole, "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply" part.

This is not why they are considered sins. There is no commandment for people to have children (which is why the Catholic Church allows celibacy). What the Church does teach is that to have sex and artificially and externally exclude the possibility of having children is wrong. The arguments are laid out in the famous encyclical Humanae Vitae.

And here's where it gets really bad, to me. Catholics are supposed to go to confession before mass each week, do penance for sins committed and then take communion. But, in choosing not to have more children, most feel like they made a responsible choice and are not repentant. The Catholic church does them a great disservice because, to be Good Catholics they either need to confess and pretend to remorse they do not have or lie by ommission (we all know it is going on but let's not talk about it wink wink). Some Catholics just stop going to church rather than facing those consequences.

You've created a false dillema: "The Catholic church does them a great disservice because, to be Good Catholics they either need to confess and pretend to remorse they do not have or lie by ommission (we all know it is going on but let's not talk about it wink wink)..

These are not the only options. The other option is that they could allow themselves to be persuaded and not merely pretend to remorse, but have remorse. (And if you think this is totally impossible, because you are not at some level a believer in voluntarist accounts of belief formation, you'll have bigger problems with the Catholic Church than just birth control.)

I wish that instead they would speak up about these issues, but as a woman married to a 'fallen' Catholic I have come to realize that there is an unwritten Eleventh Commandment the Church seems to have instilled in the devout, "Thou shalt not point out the inherent flaws in the system."

Perhaps people disagree with you about what are and are not "flaws".
posted by Jahaza at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Underlying this is the idea (sort of paralleling transubstantiaion) that god is present during an act of "sexual congress" between man and wife, making it a sacrament almost.

This sort of idea about the holiness of sex is increasingly controversial within the Catholic Church. But it's kind of off topic. It's a reason (in a corrected and elaborated form) that can be put forth for opposing birth control, but it's not the standard account and even people who hold to it are not opposed to the standard account, they add this second level of meaning beyond it.

So in the same way that theologians fretted about what to do if you puke up the eucharist,

There is little or no "fretting" about this since the 13th century. Everyone is pretty much agreed, but the explanation is entirely off topic.

they also fretted about the barrier of a condom (or withdrawal) spoiling the sacrament.

Ah... no. The issues involved are completely different.

But NFP was ok because it applied human rationality rather than disruptive technology.

This doesn't explain anything, because disruptive technology is obviously also the application of human rationality.

Today, though, conservative catholics and their protestant admirers focus more on the "contraceptive mentality" caused by using condoms and pills. They argue that if you use contraceptive technology, your whole mindset is to avoid pregnancy, and thus you normalize the idea of abortion too.

There are people who are concerned about a "contraceptive mentality", but like the "sex as quasi-Sacrament" view given above it is not common teaching of the Church as to why using birth control is wrong.

So in a real sense, it IS the very ease and effectiveness of condoms and pills that they object to.

So long as we understand here that "they" doesn't mean "the Catholic Church" but rather, "some Catholic and some Protestants who are acting on views that they hold and that are not obligatory on all Catholics"

In addition, they really like he idea that a couple cooperates in NFP, and the denial. That serves to make sex more dutiful and domesticated, less individualistic.

The Catholic position is that sex between two people can't be individualistic.
posted by Jahaza at 10:13 AM on July 11, 2011


Since she retracted her posts, I would like to remove my comments as well. Suggest you do the same in the interests of her and her family's privacy.
posted by borges at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2011


It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry. -- H. L. Mencken
posted by straight at 10:51 AM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't remember exactly what age I was when my mother told me what her marriage to my father had been like - including the violence and his neglect when caring for us (that started out as a funny story about my smearing poop everywhere, but as an adult I realised that a toddler probably shouldn't have been left for hours with a dirty diaper). I wasn't a little kid, but I wasn't grown either.

But I also needed to know this stuff. I needed to know that my parents wouldn't get back together, that it would be a bad thing if they got back together, and that we were all better off in two households. It's made my acceptance of their divorce easier.
posted by jb at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some folks on another forum are discussing the legal ramifications of her revelation.

My question to y'all here is this-is it possible for her to have legal trouble because of the revelation on the blog? Just wondering.

Also I wonder if she realizes that this is being discussed all over the net and even if she deletes, the info has jumped the fence?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2011


Borges, she didn't retract what we were discussing, just her latest post.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:11 AM on July 11, 2011


Oh, on further review, you are right, the problematic info is gone. But unfortunately the internet never forgets.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:12 AM on July 11, 2011


jb, I hear you, and it makes me want to clarify or amend my earlier comment. I know some things about my parents' marriage (they divorced when I was three) - my dad cheated on my mom, and lied about lots of things - because my mom told me about them, in a pretty matter-of-fact way, when I was 12 or so. When I was 10, my dad himself demonstrated some of his nuttiness, so I saw it firsthand.

