Saturday, August 02, 2008

Contraception Excursion

Matthew Bellisario has posted a blog entry responding to Gene Bridge's comments on a tangential aspect of the on-going Sola Scriptura debate (link to debate) (link to Gene's comments - first comment - second comment) (link to MB's Response - caution: large purported image of Jesus at top of site: a fact that will probably be of note only to my more Puritanically inclined readers). (UPDATE: Incidentally, welcome to those visiting via Mr. Greco's link ... you may be particularly interested in the sidebar debate taking place in this post's comment box.)

The comment that my friend Gene Bridges made, which provoked Matthew Bellisario was, as stated by MB: "He says that Catholicism does not condemn contraception, but only distinguishes between natural and artificial contraception."

In support of Gene's comment, I submit the following evidence: "The second area which His Holiness would stress is that of promotion. He repeats his encouragement and gratitude to all those who work for the promotion of natural family planning, whether directly with couples, or in medical and social endeavors." and "It is important that public authorities and international bodies, medical personnel and social workers, marriage counsellors and educators should recognize the high positive values that are to be found in the natural methods, in which the dignity of the human person is fostered: a knowledge and understanding of fertility help to assure personal autonomy by liberating couples from artificial means, while leading them to a degree of sexual self-mastery which is in direct contrast with the permissiveness and promiscuity that today constitute grave social problems to be solved." (source - note that this is from the official Vatican website)

The comments above are part of a message from pope Paul VI (sent by Cardinal Villot to Cardinal Cooke on May 24, 1978). If that evidence does not demonstrate exactly what Gene Bridges was saying, I don't know what would.

Nevertheless, let's examine Bellisario's rather interesting counter-argument.

1) He quotes this definition: "Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14)."

2) He argues that "Those using what the Church considers to be natural is not really contraception at all. In fact even if one follows the NFP [Natural Family Planning] it is never 100% and therefore the person is not acting in a way as to eliminate the pro creative [sic] from the act itself."

3) He ignores that even the use of barrier and chemical methods have a less than 100% success rate in preventing procreation.

In other words, if one ignores the plainest and simplest meaning of "contraception" (i.e. a practice that limits or avoids conceiving children - aka pre-conception birth control), in favor of a meaning that requires that the act have an 100% success rate, one can avoid distinguishing between NFP and artificial contraception - but at the cost of permitting most forms of contraception, including forms (such as the use of certain latex products) that everyone knows Catholicism opposes.

So, when one evaluates MB's accusation, "This Gene Bridges hasn't a clue as to what in the world he is talking about, nor what The Catholic Church teaches," one may find oneself arriving at a very different conclusion from that of Mr. Bellisario.

-TurretinFan

N.B.I have intentionally avoided discussing the issues raised in the debate regarding the significance (or not) of this matter to the topic of Sola Scriptura.

UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - MB has provided a second post (link - same 2nd commandment warning as above) in which he continues to refuse to let Gene Bridges' statement have any meaning. Apparently, Gene Bridges is not allowed (in MB's world) to disagree with MB's church over what constitutes "contraception." Why is this not just impolite but absurd?

Maybe an analogy would be helpful:

Suppose that Gene's church claimed to be against gambling, but suppose that they actually permitted betting on horse races. Someone would be within their rights to say that Gene's church was actually only against certain kinds of gambling. If Gene replied that his church defined gambling as betting on cards, and that consequently the critic has no idea what they are talking about, we'd laugh him out of town.

The same goes here. MB's church defines contraception (according to MB) in a way that excludes certain kinds of things that actually prevent conception. The fact that MB's church supposedly defines contraception only to include things that they prohibit is a laughable defense to the natural vs. artificial critique. In fact, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is often used expressly to engage in sexual intercourse without producing conception. That's a contraceptive practice, broadly defined - just as betting on horses is gambling, broadly defined.

MB's response that "The prior post I that put up explains what the Church teaches as a definition of contraception ... NFP does not fall into that category," is exactly as convincing as Gene's hypothetical response that "My previous comment explains what my church teaches as a definition of gambling ... betting on horses does not fall into that category," would be: not at all. If Gene in that hypothetical example then tacked on insults about the critic not knowing what he was talking about, or the like, we'd say he wasn't just absurd, but rude too.

Of course, the most absurd aspect of the whole discussion about contraception is the fact that MB's church is plainly wrong. If there is anything wrong with contraception (and there is no need to debate that here or at all), it has nothing to do with how that contraception is accomplished (whether by spilling it on the ground, using a piece of latex, or only having carnal knowledge of one's wife when there is low "risk" of conception). There's nothing inherently sinful about wearing latex, or particularly righteous about keeping track of fecundity with a calendar and thermometer.

In fact, if contraception is not an illicit goal, then arguably the technique of abstaining from that kind of physical intimacy for one to two weeks a month is wrong (because although contraception is not itself an illicit goal it may be an insufficient justification for withholding sexual relations within marriage), while wearing a contraceptive device would be acceptable in God's eyes (since it would permit the continuity of sexual relations).

FURTHER UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - MB has posted yet a third post on this subject. (link - same warning as usual). MB still does not get that NFP is contraceptive behavior. He even makes the claim: "So now am I going to let these two define what is an act or is not considered to be an act by their own musings? I think not. NFP cannot be a form of contraception because there is no act causing it. There is nothing that keeps the sexual act from happening except for abstinence. In order for Bridges and Tf to be right they would have to prove that every couple not engaged in sexual intercourse would be considered to be engaging in a contraceptive act. This is complete nonsense."

MB's argument falls apart again, when one scrutinizes it logically:

1 (per MB): NFP consists of not engaging in carnal knowledge at certain times.
2 (per MB): Not engaging in carnal knowledge is not an act.
ergo: NFP is not an act, consequently NFP cannot be a contraceptive act.

At first glance, this might seem to have merit. How can not doing anything be an act? But if we apply it to an analogy, we can soon realize how foolish it is:

1 (analogy): Neglect consists in not feeding one's children.
2 (analogy): Not feeding one's children is not an act.
ergo: Neglect is not an act, and consequently cannot be an improper act.

I hope everyone realizes that such an argument is absurd.

But MB tags on a little something extra: he claims that, "In order for Bridges and Tf to be right they would have to prove that every couple not engaged in sexual intercourse would be considered to be engaging in a contraceptive act."

On the other hand, however, that's a bit like saying that to be right about the analogy one would have to prove that every family not engaged in feeding their children would be considered to be engaging in neglect. Both claims (both MB's and that of the person in the analogy) are overblown.

All we have to show is what everybody with any brains already has figured out: people who are using NFP to avoid conceiving children are engaging in a contraceptive technique. The technique even has a name: the rhythm method.

In his pontificating, MB finally decides to expose his lack of familiarity with issues relating to contraception: "We can also see that TF still does not understand what NFP is either, after I have explained it in my earlier posts, because he says its failure rate is the same as the "withdrawal method?" What? Once again I am baffled here."

But the bafflement is really not our fault. MB should do his research. Here's a link providing an example of the statistics of failure rate for NFP/rhythm method (link). Here's a link providing an example of the statistics on the failure rate of the withdrawal method (link). As you can see, the failure rate is about 20% in both cases. Of course, that's the "in practice" failure rate, as opposed to the "perfectly performed" failure rate. One hopes that MB will read and learn.

MB even goes further and complains about GB and I supposedly being reticent to admit a mistake. MB's a bit hasty in this regard. GB probably hasn't even yet seen MB's correction regarding the withdrawal method, and I did not adopt GB's position. Apparently, MB is desperate for an example of an error, and so he's trying to latch firmly on to this issue of the withdrawal method not being kosher among papists.

But before we close, let's get back to that ridiculous logic that because NFP involves abstaining from sexual relations, therefore it cannot be considered a contraceptive technique. By that logic:

1. Fasting cannot be a meritorious act, since it is simply abstaining from eating.
2. Virginity cannot be a virtuous state, since it is simply abstaining from sexual intercourse.
3. Celibacy (i.e. what many mistake for chastity) ... see (2).
4. Sobriety cannot be a virtuous lifestyle, since it is simply avoiding drunkenness.

In short, no patterns of negative behavior can be good, if no patterns of negative behavior can be bad. Of course, no good member of the church that is in communion with Benedict XVI can rightly deny the virtue of fasting, virginity, "chastity," and sobriety, even though those are primarily negative activities: abstentions from various otherwise desired acts.

NFP (i.e. the rhythm method) is just another method of conception. It may be more natural than Onanism (spilling it on the ground - sometimes equated with the withdrawal method), but it is still an intentional act (of omission) aimed at preventing reproduction. A pattern of NFP behavior in which a couple engages in sexual relations at certain times rather than others in order to avoid conception, is plainly contraceptive behavior, just as eating a small amount of food every three hours can be a weight loss technique, and limiting yourself to one beer after dinner can be a sobriety technique.

YET FURTHER UPDATE: August 3, 2008 - Not able to get enough of this subject, MB has replied yet again (link - same warning regarding prominent violation of the 2nd commandment).

Now, having demonstrated his bafflement a number of different ways, MB demonstrates that he cannot address the actual arguments presented. Instead he states: "I guess every person now who is walking the face of the earth who is married and not having sex is engaged in a contraceptive act according to TF."

That, of course, is not what I have said. NFP can be used to enhance fertility, just as it can be used to promote infertility. Couples who are not making love today in order to make love more productively tomorrow are obviously engaged in conceptive behavior, just as couples who are consciously forgoing lovemaking today to avoid conception are engaging in contraceptive activity.

NFP is to sexual activity as dieting is eating. Both are negative activities, designed to alter the consequences of the abstained-from activity in some way, as part of pattern of behavior.

Finally, MB crosses the line:

"We also see that they can make false statements like telling us the "withdrawal method" is approved by the Catholic Church, and then once they realize they are wrong the [sic] try and [sic] sidestep the issue. Unbelievable here folks. But this is par for the course when dealing with these guys. Truth has no place in their thinking."

a) Truth has no place in their thinking? That's an outrageous statement, even for Bellisario. In fact, Bellisario hasn't even waited to hear Gene's response! Talk about not caring about the truth: Bellisario is rushing to accuse Gene of not caring about the truth without waiting to see Gene's response to the claim that Gene made a mistake.

b) Par for the course when dealing with these guys? More rhetorical banter.

c) They try to sidestep the issue? It would be more accurate to say that MB has been trying to dodge the issue from square one: the issue being Catholicism's irrational distinction between contraception using the rhythm method and other forms of contraception. Whether they also accept the withdrawal method is a moot point, except for Bellisario's urgent quest to find some mistake (not matter how small) in my friend Gene's statement.

d) "They" can make false statements? Even assuming that Bellisario could establish that Catholicism condemns the withdrawal method (not just by the ordinary, but by the extraordinary magisterium), how does Gene turn into "they"? Of course, we know how it turns into "they," because it's convenient for the rhetorical opponent-bashing that MB has decided to engage in.

Finally, MB wraps up his post with a link to try to bolster the invalid distinction between contraception and natural family planning.

