Control

I’ve noticed that apparently a number of people find my blog because of my birth control saga experience and the IUD information (ParaGard and Mirena) I’ve posted. This is surprising to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my relatively recent arrival in the realm of the contraceptively controlled.

First of all: I am not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree and don’t ever plan on having one. I leave that stuff up to the people who are OK pulling all-nighters and living on caffeine and cigarettes for ten years. The thing is, even they don’t know how exactly IUDs (or IUCs- specifically the ParaGard) work. They may work by making the uterus “inhospitable”. They may work by preventing the little swimmer-guys from reaching l’oeuf. They may work in a number of different ways, but they all add up to a fairly safe, hormone-free, reversible contraceptive device. Do I sound like an ad for ParaGard? Here’s the site- knock yourself out. We chose it for a number of reasons:
1. I had already had a baby and was (am) in a committed, monogamous relationship.

2. We wanted something long-term (like, at least five years).

3. We didn’t want to mess with my body chemistry (hormones), and my cycles were normal (i.e., no need for Mirena).

4. We wanted something with a proven, long-term track record.

5. We wanted something that I could take out and immediately get pregnant again (unlike the pill or hormonal methods like NuvaRing).

Now, many people arrive at this blog wanting to know if IUDs are moral. This is also interesting to me, since most of those who search for “ParaGard moral” or “IUD moral” aren’t specifying what faith they are using as the basis for making a moral judgment. In other words, if you ask me, “is getting an IUD morally right?”, you have to tell me whose eyes you’re looking through. I come from a faith tradition which allows families to choose whatever they (prayerfully) think is best for their situation. So, from a Reformed Evangelical (Protestant) perspective, it is left to the work of the Spirit to speak to the couple and help them make a decision. It has to be said, though, that even within Evangelical circles, there are some who are beginning to take the Catholic view on contraception.

SO…if you see the world through Catholic eyes, (and desire to be faithful to the teachings of the Church- there’s the clincher), then you probably know already that any kind of man-made contraception is considered to be messing with the divinely-ordained cultural mandate, i.e., the “be fruitful and multiply” command from Genesis. Catholics believe they should trust God to provide for whatever children he may send to the couple, and thus, unless there is some dire necessity, couples do not engage in contraception of any kind (which is why you have all the “Catholics have 18 kids” jokes). You have sex to have babies, period. If you want to read the original Catholic church document called Humanae Vitae that “put this in writing”, it’s here. If you’re not the theologian-type, and prefer a fairly concise rendering of the question, try the Wiki entry on it. The church advocates something called Natural Family Planning, which is a method using signs from the woman’s cycle and abstinence, but again, only in situations of having a “just reason” for “delaying a pregnancy”. Here’s the info on this method.

Other traditions? If you’re Muslim, there’s no specific forbidding of contraception, according to this site, as well as this one. So ParaGard is ok. If you’re Jewish, all forms are OK, unless you’re Orthodox, in which case you do the Catholic thing and let whatever happens, happen. Atheist? Basically you take into account what’s important to you (population control? scarce resources? global warming? your sanity?) and make a decision- the “whatever works for your situation” idea. So again, an IUD is perfectly fine, assuming, of course, that you meet the requirements, which are on the ParaGard site.

PLEASE note: I’m not getting into a theological discussion here of which perspective is better, or which one is Biblical, or right, or correct. I leave that to the apologetics blogs, and if you’re into that, you can go argue your life away on one of those. Obviously I have chosen the one I think is best, but you could come to a very different decision, even using the same factors.

I wish you the best in making your decision. The very fact that you have found this blog is evidence that you’re researching the options, so congrats. Thinking=good.

Cheers!

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14 Responses to Control

  1. Robert says:

    Hello,

    I’ve been browsing your blog a little bit. I will certainly refrain from arguing from Scripture regarding contraception, not only because it is your wish that I not do so, but also because I think you have some prior misconceptions about the Catholic faith’s teaching on contraception. I would like to do my best to clear them up.

    You said in your post, “You have sex to have babies, period.”

    But I worry that you are missing the fullness of the Catholic teaching which emphasizes both the unitive and and procreative aspects of sexual union. So one ought not to have sex to have babies, period. Indeed, a baby need not be directly intended at all for any given act of sexual intercourse. And indeed, the unitive aspects of sexual intercourse demand that one cannot have sex with the intention of reproduction to the exclusion of all other things- for instance, because one loves one’s spouse.