I guess what I don't really want to know (yet) are how my mom felt about those things while they were happening. I witnessed a lot of her unhappiness when I was a kid, and it mostly just made me feel helpless and furious that I was helpless. She's far beyond needing my help now, but I don't want to confront those feelings anyway. Everyone's mileage may vary. You can't un-know something once you know it, but you also can't know how remaining ignorant about certain things might also be damaging.
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on July 11, 2011


My question to y'all here is this-is it possible for her to have legal trouble because of the revelation on the blog? Just wondering.

There doesn't need to be actual trouble to have legal trouble, but yeah her husband could certainly make an issue of things.

Also I wonder if she realizes that this is being discussed all over the net and even if she deletes, the info has jumped the fence?

No, she clearly didn't realize that, but seems to be learning. The internet is not and can not be anyone's safe room or diary and she really needs to understand that. Can you imagine if one of her kid's classmates found that information, the teasing and taunts? If one of her ex-husband's friends or work associates finds out? The blowback would not be pretty.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:38 AM on July 11, 2011


She removed the references to you know what and all comments about it.
posted by borges at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2011


Maybe it would be a good idea to do the same to this thread...
posted by Skeptic at 12:00 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


To deliberately go against the Church's statements about what is sinful or not is to go against the will of god. You can't be a devout Catholic and ignore the "dumb" dictates of Rome any more than you can be a devout Socialist and ignore all the "dumb" dictates about sharing wealth, because following the dicates of Rome is a defining characteristic of being a devout Catholic.

And even yet...

I had a chat about a similar topic (abortion) with a friend who is such a devout Catholic, he nearly became a priest. He absolutely and firmly believes that abortion is a sin. BUT -- he also just as absolutely and firmly believes that those who obtain abortions should not be ostracized or excommunicated or punished by anyone; a woman seeking an abortion may have sinned, but that sin is no one's business but the sinner's and God's. So long as the sinner sought forgiveness of God, then that took care of it. ...I further asked him what his position was about abortion in rape and incest cases, and he just shrugged and said, "well, there are such things as venial sins, you know."

I suspect that there are those who regard contraception in much the same way -- technically it is a sin, but they have no other choice, for to bring a child into the world would be far worse. They simply trust that God will understand, and they do their penance in due course. It's not always as simple as "Oh, the Church says this, but it's screwy so I'm ignoring it tra la la."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those of you who found it problematic for Bethany Patchin's children that she named their father as a rapist, how about when she baldly writes, "I resent my kids?" Where does that rest along the continuum of "Things a parent should or should not post to the Internet?"

Reading through her archives, it's tough not to feel a little sympathetic toward a woman who was clearly overwhelmed by the consequences of decisions she made as a callow teenager. However, it's striking that while she talks about needing to heal and recover from a bad relationship and giving birth to four children in six years, there's not a word in there about whatever obligation she feels to the world at large for issuing advice that was so obviously bad.
posted by sobell at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2011


Well, we weren't discussing the kid posts, so that's why I didn't bring it up.

My personal opinion is that she is forgetting that she is still a wellknown figure in certain circles, so that any privacy concerns she should have to start with are amplified as a result. Yes, raising kids is rough and raising them alone is rougher but...well, every woman alive has probably thought some of the things she has posted, but very few of us would want it out there for the world to read and to judge.

She married too young, she obviously married the wrong person, and since her marriage ended I think she is chafing at the responsibility she as and regretting the years of freedom she cut short. That's normal enough. But yeah, she forgets, she has a bit of a microscope on her.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those of you who found it problematic for Bethany Patchin's children that she named their father as a rapist, how about when she baldly writes, "I resent my kids?" Where does that rest along the continuum of "Things a parent should or should not post to the Internet?"

At this point, I don't think it does us or her much good to go digging through her blog and treating her life as a case study or debate points. She's clearly overwhelmed and could definitely use some compassion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm looking for clarification on the bounds of the "But won't someone think of the children?" argument when it comes to what's okay to blog about what's not. I am having difficulty understanding why one post in which she names her ex-husband as a rapist is in-bounds for the "But the children!" discussion but a post in which she says she resents her children is not.

And as I said above, it's hard not to feel sympathy as you read through her blog. It's very easy to forget what a luxury it can be to have one's early 20s as a time of unfettered self-discovery.
posted by sobell at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2011


What the Church does teach is that to have sex and artificially and externally exclude the possibility of having children is wrong.

This begs the question of the meaning of "artificially" and "externally." NFP is only less "artificial" and "external" than other methods if you have some kind of specific objection to barriers/chemicals. This is because all forms of birth control are artificial (in that they alter nature) and externally imposed.

