Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Catholic Exchange Reverts to Form

During the debate surrounding the views of Christopher West which occurred in 2009, the popular website Catholic Exchange became “ground-zero” for a lot of the public debate. Your humble journalist played no small part in this occurring. Along with “dcs” and others, we turned this into a veritable populist revolt. Through our challenging, several people rose up to defend Christopher West from the criticism’s leveled by the likes of Dr. David Schindler, Dawn Eden, and others.

In their defenses of Christopher West, they promoted:

That was just the main articles. The comment boxes lamented the fact that I didn’t think about the sexual act during Mass, amongst other whoppers that are sadly no longer available since CE redesigned their website. These views confirmed our point. Amongst far too many commentators in the “TOB” commentariat, there were some views that were truly absurd.

Another problem they exhibited in spades was assuming the worst of intentions of their adversaries. According to Dr. Janet Smith, Dawn Eden’s thesis was some plan hatched to make her a quick buck and steal thunder from Dr. Smith’s lead role in the TOB Congress. According to another commentator (name being withheld out of a sense of decency that they never thought of showing), critics of Mr. West engaged in a deliberately deceptive campaign to con Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand, exploiting her illness and sickness, into joining the debate against Mr. West. Christopher West compares himself to Jesus Christ, and his critics are “Pharisees” and members of the religious right.

To such hyperbole and wild accusations can be added the name of Mrs. Erin Manning. When commenting on the use of NFP, she originally had a “caricature” of what she calls the “Theology of the Bawdy.” In her caricature, those who were for a far more limited practicing of Natural Family Planning essentially treated their wives as mere baby making machines and vehicles of pleasure. She swears this was originally just a caricature until reading a study, upon which she declared:

It struck me that the sort of man Deacon Kandra’s commenter describes, and the man who insists that it’s much, much easier for his wife to give birth to a dozen children than for him to have to suffer through periodic abstinence, are brothers in a way. Both are believers in the Theology of the Bawdy; that is, both think that sex within marriage is an absolute right, and that no considerations of his wife’s health and ability to care for their children on the one hand, or his wife’s immortal soul on the other, are good enough reasons for him to lay aside his own physical desires and subordinate his recurring need for sexual intimacy to a higher good. In a way, each is ready to objectify his wife instead of seeing her as a total person; the one wishes to exclude her fertility by means of a chemical or other artificial attack against it, while the other, deep down, thinks of her sufferings during pregnancy or her desperate need for space between baby number six and baby number seven as mere trivialities exaggerated by the female tendency to make a fuss about trifles.

This is a classic tactic of their school of thought. It was demonstrated when Christopher West viewed an equivalence between Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and “Puritans” who disagreed with him on one side, and John Paul II (in reality Christopher West) on the other. In this case, the hedonist who practices contraception is little different than the man who believes that children are a blessing from God, and we should be open to that blessing as much as possible, even if taken to excess.

Such is nonsense on stilts. The “Puritan” more often than not has his heart in the right place in opposing debauchery, yet lacking a solid formation; he ends up denying human nature. Likewise those who view NFP as “wrong” or are too dismissive of it have their hearts in the right place. They realize children are a blessing from God, and we should be open to that. Yet they must also remember that such gifts are to be exercised responsibly.

If there are genuine health reasons, genuine financial reasons, then yes, NFP should be practiced. Natural Family Planning can also be used in the positive way of helping to cause conception. By the understanding of fertility cycles and all that jazz, one knows precisely when the marital act has the greatest chance of leading to new life.

For the life of me, I do not know anyone who behaves as Mrs. Manning states. As a traditionalist, I am quite certain I have dealt with people who oppose NFP more than she has. Yet never once have those people (who are in error) behaved and acted as she thinks.

What is even more regrettable is that she could have gone with a positive message instead. She could have pointed out that yes; NFP requires periodic abstinence amongst those who follow it. Far from being a problem, this can be a moment for an immense grace for couples.

In today’s culture, men are taught not to deny their “ambitions” or “urges.” Blessed John Paul’s Theology of the Body teaches us that sometimes, we must do precisely this, even when we are lawfully entitled to such. “All things are lawful, but not all are expedient.”

Yet even outside of NFP, one should still have that mentality in their marriage. The condition and desires of the spouse should be put above your own, and most importantly, the condition of husband and wife as an inseperable unit of society should be considered above all else.

Just as there are those who have a skewed view of NFP on one side, there literally are those who view it “Catholic Contraception.” Any NFP class worth its salt recognizes this plain undeniable fact. And part of the purpose of those classes (and overall education on the Catholic view towards contraception) is to drive out the contraceptive mindset even from those who don’t realize they have it.

The beauty of the Churches true teachings can be given without looking to demonize those who disagree with you, even if they are mistaken.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I think the only statement in this article with which I would take exception is the following:

    "If there are genuine health reasons, genuine financial reasons, then yes, NFP should be practiced."

    We have to be cautious here. If you mean "should" in the sense of its being a really good idea, that's OK; but if you mean "should" in the sense of its being obligatory somehow, that the couple is sinning if they don't, then that is wrong. And even if it is a good idea, there might still be times when they should not use NFP -- for example, when one or both spouses is in danger of incontinence.


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