On the Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture

In 2014, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a document entitled “The Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture.” This grew out of the 2008 Synod on the Bible and Benedict XVI’s 2010 apostolic exhortation”Verbum Domini.” It seeks to clarify the import of difficult biblical passages and to present a theologically and anthropologically prudent way of looking at the different parts of the Bible.

Currently, no complete English version of this document exists online. Most likely, the Vatican’s website, vatican.va, will eventually fill this void. For now we have this book by the Liturgical Press which contains the statement in full, without commentary.

The Liturgical Press has done us a great service by making this document available. It is a very dense document due to the subject, but it is also remarkably accessible. It is neither excessively academic or technical, though some background in biblical studies is necessary in order to assimilate its finer points. Nonetheless, any sincere layperson with a basic understanding of the historical context of the Bible and the Church’s teaching on its proper interpretation will be able to make their way through it.

However, this book/document is not an easy read. The concepts are challenging and require reflection and prudent application. If the reader views the book as an orthodox course in the Bible, and commits to a sustained reading of it, it will likely bear abundant fruits.

Two sections stood out for me in terms of pastoral application. The first was on violence in the Bible and the second is on the social status of women. What do we do with parts of the Old Testament that pray for vengeance, and rejoice in the destruction of enemies? How do we interpret St. Paul’s teaching on the role of women in the family and the Christian assembly? These are subjects of great interest to many, and thus make for intriguing reading.

This book reveals one of the outstanding attributes of the Catholic Church, which is its dynamic and prudent approach to the Biblical texts. First, it only rarely defines authoritatively the meaning of a passage. Second, and this flows in part from the first point, it allows for departure from non-infallible teaching on the subject, provided that it be done in a charitable spirit and in a non-scandalous, non-divisive manner.

For example, the section on the social status of women comes down strongly on the side of those who would emphasize the cultural conditioning of these texts. Thus women troubled by these texts can find consolation and guidance from them. Conversely, those who disagree with this perspective can do so in good conscience, because it is not an infallible text, although it was approved by Pope Francis.

The danger exists that the texts might be rendered culturally obsolete, and thus the deeper religious meaning be lost. Also, the document fails to recognize that contemporary perspectives on gender roles are not infallible. Our culture can hardly stand in harsh judgment of the biblical peoples, considering the immoral practices rampant in our society: legalized abortion, violence against BOTH men and women, and the objectification of BOTH sexes.

Here, the so-called sensus fidelium comes into play. Many women who have been married for a number of decades, and who were brought up in the pre-Vatican II Church believe in biblical teaching on women’s attitudes and behavior, and of course they interpret it with common sense, balance, and reciprocality. Submission does not mean slavery. So much more needs to be explored on this subject, but at least this document provides another authoritative attempt towards clarification.

This document builds on the last PBC document, which dealt with moral teaching in the Bible. If one chooses to read this book cover to cover, it will take time. But it will be well worth it, for it represents the perspective of expert biblical commentators seeking to offer clarity for the faithful on a subject that will always retain some ambiguity. It really is like an advanced course in the Bible that has been accommodated to the needs of the faithful. The Liturgical Press has done us a service in making it available. Here is the link to the book on their website: litpress.org:

https://www.litpress.org/Products/4903/The-Inspiration-and-Truth-of-Sacred-Scripture.  The book retails for $19.95. Not a bad price for a reliable course on the Bible adapted to today’s pastoral needs.

 

Posted in Lectio divina, Men and Women in Dialogue | Leave a comment

The Catholic Voter

This article was written by a friend and fellow author in the fall of 2008. Many of its points are just as relevant today. It recalls the turbulent and historic presidential campaign, and gives us an opportunity to consider how things have evolved.

THE CATHOLIC VOTER

In a reflection published last Fall entitled Forming Consciences For Faithful Citizenship, the American Catholic bishops repeated their previously stated view that direct abortion is intrinsically evil, and, as such, has a special claim on the consciences of Catholics who participate in the electoral process. Catholics have generally understood that they are prohibited from voting for any candidate who favors an intrinsic evil, and the new letter reaffirms that understanding. But the Bishops were careful to say that the prohibition applies only when the intent of the voter is to support such an objectionable position. That is an important qualification. But what is of primary importance in Faithful Citizenship is its recognition that one may vote for a nominee who is pro –choice, provided, again, that the vote is not in support of that position, and if there are other grave moral reasons for casting such a vote. The opening of that opportunity has led some Catholics to organize, and promote, the candidacy of Barack Obama for President .