As I said earlier, rhetorically, the most reasonable explanation for the "NFP-good; condoms-bad" view is that condoms and pills are seen as physically interfering with a sacrament, whereas NFP does not. The only other possible explanation is that the Catholic Church thinks NFP is better because it is less effective than other forms of birth control, and thus makes sex more risky. If that's really the case, then I wish they'd just outright say it, instead of couching it in the false dichotomy of natural vs. artificial.
posted by yarly at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2011


NFP is actually nonbiblical in that the Bible teaches couples are not to abstain except for a time mutually agreed upon for the purpose of fasting and prayer.

Years ago I looked over the NFP materials and realized just how limiting it was, timewise. That cannot be good for a marriage. If a couple can make that work for them, more power to them, but seems more a mechanism for limiting sex, to me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza:People can use non-NFP methods of birth control and still get pregnant.

I'm not disputing that it can be hard to adhere to the rules, but when, as you've written, the rules are adhered to, the method has been shown to be very effective


Okay, let's look at that. The Catholic Church officially endorses the ovulation method of NFP (per the college of Cardinals), and the failure rate of that method even when performed perfectly for first year users, is ten times that of the pill. Quite a difference. And of course, in typical practice, the failure rate is much higher.

"The Catholic church does them a great disservice because, to be Good Catholics they either need to confess and pretend to remorse they do not have or lie by ommission (we all know it is going on but let's not talk about it wink wink)..

Jahaza: These are not the only options. The other option is that they could allow themselves to be persuaded and not merely pretend to remorse, but have remorse.
"

You make it sound easy, Jahaza, so in the interest of fairness I went and researched this some more. Turns out we are both wrong, since, as a vasectomy or sterilization is considered a mortal sin, it isn't easy as even pretending to OR actually having remorse, sadly. The Sacrement of Penance and Reconciliation has to be performed for it to be forgiven.

And the Catholic Church wants you to show remorse by reversing the vasectomy/tubal ligation:

"Any Catholic couple that is still of child-bearing age, who would maintain that they are sorry for having the procedure done, but would refuse to have it reversed, would be manifestly guilty of hypocrisy, and would have no firm purpose of amendment. This is why the confessor will necessarily impose as a condition to the granting of absolution that the penitent accept to have the reversal of the sterilization performed, if it is at all possible."

But I'm glad we're discussing this, at least.
posted by misha at 2:23 PM on July 11, 2011


Annnnd this is one reason I am not Catholic.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:54 PM on July 11, 2011


misha, I may reply at greater length later, but the SSPX from whom you quote does not represent mainstream orthodox Catholic opinion (regarding the neccesity of reversal procedures) and I'm not sure that Q & A even represents mainstream SSPX opinion. What I wrote is not incorrect (the "receive the sacrament of penance" part was implied in my reply, though not explicit.)

Okay, let's look at that. The Catholic Church officially endorses the ovulation method of NFP (per the college of Cardinals), and the failure rate of that method even when performed perfectly for first year users, is ten times that of the pill. Quite a difference. And of course, in typical practice, the failure rate is much higher.

I linked to a peer reviewed study of effectiveness for one method of NFP. You've linked to a web site that says some of its periodic abstinence rate failures are "best guesses". But all of that kind of misses the point, which is that

The "College of Cardinals" endorses just about one thing only... and that's when they elect the Pope (they also have a few other limited functions when the Holy See is vacant, but that's beside the point). They have not, I am confident, "endorse[d] the ovulation method of NFP." The Church has certainly permitted the use of NFP, but it has not endorsed on moral grounds one method over another and it does not endorse medical science on any other ground. The Archdiocese of New York, to take one example promotes instruction in both the ovulation method and the sympto-thermal method.
posted by Jahaza at 2:54 PM on July 11, 2011


Jahaza, since you seem educated in this from the Catholic perspective, I would seriously like to know a modern, intelligent Catholic's take on the Church's distinction between NFP and other forms of birth control. Do you just accept Humanae Vitae word for word, or do you have any other thoughts on it?
posted by yarly at 3:03 PM on July 11, 2011


Yarly: This begs the question of the meaning of "artificially" and "externally." NFP is only less "artificial" and "external" than other methods if you have some kind of specific objection to barriers/chemicals. This is because all forms of birth control are artificial (in that they alter nature) and externally imposed.

