Rosaries and Rabbits

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After the Philippines has been blessed by the visit of the much beloved Pope Francis, the supreme pontiff left the Filipinos with so much inspiration for hope and compassion. Included in his message is the call for all Catholic parents to be responsible. The Pope reminded the Filipino Catholics not to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practice “responsible parenting”. Of course, by this, he was defending the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control as he promoted among the faithful “licit” ways of birth control that are approved by the Church such as the Natural Family Planning method. As much as I admire Pope Francis, I still think that the Church needs to change its stance when it comes to reproductive issues.

reproductive_healthPope Francis states that: “Openness to life is a condition of matrimony”. The Church in the Philippines, as represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), opposes the use of artificial contraceptives because such things diminish the probability of new life. The CBCP even claims that many of these artificial contraceptives are abortifacients. Abortifacients are drugs or devices that will cause abortion or terminate the life of the unborn. Of course, as many people are aware, the Church is strongly opposed to abortion. The Church, takes on the “Pro-Life” stance and charges any bills in support of the use of abortifacients to be unconstitutional because Philippine law says that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”.

Honestly, even if I were to set aside my personal philosophical agnosticism or colloquial atheism regarding the existence of God, I do not see the point of opposing the use of artificial contraceptives.

The Church claims to be taking the high moral ground on this because the issue of abortion is of a moral nature. While we can suspend the case for Situational Relativism (i.e. assessment of a moral act depending on the situation one is in) just to entertain the Church’s absolute stand on the immorality of killing a life (born or unborn), it seems to be missing the point that the use of artificial contraceptives is not about abortion but actually about responsible parenthood. In family planning terms it is not about terminating unwanted pregnancies, it is about preventing unwanted pregnancies. Preventing unwanted pregnancies would even render abortions useless in the first place! If one is against abortion, why would one oppose measures that would prevent it?

The problem with the Church’s disagreement on the “morality” of the use of artificial contraceptives is that it seems to be making moral judgments based on non-moral facts. It may be a “moral fact” that killing a life is wrong but there is nothing moral about the status of, say, a condom! Let us say, for argument sake, that the condom can be used as an abortifacient (I don’t see how but I’m suspending my disbelief for now), how can anyone make a moral judgment call on that information alone? The condom having the possibility of being used as an abortifacient is no more immoral than the possibility of knives being used to mortally stab another human being. Should the Church lobby to ban the production of knives too? One may even argue that religion itself has been historically (and continues to be) used to justify atrocities and immoral acts; why can’t religion be deemed unconstitutional as well based on that ground? The thing is, artificial contraceptives, just like religion, are mere tools to be used to reach a moral end. The possibility or factual cases of abuse of such tools do not discredit the tool itself.

The Church claims that “Life begins at conception”. This is a debatable claim but let us grant that claim, for argument sake. Conception is defined as the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism. In other words, this occurs when an ovum (female reproductive cell) fuses with a sperm (male reproductive cell). Since artificial contraceptives prevent the fusion of the two sexual reproductive cells, there really is no conception to begin with! Surely the Church won’t go as far as to make the claim that life begins during the production of the sperm and the ovum, right?

The Church further supports its opposition to artificial contraceptives by invoking what it believes sex is defined as. It believes that sex must be both “Unitive” (express love) and “Procreative” (open to procreation). The Church claims that:

“Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.

But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.”

Notice that the argument used by the Church stands on the assertion that the purpose of sex is procreation. But if you think about it, the assessment of the purpose of a subject is not a moral issue. What moral judgment can be validly formulated merely on the basis of the purpose of a pen and paper enabling people to write their thoughts? Moral judgments can be formulated based on the assessment of “moral values” and “factual claims”. When the Church says that the purpose of sex is procreation, this is not a moral value statement but merely a factual claim. Factual claims are either true or false and we determine the truth of factual claims through empirical investigation. Now the question is: What is the Church’s basis for their factual claim that the basic purpose of sex is procreation? Invoking what the Bible claims, just by itself, is unacceptable in a non-theocratic State.

The separation of Church and State in Article 2 Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution bars the government from embracing a “State-favored” religion. This means that the law is mandated to consider views about the purpose of sex outside the confines of the Church. This means the law is mandated to consider methods of responsible parenthood outside of Church approval. Yes, as called by Pope Francis, we should not breed like rabbits. I believe that most sensible individuals believe in this call. However, the moral status of the method taken in heeding the call is a separate matter.

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9 Comments on “Rosaries and Rabbits”

  1. Use damn condoms and contraceptives…..wann be wealthy? Wellm if you keep fucking without protection and contraceptives you’ll have a shitload of kids to take care of, and guess what… only 1 parent will likeley be able to earn the livelyhood….

    USE CONDOMS AND CONTRACEPTIVES….you wanna DIE in poverty because of your religion?!

  2. Life is Divine….this is what I believe…however, I believe in artificial contraception; family planning ; and planned parenthood.

    Do not bring into the world children that: you cannot provide for their basic needs; that you cannot develop as a responsible human being; and that you cannot give a good education.

