Author: Jana Bennett

Ooooo- an NFP Post, Part II

Apologies for the blog silence – I did hope to post Part II yesterday, but Part II ended up being too long (as you might imagine). So this post only deals with one ‘point of collusion’ as I mentioned in Part I and is one of many potential future installments on my thoughts on possible points of collusion in the ABC (artificial birth control) and NFP (natural family planning) debate. (See the first post if you haven’t already.) Real Lives – Unrealistic Sex One of the points Bethany Patchin and others who jumped into this discussion is that NFP doesn’t seem very realistic. For example, Patchin says in the New York Times column: 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. This is one of the often-made arguments against the idea of contraception, which is that it just isn’t realistic because it just isn’t where real peoples’ lives are. This argument is made in a number of ways: 1. NFP isn’t “realistic” for peoples’ sex lives especially because...

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Oooo – an NFP Post… Part I

Or maybe not – at least, not in the way people might expect… I’m sure some readers have noticed a distinct, and perhaps surprising, lack of discussion about Catholic teachings against artificial contraception since this blog began. Surprising because I suspect that for many moral theologians, contraception and particularly taking a stance on the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae that discusses the church’s teachings, has been one of the central questions in moral theology since 1968 (when Humanae Vitae was promulgated). 1968 was the year when moral theology became theologians versus the magisterium, for many. That sense was only heightened in 1993 with the release of Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”), when Pope John Paul II took very definite stances against some strands of moral theology that arose in North America and Europe. Some of those strands of theology arose, in part, because of efforts to reason about acceptable uses of contraception. Like the abortion debate in the US, any debate about contraception has reached an impasse. The chief difference to abortion is that, as many opponents of the church’s teachings point out, at least 96% of Catholics, or more, use artificial contraception, which puts NFP use in a tiny minority. Effectively, this means that any moral theologian who speaks positively about NFP is likely to get some form of incredulity, except in a few small arenas where NFP...

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“A Narrative of Heroism…”

Can you teach people to be heroic – or at least to have courage? This story is so very, very interesting, and all the more so because the guy who wants to teach heroism is the same guy who did “those experiments” at Stanford, replicating prison abuse. One of the big tenets of Catholic moral theology, in fact, is that people can change, for the worse as well as for the better. I don’t think most people in North America actually believe that, in part because the dominant narratives in psychology and genetics suggest that people are hard wired to be who they are. Rather depressing picture of humanity, really. So it’s nice to see a psychology professor take on a different kind of challenge – to see if people can learn to be heroes. The one question I have is whether heroism – or let’s use the virtue form of the word, courage – can be taught in classrooms in the way Zimbardo suggests. Maybe partly. But then I think back to my Sunday School classes (to say nothing of ethics courses) and remember all the talk about what to do, when to do it. The answers seemed obvious then, but way less obvious on the ground. So there’s also got to be a lot of practical reasoning involved. Part of Zimbardo’s method is to get students to...

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Diplomacy, Vatican Style

I’m liking what the Catholic News Service is dishing out today regarding the Vatican’s diplomatic corps: If the outside world imagines Vatican diplomacy as Machiavellian realpolitik, the pope sees it differently. The qualities of a good diplomat, he said, are not cunning and craftiness, but honesty, consistency and respect for others. I think they’ve got it right – many people do imagine Vatican intrigues in a kind of Machiavellian style. So it’s heartening to hear about doing diplomacy “gospel-style”, though I’m sure that doesn’t go over well where separation of church and state are paramount. I’m reminded of last year’s papal visit to the UK. I got an earful from a British friend who didn’t think the state ought to be paying for what was a “religious” visit. But the pope has the (weird, in this day and age, assuredly) position of being both Peter’s successor AND a head of state. Why not accord the same courtesies as might be extended to other state heads? One of the things the Catholic Church gets to do in this day and age is raise legitimate questions for us all about whether, and to what extent, a separation of “religion” and politics is really...

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The Practice of Wearing Clothes

The Guardian yesterday had an article about dress codes in Iran. In the summer, it seems, women seek cooler clothing than their hijab permits, and men gravitate toward shorts. All of these are banned clothing, which has led Iran to send out 70,000 police to enforce the laws. Of particular interest is the reason: to “combat ‘western cultural invasion.'” I have heard people dismiss this claim out of hand, but I think the charge of “western cultural invasion” is not that far off. When the US went to Afghanistan, some of the rhetoric was about saving those poor women from having to wear head garb. Of course, some Afghani women were quite glad about this. Others were mystified: why should Western clothing set the standard? The questions are ones that feminist scholars have often raised. I highly recommend Susan Moller Okin’s “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” and the related essays in the book of the same title as a way of getting at the vast array of questions and issues here. Catholic teaching, of course, supports the full rights and dignity of the person, because each person has been created by God: “Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God,...

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