And again, here's another quotation from materials from the Vatican's own web site, reinforcing Gene Bridge's original comment:

"6. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication by my predecessor Pope Paul VI of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae. The truth about human sexuality, and the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life and on responsible parenthood, must be presented in the light of the theological development which has followed that document, and in the light of the experience of couples who have faithfully followed this teaching. Many couples have experienced how natural family planning promotes mutual respect, encourages tenderness between husband and wife, and helps develop an authentic inner freedom (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370; Humanae Vitae, 21). Their experience deserves to be shared, for it is the living confirmation of the truth which Humanae Vitae teaches. In contrast, there is a growing awareness of the serious harm caused to marital relationships by recourse to artificial contraception, which, because it inevitably thwarts the total self-giving implied in the conjugal act, at one and the same time destroys its procreative meaning and weakens its unitive significance (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 13)." (link to source - Official Vatican website)

Here's another:

"Their humanizing character is all the more obvious from the fact that using the natural methods requires and strengthens the harmony of the married couple, it helps and confirms the rediscovery of the marvellous gift of parenthood, it involves respect for nature and demands the responsibility of the individuals. According to many authoritative opinions, they also foster more completely that human ecology which is the harmony between the demands of nature and personal behaviour." (link to source - Official Vatican website)

UPDATE: August 4, 2008 - MB still continues to hope to deny that rhythmic contraception is contraception. (link - same warnings about a big picture that aims to portray the second person of the Trinity) It's somewhat amusing, because MB rushes to call GB a liar (as noted above). Now, when GB starts to explain himself, MB continues to suggest the GB is just making stuff up. I think it is apparent who is more familiar with the topic, between the two of them. MB claims that he has proved that "the Church" has not endorsed the withdrawal method. Of course, a more carefully reading of Gene's comments is that Gene has asserted that there is no infallible condemnation of the withdrawal method. As far as I can see from MB's 5 posts (so far) on the subject, MB has been unable to point to any infallible condemnation of the withdrawal method.

MB points to individual statements of individual popes, but while there is a sense in which such teachings are the teachings of the Church, they are not normally considered "infallible," a fact that MB very well knows.

Furthermore, while MB claims that the very general remarks that he quotes "would include the 'withdrawal method'," they certainly don't specify that method. Furthermore, MB simply fails to address GB's point that those comments have been interpreted as referring to acts involving mechanical and chemical intervention.

MB even fails to see such an interpretation popping out at him from a quotation be pulls down from the Official Vatican web site: "Their experience deserves to be shared, for it is the living confirmation of the truth which Humanae Vitae teaches. In contrast, there is a growing awareness of the serious harm caused to marital relationships by recourse to artificial contraception, which, because it inevitably thwarts the total self-giving implied in the conjugal act, at one and the same time destroys its procreative meaning and weakens its unitive significance." (emphasis added for those who have trouble reading)

And, of course, as noted above - this is all just a minor tangent as far as I am concerned. Everyone sees that Catholicism promotes rhythmic contraception, whether or not anyone wants to argue about their promotion of other kinds of non-artificial contraception.

Additionally, MB provides an article that attempts to dissect the various intentions in rhythmic contraception as distinct from other kinds of contraception. The clarity of the article leaves something to be desired. But it reduces to this:

1. There is an intention to do the act (drink an elixir or abstain from sex); and
2. There is an intention for the act (to avoid conceiving children).

The problem with the attempt to divide these intentions (and it is not an invalid distinction), is that the condemnation of other forms of contraception than the rhythm method must incorporate the type (2) intention, while to permit rhythmic contraception, one must ignore type (2) intention.

In other words, there is nothing sinful about intending to wear latex or drink a draught of chemicals. There's nothing intrinsically evil about latex or progesterone (or whatever). There's nothing intrinsically evil about putting on one or drinking the other. If anything makes their use wrong, it is the type (2) intention: the intention that the act is aimed: avoiding conception.

But the same is true of rhythmic contraception. The acts of measuring body temperature and mucosal quality, and scheduling intercourse are not intrinsically evil, but (assuming that contraception is an illicit end) the use to which scheduling is put can be wrong.

In other words, the attempt to assert that it is ambiguity in "intent" that leads to a distinction between rhythmic and other kinds of contraception is not a legitimate attempt. It fails, as has been demonstrated.

UPDATE: August 4, 2008 - Mr. Bellisario has not yet had enough of the topic of contraception. Although he offers no defense of the faulty logic, he throws around a few insults and links to yet another article that he thinks proves that NFP is not contraception. Ironically, even the abstract of the article distinguishes between "artificial" contraception and NFP. (link to Bellisario's insult-riddled post - with the same warning as above, that one will be exposed to an enormous attempted portrayal of my Lord and Savior, the Alpha and Omega).

There is some sense in which the article that MB links to, attempts to address the objection that rhythmic contraception is just another form of contraception. It doesn't do so by the ipse dixit approach ("we just define contraception thus and so"), but by distinguishing the moral basis.

The core of the article's argument is this:

There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as moving the sexual act from one time to another time. Suppose one wants to say the act is “moved” from a fertile Monday to an infertile Friday. But one cannot say this. A human act is something that is unrepeatably defined temporally. A sexual act on Monday and a sexual act on Friday are two different acts. The act of abstaining from the sexual act on Monday and of engaging in a sexual act on Friday is not an act of transferring the sexual act from Monday to Friday, because it is a logical impossibility, strictly speaking, to transfer a specific act. The unrepeatable Monday-sexual-act cannot be moved to Friday any more than one can move the Monday itself to Friday.


This argument relies on the reader agreeing with the concept that a human act cannot be moved. In fact, such an expression is common. For example, one might say: "I will mow the lawn on Tuesday, instead of Monday this week, since Monday I will be too busy responding to articles linked by my esteemed colleague."

We would all be comfortable with such an expression. In fact it is quite an ordinary way of speaking. There's a certain poetry to saying that a specific act cannot be moved in time from one place to another, but - in fact - that is exactly what rescheduling is.

Furthermore, such rescheduling has moral significance. The law of the Sabbath provides a great example. As the reader may recall, labor is generally prohibited on the Sabbath. Consequently, it is necessary to move some labor from the Sabbath to another day. In the time of the wilderness journey, when the Sabbath was on Saturday, the people of Israel moved their food-gathering of Manna from Saturday to Friday, collecting twice as much as usual on Friday in preparation for the Sabbath (at least, those who were obedient did).

It is obvious that they are not transporting the act of gathering food through time in any mystical way, but simply rescheduling. Nevertheless, scheduling (and rescheduling) are real acts, and they do involve moving the action being scheduled from one time to another.

It may well be that "mowing the lawn on the Sabbath" and "mowing the lawn on Friday" are two "different acts" if one sophistically attempts to define the act to include the date of the act. Nevertheless, just as there is virtue in rescheduling the lawn mowing to Friday from the Sabbath (because avoiding work on the Sabbath is virtuous), there is evil in rescheduling sexual relations to avoid conceiving (if, in fact, contraception [trying to avoid conception] is an illicit end).

In short, we can see both from ordinary speech and the analogy to the Sabbath that the argument in favor of rhythmic contraception cannot be maintained on the grounds provided in the article by Alexander Pruss, to which MB linked.

UPDATE: August 5, 2008 - MB continues his campaign of accusations against my friend Gene, this time calling him a "plain liar" and an "obstacle to truth." (link - usual caveats) He compares him to Bill Clinton and says that Gene "is nothing more than a 'Slick Willy'."

Ironically, MB himself in his eagerness to find fault in my friend Gene, makes a rather fundamental lexical fallacy (i.e. that if a word can mean what one wants it to mean, that therefore it meant what one wants it to mean). It's the same fallacy we see time and time again in the form of eisegesis. It's a bit more blatant here, since MB is seemingly unwilling to read Gene's comments as part of a harmonious whole, hoping to set one of Gene's comments against another of his comments. The viva voce of Gene is ignored in favor of an attempt to make Gene say something Gene didn't mean.

Interestingly, MB's main basis for calling Gene a liar is that Gene hasn't proved Gene's assertion that Rome is not monolithic on the issue in question. I have to say, I rarely see this kind of impatient rush to accusation. MB doesn't even ask nicely, he demands. I suspect that Gene may be waiting patiently to see how much mud MB will throw and how extreme his assertions will get, before revealing his sources. In fact, having taken a peek around the Internet, I think I may be able to see where Gene is going with this.

Regardless, what is interesting is that MB has gotten so caught up in mocking and accusing (though his accusations have shifted) that he has lost sight of the bottom line.

*** end of update ***

Bottom Line: Rhythmic contraception (NFP applied to avoid conception) is a type of contraception, and (seemingly) the only kind currently widely accepted in Catholicism. It is considered "natural" and the other kinds are "artificial" or unnatural. That's the terminology Rome has adopted, and Gene got in trouble with MB for repeating. I suggest MB take it up with his bishop rather than picking on my friend Gene (who, by the way, is quite capable of defending himself, if one is willing to wait 24 hours ... check out the combox of this post).

68 comments:

Carrie said...

MB says: "The couple is never engaging in any act other than what God has created for them. They are just looking at the female body to find out when the most fertile and infertile periods are, so that those with a valid reason can choose to lesson the chance of having a baby, or space them out. They however never use a means that is contrary to what God gives us in the marital act."

Since I believe this was brought up in the first place to show our need for a magisterium to provide certainty in defining modern moral positions which are not covered in scripture (contraception), what is a "valid reason to lessen the chance of conception"?

I also have to wonder how the RCC could determine that NFP is not "contrary to what God gives us in the marital act". Did God specifically create women to have infertile periods to avoid pregnancy, or are these infertile periods simply a consequence of the biology necessary to accomplish the cycle?

GeneMBridges said...

Yep, that's EXACTLY what I said.

The Church does calls all contraception sin if one denies that coitus interruptus is contraception.

But that's not what Rome does. Rather, Rome draws a distinction between natural and artificial MEANS of preventing conception.

"Contraception" as a concept, includes coitus interruptus.

So, given MB's own definition: Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible"

Coitus interruptus is "contraception" given that very definition.

If we were to blend what Rome's own documents say and what MB says, we'd have to say that the natural means of preventing conception is contraception, except when it's not.

I wonder if he ever actually pays attention to his own writing.

GeneMBridges said...

One more thing...

Natural contraception includes the withdrawal method and natural family planning. This is a simple fact.

Rome advocates these means. It does not advocate artificial means, like barrier methods.

And is not I who "don't know what I'm talking about." I'm the one who spent several years as a public health educator, and STD/HIV prevention and services was the discipline in which I served. I know what I'm talking about, because I've had this discussion with more than one Roman Catholic priest and I've read Rome's own documents. Who should I believe, Rome's documents and what her own priests have told me to my face, or Matthew Bellisario?

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

According to your definition of contraception, complete absitnence would be a form of contraception. This is absurd. Contraception is an action which renders sex infertile (or at least less fertile, since no method is 100% effective). NFP does not render sex infertile.

Anonymous said...

Might you mean "excursus"??
--Godith

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

a) I will willingly grant that it bends the semantic domain of "contraceptive" to view celibacy (non-marriage) as contraception.

b) Nevertheless, a husband and wife who refuse to have sex with one another, because they do not wish to bear children could be said to be using abstinence as a contraceptive technique. Ironically, such an approach is explicitly condemned in Scripture.

c) But the preferred sense refers to acts that involve sex, but attempt to avoid reproduction. NFP can be used to try to enhance fertility - but it can also be used (and frequently is used) to try to engage in sex while avoiding reproduction. In the latter manifestation it is clearly a technique designed to render specific sexual acts infertile, i.e. to engage in sexual relations while reducing the "risk" of conception.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan, what you are referring to (NFP) would be considered a "birth control," not a contraceptive. They are not synonymous terms. There is some overlapping, such as contraception is a form of birth control, the artificial kind, and NFP is a natural kind of birth control. Contraception would be a birth control that entails all methods relating to the sexual act itself, while NFP would be a birth control in which the sexual act is abstained from. I hope I have cleared up the relevant differences.