    Otherwise, the cycle of poverty will continue in your family…

  3. ..”….promoted among the faithful “licit” ways of birth control that are approved by the Church such as the Natural Family Planning method.”
    NFP is just about the only method acceptable to the Church. Setting aside theology, there are natural arguments that could be made for NFP.

    (a) Pill accounts for 70% of the birth control (b/c) methods used worldwide, but it is known for its side effects. It also has 8.7% failure (Guttmacher data), which is higher than NFP. (The NFP in Calcutta started by Mother Teresa has zero rate failure. Unfortunately, this program is not only ignored by media, but sometimes maligned. )

    (Following are extracts from the book, Holy Sex, by Dr.Gregory Popcak is the director of the
    Pastoral Solutions Institute.)
    (b) As crazy as it sounds, condom
    use may be linked to an increase in
    depression in women. Only about 1 to 5 percent of semen is comprised of sperm. The remaining 95 percent is
    comprised of 50 different compounds,
    many of which are mood enhancers — both anti-depressants and anti-anxiety agents — as well as chemicals that facilitate the physiological process of bonding
    that occurs in lovers’ brains. These chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known
    to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood and facilitates bonding), thyrotropin-releasing
    hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent)
    and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).

    A 2010 Scientific American article summarized 10 years of research
    by evolutionary psychologists into the biochemical effects of semen in the vagina and found there is considerable evidence that women who have unprotected sex were
    less likely to become depressed than women whose partners used condoms. The bottom line for NFP practitioners is that by avoiding condoms,
    not only are they decreasing the woman’s risk of depression, they are increasing the likelihood that she will be more stress resistant than women whose partners use condoms.

    (c) Every person (male and female) has structures in the brain that are responsible for promoting bonding, that sense of connectedness between one person and another. Chemicals in semen stimulate these bonding structures in the brain, causing lovers’ brains to literally think of each other as an actual part of him or herself. For instance, if you and your partner break up, the same pain centers in
    the brain light up as if you broke your arm or some other body part. When St. Paul told Christians that sex makes two people one flesh, he was not just speaking metaphysically. In a very real way, the chemicals shared between lovers during unprotected, vaginal intercourse cause the bonding structures in the lovers’ brains to experience each other as one body.
    Of course, sex is not the only activity that triggers the bonding
    reflex between lovers. Other forms of
    physical affection produce oxytocin,
    the so-called “love hormone,” but sex appears to be an especially powerful catalyst for bonding that makes real changes in the lovers’ brains and makes it harder for each to imagine being without the other — on both a
    physiological and a conscious level.

    (d) A more well-known, non-
    religious benefit of NFP is greater health awareness for the woman. By charting fertility signs, couples are more likely to catch any developing problems early, affording prompt and
    more effective medical intervention
    when necessary. I cannot tell you the
    number of stories I have collected over the years of NFP couples catching some problem so early that doctors were amazed but thrilled to have the opportunity to treat the disorder
    (whether a hormonal issue, infection,
    cancer, or other disease) with a much greater rate of success than they would have otherwise had. NFP is not just open to life. It saves lives.

    (e) Here is an inconvenient truth:
    hormonal contraceptives are destroying the environment. More than a half dozen studies in the United
    States and Europe have identified the chemicals in hormonal contraceptives as the cause of the increasing
    incidence of Intersex Disorder in
    fish swimming near water treatment plants. Intersex Disorder results when male fish start producing eggs.
    The cause is the increased presence of human reproductive hormones in the rivers and lakes near water treatment facilities (water treatment cannot eliminate human reproductive hormones).
    The problem does not end with fish. According to a study by the British Environmental Agency, the presence of human reproductive hormones in tap water may be directly responsible for the 30 percent decrease in the sperm count among British males from 1989–2002 (Hall, 2004). It has also been theorized that the increased presence of human
    reproductive hormones in the water supply may be responsible for the earlier and earlier onset of menarche in young women.
    It’s good for all of us to understand and remember that using NFP
    isn’t just good. It really is good for you.

    That just about gives you a good idea of the book Holy Sex.

    Now, NFP is difficult to promote, and I can think of the following reasons for this:
    (1) In an age when fastfood and other instant gratification and in a hedonistic environment where sex is often looked as purely a recreational activity, NFP will always be looked at as an anti-thesis, a counter cultural proposal. The method requires a silent dedication and discipline from BOTH parties/ spouses as a starting point before it becomes a habit, a way of life. In short, it requires a certain mindset, a larger than life thinking, a very family oriented lifestyle, for it to succeed.
    (2) The multi-billion reproductive health industries see nothing in NFP that could contribute to their profit. In fact, it is bottom line buster and thus considered a major competition — reason why there is a steady flow of PR against it.
    (3) It is so far the best solution to the Catholic conundrum of promoting responsible parenthood at the same time that it has to maintain a doctine in sex that is “open to life”. The Church, thus, has been the most active institution in its promotion. As a result, religion has been attached to it, a disadvantage when anti-Catholic is the sentiment.

  4. ..” Church needs to change its stance when it comes to reproductive issues.”

