Family synod: Married couple ask Pope to clear up ‘confusion’ on contraception

Family synod: Married couple ask Pope to clear up ‘confusion’ on contraception

By FRANCIS X ROCCA on Thursday, 9 October 2014

A married couple from Brazil told Pope Francis and the family synod that the Church should stop giving “contradictory advice” on birth control and help Catholics obey Church teaching against contraception.

On the same morning, one of the synod’s leaders spoke forcefully against a widespread “contraceptive mentality” that has led many Catholics to think the use of artificial birth control is not a sin.

Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, married for 41 years with three children, addressed the synod during the morning session today. The designated subject for the session was the “pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life”.

“We must admit without fear that many Catholic couples, even those who seek to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obligated to use only the natural methods” of birth control condoned by the Church, said the Zamberlines, leaders in their country of an international Catholic movement, Teams of Our Lady. “We must add that generally they are not questioned by their confessors” on the subject.

The Zamberlines, who are participating in the synod as non-voting auditors, said the “rhythm of life” today makes it difficult to find time to learn natural methods of family planning, which they said have acquired an “unjust reputation of being unreliable,” because they are badly explained and thus badly practiced.

“The great majority of couples do not reject the use of contraceptive methods. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem,” the Zamberlines said.

The Brazilian couple concluded with an appeal to the Pope and the synod to help Catholics understand and obey Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Paul VI that affirmed Church teaching against contraception.

“If couples, as well as clergy, could at least find illumination and support, that would already be a great encouragement. Often, contradictory advice only aggravates their confusion. We ask, may the magisterium hasten to give priests and faithful the major lines of a pastoral teaching programme to help people adopt and observe the principles laid out in ‘Humanae Vitae,’” the Zamberlines said.

In remarks introducing the couple to the assembly, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, one of three synod presidents appointed by the Pope, said Catholic couples “often do not believe that the use of contraceptive methods is a sin and therefore they tend not to speak of them in confession and so they receive Communion untroubled.”

“It is necessary to encourage a mentality of openness to life to thwart the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualist anthropological model that in certain countries has led to a strong demographic drop whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently considered today,” the cardinal said.

I have read* Humanae Vitae* and practiced NFP to avoid (with serious reason) and to conceive for decades. I must admit I never understood the idea that every act must be unitive and ordered toward procreation.

Wow! I can see how well that would go over. Any priests care to comment on how this would effect their ministry? I have heard that there are some Catholics who would prefer a smaller more orthodox church. This would do the trick.

Plus don’t forget that it can’t be unitive unless it’s procreative. Which means that it must only be procreative because if it’s procreative then it’s unitive. But that means it only needs to be unitive. The whole thing is kind of silly in my opinion.

Could it be that if one of the two ends is frustrated, then so is the other? (that occurred to me, but I have not checked it out)

Well, first, unitive should be what the couple decides.

Secondly, what is procreative, or “ordered towards procreation”? My wife is post-menopausal, so there is no procreating going on at all. I think the “ordered towards procreation” and finishing inside the woman comes from a view that semen contains little baby humans, which has been proven, long ago, to not be true.

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Then there is really only one end: procreation. Adding the unitive part seems superfluous to me if it can’t be unitive without being procreative. It would make more sense if the teaching was that it’s unitive through procreation but that’s not what is taught. I’m thinking the unitive part was added to make the Catholic view of sex less utilitarian but it fails in my opinion.

I too think it’s between the husband and wife what is unitive. Contraception and “everything but…” acts don’t necessarily negate being open to life. Sex is social as well as procreative.

I was 19 at the time when Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae was explained at Mass during the sermon in very clear terms like this. Artificial birth control, masterbation & any sex act outside marriage is a serious mortal sin and should confessed before approaching the communion reel. Things seemed so uncomplicated back then. :rolleyes:

I would appreciate if you or and any other person in this thread could direct me to the Church teaching regarding senior citizens, especially older females (late 50’s - 60’s), as you describe as post menopausal who no longer can conceive. Thus, is the male required to finish inside the woman.