Turretinfan said...

AG:

a) I hope you read MB's article. He already addressed that point.

b) I don't find that point to have merit. NFP when used to avoid pregnancy, involves engaging in sexual acts using timing as the way to avoid conception.

c) Technically, even within a Romanist rubric, "contraception" is not as broad as simply artificial birth control. Abortion is another method of birth control, with induced abortions (as opposed to miscarriages) being an example of more or less artificial measures.

d) But the only way that your and MB's semantic arguments could be relevant is if you thought Gene Bridges meant to distinguish between "natural artificial birth control" and "artificial artificial birth control." Surely neither of you would be so foolish as to think that he meant that.

Turretinfan said...

Godith:

Six of one, half a dozen of another. I thought about using "excursus" and then decided it sounded too stiff.

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...

Gene Bridges says, "Natural contraception includes the withdrawal method and natural family planning. This is a simple fact.

Rome advocates these means. It does not advocate artificial means, like barrier methods."

THis is plain nonsense. The Catholic Church never says that the withdrawal method is OK. Prove it.

Turretinfan said...

MB:

"plain nonsense" is a bit extreme.

While individual priests may permit the withdrawal method, the rhythm method is apparently the only widely promoted practice of infertility.

Ironically, because of difficulty in implementation (in both techniques), in practice both methods have about the same failure rate.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Incidentally, I've updated my post to reflect MB's second post on this topic.

Matthew Bellisario said...

TF said, MB:

"plain nonsense" is a bit extreme.

While individual priests may permit the withdrawal method, the rhythm method is apparently the only widely promoted practice of infertility."

No I am tired of letting people slide when they are plainly wrong. No the Catholic Church does not allow the withdrawal method, and if Gene Bridges is going to make such statement, he had better be able to prove it from the Church, not some individual priest. Sorry. Any time a Catholic makes a mistake he is crucified for it, even when they admit they are wrong. No quarter will be given here. Bridges has now made two complete false claims on this contraception topic and he will not be given a free pass. NFP is as was stated earlier is not contraception, say what you will. I am the one in line with Catholic teaching not yourselves.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan: b) I don't find that point to have merit. NFP when used to avoid pregnancy, involves engaging in sexual acts using timing as the way to avoid conception.

Me: First of all, you cannot make up your own definitions and terminology. It is a medical/definitional fact that NFP is NOT a contraceptive act, no matter how YOU may feel about the matter. Please point me to one official source (medical, or recognizable) which would define abstinance as a contraception. Let's distinguish what is being said here, what I have said and what you are saying. NFP does make use of the woman's ovualtion cycles in order to a) have children by engaging the sexual act during ovulation, or b) avoid having children (only with serious reasons) by not engaging the sexual act during ovulation. Therefore, when the sexual act is engaged in it is not a contraceptive act, and when the couple abstains from the sexual act, they are not engaging in contraception...they are not engaging in the sexual act. Periodic abstinance and contraception are not equivalent terms.

To state that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral simply because it is artificial is to show ignorance of the Church's teachings.

It is true that the goal of preventing children AT THAT MOMENT is the same for contraception and periodic abstinence; however, they are not morally or physiologically equivalent. Contraception within the sexual act, unlike periodic abstinence, intrinsically manipulates and nullifies the natural process of generation. NFP used as a means of avoiding children does not. There is a precise difference in refraining from coital activity, and internally separating coital union from its generative power. Therefore, technically, you are wrong.

The act of contraception is an act against human life because it is an act that creates an obstacle that prevents generation of new life as the completion of the sexual act. The sexual act is avoided entirely in NFP. The Church has followed this up with stating that there has to be a good reason for avoiding conception. The primary good of marriage is the procreation and education of offspring.

Turretinfan said...

As to MB's comment:

Calling it a mistake is one thing, calling it "plain nonsense" is another.

You don't speak for your church any more than a priest does: in fact you speak for your church LESS than a priest does, if you are simply a layperson (I'm not sure we've established that issue).

But that is neither here nor there. Like you, I think that one can determine your church's position on the matter from the documents, and I think that it would be hard to show any explicit approval of the withdrawal method.

On the other hand, I'm willing to wait and see whether Gene has a basis for saying what he said about the withdrawal method, or whether he simply misspoke.

As to AG's comment:

"First of all, you cannot make up your own definitions and terminology. It is a medical/definitional fact that NFP is NOT a contraceptive act, no matter how YOU may feel about the matter."

Plenty of medical folks refer to the rhythm method as a contraceptive method. Plenty of ordinary folks do too. And, as I already noted, it is a reasonable sense of the scope of the word. Your church defining it differently doesn't change that it is a technique for avoiding conception (at least when used as such - it can also be used to promote conception).

"Please point me to one official source (medical, or recognizable) which would define abstinance as a contraception."

Do an internet search on the phase "withdrawal method."

"To state that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral simply because it is artificial is to show ignorance of the Church's teachings."

Given that no legitimate Scriptural argument can be made to distinguish NFP (used to avoid conceiving) and wearing a piece of latex (used to avoid conceiving), it is natural for us to suppose that your church has as its reason the artificiality of the other methods (particularly in view of Pius VI's comments already quoted in the post).

But frankly, we've already seen that your church collapses on ipse dixit as the real justification for its teachings, even when some of her apologists attempt to appeal to Onan or "natural law."

"There is a precise difference in refraining from coital activity, and internally separating coital union from its generative power."

There is such a thing as distinction without difference. The claim regarding the contraceptive nature of NFP relates to the overall pattern of engaging in coital activity in a way that separates coital union from its generative power.

Whether that separation is "internal" or "external" is moot.

As to the post itself, I have updated the post to reflect MB's third post on the topic (and the second post today on the topic).

Obviously, I still have not got into the relevance or lack thereof to the on-going Sola Scriptura debate, despite Carrie's invitation above.

GeneMBridges said...

This is plain nonsense. The Catholic Church never says that the withdrawal method is OK. Prove it.

"The Church" does not teach that it's positions on contraception are infallible. MB is more conservative than the bishops of his own communion.

In 1968 when Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the view that all mechanical or chemical contraception was sinful, the Catholic bishops of fourteen different countries respectfully disagreed and told the faithful that they were not sinners if they could not accept this papal teaching.

So much for the power of the Magisterium to arbitrate truth. Remember MB's original argument. That's why he brought it up - as an example of the need for the Magisterium to speak to such issues in a definitive fashion. But, if the bishops dissent, then so much for the rule of faith. If the laity dissents - and they certainly do and continue to do - then so much for the rule of faith and the need for the Magisterium to speak where Scripture has not.

Ah, would say MB, the teaching is still infallible! Really?

What are the two ways in which the Church teaches infallibly? She does so whenever the Pope solemnly defines a dogma of the faith, as when in 1950 Pope Pius XII declared that the BVM was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

But the Church also teaches infallibly whenever her bishops, united with the Pope, proclaim that something is to be accepted by all the faithful. But on this issue, the bishops have and continue to dissent.

Ergo, the teaching is not, by the very standards Rome itself sets for infallibility, an infallible teaching. It is authoritative, but dissent can be made, and dissent has been and continues to exist on this, and it continues to grow.

Ergo, "the Church" qua Church does not infallibly ban coitus interruptus. It's only conservative Catholics who teach that. It's sad that MB doesn't know the history of his own communion.

His objection amounts to NFP includes coitus interruptus (as the literature teaches) except when Rome says it doesn't. What an absurdly illogical piece of reasoning that is. The color blue is blue except when Rome says it is red. Why? Because Rome says so. I'd like to thank MB once again for demonstrating he is an ecclesiolater. He does not worship Christ, he worships "the Church."

And note carefully, MB is already moving the goalposts. He quoted from Humanae Vitae...but HV has historically understood contraception in mechanical and artificial forms. Coitus interruptus is not a medical device. Ergo, it is not an artificial or mechanical form of contraception. The only way to get around this is to say it is mechanical - except as fact of life, it's not mechanical. So, they say it is "unnatural." But what is unnatural about it? If a male can withdraw during an infertile period, why can he not withdraw during a fertile period? So, it amounts to an arbitrary, debateable, and wholly unScriptural argument. Indeed that's why opponents typically result to an argument not from the Bible, eg. revelation, but "natural law."

You see, these are the standard NFP methods:


1. CONTINUOUS ABSTINENCE

2. OUTERCOURSE

3. COITAL TECHNIQUE

Coitus Interruptus (Withdrawal)
Coitus Reservatus
Coitus Obstructus

4. FERTILITY AWARENESS METHODS (FAM)

a) Calendar Method

Rhythm (Ogino-Knaus)
Standard Days Method (SDM)
CycleBeads

b) Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Method

(Bioself 110/Mini-Sofia, LadyComp/BabyComp, Cyclotest-2)

c) Ovulation Method

Billings Method (Cervical Mucus)
Creighton Model
TwoDay Method

d) Cervical Changes Method

e) Sympto-Thermal Method

f) Personal Hormone Monitoring Method
Persona

5. LACTATIONAL AMENORRHEA (Breastfeeding)

So, MB's argument amounts to equivocation. On what grounds? Where does Rome get the authority to determine the definition of NFP vs contraception? It may determine which methods are acceptable to it, but it does not get to define areas that lie outside of its purview.

What Rome has done is distinguish between acceptable (to it) natural and artificial means of contraception. HV explicitly does this when it distinguishes between forms of intercourse that are deliberately and nondeliberately contraceptive. Ergo, it does NOT distinguish between "birth control" and "contraception." It distinguishes between natural and artificial means, licit and illicit means of CONTRACEPTION.

By the way, the typical Romanist argument against withdrawal comes from Genesis. Tell us, where has Rome infallibly exegeted the text on Onan? It hasn't. MB simply uses what he believes Rome says here and then interprets the text accordingly, then uses that to establish his case for Roman authority - but, as I have pointed out to him at least twice now - is a vicious regress for the argument. I take it elementary logical argumentation isn't his forte.

And thank the Lord it has not, for that sort of namby-pamby acontextual prooftexting is something the Reformation liberated us from. The text is not condemning the withdrawal method itself, not even implicitly, for it's not about that, it is condemning Onan's failure to give a child to his dead brother, eg. his covenant duty with respect to Levirate marriage.

MB says that "Tradition" is needed to give us clear understanding on this issue...but Romans, that book so often ignored by Rome, says that there are matters of adiaphora. There are Christians who say the Bible implicitly bans alcohol. There are those who do not. If MB is right, there is no adiaphora, Paul was wrong. So much for Apostolic Tradition.

The Bible does not ban contraception. It bans abortion. It does not ban coitus interruptus. It bans failing to carry out your covenant responsibilities as a husband or wife. How you do that, or fail to do that, is adiaphora, as long as it does not violate the general, eternal principles laid down in Scripture. It's time for MB to grow up and be an adult Christian instead of hiding behind the skirt of Holy Mother Church.

Alexander Greco said...

I do not have time to address your claims right now; however, I would like for you (and your readers) to read over this: http://www.uffl.org/vol10/fehr-kurz10.pdf

I will address your claims later.

Alexander Greco said...

And here: https://connect2.uncc.edu/cgi-bin/fulltext/119390936/,DanaInfo=www3.interscience.wiley.com+PDFSTART


I'm not sure if you can access this page because I accessed it from my university's library page...it is an acedemic journal.

GeneMBridges said...

It is a medical/definitional fact that NFP is NOT a contraceptive act, no matter how YOU may feel about the matter. Please point me to one official source (medical, or recognizable) which would define abstinance as a contraception.