    It can’t. Contraceptive is opposed to the INSEPARABILITY of the unitive and procreative aspects of HUMAN sex. If it accepts a contracepted sex act as licit, then it might as well review its thinking about other sex acts where the procreative aspect is absent as in homosexual act, masturbation, etc. It is the same reason why IVF is opposed; the unitive aspect is absent in this case. In the final analysis, what this entails is asking the Church to redefine what it believes a human being is. How can a sexual revolution that started in the 60s and is still underway, and thus with so many quantities still unknown, change an institution that has vested centuries and centuries of theological and philosophical definition of man and woman? I don’t think we can be that simple. In fact, if we are to really look at this, the question should be: “what has the sexual revolutiom contributed to society in general”?

    Okay, let us not even complicate matters. More often than not, contraceptive takes its significance because of its perceived impact on macro-economics. Let us even narrow this to our neighbors, Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong, prior to its take-over by China, said that the best population control is economic development while Singapore said that economic development can be had if family size is controlled. While this example is now not as clear cut because HKG is basically now merged with China, it should be noted that at that point when the take-over was taking place, HKG never included demographic winter as a factor in its economic projections. SNG, at the same point in time, was already factoring-in demographic winter as a possibility. Now, that they are in the middle of it, isn’t it that SNG is now experiencing cultural trouble spots they have never anticipated? So, can we simply say that SNG is a good model? Should we also try to learn something from the HKG experience?

    “Pope Francis states that: “Openness to life is a condition of matrimony”.

    Yes, because there is the argument that God (or nature) could have opted for an ASEXUAL route to propagate humans. But, the mere fact that humans have been made to participate and contribute a human act first before becoming parents must have a good reason. Should we tamper with something of nature without kooking back?

    “CBCP even claims that many of these artificial contraceptives are abortifacients.”

    Not only CBCP, but a large community of experts worldwide say so. It is on the basis that life starts at conception, i.e. with a zygote. Thus, anything that prevents a zygote from becoming a blastocyst, then a fetus, etc, is abortifacient.

    “Church is strongly opposed to abortion.”

    Of course. If the unborn is not a potential human being, but a human with potentials, then there is Commandment #5: “Thou shalt not kill” How is it that there are laws that it is considered a homicide of two when a pregnant woman is killed, and yet abortion is not murder in other laws?

    “…..set aside my personal philosophical agnosticism or colloquial atheism regarding the existence of God, I do not see the point of opposing the use of artificial contraceptives.”

    Yes, once you take out God from the equation, the position of the Church could sound stupid. Though that is not really the complete case as there are sound philosophical arguments even without the theological arguments.

    “….it seems to be missing the point that the use of artificial contraceptives is not about abortion but actually about responsible parenthood.”

    The way to hell is paved with a lot of good intentions. Unfortunately, once the contraceptive mentality sets in, its impact on society is practically irreversible. Just look at how South Korea, China, and Singapore are trying to modify, and even reverse, their earlier population control measures, and you will see that there are almost no takers of the new measures

    “Preventing unwanted pregnancies would even render abortions useless in the first place! If one is against abortion, why would one oppose measures that would prevent it?”

    Conventional wisdom says no conception, no abortion. Unfortunately, contraceptives does NOT follow conventional wisdom. Guttmacher, the research branch of Planned Parenthood, the Starbucks of the abortion industry, admits that with a rise in contraceptive use, one will see a rise in abortion. A certain Prof Kristin Luker, among others who are pro-choice, had an extensive research on this phenomenon. What they found out was that contracepting women take contraceptives for granted after one to two years. They either become careless, get tired of it, or in some cases, even get the idea that their sexual act will not get them pregnant anymore. Because of that attitude towards sex, the result is always an unwanted pregnancy. You can not talk of unwanted pregnancy with non-contracepting persons because most of the time these people get into the sex act aware of the risk. With contraception, there is a propensity to think of babies as inconveniences, and even enemies, rather than gifts. Once that is ingrained we have a contraceptive mentality. Note that 80% of abortion is accounted for by contracepting women (Guttmacher, Pew Research, etc statistics.)

    “Let us say, for argument sake, that the condom can be used as an abortifacient (I don’t see how but I’m suspending my disbelief for now), how can anyone make a moral judgment call on that information alone? ”

    Everything about this argument is superficial. It lacks the appreciation that there is in fact a profound clash of culture, a culture war, going on. Think about it, Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, a known eugenicist and a consultant of Hitler. PP is a very professional organization worldwide, a real force behind contraceptives and abortion, but you never encounter in their publications argue such superficiality.

    “The condom having the possibility of being used as an abortifacient is no more immoral than the possibility of knives…… ”

    This is showing ignorance that does not advance anything, but is rather made to muddle issues rather than help. Tsk Tsk tsk.

    “The Church claims that “Life begins at conception”. This is a debatable claim …”

    It is not a debatable claim as every embryology textbook in the last 160 years scientifically supports that life begins at conception. Among many arguments advance by American Bioethics (ABAC), one interesting fact is that within 10 to 18 hours after an egg is fertilized, the resulting cell starts emitting chemicals by itself so the mother can’t expel the same. If life is about survival, right there is a testimony of a life already trying to survive by itself.

