Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reason 4,138 I love Notre Dame...

RJN reports the following in the December 2006 issue of FIRST THINGS:

Peter, Kreeft, who teaches philosophy at Boston College, a school "in the Jesuit tradition," told me an interesting story the other day. In the late sixties, BC took the crucifixes off classroom walls lest the schoold be perceived as "sectarian" and therefor be deprived of government funding. The Jesuits are a highly principled bunch, but the funding at stake was sizeable. One day, a Muslim student in Kreeft's class asked why the crucifixes had been removed. He was told that the school has a pluralistic student body and did not want to offend non-Catholics or non-Christians. At which the Muslim student declared himself deeply offended by the implication that he was a bigot. He explained that, if a Christian attended a Muslim university and declared himself offended by the Qur'anic inscriptions on the walls, he would surely view that Christian as a bigot. He said, in addition, that Muslims would not be so spineless in submitting to a government mandate that they erase the signs of their allegiance. It is a nice point, and Prof. Kreeft said the Christian, mainly Catholic, students in the class admitted they had not thought of it in quite that way. It is frequently the case that bigots are the most vocal in talking about bigotry. Of course, BC is not precisely the public square. It is a Catholic school. Or at least a school "in the Jesuit Tradition."

By contrast, Notre Dame proudly calls itself a "national Catholic university." I recall professors and students praying the Hail Mary together at the beginning of class. I also remember seeing a crucifix hanging in every classroom. I have it on good authority that the crucifixes are still there. In fact, any student can request a crucifix be hung in his/her dorm room at the University's expense. I love Notre Dame for being authentically Catholic.

Notre Dame, priez pour nous.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Stafford recommended reading Pope Benedict's XVI homily for Christmas Midnight mass. He was right. The homily is a beautiful theological study of the Nativity. His main theme is that God became small for us. He humbled Himself so we could understand Him. This post will not do justice to the Pope's homily. I highly recommend you read the whole thing, but here are a few gems:

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us...The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of l ove, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.

It seems the Pope and John Betjeman (see the previous post) both find a strong link between the Nativity and the Eucharist:

Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

God became small to reveal Himself to us. He became small so that we could understand Him with our minds and love Him with our whole hearts (ibid). He became small to set an example for us to follow. We are called to become small, to humble ourselves in service and sacrifice. We are called to become small in the obedience of faith. We are called to give of ourselves like God gave of Himself. During the Octave of Christmas, let us pray for the grace to follow Christ's example.

Blessings on this Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Truth about Christmas

I love the poem RJN quoted in December's FIRST THINGS. I'll leave you with the final verse of John Betjeman's "Christmas:"

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells,
Can with this simple Truth comapre-
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hidden Movie Gems: Week 3 (Christmas Edition)

The problem with finding a "Hidden Gem" is that the public has an appetite for Christmas movies that is so voracious that any movie about the holiday that has the potential to be even marginally non-sucky is rushed into distribution and advertised aggressively. It is a model of Hollywood behavior that seems to work pretty well as far as box office reciepts go, to the extent that any of them that are even slightly entertaining are ones that have been widely seen.

One minor exception to that rule was 2003's Love, Actually, which, though it did have a mainstream release and did OK in the reviews and box office, didn't really catch on as a hit. I enjoyed it, but it was kind of a movie that was all over the place: it had multiple, occasionally interwining stories, some of which were delightful and charming, and some which seemed to belong in another movie entirely. Also, the advertising for it didn't really help: it had some raunch, too much to be a family movie, but not enough go the "raunchy comedy" route. It had some poignaint relationship moments, but would immediately cut to another story and travel the "light and silly" romance path. In short, the movie didn't really seem to know what it wanted to be, and the ads for it just hashed together a bunch of non-related scenes that were more confusing than informing. I'm not recommending it due to the above reasons; if you see it and like it, remember that I pointed it out; if you see it and don't like it, remember that I didn't recommend it.

So though I don't have a Christmas movie to recommend, I will stick with a movie with religious themes:

Millions (2005)

It is rare that a family film is both visually sophisticated and emotionally nuanced.

This fantastical tale of two British brothers and the large sack of cash literally dropped onto them from the sky, is just that--a multi-layered, majestic feast for both the eyes and the mind. Yes, I hear you saying "Oh, two people find a bunch of (likely ill-gotten by someone else) cash and face delimma about what to do with it...Yawn". If you stop there, you will miss a terrific movie.