1. You're engaging in the word-concept fallacy. You're also equivocating between "contraception" as a broad concept and "contraceptive" as a term for a device, method, or procedure.

Contaception: Intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures. NFP falls under the portion in bold.

2. You'll find your documentation at sites like Contraceptiononline and EMedicine. Contraception, an International Journal includes NFP among the methods it discusses under the broad concept of contraception.

In other words, Mr. Greco, you might want to search through the Public Health Literature. In Public Health parlance, we call NFP a "fertility awareness based contraceptive technique."



No the Catholic Church does not allow the withdrawal method,

Really? Coming from you this is a real showstopper, given the way you constantly equivocate over the meaning of "The Church." Are your own bishops and priests not part of "the Church?"

nd if Gene Bridges is going to make such statement, he had better be able to prove it from the Church, not some individual priest.

Notice that when MB feels he's right about the majority of priests and bishops, he calls them "the Church." when we find somebody who disagrees, he calls them "an individual priest." But who is MB? Where is his ordination certificate?

Remember, this discussion began because MB felt we need a Magisterium (that is infallible) to arbitrate these things for us. But if the priests and bishops can and do dissent, what does this say about the rule of faith. Remember - the typical Roman Catholic claim is that since there is dissent among Protestants, our rule of faith is unworkable and therefore incorrect. That's the real issue here. MB threw down the gauntlet; TF decided not take it up. I, on the other hand, do not suffer from such a desire. I'd like to thank MB for taking the bait. It was my intention all along to get to the issue of dissent.

Any time a Catholic makes a mistake he is crucified for it, even when they admit they are wrong.

Hyperbole, he's "crucified" for REPETITIVELY making the same statements or constantly equivocating.

NFP is as was stated earlier is not contraception, say what you will.

Wrong. It is a natural means of contraception.

Turretinfan said...

Gene,

Thanks for the clarification. I did not know that. It's good I didn't rush to state that you misspoke, without giving you a chance to clarify yourself.

Incidentally, I should warn folks that my standard practice is to publish comments rather slowly. If you have a pressing need to be heard immediately, your safest bet is to link-back to this article from your own blog, which should (if Blogger works properly) create a link to your post in the "Comments Elsewhere" section (your link does have to be to the specific post page, not to the main page of this blog).

I bring this up because this has been a hot comment box today, and because I may be more or less away from my computer for the next 12 hours or so.

-TurretinFan

GeneMBridges said...

o now am I going to let these two define what is an act or is not considered to be an act by their own musings?

Our own musings are defining "contraception?" Who should I let define the concept? MB or the Public Health Literature?

What MB is doing is begging the question for Rome, but Rome qua Rome doesn't say that contraception is limited to particular acts and not others. It's only particular individuals in Rome who make that move - but who are these individual priests to dare speak for Rome?

Rather, Rome distinguishes between natural and unnatural means of contraception. I've already shown that to be true.

NFP cannot be a form of contraception because there is no act causing it. There is nothing that keeps the sexual act from happening except for abstinence.

So what is an act or not contraception is defined by no act causing it. So, on that view tracing the fertility cycle isn't an act. Using thermometers isn't an act. Abstinence isn't an act. Self-control is not an act. That's absurd for reasons TF has so wonderfully demonstrated.

And notice what MB is doing here - he began this discussion by saying we need the Magisterium to speak to this. But the people of Rome dissent, and MB is now drawing distinctions that Rome does not itself draw in order to make his case. So much for the clarity of Magisterial teachings, so much for the utility of the Roman rule of faith - and we have yet to see him address that. He'd rather harp on the definition of "contraception" than address the real issue he's upset, no doubt, the case study situation he cited has been utterly refuted.


In order for Bridges and Tf to be right they would have to prove that every couple not engaged in sexual intercourse would be considered to be engaging in a contraceptive act.

No, I would only have to show that the literature on what is and is not defined as contraception does not fall under Rome's authority. MB is simply allowing Rome to dictate what is and what is not an act - based on his own interpretations of conservative Catholicism.

But, yes, if you choose not to have sex for the purpose of not having children, you are engaging in a contraceptive technique.

I do not have time to address your claims right now; however, I would like for you (and your readers) to read over this: http://www.uffl.org/vol10/fehr-kurz10.pdf

So, Greco's argument is that Rome gets around calling NFP "contraception" by redefining the term using a distinction from 1970. Quick, somebody inform ASHA and the various Public Health Journals that NFP is not contraception.

All Mr. Greco is doing is demonstrating Rome's ipse dixit. That's begging the question.

Turretinfan said...

Updates based on Posts IV and V on this topic by MB have been made to the post.

Turretinfan said...

Ben Douglass provided the following comment, which I have edited with his permission:

Who should I let define the concept? MB or the Public Health Literature?

Moral theology is properly the domain of the Church. Public health literature is often quite insensitive to moral theology and hence uses terms and definitions which are unacceptable from a Christian perspective.

For example, some literature falsely defines pregnancy as occurring at implantation instead of at conception. Thus, methods which prevent the embryo from implanting are falsely termed contraceptive. They should be termed abortifacient. Now, I'm sure that if Mr. Bridges came across such a statement in the public health literature which confused acts such as contraception and abortion which he recognized as morally distinct, he would have no problem bringing the resources of Christian moral theology to bear on the literature and decalring the literature to be wrong.

The Catholic Church does the same with any piece of public health literature which defines NFP as contraception, or defines coitus interruptus (Onanism) as NFP.

And yes, the Catholic Church condemns coitus interruptus. The floor is as unfitting a place for the deposition of seed as a condom. Luther and Calvin would agree with me here.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

It occurred to me, amidst all the contraception talk that Onan's specific action was more than just withdrawal (in fact, it may not have been withdrawal at all ... it may have been another act).

Some apologists like to link withdrawal and Onan, but actually the text doesn't seem to be explicit enough to justify the correlation.

Finally, the specific act post-withdrawal that could lead to what Onan did is often involuntary. While I don't want to turn this into a debate on that method, if simply abstaining is ok then simply abstaining halfway through shouldn't be distinguishable.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

As MB has posted yet another (is this six posts now on contraception???) blog article, I have made a minor update to the original article.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan: contraception [trying to avoid conception]

Me: One thing you continuously seem to overlook is that contraception is trying to avoid conception *within the sexual act*

Turretinfan said...

AG:

No, I'm not ignoring that assertion.

Yes, it's just an assertion, not a logical argument.

No, it its not a valid distinction, since "within" is simply being selectively defined (sterilization, for example, is a contraceptive technique that takes place outside any particular sexual acts).

Yes, there is a difference between sterilization and rhythmic contraception, but the object of both acts is the same - and it is the end that invalidates the means, in both instances if in either instance.

No, at the end of the day, rhthmic contraception is still contraception even thought it is the most widely approved category in Catholicism.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan and Bridges, after a little simple fact checking, Mr. Bellisario was able to find this:

"Quick update on the unchangeable doctrine of the Catholic Church on this issue of contraception since the likes of our Protestant opponents heckle us in whether the church teaches this De Fide. For those who wonder if this is the case, here we see the Catholic Magisterium proclaiming it so. Once again the Church does not define between any nature contraception or artificial.

4. The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.33
(Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997) "


Over at his blog this article is linked up. Now, as a way to proceed a little further in the conversation, will you and Bridges at least admit that you two are wrong on the Church's level of teaching on this issue...that it is a dogmatic teaching, and that neither of you have done the adequate research to arrive at this?

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan: No, it its not a valid distinction, since "within" is simply being selectively defined (sterilization, for example, is a contraceptive technique that takes place outside any particular sexual acts).

Me: Actually, sterilization only becomes contraceptive when the sexual act takes place, simply because it is then that conception is thwarted. If a person undergoes sterilization, and never engages in sex ever again, where is the contraceptive? You cannot separate contraception from sex...period.
Yes, there is a difference between sterilization and rhythmic contraception, but the object of both acts is the same - and it is the end that invalidates the means, in both instances if in either instance.

Turretinfan: No, at the end of the day, rhthmic contraception is still contraception even thought it is the most widely approved category in Catholicism.

Me: Faulty logic Turretin, faulty logic. Under this faulty logic, you are saying that:
All A is B
All C is B
All C is A.

In other words:
All contraceptive acts are for avoiding children
All use of NFP is for avoiding children (which isn't the case, my wife and I have used NFP in order to have children as well).
All use of NFP is contraceptive.

That is a simple fallacious syllogism. You cannot draw an affirmative conclusion from the argument. (Thanks to Joseph Boyle for this argument).

Alexander Greco said...

Update:

Turretinfan: No, it its not a valid distinction, since "within" is simply being selectively defined (sterilization, for example, is a contraceptive technique that takes place outside any particular sexual acts).

Me: Actually, sterilization only becomes contraceptive when the sexual act takes place, simply because it is then that conception is thwarted. If a person undergoes sterilization, and never engages in sex ever again, where is the contraceptive? You cannot separate contraception from sex...period.

Turretinfan: Yes, there is a difference between sterilization and rhythmic contraception, but the object of both acts is the same - and it is the end that invalidates the means, in both instances if in either instance.

No, at the end of the day, rhthmic contraception is still contraception even thought it is the most widely approved category in Catholicism.

Me: Faulty logic Turretin, faulty logic. Under this faulty logic, you are saying that:
All A is B
All C is B
All C is A.

In other words:
All contraceptive acts are for avoiding children
All use of NFP is for avoiding children (which isn't the case, my wife and I have used NFP in order to have children as well).
All use of NFP is contraceptive.

That is a simple fallacious syllogism. You cannot draw an affirmative conclusion from the argument. (Thanks to Joseph Boyle for this argument).

Turretinfan said...

AG:

About the article ... that made me chuckle. I note that the document itself, within its statement of purpose states: "This document does not intend to repeat the entire teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, and other documents of the ordinary Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff, but only to offer suggestions and guidelines for the spiritual good of the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to overcome possible discrepancies and uncertainties in the practice of confessors."

But let's get this straight, you think that the document defines what is De Fide Catholicism?

I'm sure Gene, if he still has any interest in this discussion, will have a more pithy way of putting it than I do, so I'll leave it to him (especially it is directed at his statements, not mine).

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

While I've long appreciated Boyle's law, and tip my hat to the Boyle clan, this latest critique is itself faulty:

AG/JB: Faulty logic Turretin, faulty logic. Under this faulty logic, you are saying that:
All A is B
All C is B
All C is A.

In other words:
All contraceptive acts are for avoiding children
All use of NFP is for avoiding children (which isn't the case, my wife and I have used NFP in order to have children as well).
All use of NFP is contraceptive.

That is a simple fallacious syllogism. You cannot draw an affirmative conclusion from the argument. (Thanks to Joseph Boyle for this argument).


I answer:

The problem with the critique is in the formation of the major premise. Since the relationship between "contraceptive acts" and "acts for avoiding conceiving" (not simply for avoiding children, since that would include techniques for inducing abortion) is one of definition, the term should read either "A is B" or All A is B AND All B is A.

Either way, the conclusion then follows from the minor premise.

Q.E.D.

-TurretinFan

GeneMBridges said...

What MB and his supporters have failed to realize is that, in addition to documenting from public health education literature the definition of "contraception," I've been quoting and paraphrasing Moderate to Liberal Catholics, including bishops and ethicists within the Catholic communion.

And here's why:

I've not argued that Rome PROMOTES the withdrawal method, etc. As my friend Turretinfan (hereafter TF) has correctly stated, I have shown that there is no infallible condemnation of the rhythm method.

