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Posts Tagged ‘flourishing’

“So the people who were sitting in the audience, we were transported to a different time…the time before, when we lived in a normal civil life, civilized well, and hoping and being convinced that the war will soon finish and we will go back home and it will go on. But of course, what we knew later, the Germans knew full well, that we are sentenced to death, and thought…let them play…let them laugh. The laughter will soon vanish from their face…and we were dancing under the gallows.” – Zdenka Fantlova

Though I tend to be a pretty emotional human (I’m a high F on the Myers Briggs!),  my intellectual disposition and many years of education tend to make it rare for a piece of art or literature to truly capture me, to break through my defenses –I’ve been trained to be too critical, perhaps even too elitist… I can appreciate a great deal of art and literature and music, but the things that split me open, that stir my soul, are far and few between: Picasso’s paintings, Andrea Gibson’s poetry, J.A. Nicholls’ collage art, Sigur Ros’ and Florence + the Machine’s music…
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In 1996, famed Civil Rights leader John Lewis was one of very few Congressional representatives to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  It passed the House by a vote of 432 to 67.  The U.S. Senate affirmed it by a count of 85 to 14.  Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton signed it into law.

But John Lewis, a middle-aged straight man from the Deep South, voted against it.  And drawing upon his experience growing up a black man during the reign of terror known as Jim Crow, he stood up and made a speech against it.

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Mary Daly famously said that men would have to find their own way through and then out of patriarchy; she herself could not be bothered to tell them what to do. Her focus was on helping women connect with the root of their own fundamental Being in order to conjure up the existential courage to become who they were supposed to be, above and beyonds the delimiting confines of patriarchal conceptions of womanhood. In all likelihood, she had to say this because she was probably asked on a regular basis what her feminist critique would mean for men.

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I’ve been doing a frenzied amount of work on Augustine lately (surprise!). Specifically, I’ve been examining what he has to contribute to the issue of cultivating proper self-love. Despite his caricature, one in which he joyfully condemns people to hell for the sin of pride (with “pride” being defined quite expansively to include any positive self-evaluation), he actually brings a certain sophistication to this topic. He parses self-love not only as a pernicious kind of selfishness, but also as a basic tendency to work for one’s own self-preservation, and, most importantly for my purposes, a positive activity that rises in tandem with the cultivation of true love for God and neighbor. (I have written on this before.) At the same time, as he works these distinctions out he sometimes lets fly certain ideas that are deeply problematic. (For example, though he discourages suicide, he tends to frame it as an act of prideful disobedience against God, rather than as an act of desperate self-hatred and/or despair.) So overall, I find him to be more frustrating in places than I feared and more fruitful in other places than I hoped. (more…)

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Many members of WIT are institutionally affiliated with Catholic universities—and once you start talking about Catholic universities, you’ll eventually end up in a discussion about Notre Dame. While I speak only for myself in this post (as all of us do in all of our posts!), I’m standing on fairly secure ground when I say that all of us agree with a claim that’s gotten increasing press over the past week: that Notre Dame has got to get better for its LGBT students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), faculty, and staff. As such, WIT has joined the “4 to 5 Movement Coalition” in its commitment to “take actions that promote a safe and welcoming environment at the University of Notre Dame for members of our community who identify as LGBTQ.”

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This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring some women’s experience with natural family planning.  The previous four can be read here, here, here, and here.  For the post that originally inspired this project, click here.  To read about the purpose of and rules for this project, click here.

GS’s Story

What a relief it is to discover that there is a place that Catholics can come and share their real-life experiences with NFP without fear of getting a public internet pounding, conservative-Catholic style.

Brief history: I grew up in a very orthodox, very authoritarian Catholic home.  My husband’s family was also ultra-orthodox (particularly his mother), but not quite so authoritarian about it.  We both went to one of those small, very orthodox Catholic colleges dedicated to the study of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, etc.  We fell in love and married in our early/mid twenties (both virgins in every sense of the word) and just figured we would accept children as they came, because that is what we had been raised to believe was our duty as Catholics.