    “Since artificial contraceptives prevent the fusion of the two sexual reproductive cells, there really is no conception to begin with! Surely the Church won’t go as far as to make the claim that life begins during the production of the sperm and the ovum, right?”

    A spin to make the Church look stupid. Beware this is underestimating things — the same as what media is doing by ignoring the #MarchForLife that is held every year just about this time during the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. But despite no media coverage, attendees have now grown to millions through the years. You have a very, very large crowd right in Washington DC, and media opts to ignore it. They do the same with the rallies in Ireland, Chile, and Geneva. They can ignore it, but it is a crowd that each year gets younger and younger. Future generations may finally get rid of the effects of the Sex Revolution that started in the 60s. They can ignore these rallies, but they can’t ignore the fact that there are only now a few hundred abortion clinics left in the US when these clinics used to number in the two thousand range at its height. At State levels too, legislations and cases are being decided in putting exemptions on this or that so that it is slowly making tax or insurance paid contraceptives via Obamacare, which is being weakened.

    PHL is always late. While a good many countries having gone and already been there and are now reversing because of undesirable side effects on society, PHL is just about to start to get there. That is the problem about trying to imitate things when the best thing is probably to learn from those who are already there and are trying to get out of there.

    “The Church claims that: “Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” …..The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.”

    What is wrong with going with nature? Can a man-made law undo a natural law? Or, are we being carried away by a revolution that has not yet manifested its full impact?

    “Notice that the argument used by the Church stands on the assertion that the purpose of sex is procreation.”

    As said, the two aspects are inseparable. You can’t discuss one without the other.

    ” But if you think about it, the assessment of the purpose of a subject is not a moral issue. What moral judgment can be validly formulated merely on the basis of the purpose of a pen and paper enabling people to write their thoughts? Moral judgments can be formulated based on the assessment of “moral values” and “factual claims”.

    BUT, shouldn’t that question rather be directed towards contraceptives — not towards the Church?

    “What is the Church’s basis for their factual claim that the basic purpose of sex is procreation?”

    You need empirical evidence for that? With whom have you been having sex that now makes you claim it is not a fact? Isn’t that why there is a contraceptive because there is something to contra?

    “Invoking what the Bible claims, just by itself, is unacceptable in a non-theocratic State.”

    If it is a natural law, bible or no bible, it is a natural law. Do we need a bible to know that sunlight is needed for photo-synthesis in plants, for example?

    “This means that the law is mandated to consider views about the purpose of sex outside the confines of the Church.”

    Again, if it is a natural law, church or no church, it is a natural law. There is no need to invoke the separation of church and state if the chuch is stating a factual claim about nature. Rather prove that sex does not have two inseparable aspects, the unitive and the procreative. If that is not a fact of nature, then the Church is wrong.

  5. >> (a) Pill accounts for 70% of the birth control (b/c) methods used worldwide, but it is known for its side effects. It also has 8.7% failure (Guttmacher data), which is higher than NFP. (The NFP in Calcutta started by Mother Teresa has zero rate failure. Unfortunately, this program is not only ignored by media, but sometimes maligned. )

    Most pharmaceuticals or medical devices have side effects. The question is about the magnitude of health risk or adverse events from such products. The next thing we have to consider is the nature of the failure itself. Is it because of the product itself or is it because of the consumer? There may be several factors to consider but I think it is up to the consumer whether he or she is willing to risk the possible side effects for the benefits.

    >>(Following are extracts from the book, Holy Sex, by Dr.Gregory Popcak is the director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute.)
    >>(b) As crazy as it sounds, condom use may be linked to an increase in depression in women. Only about 1 to 5 percent of semen is comprised of sperm. The remaining 95 percent is comprised of 50 different compounds, many of which are mood enhancers — both anti-depressants and anti-anxiety agents — as well as chemicals that facilitate the physiological process of bonding that occurs in lovers’ brains. These chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood and facilitates bonding), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent) and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).

    It only takes one sperm out of 40 million to 1.2 billion sperm cells released during ejaculation to fertilize an egg. If this is an unwanted pregnancy… I think there could be more depression to deal with (not just for the woman but for the man as well). (This response applies to the other noted arguments of the benefits of sperm.)

    >>A 2010 Scientific American article summarized 10 years of research by evolutionary psychologists into the biochemical effects of semen in the vagina and found there is considerable evidence that women who have unprotected sex were less likely to become depressed than women whose partners used condoms. The bottom line for NFP practitioners is that by avoiding condoms, not only are they decreasing the woman’s risk of depression, they are increasing the likelihood that she will be more stress resistant than women whose partners use condoms.