And absent an infallible condemnation, given the nature of arguments presented on theological issues, I've merely applied their own criterion for what is a legitimate matter of discussion, permission, and dissent. So I find MB's pontificating most humorous. I'm demonstrating the Catholic double standard. If Catholics can dissent on some issues and not others, then on what basis can we know which ones are legitimate matters and which are not when there is no infallible statement?

Moreover, remember it was MB, not TF, who chose to address the issue of the need for a/n (infallible) Magisterium to speak to issues where there are differences. Allegedly, this need makes the Roman Catholic rule of faith epistemically superior to Sola Scriptura. In fact, it allegedly solves a (pseudo)problem the Protestant rule of faith (allegedly) generates.

I've shown that Catholicism is not monolithic on this issue. In fact, it's rather easy to document the amount of past and present dissent within Catholicism itself on this, ranging from individual priests to entire groups of bishops, particularly in the US, Canada, and Europe. Remember, Rome's standard for infallibility is the Pope speaking ex cathedra or the Pope speaking UNITED with the Bishops in her communion. The bishops, indeed not even the Cardinals, are united with the Pope(s) on this one. So, we're left with a bunch of lay Catholics like MB who are, it seems, more conservative than members of their own hierarchy. So much for obedience to your bishops. I thought that was a high value for the Papists. I guess not.

The reason I addressed it, was because, like a good chess player, I was thinking several steps ahead, leading my opponent down the primrose path the whole time. I would like to thank MB for playing along.

So, taking the case that MB proposed, the Magisterium's authoritative statements have done exactly what compared to Sola Scriptura? The answer is plainly evident: Nothing.

MB can quote from individual popes all he wants. But they are just a bunch of private theologians. Again, that's what Romanists say when we quote them disagreeing with them, so I'm just taking their own argument and turning it back on them. Which of these was speaking infallibly here? Did those popes consider their words on this infallible? I don't think so. Further, Papal infallibility was not dogmatically defined until relatively recently in Catholic history.

And I reject the notion that Popes and Councils are infallible. MB has done nothing to prove that to be the case. Where can we verify that claim? Rome's claim amounts to its own ipse dixit, so it's claims to what constitutes "conception" and, I would argue, legitimate and illegitimate forms of it, collapses on nothing more than their say so. Worse yet, it doesn't, get Mr. Bellasario where he wants to go. Remember, HE chose to frame the issue that way, so I'm merely examining this issue. There has been a great deal of interpretation and dispute, ranging from his conservative position to the more moderate positons of others. Of course, we know how reliable Rome is when defending its ethical positions. I don't see John Kerry being denied the Eucharist over his position on abortion, despite the threat to do so. If Rome really believed these things, it would follow through on such threats. So, not only is there no infallible condemnation of such things as the withdrawal method, there isn't any substantive enforcement of sanctions against those who allegedly violate the terms of HV, what Rome says about abortion, etc. In the Bible, that would rank with a dead faith, a faith in word but not deed.

The appeal to the need for a Magisterium has done nothing to improve the Roman Catholic rule of faith's epistemic position over ours - and I've merely taken Mr. Bellarsio's lead here. I've addressed him on his own level. I let HIM frame the issue. If he doesn't like the answer, then he shouldn't have brought it up. The fact that he has to resort to ad homineum invective in lieu of argumentation only demonstrates his failure. Good job, MB. I applaud you for being such a willing foil.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan:
About the article ... that made me chuckle. I note that the document itself, within its statement of purpose states: "This document does not intend to repeat the entire teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, and other documents of the ordinary Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff, but only to offer suggestions and guidelines for the spiritual good of the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to overcome possible discrepancies and uncertainties in the practice of confessors."

But let's get this straight, you think that the document defines what is De Fide Catholicism?

I'm sure Gene, if he still has any interest in this discussion, will have a more pithy way of putting it than I do, so I'll leave it to him (especially it is directed at his statements, not mine).

Me: Turretinfan, actually, if you had ever read Vatican II documents, you would have informed yourself on the issue of infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. Allow me to educate you.

Lumen Gentium 25: Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.

Similar to the womenpriests ordeal, the Church has taught this infallibly by virtue of its ordinary and universal magisterium, and this teaching is confirmed in the document here, as well as plenty of others.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan:
The problem with the critique is in the formation of the major premise. Since the relationship between "contraceptive acts" and "acts for avoiding conceiving" (not simply for avoiding children, since that would include techniques for inducing abortion) is one of definition, the term should read either "A is B" or All A is B AND All B is A.

Either way, the conclusion then follows from the minor premise.

Me: This is simply poor logic...sophistry.

All men are animals.
All dogs are animals.
Therefore all dogs are men.

Men are animals, but they are rational animals. They belong in a category unto themselves. Dogs are also animals, but they are sensible animals, and hence, they do not fall under the same category as men. Their ontological nature is different. They cannot fall within the same category.

All methods of contraceptive sex have as their nature the separation of the unitive from the procreative ends of the sexual act.

To say that abstinence is equivalent violates the clear distinction between having sex and not having sex. It does not matter how you employ sophistry to redefine the term "contraception," which is clearly a philosophical/logical abuse, the two acts of NFP and contraceptive sex are not equivalent. You continuously obfuscate this fact.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan:
The problem with the critique is in the formation of the major premise. Since the relationship between "contraceptive acts" and "acts for avoiding conceiving" (not simply for avoiding children, since that would include techniques for inducing abortion) is one of definition, the term should read either "A is B" or All A is B AND All B is A.

Either way, the conclusion then follows from the minor premise.

Me: This is simply poor logic...sophistry.

All men are animals.
All dogs are animals.
Therefore all dogs are men.

Men are animals, but they are rational animals. They belong in a category unto themselves. Dogs are also animals, but they are sensible animals, and hence, they do not fall under the same category as men. Their ontological nature is different. They cannot fall within the same category.

All methods of contraceptive sex have as their nature the separation of the unitive from the procreative ends of the sexual act.

To say that abstinence is equivalent violates the clear distinction between having sex and not having sex. It does not matter how you employ sophistry to redefine the term "contraception," which is clearly a philosophical/logical abuse, the two acts of NFP and contraceptive sex are not equivalent. You continuously obfuscate this fact.

Turretinfan said...

AG:

Is that an attempt to claim that the document that itself claims no infallibility (practically explicitly claims that) is in fact infallible?

You shouldn't assume that just because I don't agree with Vatican II, I'm unfamiliar with its documents. Instead, you should consider whether I might not know that you provided only a part of the paragraph:

"Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith."

But, of course, Gene has suggested that they are not all in concurring in one viewpoint as the one to be held. Furthermore, a single document (unless it is the product of an Ecumenical Council) cannot really demonstrate universal concurrence ... and the document you cited is not such a document.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

AG:

As for the logic, try to follow more closely.

The major premise (correctly stated) is not in the form, "All A is B."

Instead it is in the form A = B, or "All A is B & all B is A." That is to say, the major premise is a definition.

It's like "Men are male human beings," or "bachelors are never-married men."

That's why your attempt to throw stones actual shatters only your own pup-tent.

As for your counter-definition, even under your counter-definition, the method of rhythmic contraception takes on the nature of separating the unitive act from the procreative act by the mechanism of scheduling the unitive act at a time when procreation is naturally prevented.

You wrote: "To say that abstinence is equivalent violates the clear distinction between having sex and not having sex."

a) the equivalent is the scheduling/timing, not the abstinence in ipse.

b) saying that withdrawing is the equivalent equally violates the clear distinction between having sex and not having sex - but you seem to imagine that withdrawing is not permitted.

You wrote: "It does not matter how you employ sophistry to redefine the term "contraception," which is clearly a philosophical/logical abuse, the two acts of NFP and contraceptive sex are not equivalent. You continuously obfuscate this fact."

Personally, I think that if you had an argument for why the broad common-sense definition of contraception (i.e. trying to avoid conception as a consequence of sexual behavior) you wouldn't be forced to simply insult the definition.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Okay Turretinfan, then I guess the teachings on denying women priesthood is also a non-infallible teaching...even though Pope Benedict, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told us that the teaching was infallible by appealing to the same reasons that I am here. I think not Turretin...I think that you and Gene Bridges are not aware of how the Church teaches. You have yet to give any credible reasons for me to believe you; whereas I have given you multple examples which do not violate any logical principles.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan:
As for the logic, try to follow more closely.

Me: As for the information, try to get it right.

Turretinfan: The major premise (correctly stated) is not in the form, "All A is B."

Instead it is in the form A = B, or "All A is B & all B is A." That is to say, the major premise is a definition.

Me: Okay, All men are animals (A=B) & all animals are men (B=A). That is very logical. My dog is an animal, my dog is a man. You would make the nutjobs in PETA (fish are people too) very happy here.

Turretinfan: It's like "Men are male human beings," or "bachelors are never-married men."

That's why your attempt to throw stones actual shatters only your own pup-tent.

Me: Oh, I see. Men are male human beings. Tell me, is there any ontological difference between a male human being and a man? I cannot think of any. So basically they share the same nature.

However, NFP (no sex), and contraception (sterile sex) do not share the same nature. Here is the ringer, my friend, one has sex and the other doesn't. So your analogy fails...miserably.

Turretinfan: As for your counter-definition, even under your counter-definition, the method of rhythmic contraception takes on the nature of separating the unitive act from the procreative act by the mechanism of scheduling the unitive act at a time when procreation is naturally prevented.

Me: I'm sorry Turretinfan, but contraception happens during the sexual act. I cannot contracept if I am not having sex. You really need to grasp this concept. Yet maybe you do but you just don't know it yet. For instance:

Turretinfan: Personally, I think that if you had an argument for why the broad common-sense definition of contraception (i.e. trying to avoid conception as a consequence of sexual behavior) you wouldn't be forced to simply insult the definition.

Me: "Avoid conception as a consequence of sexual behavior."

BINGO!!!

Guess what? Abstinence is not a sexual behavior...it is the absence of sexual behavior.

Turretinfan said...

Trying to muddy the waters with the issue of a female priesthood won't work here.

The pope, even as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is still fallible. He's only infallible when speaking ex cathedra or in union with an ecumenical council. That's your own church's rule for the nonsense - you should know it.

Allow me to educate you on the difference between religious assent and De Fide assent:

I quote now from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

Hopefully, you now see the difference between the two. Furthermore, as a practical matter, while those involved in women's ordinations to the priesthood are getting the practically unheard-of (these days) sanction of automatic excommunication (at least according to some sources ...), I have not heard of any similar punishment for those involved in withdrawal method contraception. Have you? Can you point to a single instance of that?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

AG:

You wrote: "Me: Okay, All men are animals (A=B) & all animals are men (B=A). That is very logical. My dog is an animal, my dog is a man. You would make the nutjobs in PETA (fish are people too) very happy here."

I've already explained twice why that attempted analogy is invalid. You've got the wrong form of major premise. And, since you don't seem to understand the clarification, I suggest you go back and read more carefully.



AG: "Oh, I see. Men are male human beings. Tell me, is there any ontological difference between a male human being and a man? I cannot think of any. So basically they share the same nature."

It's not a question of "ontological difference." There is no difference: Men are defined as male human beings, just as "contraception is defined as acting in a way to avoid conception as a result of sexual activity."

AG: "However, NFP (no sex), and contraception (sterile sex) do not share the same nature. Here is the ringer, my friend, one has sex and the other doesn't. So your analogy fails...miserably."

