1.07.2012

Naive Young Catholic People Who Believe and Practice the Church's Teachings

In the latest issue of Commonweal, the editor Paul Baumann recounts his mother's story of the period of her life when she practiced adherence to the Church's teachings about sexuality. During this time, his mother was pregnant 7 times and had 2 miscarriages. She suffered severe endometriosis and "the deliveries were not always easy". It does sound like his mother had some serious trouble with her pregnancies, and it is clear from the story that an inability to control or regulate pregnancies was a source of great suffering for her mother. This is a serious story that deserves a serious response.

The primary ethical point of his storytelling is that the Church's teaching on the impermissability of contraception is inhumane and immoral. Mr. Baumann believes his mother had no choice but to suffer through the pain and suffering of perpetual pregnancy in the absence of birth control. It is clear he thinks there are no alternatives, and that her life could not have been lived in a different way, if she wanted to remain faithful to the Church. But surely some part of him knows he is ignoring some obvious things.

First, his mother and father could have avoided getting pregnant by practicing abstinence. Abstinence is indeed possible and is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy! His father, if he was cognizant of the health issues his wife was suffering, should have acted in her defense and they could have cooperated to avoid pregnancy when it would cause serious harm. This is likely perceived by many to be yet another "inhumane" suggestion, because our culture views self-denial as something of a vice, especially with regards to sex. And if one rejects abstinence, then the Church would recommend NFP. NFP is, when used properly, effective. It's just difficult, and people don't like that either. But the suffering that comes with NFP is surely better than risking one's life for a pregnancy (a baby).

If these options are not good enough, if we are incapable of joyfully living the teachings of the Church, then I believe that the Church must not teach the truth. If the Church is wrong about human sexuality, and specifically the claim that contraception is immoral, the Church can be wrong about anything morally. And if the Church can be wrong about anything morally, then She really doesn't teach with the authority of Divine, Omniscient, and Perfect God.

Baumann says he tells the story so that young people might hear it(although if that's the case he shouldn't be writing it in Commonweal). He says: "this is an all-too-familiar story for Catholic women of a certain age, and I think it should be better known, especially among younger, more fervent Catholics whose idealism [emphasis mine] - and naivete - is pandered to by the current emphasis on the Theology of the Body." OK, duly noted, Mr. Baumann. I'd rather be naive than believe in a God who isn't perfect.

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