The Catholic Church's problem with birth control is that it fundamentally alters what the Church considers to be the true purpose of sex. NFP doesn't. It introduces the element of self-control, but it requires some tortured logic to consider it an artificial aid to prevent pregnancy. (Is declining a second piece of cake an "artificial or external" aid to weight loss?) Catholic couples are not morally obligated to be constantly pregnant, but they are required to be open to that possibility every time they choose to have sex. It's all summed up nicely here.
posted by Cortes at 4:42 PM on July 11, 2011


For my part, I feel terrible having offered any comment at all. I am pained at the idea that my commentary takes part in fostering a culture of secrecy/judgement that prevents victims of rape from processing their experiencing by talking about it. This makes me feel ashamed, and I'm thankful for those who responded to posts--mine and others--chastising Bethany for her decision to write about it. Just as a point of clarification, I did not mean to suggest that she shouldn't tell her children about her experience; I only meant that finding out indirectly from such a public source might inordinately pain them.

As I said, I feel like a total shit for having even chimed in. The coincidence of this thread's existence and her removing her posts suggests that she might be reading our comments. I had no right to say anything at all about her choices.
posted by Roachbeard at 4:52 PM on July 11, 2011


She's read the comments.

And roachbeard, don't you dare be ashamed of your comments. It is a tenet of the internet that if you put it out there for everyone to read, you put it out there for everyone to have an opinion on it.

Let me say it again-I have a dog in this fight seeing as I was a victim myself. As such I felt I had a bit more of an idea of what she was risking when she was so public with this at what I would think of at the worst possible time. I am all for healing and being able to speak out but you HAVE to be wise about it or you wind up victimizing yourself and those you love more.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:35 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If she did not understand how public her blog would be, and reading this thread made her aware of that and she chose to take it down as a result, I'm fine with her decision. I don't think you should feel ashamed for discussing what she posted and putting forth your opinion.

And I still think it's best to be upfront, even with kids, about the bad stuff that happens as well as the good.

Jahaza, I meant to say the Conference of Catholic Bishops, not Cardinals! I don't want to derail this thread too much, but you were right to call me out on that point and I wanted to acknowledge it. Having read several papal documents at this point, my eyes are all dried out, and though I still think it's absurd that contraception and sterilization are considered mortal sins, I can see this debate going round in circles forever, so I'll just stop at that.
posted by misha at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2011


I don't know, Cortes, that explanation of why NFP is so different from, say, condoms, is pretty hard to follow using normal logic or intuition. If it is ok to have the intent to prevent conception, and it is ok if that method is effective, then it is REALLY hard to comprehend why one method is superior to any other with respect to the "true purpose" of sex. Especially since (as humane vitae recognizes) it is ok to use "unnatural" technology to address other medical issues.
posted by yarly at 6:09 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm looking for clarification on the bounds of the "But won't someone think of the children?" argument when it comes to what's okay to blog about what's not.

They are pretty different. In the post in question, she is talking about a transitory feeling, it's relationship to self-denial, but ultimately it is about being a good mother. In other words, it's not an anti-child rant; she clearly loves her children. Whether a kid would understand the nuance in the post is another question altogether. I think the bounds are not to say anything in a public forum that you wouldn't want getting around to your kids through a channel other than you.

And I still think it's best to be upfront, even with kids, about the bad stuff that happens as well as the good.

Her kids are pretty young; they probably aren't ready for that. There will certainly come a time when they are ready.

posted by borges at 6:55 PM on July 11, 2011


If it is ok to have the intent to prevent conception

I see what you're saying, but the Church would say: It's not. The reason (in the Catholic view) is that sex and procreation are inseparable. It's not possible to contracept if you aren't having sex.

The primary purpose of food is sustenance, but an added (and very significant) benefit is the pleasure we take in eating it. If someone, wanting to lose weight, eats less, we're not going to fault him for it. He's respecting the purpose of food, and in fact this respect is enhanced in his self-restraint. But if he were to take mouthfuls, enjoy the taste, and then spit them out, we'd say he had a disordered relationship to the act of eating. Kind of a clumsy analogy, but that's more or less the reasoning behind it.
posted by Cortes at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So diet soda is out?
posted by jepler at 7:11 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cortes - read humanae vitae. It pretty clearly says it is ok for couples to have the intent of avoiding conception.
posted by yarly at 7:26 PM on July 11, 2011


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

Show me.
posted by Cortes at 7:29 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be snarky - I just can't tell what you mean when you use that phrase "the intent of avoiding conception." If you mean within sex, then no, the Church will never have said that. If you mean by not having sex, then yes. But we're going in circles if you remain convinced that periodic abstinence is the same as a contraceptive.
posted by Cortes at 7:32 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read section 16 - clearly says the intent is the same in either NFP or "artificial" birth control. The part that makes no intuitive or logical sense is, why is it ok to have sex during infertile periods? Isn't that just as much of a manipulation of nature to have intentional non-procreative sex based on our scientific knowledge of anatomy? Because that act is certainly not open to procreation. A truly logical approach would be to say no sex at all unless you are trying to get pregnant.

Ultimately, the confusing thing about the humanae vitae is that it tries to impose logic on what is actually a purely religious belief - that sex is holy and condoms are yucky and methods controlled by women are bad. (because of course it is no accident that it was written in the wake of the pill, not in response to an outbreak of rubber usage).

