Contraception discussion w/ Protestant pastor friend


#1

I had the opportunity to discuss contraception (and other things Catholic) while having dinner with a Methodist pastor friend of mine. He is among the most conservative part of his denomination, btw.

Contraception came up and I pointed out that all christians opposed contraception before 1930’s - including his denomination.
I emphasized that those closest to the gospels in time (the fathers) taught against it. He countered that these same people taught against doing anything to limit the number of children - including abstaining.

I am aware that he is correct about that. I know that the number of quotes from the fathers opposing contraception would outweigh the number that could be found condemning abstaining, too… but there are enough quotes of the latter that he does have a point.

At that point I realized I had (at least temporarily) lost on this issue. I realized that my argument was based on the teachings of the fathers and that now my argument would have to depend on resorting to a subjective weighting of the number of teachings condeming contraception generally vs. the number condemning abstaining as well. How many quotes of the fathers teaching something does it take to make the point that the Church historically taught such-and-such? You get the idea.

BTW, I also know that the sheer number of quotes condemning contraception are very, very few vs. the number condemning other forms of mortal sin… this too makes it difficult to use the historicity angle in the argument.

Natural law won’t work at all with this guy but history might.

For myself, I only believe that contraception is wrong just because the Church today says so - period. The lack of historical support in the ancient church seems odd. The natural law argument seems weak because the Church does not condemn other things that seem to be violations of natural law such as fat and sugar substitutes which enable gluttonous people to continue eating more than they should and not suffer the consequences.


#2

Look at the rates of unwanted pregnancies and out of wedlock births over the last 40 years. That should tell him something about the effects of contraception.

The use of contraception is a private act that has public results including abortion, promiscuity, divorce, negative population growth, etc.

Removing the true purpose of the sex act renders it false and gives the impression that pleasure is more important than it really is. Sex becomes something that is used for pleasure only which is a misuse of our bodies.

Read Humanae Vitae as well as “Contraception: Why Not?” by Dr. Janet Smith. catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

Keep in mind that you did not “lose”. Some people will never see the evil of contraception. Although it may not seem so now, you won the argument. You kept your soul.


#3

I disagree, and I would not concede this point to him. St Paul himself says that it is acceptable that couples abstain-- with mutual consent-- for a time, and spend that time in prayer. The OT concurs when it says there is a time to embrace and to refrain from embracing. Keep in mind too that God gave natural child spacing through ecological breast feeding. Women had natural periods of infertility even before the modern NFP techniques were developed. There is nothing in the teaching of the Church back to the Fathers that it is immoral to abstain from relations periodically, the only teachings are against contracepting.

Which just shows how universally absurd contraception was seen to be-- just as you don’t have tons of quotes condemning abortions… because DUH it’s obviously wrong. That is where Christians were with contraception at that point in time too. It is only when contraception has been put forth as a moral good do we see quotes coming out AGAINST it. Same with abortion, euthanasia, etc.

Why not… many of the quotes from Protestant theologians dealing with the subject use a Natural Law argument, see The Bible and Birth Control by Charles Provan.

Well, while sufficient, that seems quite an impoverished approach.

Does the lack of quotes about abortion, infanticide, and other morally abhorent acts trouble you? It shouldn’t. The pagans were doing all of these things, there is scant mention in the Church documents, but they are there-- in the Bible, in the Didache, etc. First century, second century. The affirmative teaching that does exist, and the lack of ANY teaching to the contrary, are sufficient.

Certainly it is mentioned, but it was also taught as a WAY OF LIFE-- ie, Christians don’t kill their babies, either before or after birth-- and we go one step further and rescue infants that have been exposed. No need to have a whole bunch of writings condemning these things-- they were taught and lived by example. There is enough reference down through the ages, including homilies, that it is clear that Church teaching has been consistent. The development of doctrine in this area has come to fruition in our own time when the very fabric of morality and family is under attack. The family was not under attack in ages past. So, it makes sense to see a lot more writings on it since the “birth control” movement began in the late 1800s with Sanger and her ilk.

This analogy does not make sense to me. The Church does not teach contraception is wrong because it is “artificial”-- which seems to be your premise here. Food is a morally neutral thing. Gluttony is the sin, it doesn’t matter what one is eating if one is eating to the point of gluttony.


#4

Natural law won’t work at all with this guy but history might.

Response:
Many people are not persuaded by the natural law argument anymore. That is why the Church has used a different method, which is a personalistic approach (Humane Vitae, JPII). Paul VI and JPII (especially theology of the body) have strengthened the arguments behind it, making it both philosophically and theologically strong.


#5

The Natural Law argument is certainly as valid today as it was in the days of St. Thomas Aquinas and earlier, but i too have noticed that people today tend to see it as “cold” and impersonal. I have been studying up on the Theology of the Body in order to stay in touch with the way modern people think, though Natural Law is still my personal favorite (which probably says more about me than i’d care to admit:o ).
And there is probably no stroner historical witness to the Church’s truth on contraception than that Her arguments against it keep getting better and better!!:smiley: Despite almost every other form of Christianity going with the flow, this is just a “doctrine that won’t die.”