    Surely it is licit to have sex in order to have a baby, but it’s also licit to have sex in order to express the love of one’s spouse (without intending to have a baby, even). What the Catholic Church considers illicit is intrinsically severing the bond between the procreative and unitive aspects (and since it goes both ways, I imagine it would also be just as wrong to deny the unitive aspect as it would be to deny the procreative aspect– only that is not the spirit of our times).

    God bless,
    Rob

  2. evenshine says:

    Rob,
    Thanks for your insightful comment. Thank you for respecting my wishes on the blog- this is NOT an apologetic site by any stretch of the imagination, only a place to ruminate.
    I agree that I may have “missed the fullness of Catholic teaching” on the issue, but it was not my intention (nor is it in my ability) to post from a Catholic point of view. Humanae Vitae is a beautiful document (unlike many, I am quite the fan). However, it makes clear that the procreative aspect may not be disconnected from the unitive…i.e., you have sex to have babies.
    I am not sure how you can balance this:
    “it’s also licit to have sex in order to express the love of one’s spouse (without intending to have a baby, even)”
    with this (from H.V.):
    “If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”
    Unless by “without intending” you mean “whatever happens, happens”- in which case, my post is accurate.
    Either way, thanks for commenting, and for bringing a Catholic voice to the post.

  3. Robert says:

    Evenshine,

    “Thank you for respecting my wishes on the blog- this is NOT an apologetic site by any stretch of the imagination, only a place to ruminate”

    Absolutely! When in someone else’s house, you ought to play by their rules, including leaving your dirty shoes on the mat and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ 😉

    “I agree that I may have “missed the fullness of Catholic teaching” on the issue, but it was not my intention (nor is it in my ability) to post from a Catholic point of view”

    Indeed. I could hardly expect you to do so.

    “I am not sure how you can balance this:… with this (from H.V.):”

    Well, let me offer you some examples for consideration. What is the Catholic position on NFP, for instance? As you may well know, it is completely moral for a couple, knowing that the wife is infertile at that time due to her natural cycle, to choose to have sexual intercourse at that time rather than at the time when she is fertile, because they do not at that point wish to have a child.

    But as you know, the Church also teaches that the unitive and procreative aspects cannot be separated. So, giving the Church at least at first a fair shot– the principle of charitable interpretation– we must conclude that the Church thinks that these two things can be in harmony.

    What I say is this. In the paragraph just before your quote the Pope says,

    “the reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman.”

    See how it is based on fundamental laws “written into the actual nature of man and of woman?”

    So we have to read the next part in harmony with that quote. Now, the laws written into the actual nature of man and women are how men and women are created– their nature.

    Your quote says, “If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life.”

    If it impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator “through specific laws” has built it, then it contradicts the will of the Author of life. And so the problem is not merely not wanting to have a child when engaging in sexual intercourse. Indeed, one can *not want to conceive* and licitly have sexual intercourse. Rather, the problem is in frustrating those “specific laws” which are “written into the actual nature of man and woman.” In other words, frustrating those laws by artificial contraception. It’s about frustrating the process of human nature, which is why NFP is allowed (it doesn’t block the human reproductive system, or change it, it merely has more specific knowledge about it), and artificial contraception is not (for it frustrates human nature by tampering in an illicit way with human nature).

    That’s why I emphasized severing the intrinsic connection between the procreative and unitive parts is wrong. For even in an infertile couple the intrinsic connection is still there.

    Does this help you to understand?

    You’re welcome for the comment, and thanks for your irenic response. God bless.

    -Rob

  4. evenshine says:

    Thanks, Rob, I think you have further clarified the teaching- namely, that the two aspects cannot and should not be divorced from each other. The Catholic couple must be open to the possibility of pregnancy with each sexual encounter- can we agree on that?
    I would argue (if I were an arguin’ kinda gal), that, by the Pope’s definition and the example you yourself gave, the willful sexual encounter when the woman is infertile is just as much “impairing the capacity to transmit life” which HV forbids, as is man-made contraception.

  5. Robert says:

    Evenshine,

    Thanks. In your last paragraph in your comment you talked about the– ‘“impairing the capacity to transmit life” which HV forbids,’. Now, I’ve interpreted this to mean frustrating the specific laws of human nature, particularly by messing with or altering fertility (e.g., by device or drug). Now, if my interpretation is correct, then I do not see the grounds for contradiction, for the Pope is condemning frustrating the specific laws of human nature by artificial devices, and NFP does not violate or alter the ‘specific laws’ which are ‘written into the actual nature of man and woman.’ Indeed, NFP doesn’t alter the woman at all.