    Evolutionary psychologists actually studied the biochemical effects as in they actually ran validated experiments that support their conclusions? I’m sorry but I would have to suspend my belief on that one for now. I am not exactly a big fan of evolutionary psychology. If this were evolutionary biology then it would be a different story but evolutionary psychology is something I don’t quite look at too favorably. I agree with renowned evolutionary biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne when he said that:

    “When people realized that they were not at all based on science, but were really an ideological edifice, a myth about human life, that was utterly resistant to scientific refutation. By judicious manipulation, every possible observation of human behavior could be (and was) fitted into the Freudian framework. The same trick is now being perpetrated by the evolutionary psychologists. They, too, deal in their own dogmas, and not in propositions of science…. The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is “evolutionary psychology,” or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key–the only key–that can unlock our humanity… Unfortunately, evolutionary psychologists routinely confuse theory and speculation. Unlike bones, behavior does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution often involves concocting stories that sound plausible but are hard to test. Depression, for example, is seen as a trait favored by natural selection to enable us to solve our problems by withdrawing, reflecting, and hence enhancing our future reproduction. Plausible? Maybe. Scientifically testable? Absolutely not. If evolutionary biology is a soft science, then evolutionary psychology is its flabby underbelly.”

    >> (d) A more well-known, non-religious benefit of NFP is greater health awareness for the woman. By charting fertility signs, couples are more likely to catch any developing problems early, affording prompt and more effective medical intervention when necessary. I cannot tell you the number of stories I have collected over the years of NFP couples catching some problem so early that doctors were amazed but thrilled to have the opportunity to treat the disorder (whether a hormonal issue, infection, cancer, or other disease) with a much greater rate of success than they would have otherwise had. NFP is not just open to life. It saves lives.

    Ah… testimonials… circumstantial evidence. I would probably take this with a grain of salt as I don’t really give too much weigh on mere circumstantial evidence. If the argument goes that NFP would make couples catch developing problems early, we have to see if there really is direct evidence for the cause. But I’m afraid that citing testimonials does not offer direct evidence but indirect evidence (at most). There needs to be an established connection between the circumstance and the fact in issue. Just because X is identified as the cause of an event does not necessarily mean that it has been shown to be the cause. Here are a few questions… would health awareness be possible without sex? Could a person’s sense of personal responsibility be a factor in health awareness even if the person is not sexually active?

    >>(e) Here is an inconvenient truth: hormonal contraceptives are destroying the environment. More than a half dozen studies in the United States and Europe have identified the chemicals in hormonal contraceptives as the cause of the increasing incidence of Intersex Disorder in fish swimming near water treatment plants. Intersex Disorder results when male fish start producing eggs. The cause is the increased presence of human reproductive hormones in the rivers and lakes near water treatment facilities (water treatment cannot eliminate human reproductive hormones). The problem does not end with fish. According to a study by the British Environmental Agency, the presence of human reproductive hormones in tap water may be directly responsible for the 30 percent decrease in the sperm count among British males from 1989–2002 (Hall, 2004). It has also been theorized that the increased presence of human reproductive hormones in the water supply may be responsible for the earlier and earlier onset of menarche in young women.

    Interesting theories. Until I see validated studies that support the theories, I would again take these with a grain of salt. It would be nice to see validated studies (e.g. supported by Specificity, Linearity, Accuracy and Precision) for these. But granting that artificial contraceptive wastes can be detrimental to the environment (as much as pretty much any other man-made products out there), do we eliminate them altogether or should we also explore ways to effectively treat the wastes? I think exploring treatment means is very exciting.

    >>It’s good for all of us to understand and remember that using NFP isn’t just good. It really is good for you.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to NFP. The way I see it, it is a person’s choice. The way I see it, both natural and artificial means have risks and benefits. I am for informing the public about the risks and benefits of all options and let individuals themselves decide for themselves which option to go with.

    >>Now, NFP is difficult to promote, and I can think of the following reasons for this:
    (1) In an age when fastfood and other instant gratification and in a hedonistic environment where sex is often looked as purely a recreational activity, NFP will always be looked at as an anti-thesis, a counter cultural proposal. The method requires a silent dedication and discipline from BOTH parties/ spouses as a starting point before it becomes a habit, a way of life. In short, it requires a certain mindset, a larger than life thinking, a very family oriented lifestyle, for it to succeed.

    Yes, I agree. But while I agree with your ideals, the problem is… not everyone is as responsible and as intelligent as we would like them to be. Not everyone can contain natural sexual urges and yes…. “accidents” do happen. As St. Augustine once prayed: “Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet”. 🙂

    >>(2) The multi-billion reproductive health industries see nothing in NFP that could contribute to their profit. In fact, it is bottom line buster and thus considered a major competition — reason why there is a steady flow of PR against it.

    It is, afterall, a business. I do not see anything wrong with RH industries promoting their products (of course, within legal bounds). I also don’t see anything wrong with the Church promoting NFP. It would be a person’s individual choice at the end of the day.

    >>(3) It is so far the best solution to the Catholic conundrum of promoting responsible parenthood at the same time that it has to maintain a doctine in sex that is “open to life”. The Church, thus, has been the most active institution in its promotion. As a result, religion has been attached to it, a disadvantage when anti-Catholic is the sentiment.

    I think anti-Catholic sentiment is not the primary motivator for the popularity of artificial contraceptives. But like you said, it just so happens that the Catholic Church has been the most vocal critic of artificial contraceptives. I think this really boils down to individual choice. A lot of people probably are mistaken to think that the Church is trying to take away their individual choice on responsible parenthood. The way I see it, the Church is merely promoting its preferred method (NFP) and at the end of the day it would still be the individual’s choice out of his/her own free will.