Catholics For Obama have effectively highlighted the various ways in which the domestic policy positions of their candidate can be reconciled with important social teachings of the Church. Obama’s concerns for working families, the poor, and health care reform are just some of the ways in which his Catholic supporters see the prospect of reconciling political campaigning with religious and moral principle. With respect to foreign affairs, Obama’s objections to the war in Iraq and his determination to bring the conflict to an end, as well as to continue to pursue terrorists, are all emphasized by these church members who have joined to support him. However, neither this organization, nor the Catholic electorate at large, have given serious attention to how well either candidate measures up against the deeper principles of the Church concerning the avoidance of war and the pursuit of peace.

For centuries, the Catholic Church has opposed the use of violence to resolve conflicts between nations as well as between individuals. Following the devastation and horror of the Second World War the determination of Church leaders to build a peaceful world intensified. In 1963 Pope John XXIII published his encyclical letter entitled Pacem et Terris ( Peace On Earth) which became broadly popular especially because of emphasis upon the resolution of international disputes through negotiation rather than the use of force. In an address to the United Nations, his successor, Paul VI, made a dramatic appeal that there be “ War Never Again”. At the Second Vatican Council the Council Fathers, while recognizing the right of legitimate defense, called upon all to devise better means of protecting the common security. In articulating the elements of a peaceful world, the Council affirmed multilateral diplomacy and encouraged the strengthening of international organizations. Later, Pope John Paul II called for greater solidarity among the various nations. It was his strong conviction that the choice of togetherness over mutual isolation would be a sure path to unity and peace.

In writing Faithful Citizenship the American Bishops took full account of this accumulated wisdom .At the very outset of the reflections they call the faithful “ to be peacemakers in a nation at war “. They condemn specific violent actions such as unjust war and the torture of prisoners. And they exhort political leaders to strive to resolve all international disputes by peaceful means. In the Bishop’s conception, the moral obligation to avoid war and work for peace is a particular application of the broader respect that is owed to the dignity of the human person as well as the right to life.

To the degree that Faithful Citizenship addresses international relations the Bishops attention is directed towards matters that go beyond basic questions of war and peace. They embrace a wide range of issues from the protection of human rights and religious liberty to concern for the poor and the proper care of the enviroment. All of these problems impact the formation of a morally oriented political conscience; yet in approaching this important presidential election we must make fundamental order and peace our main concern. Without such stability nothing of lasting value can be accomplished either by ourselves or by the international community as a whole.
In evaluating how well the two candidates understand our relationship to the larger world community we must try to examine them with as much impartiality as is possible, in spite of the political pressures to which are constantly subject as our votes are solicited. While both Senators have taken foreign policy positions that, in the light of Church teaching, may be viewed favorably, those who prefer Barack Obama may find additional justifications for their general support. In spite of some waffling, Obama has demonstrated a much greater desire to negotiate the resolutions of international disputes – with enemies as well as friends – than has his opponent. Because of both his personal experience and his ancestry John McCain is more the warrior than the diplomat. He is particularly uncomfortable dealing with the complexities of international organizations and has called for the creation of a ‘League of Democracies’ which, if established, would further weaken an already fragile United Nations system. By contrast, Obama’s multicultural origins provide a breadth and inclusiveness that would serve him well in dealing with the great ethnic and cultural differences that divide the world community.

By repudiating single-issue politics, the Catholic Bishops have enhanced the capacity of Church members to be involved in the political process to a much greater degree than had previously been possible. The obligation to resist whatever is intrinsically evil persists; however, the expanded scope of relevant issues will make the Catholic vote of much greater importance to the final outcome. May that vote be cast in a manner that not only promotes the common good of the nation but also welfare and well-being of the entire human community.

Cornelius F Murphy Jr. October, 2008

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New titles by Cardinal Martini – Highly recommended!

In 2015, Paulist Press posthumously published two titles by the eminent biblical scholar and church leader, Cardinal Carlo Martini, SJ. “Toward the Light” are Cardinal Martini’s meditations on Advent and Christmas, “Disciples of the Risen Christ” are his reflections on Lent and Easter.

Put simply, Cardinal Martini is the most prolific and prominent Catholic author on biblical spirituality since Vatican II. He held doctorates in both Scripture and Theology, was trained as a Jesuit, and was archbishop of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the world. He was also a world-renowned text critic, having served on the committee that produced the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. During his tenure he was the only Catholic in his position.

