Consistency – UPDATED

There is an interesting conversation going on at Inside Catholic now, stemming from the “Down Syndrome Couples” post.  I just left a comment which I thought was (like everything else I’ve ever said) pretty important, and something which I did not always realize or internalize.  This is what makes our beloved Church so very different from every other Church, and so durable.

I don’t mean to pile onto Jason Negri — I really don’t.  It’s just that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is so central to our times (and maybe to all times), and so horribly misunderstood.  Here’s what I said in my comment:

Negri said in one of his comments on his original post on Inside Catholic:

Church pronouncements on moral issues purport to be universally applicable, but are not exceptions sometimes made for extraordinary circumstances (nuns at risk of rape in Africa are using birth control, people with severely limited mental capacity are not held responsible for some deliberate actions, same for children before the age of reason, etc.)? I’m wondering – and honestly wondering – whether an exception might be made for Monica and David whose developmental disabilities might well put them right between the points of able to marry but unable to care for children.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the Church does NOT make exceptions. It is incredibly consistent in developing guidelines for specific extraordinary circumstances, without ever departing from the original principle.

The nuns protecting themselves from rape (without risking an abortion) are not violating, or availing themselves of an exception to, the principle that sexual love is to be unitive and procreative — rather, they are protecting themselves from an act which is purely violent. When a mentally disabled person or child is not held morally responsible for hurting someone when he doesn’t know better, it’s not an “exception” to the fifth commandment — it’s just a different act entirely from someone who knows better and hurts someone anyway.

Sterilization of a Down syndrome couple for the purpose of separating sex from children, however, would be an exception. That’s what makes it different from the examples Negri gave, and that’s what makes it wrong.

I just wanted to reiterate that the Church does not “make exceptions” — it is a Rock.

So, come join the conversation.  It’s been a very helpful and eye-opening discussion for me.


One commenter, CC, very helpfully posted this:

From the USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (

Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.

It seems to me no different from protecting yourself from someone maniac wielding a baster full of sperm, right?  There is no particular reason you should accept being impregnated in the context of an attack.



  1. Personally I don’t approve of nuns taking birth control. Taking birth control would not protect them from rape, only from the possibility of a pregnancy. Unless there is some new shield electrocution birth control I’m not aware of.

    I still say if a down syndrome couple are not capable of rearing children, I don’t see how they are truly capable of getting married.

    • Katherine- it seems to me that so much of the world is ‘protecting’ against the wrong thing- NUNS SHOULD BE PROTECTED FROM RAPE! and even the pro–choicers should realize that something is wrong with a country where we ‘need’ 1.5 million abortions a year. Shouldn’t 15 year olds be protected from 30 year old boyfriends???

    • While I’m not positive on this, I do not think the Church does approve of nuns “taking birth control.” Wearing a condom is not the same as TAKING birth control. It’s using it. And, given that the point of a rape is not to preserve the unitive and procreative components of a marital and sexual relationship, and that a condom does not alter one’s biological chemistry, it’s conceivable (no pun intended) IMO that the Church MIGHT allow this. No, it would not protect a nun from being raped but might offer some protection against some STD’s, and might aid in her effort to avoid pregnancy.

  2. I am honestly confused by this point. What does this mean? That nuns are allowed to use brith control as a potection against rape? Why “in Africa”? I am not trying to be snide or argumentative, I really am wondering.

    Aside from not actually protecting them from becoming a victim of rape, hormonal birth control is intrinsically evil not only because of what it does to separate the unitative / procreative aspects of sex, BUT because it also acts as an abortifacent.

    The fact that someone is a nun would not excuse them from the responsibility to protect human life at all stages? Right?

    Or are nuns being fitted out with diaphragms or cervical caps or even IUDs before they go off for missionary work? Really?

    Other than my confusion on this point, I think you are exactly right, Simcha.

    • Jane, you must have posted right as I was adding the passage from the USCCB’s directive. No, it’s not just for nuns or Africans! Sorry I was unclear. Abortifiacient methods are not permissible. Here is the passage:

      “Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

      Naturally nuns (and everyone) should be protected from rape in the first place. But if it does occur, they do not have an obligation to conceive via an act which is not an act of human sexuality, with unitive and procreative elements — it is purely an act of violence. In the discussion on IC, a woman who was raped last year wrote in, and said that her experience would have been even more terrible if she had had to worry about a possible conception occurring.

      Conception rarely happens instantaneously. A rape victim may take steps to prevent conception from occurring without perverting the purpose of human sexuality. I hope that makes sense – I’m rushing a bit!

