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19 April 2012


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Barbara C.

Well, the whole "talk" at best seems like a silly, pointless, last-ditch endeavor. If the Catholic school was doing it's job as a CATHOLIC school than those Seniors should have been having multiple in-depth discussions about what the Church teaches about marriage, chastity, and sex. The archdiocese is naive to think that one talk is going to be able cover all that. Plus that is a topic that calls for interactive discussion not a just a lecture with a limited question and answer period.

At worst, it was the just the political campaigning that some of the students suspected.

I seriously doubt that the speakers spoke out against or denigrated adoption or adoptees in general. I bet they restated the Church's position about not allowing single people or unmarried couples or gay couples to adopt, because in general these tend to be less stable families. But I think that student either willfully or unintentionally misunderstood what was said.

The students interviewed obviously went into the talk with their own assumptions that everything they were about to be told was going to be wrong and go against what they personally believed. (Why else would someone already have a sign ready before the talk even started?)

I think the only two people that could have effectively handled that crowd would have been Jesus or Fulton Sheen.


Barbara C. :"If the Catholic school was doing it's job as a CATHOLIC school than those Seniors should have been having multiple in-depth discussions about what the Church teaches about marriage, chastity, and sex."

This. Exactly.

My guess about adoption is that the speakers said something along the lines of "It is God's plan for children to grow up in an intact family with their own married, biological parents." And that the speakers were not capable of conveying the difference between that and "Adopted kids grow up weird."


One of the reasons I have trouble taking the Catholic position on birth control seriously is that its proponents are so fond of mischaracterizing the "contraceptive mentality" with things like "Babies are, by default, burdens to be avoided." (Another common one is along the lines of "My spouse should be available at all times to satisfy my sexual desires" or "The purpose of sex is physical pleasure.")

Talk about talking past each other! Those are just . . . wrong ways to characterize a lot of us who think contraception is fine. My husband and I don't think babies are burdens; we're as pro-baby as they come. So are 90% of our friends who use contraception. Nor do my husband and I regard sex as only for pleasure or treat each other as merely instruments of satisfying our selfish desires.

We think babies are awesome, sex is special, and we use contraception to maintain and sustain our marital intimacy while ensuring that there's enough of a gap between births and pregnancies to work for me and the rest of our family. Which, incidentally, sounds like the reason a lot of observant Catholics use NFP.

But we are automatically assumed to have some sort of wordly, irredeemably secular, selfish, disordered perspective on babies and sexuality, just because we use condoms on occasion to avoid pregnancy, while some other couple with the "correct" perspective abstains (also to avoid pregnancy)? I don't know how to engage that argument other than to shrug.

*I don't mean to unload on you; I know you didn't write the line about babies/burdens. It just strikes me that that characterization of the pro-contraceptive mentality is itself an example of the two viewpoints talking past each other.


Well, that is a perfect example of why you have to tailor your message to your audience -- and maybe that is a strong argument for NOT passing along complicated moral information in large assemblies composed of people from diverse backgrounds and experience, which is the case in an urban Catholic school like the one in the article. Classrooms, not auditoriums, are a better way to go.

If we want to promote NFP to our fellow Christians and others who already share our values regarding babies and family life, the task is to show why NFP is more compatible with those shared values.

On the other hand, sometimes the audience is people who think NFP is utterly crazy because they really do not share similar values (e.g. the population control movement), and there the task is twofold: (1) to show that NFP is not crazy because it springs naturally from our own values, and (2) to promote our own values.

But both audiences are sometimes listening, and when one hears arguments meant for the other, it is frustrating and sometimes offensive.


I agree with what Barbara said: "If the Catholic school was doing it's job as a CATHOLIC school than those Seniors should have been having multiple in-depth discussions about what the Church teaches about marriage, chastity, and sex." But I'd take it a step further. The basic problem with catechesis of all sorts, not just that on the Catholic understanding of sexuality, is that faith is treated as a subject which can be learned in school. The tenets of the faith can certainly be learned, the catechism can be memorized and all that; but if they aren't being lived in the context of the family the chances of them actually catching are pretty low. Sure some students might be convicted by a classroom discussion because after all the Holy Spirit can use all sorts of means to get to us; but the normative way that the faith is transmitted is by being lived because faith is really a relationship and not a body of knowledge. As you said yourself about your own experiences with NFP, better than a textbook understanding of the Church's teaching is the lived experience of practicing it, of raising a family. This is why the Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children, because what they teach is as much through their actions and their relationships with each other and with their children as it is from anything they say. I really think that we need to focus on forming the parents as much if not more than the kids.