We did try an early method of symptothermal NFP (it wasn’t CCL–I honestly can’t remember the name of the method) in the early months of our marriage, not to delay pregnancy, but just to learn about my body.  We quickly tossed the thermometer because I am a bad sleeper at best, and being woken up every morning at the same time to check my temp was really disrupting my sleep.

I became pregnant when we had been married nearly 11 months.  The baby was born, I was depressed and stressed out in ways I never thought possible (let’s just say the ole natural maternal instincts that were supposed to magically kick in pretty much never did—even decades later! but that’s another story), but also certain I would not get pregnant right away because it had taken me nearly a year to get pregnant without using anything, and now I had a baby nursing on me constantly.

How naive.

#1 was six months old when I became pregnant with #2.  After #2, even more depressed and stressed out, I decided it was time for real NFP.  We signed up for Couple-to-Couple classes.  The couple teaching it was odd, to put it charitably.  And it felt beyond odd to discuss my cervical mucus with a man that was so socially off-kilter in the first place. But I was determined to make it work.  I woke up every day to check my temp (becoming more exhausted by the day), checked mucus just as I was supposed to, and my chart was a mess because I always had fertile mucus.

After several meetings, the CCL husband looked at my jagged-tooth chart, looked back up at me and said, “There have been times when my wife and I have had to go 6 months or more without making love due to confusing signs”.

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This is the third in a series of posts featuring some women’s experience with natural family planning.  The first two stories can be read here and here.  For the post that originally inspired this project, click here.  To read about the purpose of and ground rules for this project, click here.

The following was very generously provided to me by Catherine Osborne, a PhD candidate in the history of Christianity at Fordham University.  Several years ago, Osborne co-edited  a sourcebook on American Catholic history entitledAmerican Catholic History: A Documentary Reader An edited version of Patty Crowley‘s 1965 speech to the Papal Birth Control Commission is included in that book.  Osborne sent me Crowley’s speech so that I could post it here on the blog.  Osborne also wrote a brief history of the Papal Birth Control Commission and the Patty Crowley’s participation in it, which appears below.


Patty Crowley and the Papal Birth Control Commission

The history of the Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family and Births (which is usually referred to as the Papal Birth Control Commission (BCC)) isn’t secret at all, but it’s also probably not quite as well known as it should be.

The backstory to the BCC is the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to the use of contraception, which was reaffirmed by Pius XI in Casti Connubii (1930) in response to the Anglican Church’s decision to allow it within marriage.  The innovation introduced in Casti Connubii was that the use of ‘rhythm’ was to be allowed–it had not been prior to this.

The debate over contraception was reopened due to the invented of the Pill, but the Second Vatican Council did not take up the question; it was reserved for the specially created BCC, which met five times from 1963 to 1966.  It grew to 72 members over time.

In the last meeting, the four married women members addressed the entire meeting.  Marie Rendu, a Frenchwoman who was a promoter of rhythm, argued that “periodic continence can and does work.”

J.F. Kulanday of New Delhi, India, a nurse as well as a mother, told the commission that based on her surveys of Indian women, “women desire intercourse in marriage.  It binds the husband and wife together…intercourse…keeps their love aflame.”

Colette Potvin, from Canada, mother of five and veteran of three miscarriages and a hysterectomy, later recalled that when it was her turn to speak, “I felt like I was naked up there.  But it seemed to me we hadn’t been asking the right questions at the Commission.  When you die, God is going to say, ‘Did you love?’ He isn’t going to say, “Did you take your temperature?” [Potvin's speech is excerpted in Robert McClory's Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, 105-106.] Per McClory: ‘A long silence followed [her speech]. It was broken by de Riedmatten: ‘This,’ he said, ‘is why we wanted to have couples on our Commission.’”

Potvin’s survey of 319 French Canadian couples, presented to the Commission, indicated that 7 percent were “fully satisfied with the Church’s current marriage doctrine” while half “found rhythm ‘an anguished and difficult task’” and the great majority said that they did not experience growth “because much of their time ‘is spent in the great struggle to avoid the failure of rhythm.’” (107).