  3. Oh, and apparently rape is commonly used weapon against women in Africa, against nuns and other women, which is why Negri used it as an example. But obviously the principle would apply to any rape victim.

      • Again, Simcha is not talking about using “The Pill” here, but using methods to prevent conception post-rape that would have no possiblity of an abortive side effect. Also, I know some bishops in Africa have supported nuns having condoms available in case of rape (not like the rapists is likely to use them). In none of these cases do we find the sin of contraception because no sexual act is taking place – rape is an act of violence, not sex.

        My sister was raped by two strange men three years ago. Because she was familiar with NFP (she had been engaged previously and taken the class), she knew that she was likely ovulating. She immediately asked me what the Church taught about this situation and said to helpt it make clear to the doctor to do whatever was allowed and not to do anything that was immoral. I’ve never witnessed more courage from a woman than I did from her when she made clear to the doctor that she was likely ovulating and did not want any medication that might be an abortificiant, but to give her any possible spermicides available. It is one thing to know Catholic teaching, it is another to practice it just a few hours after the most horrific event of your life.

  4. My daughter has Down Syndrome. She’s four and a half.

    About a year ago I went to a Down Syndrome Society meeting in the city where I live. I am a member of this society, but the meeting I went to that day kept me away for over a year. It was, essentially, about sterilizing females with Down Syndrome.

    Here’s the problem with that, people. Simcha hit on the MAIN REASON when she talked about our dignity as persons created in the image and likeness of God.


    The gift of our sexuality can’t be messed with like that without serious ramifications. It affects how we see those individuals and it affects how they see themselves. It hits them at the core of who they are as persons, because it takes away part of what makes them the image of the Creator.

    I realize that I haven’t been through the storm yet as my daughter is still little, and I realize it will be hard and I’m not sure yet what we will teach her and how we will try to guide and encourage her when it comes to relationships but you can be damn sure we won’t sterilize her for fear of what might happen if we don’t.

    God makes a way. She is closer to Him than I am, or you are, I dare say.

  5. Righto. I think there are two separate points here. The first is that using artificial contraception is never morally licit. Second, that contraception, especially “emergency contraception” is abortive in nature. To the second objection, I have nothing to say. Life is sacred from the first moment, and it is *always* wrong to induce a direct abortion, surgical, chemical, what have you.

    But for the first, we have to look at why artificial contraception is forbidden to couples. Contraception is wrong because it witholds the gift of one’s fertility from one’s spouse and separates the unitive nature of sex from it’s procreative nature. And that is bad news bears.

    But rape is not a mutual, consented to sexual act. It is an assault in which the sexual organs are the weapon. The aggressor has no right to the gift of your fertility. Neither is the act is unitive or procreative-it is an act of pure violence. That man’s semen has zero right to be in your body, and you have the right to protect yourself against it (without destroying embryonic life).

    I have heard some commentators say that we must always accept the potential of new life however it is to be created. This is not true. We do not support IVF, because although ever child is legitimate, not every means of creating one is. Even married couples may avoid pregnancy for serious reasons as long as they use methods that do not violate the dignity of the marital act (eg NFP)

    But rape is an act of an entirely different nature, and so the parameters protecting the dignity of the marital act do not apply. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the ethics are complicated because they are real and the Church is strange becuase she is true.

    (I’m leaving alone the question of fornication becuase if you are actually worried about morality and respecting the gift of sexuality you’ll be trying stepping back and taking a cold shower before you instead worrying about contraception)

  6. I’m thinking that I’m not the only one who feels instinctively off about the nuns taking birth control. I’m too lazy and hot-headed to read the other comments first, but I will after clicking “submit comment.”
    Birth control pills have NEVER prevented rape. Rape has never necessitated abortion, especially at the hands of holy women dedicated to Christ.
    Birth control pills, however, do mess with people being open to God’s plan.
    People will hate to read this, but beautiful, sacred things can happen in the midst of violence and evil. How many bright sparks of life have come from the dreariest of human circumstance? Rape is always an evil, but God creating a life is always a blessing. Not all blessings are easy to accept, but utmost respect must be given to the wisdom of their distribution.

    • As I’m sure you will see after you’ve read the comments, they’re not talking about birth control pills, because those may be abortifacient; and they’re not talking about preventing rape. They’re talking about taking steps after the attack to prevent a conception from occurring (although there may be some non-abortifacient, pre-intercourse contraceptives that can be used – not very knowledgable about this).

      I’m sure that a woman pregnant via rape may choose to allow a conception to occur, and that it may be a beautiful thing. I don’t think anyone is disputing that, or attacking that idea.