Young brothers Anthony and Damian Cunninham, whose initial response to their unexpected fortune is a Robin Hood-esque spree of charity, have only one week to spend their 265,000 British pounds before their nation switches over to the Euro. Though the premise may seem trite or predictable, unexpected details--including Damian’s ability to see visions of saints (they literally appear to him in the flesh, speak with him, and even give him a little temporal assistance later in the story) and the recent death of the boys' beloved mother--add complexity to the story. As the 7- and 9-year-old Cunningham brothers, lead actors Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon prove to be those exceptional child actors who are appealing without being precious and their understated, mature performances add gravity to a largely whimsical film.

This movie did not get a wide release, but it absolutely charmed critic and audiences that did see it, including your humble scribe. It's very enjoyable story well-told, and one everyone can enjoy.

Merry Christmas, and happy Hidden Movie Gems viewing!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reason 4,137 I love Notre Dame...

Troy Smith, the Heisman winning QB from THE Ohio State University, was lauded all season for having overcome "adversity". What adversity had he overcome? Committing a felony for starters, then being NCAA ineligble for a stint for (being caught) taking money from a booster**. Is it really "overcoming adversity" if you're just suffering the consequences of your own actions?

Troy Smith overcame more adversity as he made a return trip to a famed NYC strip club on Monday:

(From the New York Post)
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith celebrated his Heisman Trophy by dancing in the middle of the 40/40 Club following Saturday’s (12/9/2006) awards ceremony; he then paid a repeat visit to Scores East Side on Monday night. The dancers hailed Smith as a generous tipper. “He will be a great pro,” Scores Girl Kendall said. “He’s got it. He’s a natural leader. I can tell.”

Oh, he’s a generous tipper? Surprising that an Ohio State player known for taking money** from boosters is flush with cash.

**Note: For those who don't scour the college football blogs as much as I do, that "Ohio State players take money from a boosters" is pretty much common knowledge, and not even disputed by Ohio State fans. Sadly, the NCAA infractions committee seems to be, for the most part, uninterested in pursuing it.

Where was Irish QB Brady Quinn, who was also at the Heisman ceremony that Saturday eve, on the following Monday? Back at ND, studying for a final for a class in one of his two majors (Business and Political Science).


Beating a Dead Horse Deader

Recently I listened to Jason Evert speak about NFP on Catholic Answers Live. His explanation of the difference between NFP and artificial birth control (ABC) is worth quoting:

NFP is entirely different [from contraception] because you are not doing anything to interrupt or sterilize the act of intercourse between a husband and a wife. As the two bodies come together it is exactly as God has designed.

Some people say, “I don’t understand the difference. Aren’t you both trying to avoid kids?”

Well, to determine the morality of an action, you not only have to look at the ends but also the means.

For a couple who might say, “Financially, we can’t afford any more kids. My wife is at her wits end. Now is not a good time for kids.”

A couple using contraception might have that intention, and a couple using natural family planning might have that intention. That is both of their goals. But, they take different means to arrive at those goals. So you have to look at the morality of the means.

With NFP, it is kind of like the difference between bulimia and dieting for a woman. Both women want to have a slim figure. So one engages in bulimia. She binges on food and then she purges the food out so she can stay skinny. The woman on NFP is like the woman who diets because she wants she wants to maintain a slim figure, she refrains from eating fatty foods, and she achieves the same goal. So you see, they both get the same goal, but through entirely different means. So one has the virtue of temperance (NFP), and the other lacks that virtue with contraception, where you want the pleasure but you don’t want the kids.

He says later:
The church is not opposed to birth control to space children. The church is opposed to contraception, things that deliberately interrupt or sterilize an act of intercourse.

What is a legitimate reason for using NFP? Jason answers that as well:
The church does not say you need a serious, grave reason use NFP. The church’s wording is that you need a “just” reason. It doesn’t need to be some massive extreme circumstance.

For LSU fans, I’ve created any easy-to-follow matrix to determine the morality of a particular act of birth control:

Just ends / intentionsUnjust ends / intentions
Just means (NFP)Not sinfulSinful
Unjust means (ABC)SinfulSinful

I know I’m just repeating what has already been written ad nauseam in this forum. But, I like making sure the dead horses I encounter are really good and dead.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reasons 4,135 and 4,136 I love Notre Dame....

A peak into the life of the USC student-athlete...

Quoting from a recent Scout article about a recruit visiting to USC:

"A lot of people on the staff were helping me out and giving me good advice on selecting a major that would not interfere with football, which is huge."

