7 Quick Takes – Volume 22 (Hope)

Yesterday’s post on why the clergy isn’t very supportive of Humanae Vitae was a bit of a downer. Here are seven reasons why I remain hopeful.

— 1 —

Barack Obama

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Yes, Mr. Hope and Change himself gives me hope.

Why?

Because the HHS Mandate was a wake up call for a lot of Catholics. We would never have reconsidered our contraceptive use if it weren’t for conversations that arose about the mandate.

The more he antagonizes the Church, the more Catholics have to stand up and defend the faith. As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Conversely, “In the absence of martyrs, there’s a presence of thieves.” as the Jennifer Knapp song goes.)  Although bureaucratic interference is far from martyrdom, the Church has always grown through difficulty and stagnated in times of privilege.

Oh, and the HHS Mandate does include a lot of maternity care benefits. It’s not all bad.

— 2 —

Bloggers and Internet Discussion

Much of the discussion over the HHS Mandate and Church teaching has happened over the internet. Some of it good, much of it not so good.

But the important part is that people are talking. People are sharing their stories. People are arguing. Sometimes people are won over.

When we tried NFP earlier in our marriage, we were very isolated and very frustrated. We thought we were the only people who did that, except for the really Catholic mommas with the mantilla and the maxi-van full of kids. (Not that there’s anything wrong with mantillas and maxi-vans.) When we struggled with the method, we had few places to turn to understand why. When we were struggling with issues about Church teaching, we thought we were the only people who did so. We saw Church teaching as limiting our options and forcing us into a certain lifestyle.

Contrary to popular belief, the frump is strictly optional.

Frump is NOT required to use NFP.

Social media has given us access to a wider variety of people. People like us are following Church teaching. People like us are even driving maxi-vans. You can follow Church teaching without having to become someone you are not.

Through social media, we have been able to see the positive side of Church teachings. We have also been able to see that challenges and struggles are normal. It’s not just for the super devout or the extra holy, it’s something that is good for for everyone.

— 3 —

Improved Technology

Technology has made living Church teaching far easier than it had been in the past.

Gone are the days of paper charts, limited information, and the textbook-like Art of Natural Family Planning. Gone are the days of having to drive for an hour to a stranger’s house to talk about the most intimate details of your body and love life.

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Yeah, there’s an App for that.

Electronic charting means no more paper charts to worry about. Online classes via Skype mean that you can learn the method in the convenience of your home. Online research means you can learn more about the methods if you are having a problem or if you are just into that sort of thing.

Technology is also making the methods easier. The new Marquette Method uses a ClearBlueEasy fertility monitor to determine the fertile times. As technology gets better and cheaper and as interest in natural methods grow, I expect more devices to make things even easier.

Still waiting on my tricorder.

Still waiting on our fertility tricorder.

— 4 —

Increased awareness of Fertility Awareness as a woman’s health issue.

People are going green, and filling your body with artificial hormones isn’t compatible with a natural, healthy lifestyle.

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Not only are non-Catholics starting to appreciate the method, but more Catholics are talking about the women’s health benefits of fertility charting. Church teaching is not a burden placed on women by the old guys in Rome, but part of a healthy way to live.

— 5 —

People Crave Challenges and Self-Improvement

People do crave a challenge.  People like to improve themselves. That’s why more and more people run marathons.

NFP instructor Kristin Putnam asks why we don’t apply principles of self-improvement to fertility?

Getting in shape takes perseverance, sacrifice and hard work. But, everyone agrees that the end result is worth the effort. Look at marriage, a career, owning a home, staying out of debt, buying a car, and living life as responsible human being… every aspect of life requires some amount of sacrifice, self discipline and work to achieve a positive, desired end result.

So why is it, when it comes to our fertility, that we all of a sudden throw the need for effort out the window? For some, it is enough effort to try and remember to take a pill every day. The result for this effort? A false sense of security that pregnancy is no longer a concern for the duration of her prescription.