What fails miserably is your argument, AG. You see, there is sex in NFP. If there were no sex, it would just be marriage you imagine Joseph and Jesus' mother had. What you claim they had was not NFP, it was not rhythmic contraception, it was simple abstinence. Try to grasp the difference.

AG: "I'm sorry Turretinfan, but contraception happens during the sexual act. I cannot contracept if I am not having sex. You really need to grasp this concept. Yet maybe you do but you just don't know it yet."

See above. NFP is a pattern of behavior. In NFP you are having sex: that's the attraction of NFP to young couples seeking to please God under the mistaken impression that their church speaks for Him.

AG: "Avoid conception as a consequence of sexual behavior." BINGO!!! Guess what? Abstinence is not a sexual behavior...it is the absence of sexual behavior."

Guess what ... scheduling one's sexual behavior involves, yes, sexual behavior. There is a difference between simple abstinence and NFP: one involves sexual activity, one does not. One is like the young couple up the street that makes love 3 weeks a month, the other is like the picture you portray of Jesus' mother and legal father.

As already pointed out numerous times, rhythmic contraception is contraception, just as "withdrawal method" contraception is contraception. Both involve a negation of the unitive act at certain times to avoid procreation.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan: Trying to muddy the waters with the issue of a female priesthood won't work here.

Me: Can you humor me with a relevant difference? Well here is your attempt:

Turretinfan: The pope, even as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is still fallible. He's only infallible when speaking ex cathedra or in union with an ecumenical council. That's your own church's rule for the nonsense - you should know it.

Me: Uh, Turretinfan, Benedict was not pope then...a little research would do you well, and you have displayed that you will not put in any effort.

The Church has another means for infallible teaching, as I quoted Lumen Gentium, 25: it is called the ordinary and universal magisterium. This is not the same thing as those other two means of infallible proclamations which you have alluded to. I can go further into this tommorrow.

As of right now, read this:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfrespo.htm

Alexander Greco said...

I do not have anymore time tonight to respond, however, I did want to make a quick comment on this:

Turretinfan: Guess what ... scheduling one's sexual behavior involves, yes, sexual behavior. There is a difference between simple abstinence and NFP: one involves sexual activity, one does not. One is like the young couple up the street that makes love 3 weeks a month, the other is like the picture you portray of Jesus' mother and legal father.

Me: Apparently you continue to want to draw up your own terminology without any logical consistency. Here, for example, you conflate abstinence with celibacy.

Turretinfan said...

AG: "Uh, Turretinfan, Benedict was not pope then...a little research would do you well, and you have displayed that you will not put in any effort."

A) LOL

B) You said "...even though Pope Benedict, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith...." Now you are complaining that I didn't notice that he wasn't Pope Benedict then? You've got to be kidding.

C) My rebuttal still stands, and more so. As a mere Cardinal (if had already been made Cardinal by then) he would have even less authority to promulgate doctrine under color of infallibility.

AG: "The Church has another means for infallible teaching, as I quoted Lumen Gentium, 25: it is called the ordinary and universal magisterium. This is not the same thing as those other two means of infallible proclamations which you have alluded to. I can go further into this tommorrow."

The idea that the Church is infallible when all the bishops agree won't help you in your dispute with Gene, because Gene's point is that not all the bishops agreed.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

AG: Apparently you continue to want to draw up your own terminology without any logical consistency. Here, for example, you conflate abstinence with celibacy.

A) celibacy is continued abstinence.

B) NFP is not celibacy.

C) Therefore, NFP is not merely abstinence.

QED

I'm not sure I can dumb it down any further for you.

Turretinfan said...

One more update as MB has provided his seventh post on this topic. If two posts ago was the "final act," and the penultimate post (so far) was the "Encore," I'm not sure what this most recent post is supposed to be ... the standing ovation?

***

Incidentally, in one update to one of his posts, MB gripes about my caution to my readers regarding the flagrant use of a supposed likeness of my Lord and God on his website. It's worth noting that (a) at least some of my readers do actually care about not exposing themselves to that sort of idolatry, and (b) the Scriptural prohibition on idolatry is clear.

GeneMBridges said...

Rome is not monolithic on this issue.

That's rather easily proven. Tell us when Cardinals, bishops, and priests on 3 continents dissent, does that represent a monolithic POV or not?

When the laity takes pro-choice positions, does that represent unity or not?

Here's a little quote:

Let's start with the Roman Catholic positions (note the plural) on contraception and abortion not because it is the oldest religious tradition---it is not---but because of its influence internationally on these issue.

Here's another one:

Although it is virtually unknown in much public international discourse, the Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic. It has a strong "pro-choice" tradition and a conservative anti-choice tradition. Neither is official and neither is more Catholic than the other. The hierarchical attempt to portray the Catholic position as univocal, an unchanging negative wafted through twenty centuries of untroubled consensus, is untrue. By unearthing this authentic openness to choice on abortion and on contraception in the core of the tradition, the status of the anti-choice position is revealed as only one among many Catholic views.

Here's another one: Catholicism in its best historical realizations is not as hidebound and authoritarian as many bishops, popes, and fearful conservatives would make it seem. There is, as Catholic theologian Charles Curran says, dissent from hierarchical teaching that is "in and for the church."

Hmmm, who should I believe, a ranting dilettante like Matthew Bellisario, or a theologian like Daniel C. Maguire?

Here's some truth:

MB is a conservative Catholic. So, he has a particular position.
Maguire is a moderate. So, he has a particular position.
Are Curran and Gudorf more or less knowledgable than Matthew "I have no ordination certificate" Bellisario?MB is just a layperson with an overinflated estimation of his abilities. Maguire is a theologian teaching at Marquette.

Ergo, Catholicism is not monolithic. Now, the conservative Catholics might object that these others are "out of step" with Catholic teaching, but I guess that means they have a low view of the Senus Fidelium. Have they forgotten that the SF is also part of Catholic "tradition?" And they can harp on how liberal they think these others are, but that only proves my point for me: Magisterial teaching has not done the job that these conservatives allege it has done, thereby making their rule of faith superior to ours. I keep saying this, and MB keeps ignoring this:

MB introduced this topic to prove the necessity of a Magisterial authority to determine these things for us. This, in turn was supposedly an argument for the superiority of the Catholic rule of faith.

I'm merely examining this argument. The superiority of their rule of faith is disproven on the very issue that MB introduced, for HV has done NOTHING to quell dissent, indeed a good argument can be made that the reverse it true, for it has only created dissent. Magisterial authority has not ended the divisions within their communion, it has actually exacerrbated it. Magisterial authority hasn't even enforced its own threats to withhold the Sacrament from politicians. So, what, pray tell, is superior to the Protestant rule of faith here? Nothing that I can tell - and that's the real issue; MB is so consumed with his ego that he's forgotten the bottom line, as TF has stated. Personally, I'm enjoying watching MB do himself more damage. You see, there's a certain amount of damage that only an "inside person" can do to his position. With each passing rant, he becomes less and less believable in the larger debate. So, I would like to thank MB, yet again, for taking the bait. He's better than John Loftus over at Tblog. Whenever we need a Court Jester, we can count of John to fulfill the role. Ditto for Bellisario.

GeneMBridges said...

A few more quick notes:

1. I am well aware of MacGuire'd condemnation by US bishops. But notice one of the reasons for his condemnation:

The bishops are the successors of the apostles, who are given the authority to proclaim the teaching of Jesus Christ,"

Really? Where's the supporting argument? So, the reason he was "condemned" by the bishops is because of the bishops ipse dixit. Let's just make that clear.

And it is no secret that the bishops in the US are often more conservative than their theologians and many of the laity.

But that's not my point, my point is that dissent exists. US Catholics are divided on this...so much for the utility of their rule of faith.

2. But this isn't the only documentation of dissent from HV:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=13355

Notice the first paragraph:

Looking back at the events as he experienced them, Cardinal James Francis Stafford writes that the reaction by dissenters to the papal document involved a level of infidelity which divided the ranks of the clergy to such an extent that they have still not recovered.

By the way, notice Cardinal Stafford's justification for his position on contraception: “A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.”

This experience, Stafford explained in a confidential letter to Cardinal Shehan resulted in an insight “which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women.


No reference to the Bible, none at all.

I would argue that that's at least one reason there was dissent and continues to be dissent. You have people in the developing world who are constantly petitioning Rome to change it's position on barrier methods because of the stories that they see, related to the AIDS crisis. If the sob story recounted by Stafford can justify his position, then why can't these other stories justify the contrary position? That's what you get for appealing to "natural law" or emotive stories to justify teaching.

And look where is own Cardinal (Sheehan) at the time stood:
For reasons unknown, this idea failed to sway Cardinal Shehan who sided with the majority of the papal commission, which advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances.

Changed?! Did I read that correctly? A Cardinal recommended Church teaching be CHANGED? So much for consistency of teaching. Apparently, there are those in Rome's hierarchy who believe teaching can be CHANGED. That's a whole topic unto itself.

And note what Cardinal Stafford says about the existence of dissent to the present day:

Cardinal Stafford closes his reflections by giving his honest assessment of where the Church stands after the decades of dissent.

So, we can conclude from this alone that dissent exists, even to the present day - so much for the utility of the Catholic rule of faith.

Indeed, the working commission itself included 4 dissenters. Curran's group dissented in the US. The Winnipeg Commission said that those who dissented should not be cut off from the Church. In addition their Conference of Bishops stated dividuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they have first made an honest attempt to accept the directives in HV. The Dutch and German Cathecisms also came to stress individual conscience in this matter. To this very day, the Dutch Bishops have refused to amend their cathechism on this. In fact, it seems the Dutch have a rather long history of "free thinking" with respect to a number of issues the Vatican qua Vatican does not like. Many US Catholics have taken issue with the Dutch over this.

So, what can we see here...We see that Catholic teaching on contraception is NOT monolithic. Dissent exists, not just among the laity, but the hierarchy. The US is not the Roman Communion as a whole. So, Magisterial teaching here has done exactly what to make it superior to the Protestant rule of faith? HV is just an encyclical - and since the bishops of the Worldwide Communion, not to mention the sensus fidelium of the laity and Rome's own theologians is divided, Rome's communion is divided; HV is not infallible, so there is nothing in MB's argument from contraception that makes his rule of faith superior to ours.

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan: A) celibacy is continued abstinence.

B) NFP is not celibacy.

C) Therefore, NFP is not merely abstinence.

QED

I'm not sure I can dumb it down any further for you.

Me: ??? Uh, periodic abstinence is not abstinence? Yea, that makes a whole lot of sense. I am abstaining, but I am not really abstaining...wow!

Alexander Greco said...

Bridges, so some theologian who states that God is not three Divine Persons, or some Bishop who states the same, this would mean that sensus fedelium does not exist, perfect collegiality does not exist; therefore this is not a dogma?

Oh yea, the Catholic Church does not dogmatically teach against abortion, etc, etc...

If these are the ignorant arguments you are going to make, then it is impossible to carry on with you. Am I going to have to prove to you that human beings do exist, that we are not in some Matrix, and that the sun actually exists as well? How much further do we need to go back?

Mike Burgess said...

TF,
Coming late to the party, I wanted to note a couple of things:
AG was trying to refer you to the fact that John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is what then Cardinal Ratzinger of CDF was speaking of when he mentioned its irreformability and status as de fide in the Responsium ad dubium.

Another thing: I think it would help if you were to think of your example "neglect," a felony, as a privation and not a positive act, but I don't know. I've had a similar hard time explaining evil as the privatio boni of Augustine and Aquinas to other Reformed chaps, so I shan't hold out hope; still, I think that analogically, it is an aid to seeing how Greco has you logically. His point about ontological difference cannot be underscored enough.