    This is the most difficult part of HV and Catholic teaching to understand. Indeed, for those who disagree with it this is probably the number one thing to respond with, namely by saying that the Catholic teaching contradicts itself here. While I obviously disagree, I hope I’ve helped to clarify why it doesn’t contradict itself by specifying what in particular is forbidden and how methods like NFP do not operate by doing what is forbidden.

    That being said, lest I argue forever (and I have a bad habit of doing this) I will take this and your last comment as my chance to gracefully stop posting in this thread before I am kicked out. 🙂

    God bless you.

    -Rob

  6. evenshine says:

    I’m all for civilized conversation, Rob, and you have brought that in abundance. I had not, as I mentioned in the original post, intended this to be a theological debate (I don’t think I mentioned Scripture- a point where we would perhaps be in agreement on this topic).

    Several things, and then, if you’d like to continue, we can perhaps move the discussion to “your place”? (And I mean that in the least flirtatious way possible 😉 )

    1. You hit the nail on the head when you mention “my interpretation”. In this sense, and in the absence of an ex-cathedra pronouncement, WE are forced to interpret the encyclical- thus, by logic, your position is not any more or less defensible than mine.

    2. It seems we’re dealing with semantics. You say tomato, etc. We “frustrate the laws of human nature” on a daily basis- by denying our baser instincts, by being kind, by shaving our legs….

    3. Can we stop, at least on my own blog, from pronouncing me ignorant (i.e. the “you just haven’t studied enough” tactic)? I don’t believe it’s true of me, and it certainly is beneath you.

    I have tried to present this information in the least combative way possible, for people who are looking for answers from a lay standpoint. Thank you for clarifying the Catholic position from your point of view. I welcome further conversation…perhaps at your place?

    Thanks.

  7. Robert says:

    Mea culpa, evenshine. With regard to #3. I am sorry. I did not mean to do that. Again, I am sorry.

    God bless.

    -Rob

  8. Kim says:

    I never really understood Gods plan for love, sex and marriage until I read “Life-Giving Love” by Kimberly Hahn. My evangelical friends loved it, too! My only regret is that I didn’t read it and understand years ago.

    God bless
    Kim (a different Kim, not to be confused with the author of the book)

  9. evenshine says:

    Rob- No prob. Looking forward to the continued interaction.

    Kim- thanks, I’ll check it out.

    Best,

    E

  10. Evenshine, have you had a chance to listen to the Janet Smith recording on Humae Vitae? It is available online and worth listening to… Even just to gain some insight into the Catholic teaching on this matter. Google: “Janet Smith Humanae Vitae” and you will find a link to the 70 minute talk… Email me if you are interested but can’t find it… I know I have posted the link at TBC.

    Keep me in your prayers,
    Simple

  11. For your other traditions list, I’d add that Hindus (based on what I know thus far) also generally have no problem with contraception.

    I enjoyed reading the discussion above.

    Thanks for the informative and interesting post.

  12. For your other traditions list, I’d add that Hindus (based on what I know thus far) also generally have no problem with contraception.

    Truly some likely don’t. They are across the board on a good number of issues, and there is no spokes-person or ruling body for Hinduism. Finding gurus that still approve of widow-burning, sex selective abortions, infanticide, or incite violence against converts or those that cross the caste system lines (I make no apologies for it, I believe the caste system is an evil system)… Well those can all be found in modern Hinduism still.

  13. minnesotameetskarnataka says:

    True, there is no spokes-person or ruling body for Hinduism.

    Most Hindus abhor all those things you’ve mentioned–widow burning, sex selective abortions, infanticide, violence against converts, and violence towards those that cross caste lines.

    Many do have problems with the caste system also. The Lingayat branch of Hinduism (to which my husband and his family belongs) believes in equality.

  14. Sharon says:

    I just wanted to correct one comment you made. Orthodox Jews DO allow for contraception as long as it doesn’t involve “spilling” a man’s seed. Condoms are not allowed for this reason but spermicides, IUDS, and the pill are (since the man’s sperm does actually enter the woman’s body). Many Orthodox couples use birth control and its use is very mainstream and accepted in the Orthodox community.

    Thanks for your info about the Paragard. I am a Jewish Orthodox woman looking into long-term birth control and your article was helpful.

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