One of the benefits of charting fertility is that it gives women important data about their bodies. As Kati Bicknell of Kindara Fertility put it:

By recording your daily fertility signs a whole world of possibility opens up for you! While it’s true that fertility charting can be, and often is used to achieve or prevent pregnancy, the benefits of it don’t stop there. Fertility charting can answer important questions about our ovulation, luteal phase, cycle health, thyroid function and more.  I have friends who have finally figured out the root of several food allergies, from charting their fertility.  I myself have learned that a diet high in animal fat keeps my cycles regular. One reason I’m so excited about what we’re doing at Kindara is that as more and more women start quantifying their fertility, we’ll start to generate new knowledge about fertility for the benefit of humankind, creating a virtuous feedback loop that will help each woman feel calm and confident with her fertility in her specific situation.

For us, charting allowed K to spot that she was Vitamin D deficient, which allowed me to figure out I was too. By adding Vitamin D supplements to our diet, we were able to avoid the “winter blues” and have more energy.

It also gives couples data about their love life. How many “I”s this month? 😀

All fertility awareness based methods work based on self-awareness, self-control, and self-sacrifice. Making these a part of your relationship makes it stronger. Even non-Catholic couples often notice positive changes in their relationship when they switch from contraception (especially hormonal contraception) to a natural method. Not only is it good for women’s health, but it works to build cooperation between the spouses. Or as life an intimacy coach Kim Animi explained:

Women: Take control of your own body.

Men: Support women to take control. You can do it with them.

— 6 —

Theology of the Body

Promoting fertility awareness as a health and relationship tool is great, but there is more.

For years, Catholic teaching on sexuality was presented very negatively—”Don’t”. The teachings was presented as a series of rules and obligations and often with a very judgmental tone.

Then it became a matter of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, where nobody talked about it.

While Theology of the Body is about far more than just sexuality, it presents Catholic teaching on sexuality in the context of the human person. It’s not about a technical discussion of how God and nature designed the “parts” to “fit”, but about how sexuality fits into friendship and love.

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Catholic teaching on chastity is a new way of thinking for traditional Catholics, Protestants coming from “Purity culture”, and secular people accustomed to the sexual revolution. It’s not about saying “No”, but about saying “Yes” to deeper and more intimate relationship. It’s not about rules, but about self-discipline.

As the culture is into self-improvement, the idea that chastity can improve relationships and personal well-being will cause people to be more interested in it.

— 7 —

Pope Francis

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I love our “frank” new Pontiff.

One of his big themes is about the importance of the laity being laity. We do not all need to be Extraordinary Ministers and distribute communion like the Priests. Nor do we need to be amateur theologians, giving our own personal spin to the teachings of the Magisterium.

What we do need to do is live our lives with holiness and joy.

For lay married couples to share with lay married couples ways to make their marriage better does not require the permission of a priest. It’s something that we can all do. It’s part of our vocation, not theirs. We don’t need to wait for Father to give the Big Homily On Contraception, we can tell our friends, family, and fellow Catholics what we have. Here. Now.

And I’m starting to see this promotion on the internet through sites like iusenfp.com, livingthesacrament.com, and many other blogs and websites dedicated to helping married couples have better marriages.

Which is why I am hopeful for the future.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Losing My Religion

Confession

The last few weeks have been rather stressful for me. When I find that I am over stressed and have difficulties in my life, I find that it is usually time to go to confession. There is probably some sort of sin in my life that is holding me back. If nothing else, I could use the spiritual guidance.

So Saturday morning I went to confession in the hopes that my soul would be unburdened. My regular confessor was out of town, so we had a substitute priest.

It was totally a Reconciliation Room.

It was totally a Reconciliation Room.

What I was looking for was help in dealing with the unexpected blessing that we found out about a few weeks ago. When you’re married to someone who is somewhere between highly skeptical and outright hostile to Catholic teaching on sexuality, an unplanned pregnancy can have serious consequences in your marriage. What I was looking for was reassurance, advice, and comfort.

What I got was not-so-subtle hint to just ignore the Church.