Third (I know, I said a couple; sue me), this business about dissent among Protestant-influenced laity, priests and bishops amounting to a nullification of the infallibility of the Magisterium (ok, technically, the rendering moot thereof) is a bit thick. Let it not be said that the orthodox position ceases to be orthodox though a majority dissent. Athanasius and the Papal adherence to orthodox Christology dispel the point. Here's how it's applicable: HV is of the same class as OS above. Dissent from OS doesn't call into question its orthodoxy. Neither does dissent from HV. That's the argument.

I'll step back aside and let the bickering, bowdlerizing, and brouhaha continue.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Burgess,

As usual, I appreciate your well-written comments.

a) As to the ordination of women to the priesthood, I don't want to get too sidetracked on that issue. The critique there is that even a very notable theologian of your church saying that something is infallible or must be accepted De Fide, does not make it so, it can only persuade, not bind. That's not to say he's wrong on that issue, but rather it is to say that he is not in a position to make an infallible declaration that something else is itself an infallible declaration (just as you are not in a position to make an infallible declaration about his declaration or the declaration to which his declaration referred).

b) I agree that privation of good is not a positive act, and that was my point in raising the issue of neglect. It's not a positive act, it's an act of omission, as it were.

c) The issue of dissent is only raised to invalidate the claim of universal consent of the faithful. Obviously, within Catholicism if something has been infallibly declared to be true, it does not matter whether any notable fraction of the people of the church accept that fact. Here, however, there is no infallible proclamation involved.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Greco:

You wrote: "Bridges, so some theologian who states that God is not three Divine Persons, or some Bishop who states the same, this would mean that sensus fedelium does not exist, perfect collegiality does not exist; therefore this is not a dogma?"

The doctrine of the Trinity is something that modern Catholicism claims was defined by an "ecumenical" council (and ratified by a pope, as I think some folks would say is necessary). Given that, there is no need for resort to a vague universal acceptance within your church of the doctrine.

AG: "If these are the ignorant arguments you are going to make, then it is impossible to carry on with you. Am I going to have to prove to you that human beings do exist, that we are not in some Matrix, and that the sun actually exists as well? How much further do we need to go back?"

Actually, the issue of epistemology is (I think) exactly Gene's point. He has a reason for what he believes, but your insistence on the need for an infallible magisterium tends to hamstring your epistemology.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

AG wrote: "??? Uh, periodic abstinence is not abstinence? Yea, that makes a whole lot of sense. I am abstaining, but I am not really abstaining...wow!"

Actually:

a) First of all, NFP is more than simply "periodic abstinence."

b) Within NFP, the "periodic abstinence" (as you call it) is conjoined with periodic non-abstinence.

c) If NFP were simply abstinence, we would not refer to it as rhthmic contraception, but as abstinence.

d) But NFP is a technique of rhythmic contraception, whereby scheduling is used to separate the unitive act from the procreative effect.

e) If contraception (avoiding the reproductive consequence of sexual relations) is an inavalid end, then the means (whether Rhythmic contraception or chemical sterilization) does not alter the impropriety of the behavior.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

AG wrote: Lumen Gentium 25: Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.

What does this state? I am going to appeal here to the writings of Russell Shaw which appeared in his article, "Contraception, Infallibility and the Ordinary Magisterium."
1) A strictly collegial act is not necessary (Me: this makes sense by examining the historical Church...there was disagreement even over the doctrine of the Trinity...to say that strict collegiality is a requirement ignores free will and the fact that sinful nature exists...Bridges and Turretinfan are imposing this absurdity upon the Church, the Church does not agree).


I answer:

See my comment above regarding how you (as in modern Catholicism) obtain the doctrine of the Trinity. You don't need monolithic acceptance IF you have an ecumenical council with papal ratification (which you don't have on this issue of contraception).

Furthermore, see my comment above about your incomplete citation of the relevant material.

AG (previously): "The Church has another means for infallible teaching, as I quoted Lumen Gentium, 25: it is called the ordinary and universal magisterium. This is not the same thing as those other two means of infallible proclamations which you have alluded to. I can go further into this tommorrow."

Turretinfan (after that): The idea that the Church is infallible when all the bishops agree won't help you in your dispute with Gene, because Gene's point is that not all the bishops agreed.

AG (now): Straw man fallacy! I never made that assertion that *all* must agree. That is not the teaching of the Church. However, just for fun, can you or Bridges cite one pope who endorsed anything other than periodic abstinence?

I answer: Well, you have a limited number of options for showing that something is the infallible teaching of your church:

1) Universal consent of the faithful;

2) Ecumenical council ratified by the pope; and

3) Papal ex cathedra statement.

I suspect that Gene's point is that (1) is a null set in practice, because there is always dissent. Even if you make minor accomodatations to make (1) a non-null set, Gene has pointed out that the dissent on this issue is significant - not just among the laity, but also extending up to those bishops who have been designated Cardinals (or perhaps only one Cardinal ... but still).

Now, if you are going to continue to dispute the issue of whether this can be proved by a sort of "universal consent" principle, I ask you to state whether you accept Gene's statements regarding the level of dissent, and if you do not, whether your answer regarding universal consent would change if more evidence in support of Gene's assertions came to light. In other words, taking Gene's comments about the level of dissent to be true, would you still claim that LG25 demonstrates that this is the teaching of your church?

If so, would you acknowledge that by the same standard, Mary's role as co-medatrix is already a teaching of your church (given its widespread acceptance)?

And, if you acknowledge THAT, then why do you suppose that there is a movement to dogmatically define that doctrine (even at the highest levels, among the Cardinals)?

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

HV is just an encyclical - and since the bishops of the Worldwide Communion, not to mention the sensus fidelium of the laity and Rome's own theologians is divided, Rome's communion is divided; HV is not infallible...

Mr. Bridges forgets that once a dogma is infallible, it is always infallible. The bishops have been in consensus in condemning contraception in the past. Hence, contraception has been condemned infallibly. The existence of dissent in our present historical circumstance cannot change this.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Ben,

You wrote: "Mr. Bridges forgets that once a dogma is infallible, it is always infallible. The bishops have been in consensus in condemning contraception in the past. Hence, contraception has been condemned infallibly. The existence of dissent in our present historical circumstance cannot change this."

I don't think Mr. Bridges has forgotten the idea that once a dogma is infallible it is always infallible.

I think Mr. Bridges would dispute the question of whether in previous generations there was universal consent among the bishops on this issue.

Nevertheless, your point is the rebuttal to Mr. Greco's attempted reductio with respect to already dogmatized dogmas.

You state: "Here, contraception has been condemned infallibly." I think that is the issue that Gene initially raised.

Gene's contention was that the line between condemned (whether infallibly or not) artificial contraception and uncondemned natural contraception (whether or not that includes the withdrawal method) is arbitrary.

-TurretinFan

GeneMBridges said...

Mr. Bridges forgets that once a dogma is infallible, it is always infallible. The bishops have been in consensus in condemning contraception in the past. Hence, contraception has been condemned infallibly. The existence of dissent in our present historical circumstance cannot change this.

This confuses traditional teaching with infallible teaching. This amounts to saying that a dogma is "revisable" today...but what does one do if it revises in a way that contradicts previous consensus.

Has the Pope always been considered infallible? No! That dogma was not defined until relatively late in their history. So, if the bishops were once united on the fallibility of the Pope, then what does one do when the dogma is defined in the opposite direction? Which one does one choose to accept? Sola Ecclesia!

The teachings on contraception could fall into the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church - but unless one can take a poll of each and every bishop in history, this cannot be proven to be true on this issue, neither can it be assumed to be true - as Moderate Catholics have been doing.

So, I'm merely setting conservative Catholics against the moderates on this. Moderates deny that the traditions on conception constitute an infallible dogma.

Catholic theologians generally affirm that the teachings on this issue fall under the Ordinary Magisterium and therefore do not rise to the level of infallibility.

Now, there is a set of them that does, but they do so not on the basis of Vatican 2 - nothing beforehand. This merely begs the question by setting the defintion of infallible dogmas on the sliding scale of Vatican 2 - it is because a set of bishops wants to say so....and, funny thing, the article on this was published in 1978. It took them a decade to make that decision. Uh-huh.

And there's yet another flaw in the argument. Vatican 2's standard of development would be that HV is an authentic development of earlier Christian moral doctrine rooted in revelation. So, this invites a vicious regress, namely appealing to Roman Catholicism's general view (not infallibly defined) exegesis of particular passages on either this issue itself to support HV today or, alternatively, an appeal to their peculiar exegesis of particular Scriptures on the authority of Rome to support the already defined dogmas on papal, Roman, Magisterial authority itself. That's a fallacious line of argument on its face.

The abstract for it can be found here:

http://www.popline.org/docs/0633/024097.html

I'll let my friend TF discuss how problematic that it is. I particularly like this bit:This discussion does not consider the question of whether the Church's teaching on contraception is divinely revealed. Many of those who have handed on the teaching have stated explicitly that it is. At the same time, for purposes of this discussion, it is conceded that the teaching might not be divinely revealed. Noonan, for example, argues that in condemning contraception, the Fathers of the Church were not restating primitive teaching but were making a fresh initiative. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is s, this should be viewed as a case of an authentic development of earlier Christian moral doctrine rooted in revelation.

How marvelously circular.

In addition, this objection seeks to relegate what is infallible dogma to the past. Well, in a Millenium, the bishops who now dissent will be part of the deposit of faith too. So, it will then be true that the deposit of faith is NOT united.

Bridges, so some theologian who states that God is not three Divine Persons, or some Bishop who states the same, this would mean that sensus fedelium does not exist, perfect collegiality does not exist; therefore this is not a dogma?

Mr. Greco, it may behoove you to actually learn the basic rules of logicial argumentation. Your analogy is spurious. The doctrine of the Trinity is an infallible dogma obtained not by the universal consent of the faithful, but by an ecumenical council. I'm not the one making "ignorant arguments."

I'm merely setting the conservatives of your communion against the moderates. Take it up with them.

And why am I doing that? - a point NOT ONE OF YOU HAS ADDRESSED - one of your arguments here and elsewhere against the Protestant rule of faith is that it doesn't "work" because there is "dissent" and "private interpretation," "schism," etc. MB chose an issue over which there is quite a bit of discussion and dissent, so, on the grounds he chose all by himself without any prodding from TF or me or anybody else on my side of the theological aisle, your rule of faith is by no means superior to ours. So much for that prong of the argument against Sola Scriptura.

GeneMBridges said...

Perhaps a few more comments are in order:

Note the way the original arguments have shifted. This is why I generally let my opponents frame the issue.

First, we were told that we need a Magisterium to teach us that contraception is a sin - and infallibly so, presumably as a utilitarian argument against Sola Scriptura.

I believe I have MORE than demonstrated that this issue has done nothing but muddy the waters for Catholics. HV has only led to dissent in the laity and clergy alike. So much for that prong of the original argument.

MB is the one who invoked HV.

But Catholics, including their own theologians, are not united in viewing HV as infallible, and thus they aren't united in viewing Catholic teaching on contraception as infallible.

So, the goalpost moved to the definition of "contraception," but that's merely an exercise in begging the question and truth by stipulation for the Roman Catholics who've tried that line of defense.

So the goalpost changed to the teaching of the bishops being infallible over the ages - but unless you can poll every Catholic bishop who ever lived, it can't be demonstrated that they have been united only to divide in the present age. Also, where's the supporting argument for the infallibility of their teaching in general? I reject that notion on its face anyway.