Or this special glimpse of life for the prospective student-athlete at Texas A&M:
“They take care of you down there,” Aggie recruit Terrance McCoy said. “I know from my brother (also an Aggie football player) that they keep your pockets full, give you plenty of money…"

If McCoy had stopped at “give you plenty of money,” you could possibly convince yourself that this could theoretically mean scholarship funds for living expenses. But “pockets full?”

Thank you Notre Dame, requiring your athletes to have real majors and not stuffing their pockets. It makes it that much easier to be an enthusiastic alum and fan....


Monday, December 18, 2006

The search is underway for.....

"Why are you guys giving me such a weird look?"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It is here

The latest issue of FIRST THINGS is sitting in my mailbox. It features an essay by Avery Cardinal Dulles entitled "Love, The Pope and C.S. Lewis." Yes, I am salivating. No, I will not read it until I have cleaned out my house.

Pope Visits Turkey

Fellow domer Mary Liz wrote this article for the Irish Rover.

Editorial note: I appreciate the Irish Rover for challenging the left-leaning tendencies of the Observer, but the former looses credibility with such shoddy editing. Mary Liz, it is a shame they spelled your name wrong.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hidden Movie Gems (For My Netflix-Subscribing Friends) : Week 2

Film Noir With A Twist, Part II

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Though Lynda and I have diverging taste in movies ("Eight Below"? Please shoot me...), I dragged her to both Brick and this little film, and she enjoyed both of them very much....

This is a very fun little movie, combining both a send-up of hard-boiled detective novels and peek into the harsh realities of Hollywood. Robert Downey, Jr. plays a small time New York thief, who, while running from the police after tripping an alarm, inadvertantly stumbles into an audition for a Hollywood detective movie. Thinking he is being rousted by real police, he "acts" so well that the producers decide to wisk him to L.A. for a screen test. Thrust into the cutthroat world of L.A.'s pros, cons, losers and wannabes, Harry is teamed with tough-guy private eye Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), a.ka. "Gay Perry," to prepare him for his screen test. Gay Perry is ruthless, relentlessly tough and - you guessed it -gay. He also has little patience for Harry, who tries out his acting skills by passing himself off as a detective. It probably won't suprise you to find the pair involved in a real murder mystery before long....

If you thought the above plotline was a little on the ridiculous side, you're right, and that's part of the joke. The movie (and characters) plays with a wink toward the audience, and at the end of the film, the two protagonists apologise "to the good people of the Midwest" for saying "f**k" during the movie. In the middle, you get two really good performances from two of Hollywood's more enigmatic actors (Kilmer because he such a pain to work with, Downey because he can't seem to resist cocaine or whatever his drug du jour is) and a few memorable lines. I'll only repeat one so that I don't spoil the others:

(Gay Perry commenting on how L.A. seems to attract weird women:)

"It's like someone picked up the country by the east coast and shook it, and all the normal girls managed to hang on...."

For an interesting, fun story, some action, and good dialog, punctuated by some really good lines, this one's fits the bill. Enjoy.


Here are some more reasons to be chaste. Thanks Diane.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Manliness is next to godliness

Diane alerted me to that headline in the LA Times. The article describes the GodMen movement, a masculine worship service geared for manly men. It is a welcome alternative to the feminine spirituality I ranted about last month. Some of it is refreshing, and some goes to far.

Take the lyrics of one of the GodMen house band’s songs:

Forget the yin and the yang
I'll take the boom and the bang….
Don't need in touch with my feminine side!
All I want is my testosterone high

I don’t know about a “testosterone high,” but I can sympathize with their revolt against the philosophy of androgyny which has infiltrated Christian spirituality.

I also like what John Eldredge was quoted as writing in Wild at Heart:
Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men…[Men]
believe that God put them on earth to be a good boy.

Men need to embrace their strength and their masculinity. Sometimes being nice is not the right answer. Men need to be willing to fight for what is right. Jesus was not nice to the Pharisees or the people who defiled the temple. Jesus was forceful and even violent when necessary. This is the masculinity which is lacking in the Church. It needs to come back.

That being said, GodMen does go to extremes and misses what is authentically masculine. Celebrating gratuitous violence and pranks is not very Christian. One GodMen disciple seems to have missed true masculinity all together:
Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.

"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports.

"She said, 'I need your help around here.' "Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the family."

This guy was acting more like a boy than a man. Jesus calls men to put our strength at the service of love. Jesus demonstrated His greatest strength by emptying Himself and dying on the cross. We men are called to die to ourselves out of love for our God and our neighbor. Sometimes love is tough. Sometimes it is not nice. Sometimes the loving thing to do is to fight for what is right. But we are called to do all things out of love. Leaving your wife and infant at home while you go camping does not sound very selfless to me.