For years he taught textual criticism and other subjects as a professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. A number of the most prominent American biblical scholars in the post-Vatican era took courses from him. During his tenure he interacted with other leading biblical scholars and frequently refers to them in his books.

He was eventually appointed Rector of the Biblicum (PBI) and then chancellor of the Jesuit Gregorian University. In December, 1979 Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Milan. He was consecrated archbishop in 1980 and then raised to the Cardinalate in 1983. Put simply, he was the most influential Catholic biblical scholar for several decades after Vatican II, and one of its most influential and beloved leaders.

These books by Paulist continue his almost unparalleled literary legacy. In my judgment, they differ slightly in that they are more homiletic in nature. Many of Martini’s other books are transcripts of retreats or presentations to youths in the Cathedral.

What stands out about these two books, along with Martini’s other works, is that he brings the highest biblical scholarship down to earth. He presented lofty concepts in accessible language without over-simplifying, or in everyday parlance, dumbing things down.

This is no easy task. Most Catholic publishers, due to intense financial pressures, have sold out to marketability. Books are published primarily due to profit potential rather than quality. Platform and author visibility are paramount nowadays, as are sales figures from previous books by the author. This is even more true for secular publishers. Hence our society’s declining literacy levels, practically speaking. Of course there are many other reasons for this, including technological ones.

Many of Cardinal Martini’s earlier books have gone out of print, and thus his books are not usually on the best seller list. But because of his reputation and visibility, and the quality of his writings, he continues to be published over three years after his death.

A slight caution is in order. These Paulist Press titles are not an easy read. As homilies, you have to give them time to percolate within you. They are intense, substantive reflections. If you are unwilling to go beyond the surface, you will miss something. You can’t blow thrown a Martini book and maximize the benefit. These books require time. But if you invest the time, you will be richly rewarded. They are not solely for academics and scholars, and thus any reasonably informed and sincere layperson can reap tremendous benefit from them. Let Cardinal Martini teach you, you can hardly go wrong.

Martini’s writings, including these books, can justly be labeled as profound. They not only make you think, but deepen your understanding, and encourage you to dialogue with God, yourself, and others. Reading his books is like entering into a conversation with the author. And one who is very learned, but down to earth, and very much grounded in the real world.

I heartily recommend both of these books as night stand staples. Take your time with them, highlight them if you wish, and ponder the way they enlighten and challenge you. The cover design of these books is also very attractive. At $15.95 and $16.95 each, they are well worth the investment.

Four popes have praised Cardinal Martini. On the eve of the first anniversary of his death, Pope Francis labeled him “a prophetic figure”, “a man of discernment and peace”, and “a father for the whole church.” Need I say more? Buy the books and read them. They will make a difference.

They are available from Paulist Press (paulistpress.com), or by calling 1-800-218-1903.

Posted in Dialogue: The Divine and Human Dynamic of Modern Life, Lectio divina | Leave a comment

Book Review: Reflections on Old Age: A Study in Christian Humanism

Cornelius F. Murphy, Jr. is  a former professor of international law and legal philosophy at Duquesne University. He is the author of over a half dozen books, including Beyond Feminism: Towards a Dialogue on Differences (Catholic University Press).

In his golden years, Dr. Murphy has extensively researched and taught on the spirituality, psychology, and sociology of aging.  More important, he has lived it, not only personally, but within the family, community, and culture. Thus he writes from research, reflection, and experience. His comments are therefore neither academic nor banal, but what I would term philosophically practical and existential.

In the spirit of realism that accompanies both old age and the mentality of this book, let me begin by acknowledging the limitations of the book, or more positively, its scope and focus. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment. It is primarily a literary, philosophical, and sociological work. It does not reflect an acute theological sensitivity, nor does it claim to. However, it competently incorporates contemporary currents of Catholic spirituality, judiciously and accessibly citing magisterial teachings.

The real strength of this book is its assimilation and synthesis of ancient and post-seventeenth century literary sources. Dr. Murphy’s previous books have focused on New England literature from that period, and thus these are featured prominently in this book.

This book is practical and down-to-earth, rather than abstract and academic. Accordingly, it is accessible to any reader seriously wishing to contemplate and wrestle with the essential issues of aging. It is a good resource for lectio divina, that is, prayerful spiritual reading, as it draws significantly from Scripture and both traditional and post-conciliar Catholic spirituality.