  7. Christy, I would just ask you to read my comment above, and the directives from the bishops. The one thing I can add is that rape often brings about post-traumatic stress disorder, in which one relieves the experience in all it’s trauma every time something triggers, or reminds you. I don’t know how it would be possible to bear one’s the child of one’s rapist-the women who do are heroes. God is the author of life, and life is a gift. But he makes us co-distributors of that gift, which is one of the reasons human sexuality is so sacred, contraception so wrong, and natural family planning so beautiful. Once an embro exists, it is time to try to find the beauty in evil. To demand that pregnant women sit back and do nothing to protect themselves from conception from violent assault is akin to pacifism, refusal to protect oneself from evildoers; neither does not respect our dignity as moral agents capable of assisting God in the creation.

  8. I just heard a very wise priest–discussing marriage this weekend at a workshop–who said that anyone who is mentally impaired should not marry, and he specifically referred to people with DS. It sounded so harsh that I asked him to clarify, and he said that in order for the marriage to be valid, both the man and the woman must understand the nature of marriage, which is described in Humane Vitae as 1.human,2. total, 3.faithful, 4.exclusive until death and 5.fecund. Each of these aspects is so important that a misunderstanding of one of them at the time of marriage is sufficient reason for annulment. If the couple isn’t able to care for children, then it is not a marriage. Or if the couple doesn’t understand exclusivity, then it is not a marriage. Again, I really appreciate the clarity of the Church on this issue, and it is all there in the Code of Canon law for us!

  9. I have been struggling with the USCCB’s directive ever since I learned about it months ago. I have two concerns. The first is that as far as I know, there is no test that can determine whether fertilization has occurred. A negative pregnancy test can result even if an egg has already been fertilized, if the fertilized egg has not yet implanted or if it has implanted recently. The second concern is that the drug a woman could take–the morning after pill–is potentially abortifacient. There are three ways it might act: preventing ovulation, preventing fertilization, or by disrupting the ability of a fertilized egg to implant in the uterine lining. The three mechanisms are all listed on the Plan B label.

  10. Anyone know more about this? I thought there was a blood test to determine whether fertilization had occurred, and that there were methods for preventing ovulation and fertilization, but would not interfere with implantation.

    I’m clearly out of my depth here, and was just going on what I’ve heard and that excerpt I reposted. Anyone?

    • Well, theoretically if a woman was charting her cycles and knew that she was several days pre-ovulation, the “emergency contraceptive” pill would actually prevent ovulation and not cause the destruction of life already there. The percentage of women in the general population who have that level of knowledge about their day to day fertility is pretty low.

      I do think there is a blood test to see if a woman has yet ovulated, though I’m not sure.

      However I think the general principle that the Church is stating here is still true – if there WERE hypothetically a medication or device which could prevent conception in case of rape without any chance of causing an abortion, such a thing would be morally permissible.

    • There is absolutely NO drug that can prevent ovulation and fertilization that does not also prevent implantation, nor is there any way to regulate which function the drug will perform; it’s the luck of the draw. A woman could get impregnated, tested to determine that fertilization has not occured, given the drug, and then fertilization DOES occur anyway, in spite of the drug -because they are NOT 100% successful- but the drug would then prevent implantation – which is not morally acceptable. While it’s true that at the doses used for morning-after prevention fertilization is far more likely to be prevented than at regular contraceptive doses, still, the theoretical possibility exists that fertilization will occur but implantation will be prevented- and there’s absolutely no way to ensure one outcome over another or to know just what happened after the fact.

    • Hey Simcha,

      There is a way to definitively prove via a blood test that ovulation has not yet occurred; you measure the women’s progesterone levels, which are much lower prior to ovulation.

      So, Catholic hospitals will provide a “morning after” type pill which *prevents ovulation* if, according to the results of that test, a rape victim has not yet ovulated. In this case, there is absolutely no chance of the pill having an abortifacient effect, since there is no egg yet present to be fertilized.

  11. There is a test they use in ER’s that supposedly can tell if conception has occurred within 24 hours of intercourse. I know this because i had a serious illness that required medications that would not have been safe for a pregnant woman. They had to test me to see if I was pregnant before treating me. I had never heard of this before.

    • After the above commented, I’m starting to wonder about this. Hmmm. This is what the docs told me. They said it was a super sensitive (and probably super expensive) hcg test.

  12. Folks, I’m starting to get really nervous about having this conversation on my blog, because all I know about theology and biology is from stray ideas picked up here and there, and from common sense. I know that’s not enough to figure out these life and death issues.

    Please, if anyone has any questions about ethics, take it to a faithful and knowledeable priest or theologian! I mean, feel free to comment here, but please remember it’s just a mommy blog.