    >>..” Church needs to change its stance when it comes to reproductive issues.”

    It can’t. Contraceptive is opposed to the INSEPARABILITY of the unitive and procreative aspects of HUMAN sex. If it accepts a contracepted sex act as licit, then it might as well review its thinking about other sex acts where the procreative aspect is absent as in homosexual act, masturbation, etc. It is the same reason why IVF is opposed; the unitive aspect is absent in this case. In the final analysis, what this entails is asking the Church to redefine what it believes a human being is. How can a sexual revolution that started in the 60s and is still underway, and thus with so many quantities still unknown, change an institution that has vested centuries and centuries of theological and philosophical definition of man and woman? I don’t think we can be that simple. In fact, if we are to really look at this, the question should be: “what has the sexual revolutiom contributed to society in general”?

    My question is…. why not? Why must human sex necessarily be unitive and procreative? I would even argue that to stick with the belief that sex has to be both unitive and procreative opens up more critiques on the archaic and inoperative view about God. This belief is clearly the product of its time. The early Church fathers lived in the time where our present day technological wonders could not have been imagined (e.g. IVF). If the Church continues to subscribe to the ancient belief about sex and sexuality, then the Church has to face the fact that the god it worships was (or would not be) not aware of the technological revolution that would someday affect the world.

    1. So this site has the quote function I never knew it had.

      Pray tell: how did you do that? If nothing else, it will be informative.

  6. >>Okay, let us not even complicate matters. More often than not, contraceptive takes its significance because of its perceived impact on macro-economics. Let us even narrow this to our neighbors, Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong, prior to its take-over by China, said that the best population control is economic development while Singapore said that economic development can be had if family size is controlled. While this example is now not as clear cut because HKG is basically now merged with China, it should be noted that at that point when the take-over was taking place, HKG never included demographic winter as a factor in its economic projections. SNG, at the same point in time, was already factoring-in demographic winter as a possibility. Now, that they are in the middle of it, isn’t it that SNG is now experiencing cultural trouble spots they have never anticipated? So, can we simply say that SNG is a good model? Should we also try to learn something from the HKG experience?

    You’re correct, let’s not even complicate matters. Let us grant, that one can shoot holes in the population control argument. The question is… can we afford to ignore the relationship of poverty incidence with increasing population? Pope Francis even seems to support the idea when he discouraged people from breeding like rabbits as doing so would be irresponsible. A few years ago I wrote an article that touched on overpopulation and responsible parenthood. Here is the article… http://getrealphilippines.com/2012/08/overpopulation-atheism/

    >>“Pope Francis states that: “Openness to life is a condition of matrimony”.

    >>Yes, because there is the argument that God (or nature) could have opted for an ASEXUAL route to propagate humans. But, the mere fact that humans have been made to participate and contribute a human act first before becoming parents must have a good reason. Should we tamper with something of nature without kooking back?

    If that is so then I think this may be a case of merely arguing for God’s omniscience and omnipotence. Surely an omniscient and omnipotent god would have had the only design for a specific purpose, right? Any other design that would achieve the same purpose would pose a competition or a threat to your god. The thing is, that line of reasoning is not new. History has repeatedly shown us that religious zealotry has resisted many scientific (including medical) breakthroughs because they’ve been deemed to diminish God’s power, or is an outright attack on the divine capacity to control life and the day-to-day affairs of human beings. Timothy Dwight IV, an American academic and educator, a Congregationalist minister, theologian, and author, held that the then newly introduced practice of vaccination thwarted God’s will (a relatively common belief at the time), saying: “If God had decreed from all eternity that a certain person should die of smallpox, it would be a frightful sin to avoid and annul that decree by the trick of vaccination”.

    >>“CBCP even claims that many of these artificial contraceptives are abortifacients.”

    >>Not only CBCP, but a large community of experts worldwide say so. It is on the basis that life starts at conception, i.e. with a zygote. Thus, anything that prevents a zygote from becoming a blastocyst, then a fetus, etc, is abortifacient.

    Yes, a large number of credible sources state that the starting point of human life comes when the sperm fertilizes the egg… i.e. fertilization. ( https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html ) But the artificial contraceptives prevent the egg from being fertilized (i.e. prevent the formation of the zygote). So there wouldn’t be any abortion to begin with.

    >>“Church is strongly opposed to abortion.”

    >>Of course. If the unborn is not a potential human being, but a human with potentials, then there is Commandment #5: “Thou shalt not kill” How is it that there are laws that it is considered a homicide of two when a pregnant woman is killed, and yet abortion is not murder in other laws?

    I think this argument is for a different topic. My reference to abortion in the article simply states how the Church supports its opposition to artificial contraceptives as it believes that artificial contraceptives are abortifacients. Whether abortion is morally justified or not is a different topic for a different day (perhaps a different article). 🙂

    >>“…..set aside my personal philosophical agnosticism or colloquial atheism regarding the existence of God, I do not see the point of opposing the use of artificial contraceptives.”