I just think the h v is not convincing as a piece of theology. I have not a lot of reading on this, but I believe that it was negotiated by committee and reflects several compromises, which is why it is not totally sensible. The church knew it could not say, on the eve of the sexual revolution, that all contraception is wrong. At the same time, it did not want to permit too much license. Hence, the NFP position, and all the contortions you have to take to get there.
posted by yarly at 8:26 PM on July 11, 2011


yarly: I think I was hung up on the semantics of your usage of "prevent." Still not sure I'd use it that way, but I'm sorry for introducing needless confusion. The bottom line is that the two methods for avoiding pregnancy are substantially different. The Church teaches that sex has both a unitive and a procreative function; contraceptives necessarily remove at least the procreative from the equation. Properly motivated abstinence in the context of NFP can't be compared, because in that case neither purpose has been blocked. As HV says: "every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life . . ."

Isn't that just as much of a manipulation of nature to have intentional non-procreative sex based on our scientific knowledge of anatomy?

Evidently not. Kind of how the fertility cycle seems to work by default, no?

"The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws."

methods controlled by women are bad.

I don't know where you got that idea. The Church is very clear about the dangers the contraceptive mentality poses to women, and they have nothing to do with women being in control.

"Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

The church knew it could not say, on the eve of the sexual revolution, that all contraception is wrong. At the same time, it did not want to permit too much license.

I think you are vastly underestimating the Church. She is not, as history demonstrates, terribly concerned with public opinion in matters of faith and morals. Pope Paul VI points out several times that living these principles will be no easy task.

"And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. . . . this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance."
posted by Cortes at 10:07 PM on July 11, 2011


Cortes, lemme see if I can help you out here:

The difference between NFP and sex with another form of contraception is that in NFP, you're kind of working with the body that God created for you. Sure, you're not having sex, but abstinence isn't a bad thing either. You can't fault someone for abstinence, even if it's conveniently-timed abstinence. Presumably husband and wife still want to knock boots during the fertile periods, but they deny tempation rather than giving in and doing it.

Whereas other forms of contraception BLOCK the way your body is "supposed" to work. They're kind of like a big ol' nose-thumbing, "well, I know that sex is supposed to make babies, but I'm going to cheat, tttthhhhbbbbffff!" That doesn't fly so well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on July 12, 2011


I think you are vastly underestimating the Church. She is not, as history demonstrates, terribly concerned with public opinion in matters of faith and morals. Pope Paul VI points out several times that living these principles will be no easy task.

Well, if you look into the history of Humanae Vitae, you'll see that there was and is plenty of dissent at high levels inside the Church about it; it's not just a matter of public opinion. In fact, the Pope convened a commission to study the issue, and the commission came up with exactly the same reasoning I'm using here -- that it does not make sense for the dividing line on contraception to be between natural/unnatural, which does not hold up to logical scrutiny:
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.
However, the Pope rejected the commission's view.

So I guess what I'm saying here is that the logical distinction between natural/unnatural is REALLY hard to hold up. If I were Pope (heh), I would be concerned that one of the Church's central doctrines cannot be persuasively explained to congregants, and in fact, the vast majority of congregants simply fail to to conform to it. It simply does not resonate with ordinary people (even highly educated people) on any level -- real life experience, logic, or morality. I think it very seriously undermines the Church's authority, actually, if all it has to go on is its fiat here. I agree with this article, which states that Humanae Vitae has become an authority issue for the Church, more important as a litmus test for orthodoxy than for what it really stands for. As a consequence, the Church is not seriously trying to resolve the underlying problems, and has basically abandoned its flock on the issue.
posted by yarly at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2011


Oh, and another interesting point made in the America article I linked to suggests that approval of NFP comes from Aristotle's mistaken view of reproduction, which believed that each sex act was in fact procreative:
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.
posted by yarly at 11:50 AM on July 12, 2011


It simply does not resonate with ordinary people (even highly educated people) on any level -- real life experience, logic, or morality.

A life of holiness requires people to be a little more than ordinary. And I don't think the problem is that ordinary people have tested these precepts on the grounds of logic and found them wanting. I think that ultimately, the stumbling block in this issue, (as with most issues of sex) is not of Reason but of the Will. The Catholic view of right-ordered sex requires a level of self-restraint that the majority of people, Catholic or otherwise, are absolutely unwilling to practice.

I'm curious to hear you respond to the basic problem I keep restating: artificial contraception blocks the procreative function of the marital act. It's not insignificant -- in fact, even if we set aside the distinction between natural/unnatural methods, that's still the major issue here. If one agrees (and yes, I know, almost no one does) that the Church is correct in stating that sex is ordained for the unity of the couple and the procreation of children, (not every sex act will result in conception, but no sex act can occur with the intent to prevent conception -- square/rhombus, etc.) he will not be able to honestly reconcile the use of artificial methods of birth control.