Unfortunately, programs like GodMen are filling a void left by our churches. When the best a men’s spirituality group has to offer is to tell you to get in touch with your feminine side, something has gone wrong.

For a different look at the GodMen movement, check out Mary Angelita Ruiz’s post in First Things.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Every Woman's Dream

This could have been me. (1.3 MB Windows Media Video)

Saint Lucy, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Please Pray for my Grandma

She broke her hip yesterday and goes into surgery tomorrow at 5:00pm PST.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New Weekly Feature : Hidden Movie Gems (For My Netflix-Subscribing Friends)

A great deal of the people that I call friends are folks who have settled down and are in the process of raising young children. With work, home, and offspring raising dominating their time, attempting even the simple pleasure of hitting the local multiplex for a movie becomes a more difficult operation to stage than the invasion of Normandy. As a result, most of the movies they do get to see are at home, courtesy of Netflix or, if they are still in the technological equivalent of the Neolithic period**, Blockbuster.

** - Certainly not intended as a slam, as I am quite the technology Luddite. I don’t even have a radio in my car.

However, choosing movies, once you’ve made it through the usual suspects of major releases and word-of-mouth indie favorites, can become difficult. There was an exchange in the short-lived animated TV series “The Critic” that summed up the predicament:

Mike (truck driver that looks and sounds like Sean Connery): “If only there were people who’s job it was to see movies, and could separate the good from the bad...they could raise a bodily appendage skyward toward the heavens if it’s good, or dangle it downward if it’s bad....”

Critic: “You mean like ‘Thumbs Up’ or ‘Thumbs Down’?”

Mike: “That would work, too...”

Luckily, folks, I can provide this service, though (mercifully) minus the raised or dangling bodily appendages.

Between 1985 and 2005, I saw an average of 100-125 movies a year in the theater alone (I love, love, love going to the movies), with additional movies viewed via VCR and HBO. As a service to you, friends, I will point out a movie a week that might otherwise be overlooked.First, though, I will offer a couple of tips for selecting a movie via reading the DVD package:

1. Look for notable critics’ recommendations. If highest-profile endorser the movie has is Joe Shlabotnick from KJWC-TV in Casper, Wyoming, it is more likely the said endorser was only trying to get his name in print.

2. While most of what critics actually say in endorsements is, in my experience, not very important, there are a few phrases that should raise concerns:

“It’s (movie title) Meets (movie title)!!!”

This usually means “It’s Oil Meets Water!!!” or “It’s Bill Clinton Meets Intern!!!”. Usually a mixture that doesn’t work and/or you don't want to see.

“I Laughed!!!” or “I Cried!!!” or “I (emotional response)ed!!!”

Thank you for that extra-special glimpse into your life. These would only be helpful if for bad movies we could see quotes like “I Checked My Watch Repeatedly!!” or “I Left My Seat To Go For Popcorn Halfway Through And Didn’t Feel Compelled To Go Back!!!”

“Keanu Reeves’ Most Emotionally Demanding Performance Yet!!” or “Andrew McCarthy’s Most Emotionally Demanding Performance Yet!!”

Akin to saying "Paris Hilton's Most Intelligent Thought Yet!!!". Considering how low the bar is set, it means, at best, that the actor has added a second or third facial expression to the one or two already in his repetoire.

3. When reading the description of the movie, if the term “erotic thriller” appears anywhere at all, place the DVD box down and back away slowly. "Erotic Thriller" = "Sleazy And Boring"

OK, the first gem, of recent vintage:

Brick (2005)

Easily the best movie I have seen this year. A serpentine detective story with all the classic film noir archetypes present: the hard-boiled gumshoe, the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the drama queen (in this case, literally), the underworld kingpin and his volatile hired muscle, the brainy secret operative....

The twist? The story is set in a suburban California high school. And it works beautifully. The setting makes the environment in which the story takes place even more insular than if the movie was about adults, and even provides for a few light comedic touches.

The only difficulty with the film is that the lingo can sometimes be semi-cryptic. Although the context usually aids in understanding the meaning of a term, I’ll supply a few definitions here:

Bulls- cops; e.g., "What first, tip the bulls?"; also, as a verb, to turn over to the cops; e.g., "I bulled the rat."

Copped- stole; e.g., "She copped the junk."

