Thursday, April 27, 2006


The couple who wrote Open Embrace have changed their minds about contraception.

One of their cited books is The Sacrament of Love by Paul Evdokimov, an Orthodox theologian who is a very good and convincing writer. He happens to be wrong, but he makes a very pretty and tempting case for contraception. If you read him, just keep reminding yourself about the Cross. Does he see it as having a place in marriage? If not, how does his theology stay together?

They write:

"our personal experience in the past five years has shown that we had a lot to learn about NFP, and that there is a dark side we weren’t aware of... NFP reaches a point where it is more harmful for a marriage than good."

I just feel for these people. They "discovered" the wrongness of contraception and embraced it with joy... but did not anticipate that beauty and fruitfulness is only found bound up with the Cross. Do you remember Christ's words:

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. (Mk 4:5-6)

"We now fully believe in the power of the Resurrection and we no longer live our lives constantly on the alert for "selfishness."... One example: wanting to make love to your spouse often is a good thing, but NFP often lays an unfair burden of guilt on men for feeling this."

Can't have Easter without Good Friday. And I know I for one do have to live my life on the alert for selfishness! NFP is certainly not designed to make men feel guilty- in fact, I believe it stresses the goodness of wanting to be with your spouse but suggests that this has to be at the service of love.

"We also see honest congruity with the language of the body by saying "no" to conception with our bodies (via barrier methods or sensual massage) when our minds and hearts are also saying "no" to conception. "

Now that is very interesting!! wow!! Basically, by affirming the language of the body, they argue that since they're not open to life, they shouldn't pretend to be. They're so honest, you see... they jsut don't take it the next step-"if we're not open to life, and this is inherently a life-giving act, maybe we shouldn't be doing it." So they recognize, in a way, that they are not giving themselves fully to the other because they reject the fertility of the other and any possible child that could come from the union. There can be darn good reasons for avoiding a pregnancy; the question is whether that means you can determine what the sexual act means.

The couple advocates "realistic abstinence." Pet peeve of mine, this whole "realistic" argument. As Annie would say, "What are the concrete possibilities of man?!?! What man are we talking about? Man redeemed by Christ??"

As for it being a theological attack on women to require abstinence... interesting choice of language there. Maybe the fact that God created women in this way (that her peak sexual desire corresponds to ovulation) should actually be teaching us about women rather than annoying us. Perhaps it's true that her sexuality is deeply imbedded in and informed by the possibility of giving life. Makes sense to me. Seems like really good motivation to have lots of babies.


Anne said...

I've never read Open Embrace, but still that is very sad news. I know personally an Orthodox couple who were using NFP and switch to contraception. There's such joy when a couple comes from contraception to NFP and such sadness when the reverse happiness...

Theo C said...

The authors were not very experienced to begin with and they are not very honest either. Note that while they disagree with the central premise of their book, they still sell and profit from it.

They had no track record and now they have derailed altogether.

Their failure is as you say, a denial of the cross and of the gift of chastity, even in marriage. I even fault them for considering NFP as principally an alternative to artificial contraception. An anti-life or anti-child mentality would corrupt even NFP and this seems part of their problem. Also, they put so much emphasis upon the passionate spontaneity of the body that they neglect the deeper spontaneity of the soul to make God's time our own in loving one another in marriage. We are not animals in heat. We are persons who need to be guided by right reason and by selfless love.

The Orthodox Church, increasingly Protestantized, has apostolic succession and the sacraments; but separated from the see of Peter, has forfeited much in the moral life-- about contraception, and about divorce and penitential second marriages. It is a religion of compromise.

It is the Catholic faith that still calls us to be true signs of contradiction to the world, yes, even in our bodies.