If people aren't in alignment with the Church on this issue, well, they've probably got a lot of other problems with the Church too. But they're pleading ignorance if they try to argue that the Church hasn't been very clear and very consistent in her teachings on sex and fertility. She has provided a reasoned basis in the Natural Law; she has made authoritative declarations in times of confusion with Casti Connubii in 1930, Humanae Vitae in 1968, and with JPII's extensive series, Theology of the Body, among many others.

We're in agreement on at least one thing: people, Catholics, just aren't getting it. But in 2011, after two millennia of consistent teaching on the matter, that's not the Church's fault.
posted by Cortes at 3:21 PM on July 12, 2011


I think that ultimately, the stumbling block in this issue, (as with most issues of sex) is not of Reason but of the Will. The Catholic view of right-ordered sex requires a level of self-restraint that the majority of people, Catholic or otherwise, are absolutely unwilling to practice.

I don't really think this is the problem. The catholic church does not require extreme feats of will in any other area. Is this really SO important that it is the single hardest thing that the Church requires of the faithful? Especially when the distinction between natural/unnatural is so obscure, and seemed even to many church fathers (as I've quoted above) to be spurious or even based on incorrect views of biology? It just doesn't make any sense; people can be good catholics pretty easily; it's just this one thing where they all, almost uniformly fail.

I'm curious to hear you respond to the basic problem I keep restating: artificial contraception blocks the procreative function of the marital act.

My point is that there is no logically coherent way to say that NFP does not, functionally, do exactly the same thing as birth control. You are purposefully chosing to alter your conduct (and change your normal behavior) in order to subvert the procreative function of the act. The only real logical distinction is probably that NFP makes you have less sex, and less pleasureable sex. If that's the Church's reasoning as to why NFP is superior, then that would in fact be logical. But the faithful probably wouldn't be down with that reasoning, either.

And let me ask you this: if sex using NFP during infertile periods is not blocking the procreative act, then why would it be wrong to add in a condom during those times? And why is it wrong to use condoms for other purposes -- for example, to prevent transmission of HIV between a married couple also using NFP? If condoms are wrong in all of these circumstances, then it really does start to seem like there's some kind of anti-condom-fixation dominating the doctrine.

but no sex act can occur with the intent to prevent conception

You keep on saying this, but it is not true. HV says clearly that the intent to prevent conception by using NFP is ok.

If people aren't in alignment with the Church on this issue, well, they've probably got a lot of other problems with the Church too.


That's just not true. Millions of Catholics are otherwise faithful, but ignore this teaching.
posted by yarly at 3:56 PM on July 12, 2011


The only real logical distinction is probably that NFP makes you have less sex

The Church doesn't care how much sex you have, so that's a strange way to put it, but yes, you're now in the general area of the distinction between NFP and contraception. The only acceptable method of avoiding conception is to abstain from the act that is necessary for it to occur. The introduction of anything that fundamentally changes the function of sex is contrary to the natural law. To return to my food analogy for the third time: You are not denying the fundamental purpose of food by dieting.

You keep on saying this, but it is not true. HV says clearly that the intent to prevent conception by using NFP is ok.

When a couple has sex during an infertile period, they are not intending to prevent conception. Conception isn't possible during this time, so intent doesn't have any impact one way or or another. This is what HV says, in paragraph 16: 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.

I'm running out of ways to say this, but, periodic abstinence that takes advantage of natural periods of fertility for the properly-motivated spacing of children is a world away from the use of a method that enables a couple to have sex without the possibility of conception during fertile and infertile periods alike.

That's just not true. Millions of Catholics are otherwise faithful, but ignore this teaching.

Well, they've set themselves against the infallible teaching of the Church. That's no small matter. My point was that a Catholic who thinks he can pick and choose where convenient has denied the primacy of the Magisterium. Since he's effectively decided that his authority overrides that of the pope, "otherwise faithful" isn't worth much.

Bottom line is this: the Catholic Church teaches that married couples need to be open to having children, and need to respect sex accordingly. It really is that simple.
posted by Cortes at 5:15 PM on July 12, 2011


I cannot express how profoundly grateful these discussions make me that I had the good fortune to be born Jewish.
posted by craichead at 5:24 PM on July 12, 2011


When a couple has sex during an infertile period, they are not intending to prevent conception. Conception isn't possible during this time, so intent doesn't have any impact one way or or another. This is what HV says, in paragraph 16: 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.