    Also, I have to go get the kids from school now, and I don’t want to miss anything.

  13. I just posted a comment to Inside Catholic reprimanding the author of the original post for being irresponsible: as a Catholic writer, he should look into the Church’s teaching before proclaiming publicly that he doesn’t get it.

    So I’m not sure if I’m being a hypocrite here, but I don’t get this (from the American bishops):

    “A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation…”

    Why is it wrong to _permanently_ sterilize a woman to prevent conception, but not wrong to _temporarily_ sterilize a woman to prevent conception?

    A woman who is so mentally handicapped that she cannot fully assent to sexual relations is in danger of rape from any man who takes advantage of her–a sort of statutory rape. She may not, however, be sterilized to avoid pregnancy, because that does violence to her personhood. I understand that.

    However, a person who has been raped _may_ (according to the USCCB) temporarily sterilize herself by taking a pill to prevent ovuation. Can someone explain to me how this case is different from the one in the previous paragraph?

    I understand that a woman may do whatever she needs to do to keep the rapist’s sperm out of her–condoms, diaphragms–or kill it once it’s in her (spermicidal douches, whatever). I don’t understand why she may do violence to her _own_ fertility in order to prevent conception.

    I’m open to the possibility I’m missing something important here.

    • For one part of your question, it’s b/c there is a big difference between a permanent mutilation and a temporary condition. For the other part, all sorts of medications can influence the timing or occurrence of ovulation and that’s not necessarily illicit. So the bishops are saying that you don’t have to accept every possible effect of that particular violent act. You can take something to delay ovulation (since they can easily determine whether you have just ovulated or not; I don’t know how sensitive early pg tests are) esp. since stress can do random things to your cycle. Maybe (for example) you wouldn’t typically ovulate at that point in your cycle anyway, but you want to make sure that you don’t have an atypical cycle.

    • Yeah, that was my first (and only so far) thought: that there’s quite a difference between disabling a bodily function temporarily, and permanently destroying it. She’s not harming or disabling her fertility, just shutting it down temporarily (I’m assuming this is actually medically possible).

      Also, I think it makes a difference whether you are reacting to an assault (the rape victim), or proactively protecting yourself against a future one (the Down syndrome women). I mean, no one is suggesting that nuns suppress their fertility for the duration of the time they spend working in notoriously dangerous areas, right? It’s only being suggested that someone who’s already been attacked has some recourse. Does that make a difference? I don’t know.

      • Actually in the case of nuns working in Congo in the 70’s, I believe they actually took hormones to keep themselves from ovulating the entire time they were there.

        That being said, technological and medical knowledge has come a long way. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was allowed before they knew birth control could be abortifacient.

        One big distinction I see though is that in the case of the Down Syndrome woman, the purpose of her being sterilized would be to apply the results of the resulting infertility to her marital relations. Defending oneself from an attacker’s sperm through spermicide or withholding an egg from an attacker’s sperm through hormones to influence ovulation is VASTLY different than the idea that a wife should defend herself from her husband’s sperm or withhold her eggs from him.

    • The difference is, RAPE vs consentual sex within marriage -that’s a HUGE difference. A married Down Syndrome adult can hardly claim she was raped by her husband – the assumption is they will engage in consentual sex. No matter how impaired her mental capacity, sex within marriage is integral to marriage, and therein lies the dilemma. That priest was right- mentally impaired adults simply shouldn’t marry (nothing immoral there), rather than marry and then try by immoral means to prevent conception. It might sound harsh, but only because we’ve gotten so used to the idea that EVERYONE has a right to sex and marriage.

  14. I think it goes back to trust – if we truly believe that God is present and wills every conception of every child, then surely He will know whether it is eternally best for a child to be conceived, even in a case of rape.

    Further, it seems to me that we are simply allowing God to work in the darkest of circumstances.

  15. J Harvey- Nothing is outside God’s will. If your mother was killed by a gun wielding intruder, God, in some sense, willed that. That does not mean you do not have the right to try to disable your attacker and prevent his bullets from reaching your mother.

    In rape, the man’s penis and semen are weapons. His penetration is a total violation. You are not obligated to acommodate an assault weapon in your body.
    An embryo is a new person, belonging neither to father or mother. The man’s life-creating potential is an extension of him, and he has no right to excercise that potential in your body without your consent. Just as you tried to prevent his penis from penetrating your vagina, you have the right to try to prevent his sperm from reaching your eggs.

    Human beings are allowed to avoid the end of pregnancy. If you use NFP, you have no right to tell a raped woman that she should welcome the conception of her attacker’s child.