So, the goalpost moves to Vatican 2, which IMO, is probably the best line of defense for a Roman Catholic to use - but Moderate Catholics and their Conservative Counterparts don't agree over that defense.

Others have tried to say it is an meets the standards of an ex cathedra definition:

http://rtforum.org/lt/lt43.html

The lack of unanimity among Roman Catholics on the way to understand HV, much less the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium is striking.

Which defense is correct? I thought the authority of the Magisterium was supposed to quell such dissent.

So, we're back to the start, which proves the heart of my argument: The Roman Catholic Rule of Faith is NOT superior to ours. It is on epistemic par. The utilitarian argument has been proven to be utterly false.

So, we're left with what, exactly?

Rome's claim here collapses into its own ipse dixit - truth by stipulation. Roman Catholics here have moved the goalpost from the original argument a number of times, each time they do so, it proves the original argument was a failure. In addition, every time they do so, they disprove the original, utilitarian objection to Sola Scriptura that MB framed himself. We're left with MB collapsing into a puddle of ad homineum invective in lieu of argumentation. We're left with Vatican 2, but Catholics are divided over the viewpoint expressed in the article to which I above referred, so we're back at the start. Thus, we wind up with just another set of circular arguments, truth by stipulation, viciously regressive argumentation, and question - begging. I would like to thank our Catholic apparatchiks here for being so accommodating.

Alexander Greco said...

Dr. Alexander Pruss was kind enough to send me a portion of his upcomming book as a kind of response to your argument. I sent it over to Mr. Bellisario so that he could post it on his blog. When you get the chance, could you look at it and possibly link up to it? Dr. Pruss wanted me to send it to you. If you'd like, I could still do that. Thanks.

Alexander Greco said...

Dr. Alexander Pruss was kind enough to send me a portion of his upcomming book as a kind of response to your argument. I sent it over to Mr. Bellisario so that he could post it on his blog. When you get the chance, could you look at it and possibly link up to it? Dr. Pruss wanted me to send it to you. If you'd like, I could still do that. Thanks.

Alexander Greco said...

Bridges: Has the Pope always been considered infallible? No! That dogma was not defined until relatively late in their history. So, if the bishops were once united on the fallibility of the Pope, then what does one do when the dogma is defined in the opposite direction? Which one does one choose to accept? Sola Ecclesia!

Me: Out of curiosity, can you prove a unity amongst the bishops in the denial of papal infallibility? I realize that you might be trying to set up a hypothetical question.

Turretinfan said...

AG:

In a recent comment of yours that I haven't published yet, you mention an article that you could send to me. My email address is available through my blogger profile. I'd love to read the article.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan, I will send it to you when I get off from work. As of right now, you could go to Matthew's blog to see it, but I realize that you find the icons to be offensive. I will send you the article however.

Alexander Greco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexander Greco said...

Gene: The teachings on contraception could fall into the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church - but unless one can take a poll of each and every bishop in history, this cannot be proven to be true on this issue, neither can it be assumed to be true - as Moderate Catholics have been doing.

Me: But this isn't a requirement of the teaching. That is why I can appeal to the issue surrounding women priests. JPII did not make an infallible proclamation, he merely pointed out that the teaching is to be understood as being infallible, and it is to this fact that then Cardinal Ratzinger stated that it was taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. Various popes have also talked about the Church's teaching on the immorality of contraception as being irreformable doctrine and the article Mr. Bellisario posted by one of the Church's Congregations also spoke of the teaching as being infallible. To the contrary, the Church has *never* taught that the teaching was not infallible.

Keep in mind that the sensus fidelium appeals to exactly that, the mind of the *faithful.* Appealing to modern-day heretics post 1930's will do you no good.

Alexander Greco said...

Gene: So, I'm merely setting conservative Catholics against the moderates on this. Moderates deny that the traditions on conception constitute an infallible dogma.

Me: Moderates generally deny much more than the Church's teachings on contraception. Also, terminology like "conservatives" and "moderates" do injustice to the issues. It is more appropriate to say "orthodox" and "heterodox." Various popes and Congregation have been quite clear that this has been a teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium, and it is irreformable. So yes, those who oppose it are not orthodox.

Bridges: Catholic theologians generally affirm that the teachings on this issue fall under the Ordinary Magisterium and therefore do not rise to the level of infallibility.

Me: In order to be better informed on the issues, you need to read this: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/SHAWINFA.TXT

Also for around $5.00 you can purchase on Amazon: The Ordinary Magisterium's Infallibility
Journal article by Germain Grisez, Francis A. Sullivan; Theological Studies, Vol. 55, 1994

Bridges: Now, there is a set of them that does, but they do so not on the basis of Vatican 2 - nothing beforehand. This merely begs the question by setting the defintion of infallible dogmas on the sliding scale of Vatican 2 - it is because a set of bishops wants to say so....and, funny thing, the article on this was published in 1978. It took them a decade to make that decision. Uh-huh.

Me: And how is this argument relevant?

Bridges: And there's yet another flaw in the argument. Vatican 2's standard of development would be that HV is an authentic development of earlier Christian moral doctrine rooted in revelation. So, this invites a vicious regress, namely appealing to Roman Catholicism's general view (not infallibly defined) exegesis of particular passages on either this issue itself to support HV today or, alternatively, an appeal to their peculiar exegesis of particular Scriptures on the authority of Rome to support the already defined dogmas on papal, Roman, Magisterial authority itself. That's a fallacious line of argument on its face.

Me: I'm not sure how something can be fallacious when it sustains internal logical coherency.

The Church's teachings on contraception is also rooted in the Divine institution of Holy Matrimony and the complete and total giving of oneself to another according to our nature.

Bridges: The abstract for it can be found here:

http://www.popline.org/docs/0633/024097.html

I'll let my friend TF discuss how problematic that it is. I particularly like this bit:This discussion does not consider the question of whether the Church's teaching on contraception is divinely revealed. Many of those who have handed on the teaching have stated explicitly that it is. At the same time, for purposes of this discussion, it is conceded that the teaching might not be divinely revealed. Noonan, for example, argues that in condemning contraception, the Fathers of the Church were not restating primitive teaching but were making a fresh initiative. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is s, this should be viewed as a case of an authentic development of earlier Christian moral doctrine rooted in revelation.

How marvelously circular.

Me: It is doubtful that you are aware of how academic journals, and the writings therein are pursued. I imagine that if you have a higher education past high school you would know this. Most schools at least discuss academic journals as a means of information. At the school I attended, we had to use peer reviewed articles in order to support our research. A specific thesis is developed and argued for, but they hardly attempt to discuss all related aspects of the topic. I suggest that you avoid the red herring.

Bridges: In addition, this objection seeks to relegate what is infallible dogma to the past. Well, in a Millenium, the bishops who now dissent will be part of the deposit of faith too. So, it will then be true that the deposit of faith is NOT united.

Me: This is a display of clear ignorance of the dogmatic teachings of the Church. If the teaching is defined (and considered to be irreformable) then it is just that.

Me from before: Bridges, so some theologian who states that God is not three Divine Persons, or some Bishop who states the same, this would mean that sensus fedelium does not exist, perfect collegiality does not exist; therefore this is not a dogma?

Brideges: Mr. Greco, it may behoove you to actually learn the basic rules of logicial argumentation. Your analogy is spurious. The doctrine of the Trinity is an infallible dogma obtained not by the universal consent of the faithful, but by an ecumenical council. I'm not the one making "ignorant arguments."

I'm merely setting the conservatives of your communion against the moderates. Take it up with them.

Me: Mr. Bridges, you are missing the point. If something is an infallible teaching of the Church, heterodox opinion does not change the teaching's infallibility. Besides, your conception of sensus fidelium is seriously flawed.

Bridges: And why am I doing that? - a point NOT ONE OF YOU HAS ADDRESSED - one of your arguments here and elsewhere against the Protestant rule of faith is that it doesn't "work" because there is "dissent" and "private interpretation," "schism," etc. MB chose an issue over which there is quite a bit of discussion and dissent, so, on the grounds he chose all by himself without any prodding from TF or me or anybody else on my side of the theological aisle, your rule of faith is by no means superior to ours. So much for that prong of the argument against Sola Scriptura.

Me: Actually the argument still holds. Not because there is disagreement amongst the followers at the individual level, but because on the aggregate level of so-called "church doctrines" there is disagreement. Truly sad.

Bridges: Note the way the original arguments have shifted. This is why I generally let my opponents frame the issue.

First, we were told that we need a Magisterium to teach us that contraception is a sin - and infallibly so, presumably as a utilitarian argument against Sola Scriptura.

I believe I have MORE than demonstrated that this issue has done nothing but muddy the waters for Catholics. HV has only led to dissent in the laity and clergy alike. So much for that prong of the original argument.

Me: And so has the Arian heresy. Humanae Vitae did not lead to dissent, disobedience towards la voce di Dio did.

Bridges: MB is the one who invoked HV.

But Catholics, including their own theologians, are not united in viewing HV as infallible, and thus they aren't united in viewing Catholic teaching on contraception as infallible.

Me: Theologians are also not united on women priests, but I assume that you would at least agree that that teaching, in the mind of the Church, is infallible (I acknowledge in saying this that you do not believe in the capacity of an infallible Magisterium).

Bridges: So, the goalpost moved to the definition of "contraception," but that's merely an exercise in begging the question and truth by stipulation for the Roman Catholics who've tried that line of defense.

Me: Actually, it only proved your utter failure at discerning the ontological variation between the act of having sex while directly separating the unitive from the procreative ends of the sexual act, which does vioence to its nature, and acting in accordance with the nature of the sexual act (as designed by God) and not violently separating the unitive from the procreative ends.

Bridges: So the goalpost changed to the teaching of the bishops being infallible over the ages - but unless you can poll every Catholic bishop who ever lived, it can't be demonstrated that they have been united only to divide in the present age. Also, where's the supporting argument for the infallibility of their teaching in general? I reject that notion on its face anyway.

Me: Your regulations on the office of the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church is not the same as those of the actual Magisterium (as recently expressed in its teachings on women priests). Your argument holds no water.

Bridges: So, the goalpost moves to Vatican 2, which IMO, is probably the best line of defense for a Roman Catholic to use - but Moderate Catholics and their Conservative Counterparts don't agree over that defense.

Me: Appealing to dissenters of the Faith is hardly a defense.

Bridges: Others have tried to say it is an meets the standards of an ex cathedra definition:

http://rtforum.org/lt/lt43.html

The lack of unanimity among Roman Catholics on the way to understand HV, much less the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium is striking.

Me: Not according to the Church:
4. The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.33
(Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997)

As you can see, your argument fails...

Bridges: Which defense is correct? I thought the authority of the Magisterium was supposed to quell such dissent.

Me: Dissent always exists, it is part of human nature. You have created a straw man logical fallacy.

Bridges: So, we're back to the start, which proves the heart of my argument: The Roman Catholic Rule of Faith is NOT superior to ours. It is on epistemic par. The utilitarian argument has been proven to be utterly false.

Me: The lack of the utility of Sola Scriptura is self-evident in this example. However, you need to take that argument up with Mr. Bellisario. I am discussing the morality of your distructive means at regulating births.

Bridges: So, we're left with what, exactly?

Rome's claim here collapses into its own ipse dixit - truth by stipulation.

Me: Actually, there have been numerous avenues of proof given, among them logical consistency and natural law which you have yet to contradict. So your comment above is seriously flawed. It seems that you have not been following the conversation.