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Too Catholic for my own good? May 29, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, blogfoolery, Dallas Diocese, disaster, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, sadness, scandals, Society.

I think I got some gentle criticism this weekend while visiting my wife’s family.  It was pointedly noted that, as a recovering addict, I surely have trouble with moderation (true) and that I have a tendency to go to extremes (not as sure about that).  It was also noted that I may have a propensity to go “down the wrong path” in the Faith (this wrong path was not really explained), and……not sure what the remedy for that was, other than being careful not to do so, I suppose.  Humility and obedience, surely.  Which I desperately need more of, in great quantities.

I was thinking about that conversation when I came across a post by a certain very well known Catholic blogger, who I generally avoid like the plague, wherein he explained, in his usual highly evasive and reserved way (!!), that “NFP zealouts” need to shut the hell up and get out of other people’s lives.  Essentially.

At issue was a letter ostensibly sent to this well known blogger that bemoaned – at length and with great gusto – those surely traddy type Catholics who look down their noses on all others who do not have at least 10 kids.   Knowing a fair number of the type alluded to, I’m not at all certain that is the case, but, fight through that for now.  I won’t quote the letter, for it was all straw men and special pleading – what is more to my interest is the blogger’s reply, part of which I excerpt below (no return link being my policy with certain overly aggressive Catholic bloggers, you’ll just have to trust me):

[With regard to the conditions under which a couple should or can use NFP…..] The simple fact is that the Church asks of the faithful that they be open to life by not practicing artificial contraception.  Period.  If you are looking for a place to stand, stand on that.  All the guilt-mongering spiritual comparisons inflicted on those with small families by the Elite [please……you make your living off of telling other Catholics what to think, tossing the “elite” epithet is disingenuous at best] is just the sin of judgmentalism. [???] Those people are not your judge, God is.  If you are doing the Church asks, you are doing what God asks.[I can think of a dozen odd priests, bishops, and theologians who would take great exception with Shea’s definition of what he claims the Church commands, just off the top of my head]

A good habit for the faithful Catholic to cultivate when he is besieged by this sort of judgmental comparison-making is to learn the distinction between real scandal (i.e. tempting somebody to violate their conscience) and mere offended censoriousness. [Is scandal really the issue here?]  When somebody decides to be more holy than the Church, they are welcome to impose such things on themselves.  But they have no right to impose them on you and you have no obligation to feel like a bad Catholic if you are doing what Holy Church asks.

Really.  Reeeaaaally?  I guess this guy would be there to defend Cain when he claimed he was not his brother’s keeper.  And these statements seem to ignore Jesus’ Gospel command that if one finds a brother in error, they  should go and try to admonish that brother.  None of that for Pope S–a. 

These paragraphs are so wrong as to be frightening, scandalous, even.  The Church does indeed care a great deal more than simply that a (married?) couple not use contraception.  The procreative end of marriage is the primary end.  That is, it is the prime purpose of marriage.  Anything – anything! – the defeats that prime purpose is problematic.  Now, the problematic can be acceptable in certain limited extenuating circumstances, but using any means to defeat the body’s natural capability to procreate is, at best, something the Church tolerates, but does not endorse wholeheartedly.  Thus, there are many in the Church – a growing number, in fact, who have grave reservations about the way in which NFP is both presented and used in many quarters.  This reservation is not morally censorious. It is in fact a charitable concern for our neighbor, a concern based far more on the eternal repercussions of abuse of NFP (if abuse occurs), than in the well known blogger’s worldly reply.

The blogger/radio personality appears to take his correspondent at face value, but I would have felt strong reservations taking this person’s side (which he did), given how stridently, vociferously, and salaciously they ripped into these alleged anti-NFP zealouts.  When reading this letter, I got the sense that the person’s conscience was piqued – alot – and that they were casting about for some kind of affirmation of the choices they’d made.

None of this is to say that we should go out hunting for couples with a few or no children and start to pry into their personal lives.  To do so could be extremely hurtful to a couple who had, perhaps, desperately wanted children throughout their marriage but been unable to conceive.  But in today’s environment, when so many share so much with total strangers on the net, it becomes a general topic of conversation.  This is not the witch hunt the blogger describes in his usual straw man, shroud waving way.  It’s a response to what many see as an ongoing and widespread pattern of abuse of NFP, and even more so, the way NFP is presented in many quarters in the Church as a lifelong alternative to birth control, where couples – for any reason whatsoever, whether ‘serious’ or ‘grave’ or flippant – are advised to use NFP in the exact manner in which they would have used artificial contraception. 

But, if we happen to come into knowledge that someone is using NFP in a disordered way, it is our duty as Catholics to approach the person in great charity and tenderness and to try to explain the proper understanding of the ends of marriage and openness to procreation, not to make ourselves feel superior, but to help that couple avoid/eliminate a very grave sin.  I think the fear many have is that couples are being led down the primrose path by possibly well-intentioned folks in the Church who have a disordered understanding of the use of NFP.

The way this well known blogger frames and executes his argument is disturbing.  He starts by making an extremely doubtful assertion, regarding what the Church believes (the only concern is not using contraception), and then proceeds to condemn as judgmental sinners any who would disagree with his false view.  He does this with such grim regularity that one has to wonder just what the motivation would be. 


1. St. Anne Center for Reproductive Health - May 29, 2012
2. cnmnancy - May 30, 2012

Oh yes. I also read the post and his replies in the comments. I found it all rather offensive. And wrong. But then again, he would likely think me “one of them”

tantamergo - May 30, 2012

Yeah. I’d use his name, but I figured alot of people would know who I’m talking about. The reason I did not is that I didn’t want to deal with him or his minions coming here and causing a ruckus – then I’d just have to ban alot of people. But the guy is becoming more and more problematic, and, in a truly amazing fashion, projecting onto others what he himself constantly does – pronouncing that his beliefs are infallible and then excoriating (almost, in a sense, excommunicating) anyone who disagrees.

Thus, Pope Shea.

3. Jeff Spalding - May 30, 2012

I went to a forum in Kentucky some 15 years ago and the guest speaker was Dr. Rice, a professor for Notre Dame, yet a very orthodox catholic, and he gave a great education on contraception. After his talk, I went to him and asked how NFP and contraception were different. HIs answer was short and simple, which is my style. He said there is no difference unless NFP is practiced for “very serious” reasons. 1) Immenant compromise of the life of the mother 2) compromising the mental health of the parents 3) extreme financial hardship. When I asked him how do you determine validity in any of those cases, his response was, and again, short and simple, “you can’t fool God”.

tantamergo - May 30, 2012

Exactly. And thanks so much for the comment, Jeff. That is what I and many others worry about – we can’t fool God, but we can easily fool ourselves. I am concerned that many folks are using NFP in a manner that is indistinguishable from contraception, for the same reasons and to the same ends, and I don’t think that is what God wills for us. I know that is not what the Church has believed. So, I pray for these souls, but a guy like Shea, affirming them, can cause immense damage because he is still, for some reason, influential.

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