The book is not an easy read, but an essential one. Aging is not an issue amenable to superficiality and trivialization, and thus Dr. Murphy does the reader a service by not capitulating to contemporary desires for over-simplification and politicization. The book is readable, stimulating, interesting, affordable, and dialogical. The author brings his own experiences in prudently, without becoming autobiographical or testimonial. The book makes for an excellent companion to old age.

Perhaps the highest praise that could be accorded the book is that it fills a void. I cannot think of another recent work that provides as stimulating a literary,  sociological, spiritual, and experiential exploration of the confusing, hopeful, and often disconcerting phenomena of old age.

At $17, the book is a great value, because it is like sitting in on a course on the subject. The book never becomes tedious, boring, monotonous, or repetitive, and thus one can work through it over a period of weeks, patiently assimilating its observations, assertions, and challenges.  It is good for both neophytes and experienced readers on the subject, and thus makes for a wonderful gift and companion to its aforementioned predecessor, Beyond Feminism, .which similarly tackles a socially relevant phenomena from an informed, thoughtful, and uncommon perspective.

The book can be ordered from the publisher, Resource Publications, at the following website: http://www.wipfandstock.com. Their phone number is 541-344-1528. Orders can be placed at orders@wipfandstock.com.

 

Posted in Dialogue: The Divine and Human Dynamic of Modern Life, Lectio divina | 1 Comment

Pope Francis on spanking

Pope Francis deserves support, prayers, and heeding for his brief remarks on spanking children. It is a sign of the times that he is being criticized for something that would be taken for granted a century ago. And we are the enlightened generation?

Have you been around children who lack discipline, particularly that of a father?

They need guidance.

Parents are human. Children can push you to the edge.

Sometimes reactions are instinctive or instantaneous, and only God knows the motivation.

There is also a lack of common sense here. Having been spanked, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the pain of verbal comments far exceeds that of physical punishment that is coming from someone who loves me. We forget physical pain much quicker than verbal and emotional. The pope mentioned that such punishment should not be humiliating. Let’s critique the critics for just a moment.

We live in a shame culture where on both a mass and individual scale people harm other’s reputations without remorse. Whole magazines are built around gossip. Slander is a way of life for many in the culture. The media destroys reputations without considering the harm done to the person. They worship at the altar of the dollar.

The pope, however, rightly pointed out that the child’s dignity should be preserved. is the child’s dignity preserved by the foul, profane material they are exposed to on television? is the child’s dignity safeguarded by companies exploiting them and parents and conditioning them to consume more and more of things they don’t need.

The obsession with Harry Potter and so many other cultural trivialities is certainly not for the benefit of children. Temporary entertainment perhaps, edification, no.

I rally around the pope and encourage others to do so.

My sense is that his critics really haven’t been around children much in the real world. Have they seen the behavior of children who are neglected by their parents, which is much more harmful than proportionate and well-meaning spanking?

The so-called women’s liberation movement, which has become tragically an enslavement to the worst in human nature: the quest for power, greed, pleasure, and revenge, advocates a woman’s right to an abortion.

Abortion is not murder they say. With all we know scientifically about the mystery and fragility of life, its unimaginable wonders, it is incomprehensible that people would assert that life does not begin at conception. If it is not life, what is it, and at what moment does it arbitrarily become life? We are a disjointed society.

A woman can take the life of her child, and a man can pressure a woman to take the life of her child, and so called physicians, in violation of the Hippocratic oath, profit from the taking of an innocent life, but a parent can’t spank a child.

Since there is no sense of proportion and continuity with respect to abortion and the onset of life, there obviously is none with respect to spanking. Where do we draw the line, and who is qualified to draw it as a matter of law? The government has no right to impose abortion on a woman and family, and it has no province to regulate spanking. There are laws against violence against fellow human beings, and these certainly can be applied in cases of obvious child abuse.

Absolute prohibitions of spanking are illogical and subjective. If a parent chooses not to spank, that is their prerogative. But it is not the prerogative of others to impose subjective values with respect to child discipline, particularly when it goes against tradition.

What are the fruits of the way we treat children today in our spank-averse culture? Are children growing up healthier due to the way we discipline them? People’s conscience and values should be respected on this matter as long as they are within certain norms and boundaries. It is wrong to injure a child, but causing pain with proper intention is another matter.