The priest was rather incredulous that anyone would have a third child after having two, much less that anyone would ever try to follow Church teaching on the matter. He told me:

I have to be careful about what I say, but, umm, you know more about your marriage than the Church does. These teachings aren’t infallible, you know.

Then I realized that in trying to unburden my soul, I had just scandalized a priest in the confessional. I had inadvertently reassured his doubts and dissents on Church teaching.

The Blind Leading the Blind

This is not an attack on this individual priest. Given his age, he was likely formed in the wake of Vatican II. He was likely told of the dangers of the clericalism that was prevalent before the council. He was probably lectured frequently on how little he knows and how unimportant he is—a “They are the Church” formation in the “Spirit of Vatican II.” (Note: This was not to say all was rosy before Vatican II. Clericalism, moral rigor, and legalism were real problems, especially in the United States, and they led to many of the problems after the council. Put another way, when you tell people that eating meat on Friday is as bad as having an abortion, you shouldn’t be surprised when they conclude that having an abortion is no worse than eating meat on Friday.)

The "Spirit of Vatican II" could be brutal(ist). Church should have kept the Oath Against Modernism

The “Spirit of Vatican II” could be brutal(ist). Should have kept the Oath Against Modernism.

Marital issues, especially sexual issues, are always awkward in the confessional. Most priests feel very uncomfortable with the subject and for good reason. It’s not their vocation.

They have no personal experience with marriage.

They have no personal experience with parenting.

They have no personal experience with marital sexuality.

They have no personal experience with women’s health.

As a result, many priests assume that the Church knows as little about it as they do. They assume that married couples appreciate advice from a priest on the most intimate aspects of marriage as much as they appreciate parishioners giving them detailed instructions on how to say mass. They assume we don’t want guidance from the Church or that we don’t need it. They are afraid that Catholics will stop coming to Church, or more cynically, stop giving.

They see difficult and unpopular teachings like Humanae Vitae, not as being the true teaching of Church protected from error by Holy Spirit, but as yet another example of clericalism run amok. They see the encyclical not as being about marriage and sexuality, but about a raw assertion of Church authority.

They see clergy who support the teaching not as faithful Catholics, but as careerists looking for a promotion from Rome. They are suspicious of Catholics who follow the Church as being radicals. (Admittedly, not always without reason—sometimes well-meaning, but overzealous and ill-informed lay Catholics can do serious harm to couples.) Because they were taught that the Church’s teaching is based strictly on authority, they don’t see how anyone who wasn’t power hungry could support it.

Then I realized why the USCCB isn’t doing more to promote NFP and is so resistant to those who would try: Not only do most Catholics disagree with the teaching, but so do a significant number of priests and bishops.

No Surprises

None of us should be surprised at how many pastors and bishops promote NFP less-than-enthusiastically.

Nor should we be surprised when Melinda Gates sees promoting contraception worldwide as fulfilling her Catholic faith. The Ursuline nuns who educated her told her “[W]e absolutely believe that you’re living under Catholic values.

Nor should we be surprised when the product of a Catholic education from kindergarten to college tweets about how we should spend more money on family planning (contraception) for the developing world.

Nor should we be surprised when a majority of Catholics—more than the general population—believe that employers should cover contraceptives in their health plan.

Nor should we be surprised when a majority of Catholic use contraception.

Nor should we be surprised when it’s so hard to find guidance and support in living the Church’s teaching.

Yet I remain hopeful.

…to be continued.

Battle of Who Could Care Less

This week begins the USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom.

fortnight-4-freedom-logoDioceses across the country have special events to commemorate the fortnight. such as this:

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And this

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But the Fortnight for Freedom is doomed to fail.

I’m not too concerned about the HHS Mandate itself. It will likely be struck down by the Supreme Court.  Let’s just say the six Catholics and three Jews on the Court frown upon government intrusions on religious freedom. I fully expect the Administration to get bench-slapped by the Supremes.

Justice Scalia delivered the Opinion of the Court

Justice Scalia is not amused.

So why is the fortnight doomed to fail?

Because even though the bishops may win in the Supreme Court, they are losing in the court of public opinion. Badly.