Dose- to take drugs; e.g., "He dosed off the bad junk and it laid him out."

Duck soup- easy pickings.

Heel- to walk away from (, and show your heels to); e.g., "I'm not heeling you to hook you."

Gat - gun

Scape- a patsy to take the blame (abbrev. of "scapegoat").

Scraped- begged off of, cadged from; e.g., "Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it off [name]..."

Shamus- a private detective.

Shine- to wield (as with a weapon); e.g., "He shines a blade."

Sprang- originated; e.g., "His gat sprang from Tugger's gang."

Yeg – guy

Enjoy. If you see this movie, please let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Good Race for a Good Cause

I'm jetting away to Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon. Jacque, Katie and Angela are running it with me. Katie is raising money to fight rheumatoid arthritis. She still needs to raise over $900 to reach her goal. You can donate through her webpage. We would all appreciate your support. God bless.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Great Minds Think Alike

Just hours before I wrote “A Quiver Full,” Ryan T. Anderson blogged about the Quiverfull movement in First Things. Andersen informs us of other similar movements in the protestant and secular worlds. I find this one particularly intriguing:

But have you heard about the students at Princeton? Frustrated with the sexual chaos on campus, they founded the Anscombe Society, named for the Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, author of the famous essay “Contraception and Chastity.” Without appeals to revelation or authority—that is, by human experience and reason alone—members of the Anscombe Society are making the case on the Princeton campus for chastity, authentic feminism, and traditional marriage. And I believe that thinking through the case for traditional marriage may be a key element in the reevaluation of attitudes toward sex even within marriage.

Anderson makes a good point. If the procreative element of marital love is neither important nor required for authentic self-giving, then what is wrong with homosexual sex, bestiality, sodomy or a myriad of other sexual perversions? He contends the recent brouhaha over same-sex marriage may spur more understanding and accepting of the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception. I hope so.

Back to the issue of NFP, Anderson is careful not to endorse Quiverfull’s complete rejection of all family planning methods, natural or otherwise:
Some Christians will undoubtedly take issue with [Quiverfull’s] understanding of trust in God’s providence (describing their attitude as presumptuous) and wish they would place emphasis on discerning God’s will for family size and come to see Natural Family Planning as a responsible way to avoid conceiving when spouses have good reasons to postpone pregnancy. Be that as it may, the Quiverfull movement does embody a powerful reaction against a contraceptive mentality that views children and childbearing as inconveniences in adult life, to be planned around adult desires, using whatever means necessary.

Notice his careful wording. NFP is a way to “postpone” (as opposed to “avoid”) pregnancy. Part of responsibly using NFP means being open to life.


More Bad News

The Shreveport Times reports yet another accusation of a priest sexually abusing minors. What makes this significant to me is that I know this priest. He was the chaplain at RAF Mildenhall during my time in England, and he is presently assigned as the chaplain at my current post, Barksdale AFB, LA. This marks the second acquaintance of mine to be credibly accused of abusing children. The first was a good friend and he is now behind bars. I’ve never heard a bad thing about Father Gary, and would never have thought him capable of doing such a thing. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been surprised before.

Father Gary is accused of abusing two boys while serving in his home diocese of Tucson. Arizona does not have a good track record for sexual abuse. The Arizona Republic reported on 2/26/2004, “More than 50 Catholic priests in Arizona have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children since 1950.” That’s a sobering statistic to consider. Fortunately, the bishops in Arizona seem to be getting their houses in order. I have great respect for Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix.

I am skeptical of accusations that surface over 20 years after the fact. I hope the charges against Father Gary are false and that this matter will be resolved quickly and justly. Pray for Father Gary and pray for the victims of sexual abuse.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Quiver Full

Diane sent me a Newsweek article about a protestant movement to raise large families. What has been traditionally a catholic phenomenon seems to be catching on in protestant circles. That is welcome news indeed.

More interesting than the article, were the readers’ responses. Some people were vehemently opposed to large families. They considered it an affront to the gospel to have lots of kids. Here is one of the more colorful comments:

This movement is WHOLLY UN-CHRISTIAN... IT IS frought [sic] with greed, selfishness and vanity…to selfishly ignore LIVING, STARVING children at the expense of your own genetic seed is SELFISH and flies in the face of everything JESUS CHRIST, LORD AND SAVIOR TAUGHT US.

I didn’t get his point until I read Wendy King’s comment:

[My] major concern about large families of eight or more children is the long-term impact of so many children on our planet's resources. One reason men and women use birth control is to ensure that they will have only as many children as they can comfortably raise on their income, without taxing their city's financial resources.