What about children who go astray due to neglect, societal conditioning, peer pressure, or verbal abuse?

We need to change our laws to protect the life of an unborn child before even pondering legislation against corporal punishment. It’s okay to kill an unborn child, to take away their life at its very beginning, but it is not okay to show a child in practical ways not only that we care that we do the right thing, but that we will take the necessary steps, to the best of our ability, to protect and guide them.

In our culture, people can make false accusations against a family member or a member of the clergy, destroying their reputation and to a degree their life, and go unpunished, but God forbid that they touch a child with other than the purest gentility.

Children who have been spanked and grown up to be mature and healthy adults know that this politically correct and misinformed (poor psychological foundations) assault against common sense and the natural order (parents are entitled to responsible authority over their children) is not only nonsense but dangerous.

We live in a culture where a political administration can demagogically mislead and deceives the masses and embark on a morally unjustifiable war that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths and life-impairing injuries and yet face no consequences, and where unborn children are slaughtered by the hundred of thousands and not protected by the law, and a slap on the bum designed to protect and guide a child, however imperfectly dispenses (for parenting is not a perfect science or art) is a criminal offense.

Parents who care enough to pay attention to a child and seek their welfare, sometimes at the expense of their own, to the point where sometimes mild and prudent physical correction is utilized, commit a crime, and those who pursue careers, power, prestige, and pleasure to the neglect of their children escape practical consequences and corrective action.

Spanking need not become child abuse. It should be monitored just like other parental actions. But the prerogatives of the parents must be respected and protected.

The pope rightly focused on the dignity of the person. That is the ultimate issue. Does war (such as the invasion of Iraq), manipulative and exploitative marketing and consumerism, and laws permitting abortion, among many contemporary plights,  respect human dignity? Much less than proportionate and prudent spanking!

Pope Francis, we are grateful for your honesty, sincerity, frankness, straightforwardness, courage, compassion, and common sense. You are in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who decried lusting after one’s wife and objectifying her, and was similarly criticized by so-called woman’s advocates.

In a culture where unborn children are not protected and children are manipulated by economic and social conditioning and exposed prematurely to sexual behavior and language that is unquestionably detrimental to their welfare, it is unconscionable that those who spank their children with good intentions and moderation are treated as criminals.

The pope needs defenders and cannot defend himself — Like the unborn child and the children who need rearing. Will you join me at his side, exhorting him to persevere in his proclamation of the Gospel, expressing solidarity with his defense of traditional morals and values, and trying, however imperfectly, to live it?

His critics need to advocate for children on the issues of abortion, economic and social exploitation of children, parental neglect and irresponsibility, and offensive and damaging stimuli in the media. Then they will have a sense of proportionately and dialogue intelligently on proper measures for child rearing and discipline. Let’s get the fundamentals in order as a foundation for refining our prudential judgment.

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Homeschool vs. Public School

Homeschool vs. Public School

Laura Haber

As parents, our foremost thought and purpose is to protect our children. A second close is to teach them what values, virtues, morals, and skills we believe are necessary to function in this world and live a Christ-centered life. When it comes to our children and education, the big debate is what is best; a public provided education or a parent provided education, and what curriculum will meet our set goals without compromising the education we give our children.

With a Master’s in Elementary Education, I am often asked why on earth I have spent so much money and time to get a degree in education to homeschool my own children. The answer is very simple; once I began my student teaching, it became apparent what was really going on behind those beautiful brick walls covered with posters, which hide the cinder blocks (and germs).

Now, please don’t get me wrong, there are schools that are building children up and growing their intellect so we have future thinkers and leaders, but we also have schools that are “producing” our children, imparting misleading and downright wrong educational material and ideas, and foregoing character building and love of one another, with a central focus. Wait, there is a central focus, the test, but that is for another day. Teachers are piled with more and more of the parental burden, as administrators push more and more of a political burden. There are not enough hours in the school day (there are seven, but only about four hours can actually be considered educationally engaged hours) to do what is required and often times, teachers simply move on, leaving the students who don’t understand, behind.

As a once perspective teacher, I was very upset that I did not come to the realization that I was what was best for my children, sooner. Who better than the child’s parents to teach them? Sure, my degree made me excellent with crowd control, but what about really teaching these kids? It is almost impossible to reach students without parental involvement, and with the current state of the world, more and more children are raising themselves or being raised by siblings or friends. In a public school setting, it is extremely hard to reach every student, especially those who are exceptional (one end of the spectrum or the other). In a homeschool setting, the parent sets the course of learning through student interests and ability and the timeline is flexible (in many states).