The part that seems weird and a little sophistic about this is that it seems to assume that the only thing that matters is a context-free sex act that at this moment is either sinful or lawful. If I have sex right now, I'm not preventing conception, because my wife isn't fertile right now. My intent for this particular sex-act isn't contraceptive, because during this particular sex-act, conception isn't possible.

On this view, the long-term decision to only have sex when my wife isn't fertile isn't a contraceptive act. All that matters are the individual decisions at any particular moment whether or not to have sex right now, with no regard for sum of those decisions in the aggregate.

So it's fine for a couple to say "We've decided to have sex many times this year, but avoid having children by not having sex on days the sperm could get to the egg." But it's not okay for a couple to say, "We've decided to have sex today but avoid having children by physically blocking the sperm from getting to the egg."
posted by straight at 6:44 PM on July 12, 2011


You're absolutely right, straight. That's what I was getting at with "properly-motivated spacing of children." It's possible, in the Catholic view, to use NFP "improperly," that is, with a contraceptive mindset. While the Church provides no definitive list of circumstances under which NFP is considered justified, she is clear that it is intended to be used only "for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts" (H.V. 10) -- not as long-term birth control.
posted by Cortes at 7:01 PM on July 12, 2011


Even if you're just talking about spacing children, I can't see a moral difference between these two:

"Let's have sex once this week. On Monday rather than Saturday, so as to leave a little space before our next child."

"Let's have sex once this week. With a condom rather than without, so as to leave a little space before our next child."
posted by straight at 8:33 PM on July 12, 2011


We've been discussing that distinction for about 20 posts, starting here.
posted by Cortes at 8:51 PM on July 12, 2011


Yes, but I'm saying in that discussion, the distinction seems to depend upon examining each individual sex-act in isolation rather than the sex-life of the couple as a whole.

You say that one of the differences is that NFP involves practicing self-restraint rather than artificially preventing pregnancy, but as my example tried to show, couples using NFP to space their children aren't necessarily having sex less often than couples using condoms.

Both couples are using a technique that enables a couple to have sex without the possibility of conception. One couple is using a piece of latex as part of their sex life, the other is using a calendar as part of their sex life. Couples using NFP are "artificially" scheduling their sex using our knowledge of biology. The fact that the individual sex-acts of the NFP couple appear "natural" ignores the context in which they're having sex.
posted by straight at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2011


The catholic church does not require extreme feats of will in any other area. Is this really SO important that it is the single hardest thing that the Church requires of the faithful?

No? Following the moral teachings of the Church in general is very difficult. Many times it requires extreme feats of the will. As for single harder things, how about being willing to go to one's death rather than deny Christianity?
posted by Jahaza at 9:46 PM on July 12, 2011


"I cannot express how profoundly grateful these discussions make me that I had the good fortune to be born Jewish."

Nor can I express how profoundly relieved I am to have come to the conclusion that these religions-- run by men, with rules and laws and myriads of split hairs written by men, purporting to be handed down from a god they believe to be like men and who put men in charge of everything, and especially in charge of women--need to be taken with a barrel of salt.
posted by Anitanola at 12:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Following the moral teachings of the Church in general is very difficult. Many times it requires extreme feats of the will.

....What kind of "extreme feat of the will" does it take to follow moral teachings like "thou shalt not kill" or "love thy neighbor"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2011


Love thy neighbor is pretty easy. Love thy neighbor as thyself is pretty hard.
posted by Jahaza at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


When a couple has sex during an infertile period, they are not intending to prevent conception. Conception isn't possible during this time, so intent doesn't have any impact one way or or another.

No matter how many times you rephrase this, it still seems like complete sophistry to me, as well as ignoring the purpose of NFP. NFP, properly done, is a rather technical and involved method, based on science, that encompasses the whole month, and is specifically intended to identify they days that you AVOID having sex, and is specifically intended to prevent conception. It certainly "fundamentally changes the function of sex." It is exceedingly hard to understand why deciding not to have sex on a certain day is different from using a condom that day. Unless condoms are intrinsically bad themselves, and/or abstention is intrinsically good.

I find your dieting analogy unavailing. If you really want to argue by analogies (which I don't think is very useful, actually), then I'd point to the fact that any dieting does in fact change the nature of eating -- you're putting conscience restrictions on what you'd otherwise do. The difference between say, dieting and taking a pill that affects your metabolism, is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.

Well, they've set themselves against the infallible teaching of the Church. That's no small matter. My point was that a Catholic who thinks he can pick and choose where convenient has denied the primacy of the Magisterium. Since he's effectively decided that his authority overrides that of the pope, "otherwise faithful" isn't worth much.

It's not actually an infallible teaching.

Look, I get the drift that you are a serious, committed Catholic. That does not mean that you have to argue that every piece of Church teaching really makes sense from every perspective, or that it's the best thing for the modern Church. You can conform to the teaching and accept that there's some mystery you may not understand behind it. But you can still have intellectual integrity, call a spade a spade, and remain a good Catholic.
posted by yarly at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2011


Love thy neighbor is pretty easy. Love thy neighbor as thyself is pretty hard.