Even I am not immune to the default idea that what we are doing both in Catholic schools and in Catholic homes is "teaching the faith". I just now wrote "teaching the parents" and then went back to revise it. If we got into the habit of thinking about it in terms of "formation" instead of "teaching" wouldn't that help us to break out of that mindset?

I'd guess that you are probably right about what the speakers said about adoption. I think speakers on such topics need to go in expecting a hostile audience and not just prepared to address such misconceptions but tailoring their presentation so that it anticipates and preempts such misreadings. Though perhaps you are right that there is no guaranteed way to prevent people from misunderstanding.


I agree with what Melanie writes. I practice NFP because my parents did. I learned about it when I was 13 and my mother charted and took her temps after my youngest brother was born. There were eight children in our family. No amount of CCD, catechesis or formation could match what I observed from my parents and their enthusiastic and loving practice of it!

I think there's this knee jerk reaction that we have to "educate" everyone. Look at the smoking situation. Teenagers still light up even after being indoctrinated in anti smoking education since kindergarten. If they "knew" how bad it is for their health, wouldn't they refrain from it? Every time I drive by my high school, I see half a dozen kids clustered outside smoking.


Trying to do catch-up catechesis on a hot button issue through a big assembly seems like a big problem from the get go -- as people have already noted.

It sounds a bit like the diocese has probably known for a while that things are not going all that well in the religious education classes, and either haven't tried or haven't succeeded in cleaning them up, but now they were trying to do a quick "cramming for the test" with the election coming up and a marriage issue on the ballot. That's never going to go well, and while I suspect that the students both misinterpreted some of what was being said and were not nearly as calm and reasoned in their debate attempts as they imagine, I can see why they felt resentful about being pulled into what they took to be a political/cultural indoctrination.

On the NFP discussion: Your "confession time" remarks really struck me in light of the discussion we had a while back about "faith" in terms of "faithfullness" -- as in, right action leading to right belief. When I wrote about the NFP article over at TAC I found myself arguing with a couple of fairly young guys who were upset that the Church didn't provide Very Clear Guidance on when it was okay to use NFP and when it wasn't, for fear that people would use it as just another way to separate procreation and sexuality. Coming at the question from the vantage point of 11 years of marriage and NFP use, it seems to me that simply using NFP is in and of itself probably the best way to come to a real understanding of the intimate connection between procreation and sex. The fact that not getting pregnant means not having sex for a good portion of the time will do that to one.

Barbara C.

I agree that the Catholic schools can't bear the sole responsibility for forming children in the faith. But they should at least be putting up a good fight to do so.

I went to 12 years of Catholic school and never ONCE learned about Huminae Vitae, Theology of the Body, what the Church really teaches about any of those topics of morality. In one class we talk about sex acts in general. In health class, we learned that the "rhythm method" is ineffective so use birth control. And even the nun who taught religion (God love her) gave a vague "Protect yourselves, ladies, because your boyfriend won't."

Most of the Catholic schools have really turned into private schools with a light Catholic affiliation. And it seems that a lot of people are more concerned with preserving the institution of Catholic schools than making sure that they are there to actually serve Catholics in formation of their faith.


Barbara, no disagreement here. I was in Catholic school for 8 years and likewise never heard about so many of the Church's teachings. I agree we should expect Catholic schools to really promote a Catholic identity and be concerned with formation of the whole person. In the meantime, we're homeschooling where I can be sure formation is really happening or if it isn't then at least I'm the one who is dropping the ball.


Elle, To be fair, I think you should go back and read Jen's post carefully. She wasn't making sweeping generalizations about "the contraceptive mentality". Rather she was much more specific: "Most of the posts and comments I read took for granted the following ideas." She was only characterizing the tenor of the comments on that particular article, not the attitude in general of people using contraception.

I think there are really two different "contraceptive mentalities" that I've encountered. One is the one that Jen very accurately describes-- surely even if it doesn't describe you, you've encountered people who do have that secular, disordered view of sexuality? The other is the one you characterize.

I do think you make an excellent point which is that those of us who promote NFP should be aware of the various attitudes of the people we are in disagreement with. They are not a monolithic block. They very seldom are.

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