As a thoughtful, loving, and concerned parent, why on earth would I send my child away to “work” (that is what it is, is it not?) for nine hours a day to have to supplement and correct for the remaining five to six hours? Not only do I have to focus on what is being taught by the adults in the school system, but also focus on what the other students are teaching my children. There is no better place for children to learn about misinformed sexuality, social norms, and secularism, then a public school setting. Unfortunately, many private Catholic schools are adopting the Common Core and embracing, with a touch of Catholic Faith, the “dumbing us down” mentality. Common Core you ask? Well, that is another stadium size can of worms that must be addressed, but I will save that for another article.

So, back to the original idea; why homeschool and what are the benefits weighed against that of a public education? The answer for me is my children’s morality and individual intelligence. I don’t expect to teach them only about our Faith, but I do intend for my children to live the Gospel and be that light for so many others who, for one reason or another, are living in darkness. I want my children to grow and prosper under His guidance, which is given through me and the Church. I want my children to know that they are important and have talents that will most definitely not be highlighted with a public education, given its current state. Not to mention the fact that so many people who do send their children to public school speak so poorly of teachers and how much they make for “babysitting” but continue to place the burden of moral and intellectual education in the hands of teachers who they criticize and belittle whenever said child does not perform up to some set of unimaginable standards.
What about those parents who want to homeschool and can’t because they have to work? Well, I am a working mother. I am busy, very busy (just ask my husband who has to make appointments to talk to me) and I homeschool. My children, through homeschooling and love and respect, have become self-starters, goal setters and achievers. Nothing thrills my twelve year old more than finishing up a textbook and work in March/April when we have slotted the work to end in late May. You can homeschool your kids. You have to remember that the educational day does not have to (nor should it) look like that of a public school. Work around the obstacles, or make changes to your current situation. God provides. He always has for us and I know he always will.

It would be just lovely if I could wrap our family up in a nice Catholic Bubble and leave everything else outside, but we do not have that much bubble wrap. Instead, I will guide my children’s learning and character through parental love and support, the way God intended it to be. I know that my children may never go to college or become millionaires, but if they are happy, productive, Christ-centered people, than I have done my job.

Laura Haber, B.S., MaEd, CFCP
Homeschooling Mother of 5
Berkeley Springs, WV

lbreengoad@aol.com

 

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Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning

Laura Haber

Natural Family Planning has been around since the beginning of time. In the book of Leviticus, written between 900 and 800 BC, it is written, “When a woman has her menstrual flow, she shall be in a state of impurity for seven days…If a man dares lie with her, he contracts her impurity and shall be unclean for seven days…When a woman is afflicted with a flow of blood for several days outside her menstrual period, or when her flow continues beyond her ordinal time, as long as she suffers this unclean flow she shall be unclean, just as during her menstrual period. If she becomes free from her affliction, she will wait seven days and only then is she to be purified…On the eighth day she shall take two turtle doves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent.” Leviticus 15: 19-29). In other words, the woman was unclean during her menstrual period and had to wait for 12 days before she could dip her whole body in a basin called a mikvah and say a short blessing and then be touched by her husband. No surprise that this coincides, in general, with the most fertile time of the menstrual cycle and was consistent with the Jewish law to be “Fruitful and multiply.”

Since those days, things have changed and we have come to understand a woman’s cycle and her fertility in a scientific and medical way. There has been much scrutiny and many obstacles to the use and implementation of Natural Family Planning as a means to regulate and space children naturally. We often hear the term “ineffective” or “counting days does not work” and Calendar Method often comes to mind. The up-to-date means of Natural Family Planning is extremely effective and does not use counting days to determine the time of fertility. Natural Family Planning, particularly the Creighton Model Fertility Care System, now also has the added benefit of NaPro Technology, founded by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, as a call to Pope Paul VI in 1968 with Humanae Vitae. This new technology provides the means to treat women who suffer from infertility and general gynecological problems using a method that preserves the fertility of a woman in a more natural way.

This article sets out to educate and reaffirm the values that Natural Family Planning can instill not only in Catholics and those who value the true meaning of life, liberty and happiness, but also those who wish to understand their bodies in a more natural state, those who suffer from infertility, and those who are looking for an alternative to harmful contraceptive methods. We will also touch on some of the statistics that will help to reinforce the true value that Natural Family Planning offers not only to couples and women, but also to the nation as a whole.