I know what Christopher West states in his book. Does he also apply this to e.g., above. Most importantly, what does the Church teach?

Any assistance or direction on this matter would be appreciated. Thank you.

Peace to all and God Bless.

There is not question that the Church’s position is very uncomplicated in the sense that it is clear what is right and what is wrong. I think PaulinVA would agree with this.

But we are kidding ourselves if we say that the meaning and reasoning behind the Church’s position is easy for everyone to understand. I can really appreciate PaulinVA’s position on this, even though I do not necessarily agree with him. It appears he has given full intellectual assent to the Church’s teachings, even though he does not fully understand them. Quite impressive in this day and age.
I remember reading William F Buckley’s attitude on contraception. He was a brilliant man, and he could not understand the logic behind the Church’s position. Don’t think it is as easy for everyone to understand as you think: for serious reasons, a couple can abstain in order not the conceive a child during the fertile times of the month, but no artificial means are allowed? Even the name “natural family planning” is a misnomer. There is nothing natural about a husband and wife abstaining from sex, sex is the natural part of their relationship. It is confusing to many couples. And then we throw around ambiguous terms like “contraceptive mentality”, and “open to life”, even when trying to define when its okay to practice NFP. Add to that, NFP is often presented as simply the Church’s version of pregnancy avoidance.

Why is it one or the other? As I like to say to people, “If you are having sex and it’s not “unitive” (both are enjoining it) then you are doing it wrong.”

The western world is too much influenced by the protestant mentality to dichotomize everything.

Sex can be procreative and not unitive (i.e. rape, IVF… etc). . Sex can be unitive and not procreative (i.e. masturbation, contraceptive sex… etc).

Sex without accepting your spouse’s fertility is sex for pleasure only or basically you are using the other person for pleasure if you withhold your fertility. Naturally infertile times are not withholding your fertility. Therefore having sex when a woman is naturally infertile, such was during parts of the menstrual cycle or after menopause is not sinful.

Also abstaining from sex is not sinful either. There are many reasons why a couple would abstain from sex besides family planning. In either case you don’t get to enjoy the pleasures of sex if you aren’t open to the purpose of sex.

I have not seen anything specifically directed at post-menopausal couples.

I think this is because the Church considers all couples equal. It does not matter if you are twenty and extra fertile, thirty and have a zero sperm count, forty and have had a hysterectomy, fifty and past menopause, or somewhere in between and moderately fertile, - the Church applies the same teaching to everyone.

Although I might word it slightly differently, I agree with your first paragraph, and would actually say it is the best reasoning for the Church’s position. Actually, its almost the only reason that makes complete sense in my mind.

But then, it gets complicated, you say abstaining from sex is not sinful, yet the church says if we are abstaining only during fertile times in order to avoid pregnancy, we must have a serious reason for doing so.

My point of posting is not that I want to debate the Church’s teaching, I agree with it wholeheartedly. I simply think it wise that we admit it is difficult for many to understand, and our formulas are not always helpful.

Thank you for responding.

Peace to all and God Bless.

I agree with both of these posts. After long and sober reflection, and much study, I have come to the conclusion that the reason I (and apparently the vast majority) do not understand this teaching is that is not correct.

It still is, and the teaching is clear. Humanae Vitae is short and uncomplicated. The teaching is clear. What is needed is to put it into practice. Why is the speaker talking about confusion? There is no confusion.

The marital act is unitive if it is completed in the natural manner. That’s what unitive means. Man and women are biologically complementary; the marital act is unitive by nature. It unites man and woman. It is only procreative on occasion, since every marital act cannot result in procreation. There is no change in the rules for the post menopausal, any more than there is a change in the rules for the temporarily or permanently infertile.

If the Synod is going to have speakers who casts doubt on the Church’s teaching on contraception, perhaps it should also invite Mary Eberstadt to speak—author of “Adam and Eve After the Pill”—which delineates the social disasters following upon the acceptance of contraception.

What’s there not to understand??!! Its not rocket science. Just read Humanae Vitae and its spelled out in there

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