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The Bishops are frequently the butt of jokes

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and portrayed as out of touch with Catholic women
Womens healthcareand shown as a bunch of political stooges.

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The bishops are being used by a cynical Administration who is quite good at playing politics and buying votes. They make an easy punching bag.

Ummm, you do realize that SOMEONE pays for that.

Ummm, you do realize that SOMEONE pays for that? Probably not.

Because the public doesn’t see the debate as one over religious freedom, but one over women’s health care

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and the bishops are losing.

But Wait! What about Natural Family Planning!

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Natural Family Planning is pretty awesome. (Even though we suck ROCK at it.) It’s a healthy, all natural alternative to artificial contraception with NO side effects.

This side effect is pretty rough on guys, too.

This side effect is pretty rough on guys, too.

It teaches women about their bodies. ALL about their bodies.

Natural Family Planning has answers for women who want to achieve pregnancy, avoid pregnancy, and safeguard their reproductive health.

Charting gave this woman an early alert to cervical cancer—and saved her life!

Charting gave this woman an early alert to cervical cancer—and saved her life!

But how do Catholics promote this alternative view of women’s health? With professional advertisement; prayer, fasting, and special masses; and lots of media attention?

Ehhh, not so much…

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Promoting NFP with Comic Sans. Always with Comic Sans.

When lay Catholic women do try to promote this “revolution in women’s health“, they get a less-than-enthusiastic response.

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The Project Chick says it best. (She’s passionate about NFP for a reason.)BTW, hormonal contraceptives nearly killed this woman. http://theprojectchick.blogspot.com/2012/04/project-recovery.html

So, while the USCCB keeps fighting battles over “freedom”, they continue to lose the war.

But the real losers are women.

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THIS is Women’s Health?

7 Quick Takes – Volume 21 (Vacation)

— 1 —

concept photo of beach with chair

#7QT from the beach! We’ve had a great time in the sand and the surf. (And taking advantage of child-free moments when we get them.) We’re headed back tomorrow.

— 2 —

While on vacation,  I met my first blogging friend in real life. We ended up going to 5:00 PM mass at Alison Griswold’s home parish. We connected on Twitter and I found out that she was there too. We met briefly after mass, and got to know each other in real life. We’re both from South Carolina (although opposite ends of the state) so we had a lot to talk about.

It was strange to meet someone in real life, especially someone I have argued with online in the past, when I spend so much effort to be anonymous. But I think for all of us bloggers there is a difference between the blogging persona and the real live person. Blogging gives you such a one dimensional perspective of someone that it’s easy to forget how much you really have in common in real life.

One of Alison’s articles convinced me to go to daily mass.  Because more is better.

— 3 —

I found this while doing a Google image search.

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Does Planned Parenthood know what causes that? Because, last I checked, it sure ain’t abstinence.

But to be fair, even abstinence has a failure rate…

Fact: 1 in 20,000,000,000 women will become pregnant while abstaining.

For some reason, I don’t think that’s what Planned Parenthood was getting at.

— 4 —

Have trouble with swearing at work? Enjoy this hilarious guide to clean language in the office. (Warning: NSFW)

— 5 —

I found this fantastic post from Carolyn Svellinger’s #7QT today.

As someone whose mother DID only have one child, I would have loved a little less adult attention. When you’re the only child you get all the attention and all the pressure.

Most importantly, you never have a sibling to blame everything on.

— 6 —

All that pressure of being an only child can just turn you into a perfectionist. Here’s a great article about how perfectionism can limit your life.

— 7 —

Recently we went to a potluck at our parish.

At the potluck, one parishioner happily stated while drinking a beer, “Being Catholic is great! We can drink beer, we can gamble, and we can have as many children as we want!”

I mentioned this to a friend who replied: “Why would anyone want to drink, gamble, or have more than two children?”

I was rather dumbfounded. I’m not sure how to respond to something like this. Ideas?

Update: Right after I posted this, Brandon Vogt randomly put up this a Chesterton quote on Twitter.

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!