VALUES
Western culture as it enters the 21st century faces a wide spectrum of alarming social problems before it; the disintegration of the family as evidenced by ever-increasing divorce rates, family violence, sexually transmitted diseases, induced abortion, out-of-wedlock pregnancies (in spite of wide-spread contraceptive and abortion practices), sexual and physical child abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and teen suicide. These very real social issues are breaking down the very core of humanity.

Natural Family Planning focuses on the total person perspective, bringing the attention back to where it should be: on the family, self education and body awareness. NFP educates women and couples about their bodies and the way in which we are designed and work. We are made to procreate, as we are also created to love and be loved, not only in the physical sense but also in the emotional and marital sense. Natural Family Planning highlights and emphasizes this very fact. The couple comes together and begins to understand how their bodies work separately and together.

When young girls embrace the art of Natural Family Planning, they harbor a respect for the body and the reality that “sex” has more to it than just the physical act. They begin to look at the world around them in a whole new light and begin to ask more of themselves when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Because they understand the consequences of what can happen, more and more young girls who embrace Natural Family Planning are abstaining, and if they are sexually active, stopping.

The value of life is highlighted with Natural Family Planning. Every child is a wanted and loved child as there are no surprises with Natural Family Planning when the correct program is used with the aid of a knowledgeable Instructor or Practitioner, which in turn creates a decline in abortions.

UNDERSTANDING OUR BODIES
We have been entrusted with an incredible ability to procreate and to simply just “be.” We have amazing bodies that allow us to run, jump, speak, feel pain and joy, and simply go from the couch to the fridge without a second thought. Many of us put our bodies through the wringer with unhealthy food, little to no exercise and bombard it with untested and downright harmful medications. Birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUD’s), sterilization and abortion are part of this family. They create a false sense of security and allow the user the excuse to be frivolous with their sexuality regardless of the consequences. This “sexual revolution” has brought about freedom; freedom for sexually transmitted diseases, promiscuity, adultery and gender confusion.

When we are born, we are in our most natural state. Why on earth would we deviate from the natural when most of the “products” advertised for us are so unnatural? Simple — convenience. Natural Family Planning is natural and simple. As mentioned above, this is the most natural means to regulate family size as well as manage health issues for women. Somewhere along the line we have lost the ability and even the drive to understand ourselves and how we work. We have turned to doctors and pharmacies to ease our pain, space our children, and even give us our children.

With the use of a natural method, the couple relies on the body’s reliable bio markers to determine when the time of fertility is approaching and has passed. For those who suffer from medical issues, known, unknown, or infertility, these bio markers are the cornerstone to identification, treatment and a possible cure. Many NFP users who suffered from unexplained infertility have found their answer and have gone on to have happy, healthy children; this speaks truth as well as volumes.

APPROACHING INFERTILITY
Many couples today face the very real experience of infertility, whether it is unexplained, diagnosed or secondary. This is a painful situation that has opened up an industry profiting billions at the expense of women, their dignity, their savings, their health and the lives of their unborn children. What not many understand about IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is the damage, both emotionally and physically, that this process entails.

IVF requires the couple to go through a very invasive process that is not only expensive, but time and most certainly emotionally consuming. The pharmaceutical drugs mandatory to produce the mock cycles needed for embryonic transplants are downright dangerous (Lupron, just to name one. Have you read about the lawsuit?) Cysts, bruising at the injection site, hyperstimulation of the ovaries, ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary in on itself, cutting off blood supply and ultimately the loss of the ovary), ovarian and breast cancer, ectopic pregnancy and multiple gestation (which often leads to reduction or abortion) are all very real and dangerous side effects with IVF, although not nearly as well publicized as IVF’s “success rate.”

Natural Family Planning has absolutely no side effects. The cost is far less than IVF, and the outcome of pregnancies carried to term is far greater, as seen below. IVF clinics do not treat the cause of the infertility; instead they give – sometimes — babies (Instant family, just add doctor). The turnaround may be quicker, but the cost and true health benefit exempts this from being considered a healthful alternative.

Natural Family Planning, with the right Instructor or Practitioner and Physician, will help to diagnose and treat infertility issues with far greater success in both pregnancy achievement and a successful pregnancy outcome. Babies are the icing on the cake; a healthy woman is the ultimate goal. Once the issue is diagnosed and treated, a successful pregnancy can result as well as future successful pregnancies without repeated expense and invasive treatments. IVF clinics will never say that make that claim.