    >>Yes, once you take out God from the equation, the position of the Church could sound stupid. Though that is not really the complete case as there are sound philosophical arguments even without the theological arguments.

    Okay, let’s hear the philosophical arguments without the theological flavor. 🙂

    >>“….it seems to be missing the point that the use of artificial contraceptives is not about abortion but actually about responsible parenthood.”

    >>The way to hell is paved with a lot of good intentions. Unfortunately, once the contraceptive mentality sets in, its impact on society is practically irreversible. Just look at how South Korea, China, and Singapore are trying to modify, and even reverse, their earlier population control measures, and you will see that there are almost no takers of the new measures

    Can we also use the same argument for medical breakthroughs? Would the world be better off without, say, the polio or smallpox vaccines? I think consequential ethics can cut both ways.

    >>“Preventing unwanted pregnancies would even render abortions useless in the first place! If one is against abortion, why would one oppose measures that would prevent it?”

    >>Conventional wisdom says no conception, no abortion. Unfortunately, contraceptives does NOT follow conventional wisdom. Guttmacher, the research branch of Planned Parenthood, the Starbucks of the abortion industry, admits that with a rise in contraceptive use, one will see a rise in abortion. A certain Prof Kristin Luker, among others who are pro-choice, had an extensive research on this phenomenon. What they found out was that contracepting women take contraceptives for granted after one to two years. They either become careless, get tired of it, or in some cases, even get the idea that their sexual act will not get them pregnant anymore. Because of that attitude towards sex, the result is always an unwanted pregnancy. You can not talk of unwanted pregnancy with non-contracepting persons because most of the time these people get into the sex act aware of the risk. With contraception, there is a propensity to think of babies as inconveniences, and even enemies, rather than gifts. Once that is ingrained we have a contraceptive mentality. Note that 80% of abortion is accounted for by contracepting women (Guttmacher, Pew Research, etc statistics.)

    But that takes us back to what we touched on before. That this is also about an individual’s sense of personal responsibility. I think this can be likened to the lesson from the Ring of Gyges. Plato taught us that a “just” person will always try to follow an existing rule of conduct that he adheres to, a principle that he had come to live on and a standard of goodness that he had come to imbibe – that’s why he is branded as “just”. In the same token, a responsible person will always try to live his or her life responsibly. Although there may be times when the person may fail or get unwanted outcomes but nevertheless his or her nature will always strive for personal responsibility. I would argue that with or without artificial contraceptives, a person can live a responsible life.

    >>“Let us say, for argument sake, that the condom can be used as an abortifacient (I don’t see how but I’m suspending my disbelief for now), how can anyone make a moral judgment call on that information alone? ”

    >>Everything about this argument is superficial. It lacks the appreciation that there is in fact a profound clash of culture, a culture war, going on. Think about it, Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, a known eugenicist and a consultant of Hitler. PP is a very professional organization worldwide, a real force behind contraceptives and abortion, but you never encounter in their publications argue such superficiality.

    I wasn’t even thinking about PP when I wrote the article. It was merely to point out how one can make a moral judgment based on a factual claim alone.

    >>“The condom having the possibility of being used as an abortifacient is no more immoral than the possibility of knives…… ”

    >>This is showing ignorance that does not advance anything, but is rather made to muddle issues rather than help. Tsk Tsk tsk.

    I’m sorry, Add, but I don’t think I appreciate your tone there. I think if there is anyone who is trying to muddle the issue, it is you. The point is simply a question of how one can make a moral judgment merely on a factual claim alone. If the condom is an abortifacient, then why is it any more evil than a knife that can also be used to kill another person? Don’t you see? The knife, much like the condom, can be used to achieve an end (e.g. to kill another life). These are merely tools and they are not by themselves good or evil.

    >>“The Church claims that “Life begins at conception”. This is a debatable claim …”

    >>It is not a debatable claim as every embryology textbook in the last 160 years scientifically supports that life begins at conception. Among many arguments advance by American Bioethics (ABAC), one interesting fact is that within 10 to 18 hours after an egg is fertilized, the resulting cell starts emitting chemicals by itself so the mother can’t expel the same. If life is about survival, right there is a testimony of a life already trying to survive by itself.

    Okay, let’s grant that life indeed begins at conception. But can’t you see the reason why people use artificial contraceptives is not to kill a life but to prevent that life from starting? To prevent it so as to eliminate the need to kill (or abort) it or to prevent having a child that cannot be supported?

    >>“Since artificial contraceptives prevent the fusion of the two sexual reproductive cells, there really is no conception to begin with! Surely the Church won’t go as far as to make the claim that life begins during the production of the sperm and the ovum, right?”

    >>A spin to make the Church look stupid. Beware this is underestimating things — the same as what media is doing by ignoring the #MarchForLife that is held every year just about this time during the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. But despite no media coverage, attendees have now grown to millions through the years. You have a very, very large crowd right in Washington DC, and media opts to ignore it. They do the same with the rallies in Ireland, Chile, and Geneva. They can ignore it, but it is a crowd that each year gets younger and younger. Future generations may finally get rid of the effects of the Sex Revolution that started in the 60s. They can ignore these rallies, but they can’t ignore the fact that there are only now a few hundred abortion clinics left in the US when these clinics used to number in the two thousand range at its height. At State levels too, legislations and cases are being decided in putting exemptions on this or that so that it is slowly making tax or insurance paid contraceptives via Obamacare, which is being weakened.