Yes, hard, but having more children than you want is infinitely harder.
posted by yarly at 9:39 AM on July 13, 2011


(Which, by the way, was the way this discussion got started -- the very sad, real-life example of a young life almost ruined by adherence to NFP.)
posted by yarly at 9:39 AM on July 13, 2011


No matter how many times you rephrase this, it still seems like complete sophistry to me, as well as ignoring the purpose of NFP. NFP, properly done, is a rather technical and involved method, based on science, that encompasses the whole month, and is specifically intended to identify they days that you AVOID having sex, and is specifically intended to prevent conception.

Yeah, Cortes is not expressing the Church's argument when he writes that the couple is not intending to prevent conception. Humanae Vitae actually says the opposite of what he's written in that bit (Number 16, emphasis mine):
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.
Yes, hard, but having more children than you want is infinitely harder.

It's a long discussion, but there's a lot of meaning and commentary packed into "Love your neighbor as yourself" and I'm quite definite that it's harder than just about anything you can think of except for "Love the Lord your God with all your heart." That these two things are difficult, radical and all encompassing is why, together, they are the epitome of the Law (Matthew 22:40)

(Which, by the way, was the way this discussion got started -- the very sad, real-life example of a young life almost ruined by adherence to NFP.)

That's not clear at all. If anything, the discussion here has shown that there were many reasons for their marital discord.
posted by Jahaza at 9:55 AM on July 13, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "Following the moral teachings of the Church in general is very difficult. Many times it requires extreme feats of the will.

....What kind of "extreme feat of the will" does it take to follow moral teachings like "thou shalt not kill" or "love thy neighbor"?
"

Well, that's pretty disingenuous, don't you think? "Thou shalt not kill" and "love thy neighbor" are not all the Church's "moral teachings" cover.

But hey, challenge accepted! Let's look at just those two.

I am pro-choice. "Thou shalt not kill," has been interpreted by the Church to mean that abortion is murder. I have known, personally, a pregnant woman who found out after amniocentesis that her fetus had anencephaly. In that case, the Church's "moral teachings" require the pregnant woman to continue on with her pregnancy for several months, knowing that she will then give birth to a dead or dying child. I would think that would require "an extreme feat of will." (The woman I knew had a surgical abortion in the hospital--and was thus guilty of murder in the eyes of the Church.)

The priest who married us, a man I personally liked though I could not accept his religion, was moved to another diocese after he propositioned a man in a park known locally as a popular gay hook-up spot. The man he propositioned turned out to be an undercover cop, so I think there were charges of solicitation brought against him, but the Church was more embarrassed by the cloud of homosexuality over one of their men of God. I didn't know he was gay. I wish I had known, and I wish he could have been accepted for who he was by his own Church. I would think hiding his sexuality constituted, for him, "an extreme feat of will".

You may argue that a priest is supposed to be celibate, whether he is heterosexual or homosexual. That's another "extreme feat of will" the Church asks of its servants--that they give up sex entirely.

But we all aren't priests, so celibacy doesn't apply to us, right? Well, again, it does if you are homosexual. In that case, you are supposed to be celibate too, because only hetero sex is acceptable to the Church. There's that "extreme feat of will" again, forcing celibacy onto yourself because the Church demands it of you if you're homosexual.

And I would argue that "love thy neighbor as thyself" means accepting people as they are, including their sexuality, so the Church is not even following its own moral teachings there.
posted by misha at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2011


misha, my retort was in response to Jahaza's claim that "following the moral teachings of the church requires extreme feats of will," which is quite frankly kind of far-fetched.

But to elaborate would just re-awaken an argument I'd rather not do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2011




To add something a bit more substantive to the "real Catholics" conversation than my admittedly glib comment above, I'd just point out that if you need to follow all the teachings of the Church in order to be a true Catholic, there are no Catholics in America.

Catholics support same-sex marriage, overwhelmingly practice birth control, and are as pro-choice as the rest of the country.

I know I've read somewhere-- I want to say it was Garry Wills, but I could be mistaken-- that folks who are lifelong Catholics tend to view their religion as essentially being part of a community, while folks who are converts to Catholicism tend to view it as mental assent to a series of doctrines and beliefs.

It's not a 100% thing for all people in either group, of course, and I think that oversimplifies things a bit-- you don't see conservatives calling on priests to deny communion to politicians who voted for the invasion of Iraq-- but it's worth considering. What does it mean to be a Catholic, if the majority of professed Catholics disagree with (certain of) the Church's policy positions?
posted by ibmcginty at 10:44 AM on July 14, 2011


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