Most recently, an IVF clinic has advertised a “natural cycle” IVF. This would be wonderful if were truly that. “Natural Cycle” requires the use of Natural Family Planning, and the methods that promote respect for life and human dignity would never allow anyone to chart their cycle simply to throw away life at an IVF clinic.

NFP vs. Artificial Reproductive Technologies
As stated above, Natural Family Planning strives to help the woman achieve a state of healthy living through tracking her cycles naturally. ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies) do not provide any such assistance. Below is a table of statistics to truly compare Natural Family Planning to ART in both cost comparison and treatment of women’s health issues and infertility.

Courtesy of Pope Paul VI Institute

NaPro Technology Artificial Reproductive Technologies
Success Rates (in percent) Success Rates (in percent)

Infertility Treatment
Endometriosis………………………………56.7 – 76.4 57.0
Polycystic Ovaries…………………….…….62.5 – 80.0 25.6

Premenstrual Dysphoric Syndrome (PMS)
Antidepressant …………………………………95.2 43.0

Prematurity & Severe Prematurity Rate
Prematurity Rate…..………………………………7.0 12.1
Severe Prematurity Rate…………………………1.3 3.9

Recurrent Spontaneous Abortion
Current Medical Approach ……………………….79 Lower

Chronic Pelvic Pain
Hysterectomy rate…………………………………11.5 40.0

Cost Effectiveness (Based on 5 years of use)
NFP(Creighton Model System)…………………$494 Birth Control Pills…..$1,866

 

Cost Effectiveness (Based on cost per cycle)
Infertility…………………………………….…….$322 IVF……….$9,226

(Based on cost savings generated by decrease in pre-maturity rate to 7.0 percent
Pre-maturity)

Current Medical Approach……….…………. $16,795 $28,556
PMS Evaluation & Treatment………………….$3,218 $5,104
NFP vs. Hormonal Contraceptives
There are many reasons to choose a natural means to regulate fertility over using hormonal contraceptives and devices. Foremost, any hormonal contraceptives (chemical) and all IUD’s are abortifacients. The birth control pill has three ways in which it prevents a pregnancy; the first is to stop ovulation, but numerous cases have cited that this is not effective since the doses of estrogen in the pill had to be cut back due to the high incidence of breast cancer reported, and ovulation can and in some cases, does still occur. The second step is to alter the state of the cervical mucus to inhibit sperm transportation. The third and final step in chemical birth control pills to avoid pregnancy is to alter the lining of the uterus, thus preventing a fertilized egg (a new human life) from implanting and growing. The IUD’s real action mechanism is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg as well.

Natural Family Planning evokes self mastery as the woman grows to understand her body and use the times of fertility to achieve pregnancies and the times of infertility to avoid pregnancies. There are no surprises. Contraceptives provide the couple with a false sense of security and the false notion that there is no need to be selective, to wait for the right person and to abstain before marriage.

Couples who use NFP have a much lower divorce rate than those who use nothing or contracept; there is better communication, they respect the truth of sexuality and the language of the body and become cooperators and co-creators with God.

CONCLUSION
Natural Family Planning boasts many benefits, all of which are backed by scientific and medical research. There are a few methods of Natural Family Planning which can be used, Sympto-Thermal, Creighton Model Fertility Care System, which includes NaPro Technology, The Ovulation Method and the Couple to Couple League. Each method applies education to NFP to ensure the couple is educated and knowledgeable in its use. Many methods also have the added benefit of an Instructor or Practitioner to help guide the woman/couple in navigating long, irregular and/or anovulatory cycles, during breastfeeding, in cases of infertility and for those wishing to simply avoid or achieve a pregnancy. The effectiveness of NFP versus chemical methods of contraception is comparable, each having a method effectiveness of 98% and a use effectiveness of 95%. The only question remaining, with all the clear statistics, is why would someone go against natural law, God, and their very own body to ingest chemicals simply for the sake of convenience when there is a better, more natural approach?

Laura Haber has a BS in Human Services and is a Fertility Care Practitioner. Laura is a devoted wife and mother of four beautiful children,currently working on her license as a Certified Professional Midwife. She lives in and loves Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. She is also an officer in The Defenders of The Faith, Inc. Her email address is lbreengoad@aol.com.

 

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