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