    I don’t even want to delve into conspiracy theories on why the media is ignoring the voice of the pro-life folks. That’s pretty much just a side show for me. Personally, I think the answer to your question can be attributed simply to mainstream media’s liberal bias… but that’s another story for another day. The more relevant point in this article is why artificial contraceptives are deemed as abortifacients if there is no conception (or fertilization) that happened due to the products to begin with? How can the use of an artificial contraceptive be considered abortion if there was no life aborted? That’s plain and simple and it shouldn’t take a discussion of media bias or Obamacare to appreciate the question.

  7. >>PHL is always late. While a good many countries having gone and already been there and are now reversing because of undesirable side effects on society, PHL is just about to start to get there. That is the problem about trying to imitate things when the best thing is probably to learn from those who are already there and are trying to get out of there.

    That’s correct. It is best to learn from those who have already gone through the process. But we also have to be mindful of uniqueness. Just because another country achieved outcome X does not mean we would have the same outcome. All factors, risks, and benefits need to be studies and considered.

    >>“The Church claims that: “Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” …..The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.”

    >>What is wrong with going with nature? Can a man-made law undo a natural law? Or, are we being carried away by a revolution that has not yet manifested its full impact?

    There’s nothing wrong with nature and I never suggested that there was something wrong with it. But to merely stick with “going with nature”, as I mentioned before, is merely arguing for God’s omniscience and omnipotence. It is basically arguing that going outside of God’s design will diminish God’s power, or is an outright attack on the divine capacity to control life and the day-to-day affairs of human beings. Is your god so insecure of himself that he would be offended if people would choose to go with another design?

    >>“Notice that the argument used by the Church stands on the assertion that the purpose of sex is procreation.”

    >>As said, the two aspects are inseparable. You can’t discuss one without the other.

    Of course you can! Even biblically speaking one can discuss sex without the necessity for procreation. In the Song of Solomon you have a married man and woman enjoying sex but in no place there do you find procreation being discussed. In there, sex is shown to be an expression of outpouring of affection and attraction to one’s spouse. The Song of Solomon teaches that sex gives married couples great pleasure. Outside of the bible and religion, the purpose of sex also has been accounted to stress relief, strengthening group cohesion, social currency, and simply for pleasure.

    >>” But if you think about it, the assessment of the purpose of a subject is not a moral issue. What moral judgment can be validly formulated merely on the basis of the purpose of a pen and paper enabling people to write their thoughts? Moral judgments can be formulated based on the assessment of “moral values” and “factual claims”.

    >>BUT, shouldn’t that question rather be directed towards contraceptives — not towards the Church?

    It is the Church that is making a moral judgment on the use of artificial contraceptives. If the Church says that the use of artificial contraceptives is morally wrong because it goes against the purpose of sex, then again…. how can it make the jump for a moral judgment based on a factual basis of purpose? If the purpose of having a pen and a paper is for people to be able to write down their thoughts, what is so moral or immoral about writing one’s thoughts or even the pen or paper itself? If the purpose of sex is procreation, then why would the use of artificial contraceptives be immoral just on the basis of sex’s purpose alone? The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

    >>“What is the Church’s basis for their factual claim that the basic purpose of sex is procreation?”

    >>You need empirical evidence for that? With whom have you been having sex that now makes you claim it is not a fact? Isn’t that why there is a contraceptive because there is something to contra?

    When did I say that procreation is not a factor in sex? My argument is, procreation is NOT THE ONLY purpose of sex! So now go ahead… please show empirical evidence that prove that the only purpose of sex is procreation. Do you or the Church have empirical and independently verifiable evidence to support the claim that THE purpose of sex is only procreation?

    >>“Invoking what the Bible claims, just by itself, is unacceptable in a non-theocratic State.”

    >>If it is a natural law, bible or no bible, it is a natural law. Do we need a bible to know that sunlight is needed for photo-synthesis in plants, for example?

    Then do we need to stop with sciences and medical breakthroughs that interfere with the “nature of things?” We do not need a bible to know that sunlight is needed for photosynthesis in plants. In the same token, we don’t need to rely on prayers to cure diseases. We deal with viruses, bacteria, leukemia, tumors not through appealing to an almighty God but with drugs, chemotherapy and surgery.

    >>“This means that the law is mandated to consider views about the purpose of sex outside the confines of the Church.”

    >>Again, if it is a natural law, church or no church, it is a natural law. There is no need to invoke the separation of church and state if the chuch is stating a factual claim about nature. Rather prove that sex does not have two inseparable aspects, the unitive and the procreative. If that is not a fact of nature, then the Church is wrong.

    And as I argued, stating a factual claim is not enough to jump to a moral judgment. As mentioned before, biblically and non-biblically speaking…. the unitive and procreative purposes/aspects of sex can be discussed separately.

    Good debate, Add. Thanks for giving my article your time.

    Cheers!

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