#6

[quote=condan]Look at the rates of unwanted pregnancies and out of wedlock births over the last 40 years. That should tell him something about the effects of contraception.

The use of contraception is a private act that has public results including abortion, promiscuity, divorce, negative population growth, etc.

Removing the true purpose of the sex act renders it false and gives the impression that pleasure is more important than it really is. Sex becomes something that is used for pleasure only which is a misuse of our bodies.

Read Humanae Vitae as well as “Contraception: Why Not?” by Dr. Janet Smith. catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

Keep in mind that you did not “lose”. Some people will never see the evil of contraception. Although it may not seem so now, you won the argument. You kept your soul.
[/quote]

So lets see if I get this correct. Taking measures to not have babies makes people get pregnant and then to abort those children?

What you have proposed by your arguement is a false conclusion.

Obviously unwed pregnancies and abortions result from conceptions. To suggest that contraception is the cause is a stretch. That would be like saying that the church encourages abortions by encouraging sex without contraception.

The real issue about contraception is about sex and whether the moral and physical arguements regarding sex outside of procreation have kept pace with changes in the lives of people.

We know it is not “seed” that is spilled, we know that the world likely will not end tomorrow as Paul postulated, and more importantly , outside of the undeveloped countries, people can have a sex life that exceeds the total life expectancy of the peoples of the bible by 40+ years.

What is critical is that the concept of treating a sexual partner be done in a manner that is congruent with how Jesus taught us to treat everyone. If we start with respect as the baseline, then things will only get better and more Christlike as we move up the spectrum of relationships.

While the writings of JP2 have expounded on the profoundness of the married sexual relationship, the church’s long held views on sex itself are generally perceived as being so negative and out of touch with reality, that people never get to the point of listening to the church on the beauty that can be found in a sexually healthy relationship.

When you try to teach somebody something, you must start with the core concepts. Starting with saying sex outside of procreation is bad, may start things off on the wrong foot. And while it may seem to make sense that people will not ignore everything that follows saying sex outside of procreation is bad, if people do not believe that sex is only for procreation hear that from the church, they are more likely to question the rest of the church’s story.

Peace


#7

[quote=1ke]…There is nothing in the teaching of the Church back to the Fathers that it is immoral to abstain from relations periodically, the only teachings are against contracepting.
[/quote]

I can’t put my hands on them this minute, but I have seen the quotes from church fathers saying that abstaining in order to limit family size is wrong. I’ve seen these myself. I can’t say how many such quotes there were, but I know I’ve seen at least some.

Which just shows how universally absurd contraception was seen to be-- just as you don’t have tons of quotes condemning abortions… because DUH it’s obviously wrong. That is where Christians were with contraception at that point in time too. It is only when contraception has been put forth as a moral good do we see quotes coming out AGAINST it. Same with abortion, euthanasia, etc.

Well, it was a way of life that christians should not commit murder yet there are quotes and teachings galore against it. I’m not following you on this. You’re saying that because it was universally understood that christians did not use contraception that it was therefore not an issue that was taught on… yet the same could be said of any of the mortal sins, could it not? Yet there are teachings galore against adultery, murder, etc., etc.

Does the lack of quotes about abortion, infanticide, and other morally abhorent acts trouble you?

I don’t follow you here. I have seen quotes against abortion.

It seems difficult to build an argument that says the church always taught against contraception and we can know that by the lacking of teachings against contraception. I am NOT arguing with the Church on its teaching on the subject - but I accept it on the authority of the Church. Help me understand how to build an argument against contraception based on history and the fathers - with this guy that stands the best chance of succeeding.

Certainly it is mentioned, but it was also taught as a WAY OF LIFE-- ie, Christians don’t kill their babies, either before or after birth-- and we go one step further and rescue infants that have been exposed. No need to have a whole bunch of writings condemning these things-- they were taught and lived by example.

But it was taught and lived by example that christians did not commit adultery yet there are teachings against adultery. I don’t follow you here. The culture around them at the time committed all sorts of sins that the Church taught against over and over because it was aware that christians could be tempted to do these things. And the culture around them contracepted (to varying degrees of success) - are you saying that contraception was different than the other moral evils the secular society was committing? Here’s my point: if I were the Prot. then I would say, “Hey, I know the early church taught that murder was wrong because there are teachings and quotes to this effect in quantity. The surrounding culture did it and the Church knew that christians could be tempted to do it, too, despite the fact that all understood it was wrong. Now when it comes to contraception the lack of teaching on this issue is supposed to mean that christians just did not fall into doing this despite the fact that the surrounding culture did. This is inconsistent.”

There is enough reference down through the ages, including homilies, that it is clear that Church teaching has been consistent.

If this is true (and I hope it is) then why are they not more oft published? Except for Noonan’s Contraception, I have no idea of where to find these references you’re speaking of. I’ve checked the 3 volume set The Faith of the Early Fathers and found few.


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