Now it makes sense. They have bought the overpopulation myth hook line and sinker. I’ll save debunking that myth to the experts. For now, let me share a little about my family.

My father has nine brothers and sisters. I have twenty-three (give or take) first cousins and twice as many second cousins. Family reunions are a blast. We need a family newspaper just to keep up with everyone.

My grandparents emigrated from Mexico in the 1930’s. They worked any jobs they could find to put food on the table. My grandmother worked all day as a seamstress most of her life while my great grandmother raised the kids. My grandfather worked many jobs, which included opening a grocery store. In today’s world they would have qualified for welfare, but they never took a government handout.

They taught their ten children a strong work-ethic, a patriotic spirit and good catholic values. Those kids grew up to be lawyers, college professors, bankers, businessmen, school teachers, psychologists, and, last but certainly not least, home-makers. All four of the boys served this country in the military. Not one of them is on welfare.

To those people who think it is irresponsible to have large families. Answer me this. Which of my grandparents’ children do you think should have been “contracepted” out of existence: the lawyer who spent 17 years in the military and served as an ambassador; the IBM executive who pioneered digital music; the college professor who teaches business law to future generations; the high school teacher who has two children serving in the military; or the house wife who raised an investment banker, a lawyer and a civil engineer? Had none of them been born, my grandparents would have had a much more “responsibly-sized” family, and they would have been impoverished because of it.


Notre Dame is going to the Sugar Bowl

I'm looking forward to watching the Irish play LSU. Go Irish!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is the difference between NFP and artificial birth control?

A few weeks ago, the USCCB issued a statement on married love (104k PDF). They are for it. The usual suspects editorialized against the bishops’ reaffirmation of the Church’s consistent teaching. Catholic Pillow Fight did a fine job of refuting NCR’s editorial.

JCEICL3 took a slightly more nuanced approach, in which he raises a good question. What makes NFP morally different from artificial birth control (ABC)? Many otherwise orthodox Catholics see no difference between the two.

Some use this belief to conclude that no form of contraception, natural or otherwise, is permissible in marriage. I disagree with their position, but I must respect the fact that they are erring on the side of life. For those like who cannot in good conscience see a difference between NFP and ABC, the only morally acceptable option for avoiding pregnancy is abstinence.

Others use this belief to accuse the Church of hypocrisy and to attempt to debunk the Church’s teaching. If NFP is permissible, they argue, other forms of birth control must also be acceptable because there is no essential difference between the two. To draw this conclusion, they must ignore the large body of Catholic teaching about the evil of contraception. JCEICL3 seems to be doing just that. He writes:

The real question it almost seems that the Church is avoiding is this: What renders it morally licit to deliberately, freely, and knowingly engage in conjugal acts during a period when the woman is known to be infertile?

The most obvious answer I can discern based on the doctrinal statements from the Vatican such as Humanae Vitae is that the expression of unitive love renders conjugal acts licit even when the procreative dimension is entirely absent.

What JCEICL3 is missing from his formula for licitness is openess to life. This leads him to conclude:

If this is true, we can ask if there are situations where unitive love can be expressed even when the procreative end of sexuality is neither primary, or present. There obviously are, such as when the woman in a married couple passes the age of menopause, or when infertile heterosexuals marry. Can this same logic apply to contraception practiced within a marriage that is open to children overall? Can this same logic apply to gay unions?If it cannot, how do we show that it cannot without calling into question how natural family planning is morally licit?

For the unitive aspect of the marital act to be complete, the couple must be willing to give everything to eachother, including their fertility. They must be open to life. The question arises, why is NFP open to life when ABC is not? Maybe this analogy from Christopher West will help answer that question:

A young couple are planning their wedding. They can only afford to invite a small number of guests to the reception and the groom has a huge family. Conveniently, the groom’s family all live overseas, so it is not likely that they will not be able to make it to the wedding. If they sent the groom’s family invitations, knowing they were not likely to come, would they be open to the groom’s family attending? Let’s answer that by posing this question. If, by some miracle, the groom’s family did show up, what is the couple’s response? If they were overjoyed to see his family then I’d say they were open. If they were disappointed and really did not want them there, then I’d say they were not open. It’s a matter of their interior attitude. Conversely, if the couple did not send the groom’s family invitations, or worse, went out of their way to ask them not to come, then, regardless of their interior attitude, the couple would not be acting in a way that is open to the groom’s family.

Happy Advent.