The longest speech was Patty Crowley‘s.  Crowley, along with her husband Pat, were the head of the worldwide Christian Family Movement, and she based her speech partly on the results of a survey of her membership.  To read the post featuring Crowley’s speech, click here.

Ultimately, only four members of the commission dissented from the majority’s conclusion that artificial contraception within marriage should be allowed.  (The majority’s final report to Paul VI, “On Responsible Parenthood,” is included in an appendix in McClory.) Acting against the commission’s rules, Jesuit John Ford and the other three dissenters submitted a so-called ‘minority report’ in favor of retaining the existing teaching.  The result of Paul VI’s decision in favor of the minority position was, of course, Humanae Vitae. 

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As some of you probably remember, about a year ago, we at WIT published a post entitled “Women Speak About Natural Family Planning.”  When I wrote the post, I was expecting it to be controversial and indeed it remains among our most commented-on posts.

But something happened that I was not expecting.   Women started writing in, sharing not their opinions but their stories.  They spoke of the toll adhering to the church’s teaching on contraception took on their physical and mental health as well as their marriages.

I found these stories to be incredibly moving and incredibly important.  And I realized that there really is nowhere that Catholic women (and men!) can share their stories about things like this with each other.  Catholic couples struggling with this issue typically have to deal with it privately without the guidance and support of their communities.  Just when these couples are most in need of their communities is when they find themselves most alienated from them. (more…)

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Apparently, the most popular way to argue against homosexuality these days is to compare it to alcoholism.  Seriously.  I have been hearing this a lot lately.  A representative version of this argument goes something like this: “just as we wouldn’t encourage an alcoholic to act out her desires to drink alcohol excessively, neither should we encourage a young person to act out their desires to have gay sex.  Gay people need love, but affirming their decision to engage in gay sex is not love.”

Now, at first glance, this argument may seem to have a lot going for it: it appears to employ traditional Catholic language about virtue and human flourishing and it appears to be motivated primarily by compassion for gay people.  But, unfortunately, the comparison between homosexuality and alcoholism fails on almost every level: it fails as a comparison and it fails as an argument against homosexuality.

First of all, alcoholism, as we currently understand it, and homosexuality, as we (even the magisterium) understand it, really have nothing in common descriptively.

One, while genetic and environmental factors certainly predispose certain individuals to become alcoholics, no one, not even the most genetically and environmentally at-risk person, can become an alcoholic if they never take a drink of alcohol.  This of course is not true for homosexuals.  One does not become a homosexual only upon having homosexual sex.  People typically experience themselves to be gay prior to and independently of engaging in homosexual sex.  In fact, there are people who have never engaged in homosexual sex, either by choice (some priests and nuns, for example) or by circumstance, who still know themselves to be gay.  But why would anyone who has never taken a sip of alcohol consider herself to be an alcoholic?  If someone did do this, we would tell her that she was mistaken; quite simply, what she would say about herself would make no sense to us.

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As most of you have probably heard by now, yesterday, in an incomprehensibly bizarre and senseless act, the owner of a private wildlife reserve near the small town of Zanesville, Ohio set free all 56  of the “exotic” animals in his possession and then committed suicide.

The local police, fearing for the local population’s safety, attempted to re-capture the animals but ended up killing 49 of them.  Of those, 18 were Bengal Tigers, which is especially tragic considering that there are only about 1,400 Bengal Tigers still alive in the entire world.

The human response to these events has been outrage, both at the owner of the private zoo and at the local police.  Rather than debating the appropriateness of the police’s decision to kill these animals (given that the police officers likely had no training for this sort of event and most likely felt fear for their own lives and panic at the thought of being indirectly responsible for the loss of other human life, I am not sure it is fair to blame them for acting the way they did), I  instead want to think about what our collective grief and outrage over these animals’ captivity and subsequent slaughter tells us about God’s intentions for non-human animal life, especially with respect to factory farming and zoos.

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