    (if you want a discussion about why *some* forms of contraception are a licit means to preventing pregnacncy in the case of rape, see above)

    Abby, your question was not about ends, but means. I would say that the most pefeferable method of contraception in this case is one that disable the sperm. However, one that prevents ovulation might be permissible because she is not thwarting the conjugal act or witholding her fertility from her beloved , but witholding her sacred, life-giving eggs from abuse by an attacker? Do contraceptive methods that prevent ovulation actually damage to one’s fertility as sterilization does, or is it just a case of witholding? No idea. This is really fine bioethics and theology ; I don’t know enough about theology, biology, or modern contraception to give a real answer.

  16. “If you use NFP, you have no right to tell a raped woman that she should welcome the conception of her attacker’s child.”

    I don’t understand this. But yes, if you become pregnant as a result of rape, then you are responsible for accepting and protecting that child. You are the child’s mother.

  17. Do you understand that preventing a conception from taking place and destroying an already created life are two different things?

    Not trying to be snarky! Just clarifying, I know I can be hard to understand.

    Do you believe that married couples can use licit means to avoid the end of pregnancy? Or do you believe that a couple must try to have as many children as they can, and if God does not will them to have more, he will not send them?

  18. Clare,

    Thanks for being so careful to understand my question. That’s exactly it: it’s a question about means, not end. We are in agreement about the end.

    You may be right when you suggest that the woman who has been raped has a right to withhold her eggs from her attacker. I’m trying to think this through.

    It seems to me that directly destroying one’s fertility (as a means or end, and not as a side-effect of some other act) is intrinsically wrong, whether it’s a temporary destruction like the pill causes, or a permanent destruction, like a tubal ligation causes.

    Could we say that the woman who has been raped is not destroying her fertility directly–what she’s doing is withholding her eggs from the attacker, and that the destruction of her fertility is only an unwilled side-effect?

    I just can’t stretch my mind that far. It seems like an artificial distinction to me.

    Imagine a mentally disabled woman–say she has the intellectual development of a six-year-old–living in a group home. Men (other residents) take advantage of her all the time (non-violently–she is compliant). No one protects her. This is how it is. Would it be OK to put her on a drug that suppresses her ovulation (imagine there was one that was never abortifacient)? If not, how is her case different from the case of the woman the USCCB talks about, who has just been raped? Is it morally relevant that the woman who has been raped is defending herself from an action that is in progress, whereas the woman in the group home is taking the pill pre-emptively–before an attack has occurred? Maybe it is. I don’t know.

    If you can put the woman in the group home on the pill, why can’t you sterilize Monica?

    • “Could we say that the woman who has been raped is not destroying her fertility directly–what she’s doing is withholding her eggs from the attacker, and that the destruction of her fertility is only an unwilled side-effect?”

      I think this illustrates it beautifully, and I think you’re spot-on. Suppose a couple had been hoping to conceive in a given cycle, but then the wife was raped and took a drug to withhold her egg from the attacker’s sperm. They would be sad that the egg she hoped to give to her husband would not be available that cycle, because she had withheld it in order to defend herself from her attacker. The destruction of her fertility is a result of her self defense but was not the end desired.

    • My gut reaction to that scenario, Abby, is not “give this woman the pill” but “HOLY CRAP GET THIS WOMAN OUT OF THIS SITUATION!”

      Giving her the pill is just adding evil to evil, like most of the hypothetical situations dreamed up to justify abortions. “Ok but what if it’s a twelve year old girl, and she’s being raped by her father?” Is “give her an abortion and send her back to the rapist” an answer? No, right? So why would giving this girl in the group home contraception and leaving her in the group home, where she is being raped, an answer?

      • Joye,

        You’re absolutely right: it’s not an answer. The group home situation is an utter travesty. She ought to be protected.

        I think the situation is true to life, and that such women aren’t protected by anyone.

        But I’m not advocating giving such women the Pill! I bring up the situation in order to help isolate the moral principles in operation here. We need to know what those principles are so that when we’re faced with a situation in which we have to make a decision–a situation on which the Church hasn’t spoken yet–we don’t get confused.

        I know a very pious and obedient Catholic family who killed their daughter in exactly the same way Terri Schiavo’s husband killed her, but years before. They wanted to do what was right, and relied on the advice of a very holy priest, who misled them because he himself was confused. Now that the whole thing has been so publicly discussed, they realize they killed her, and are filled with remorse.


    • Distinctions of intent (assuming the intent is sincere) are real distinctions, are they not? I thought they were…is this what our courts do when trying to determine motive or provide evidence for or against premeditation in a crime?

  19. Hmmmm. I think the difference would be that she is suppressing her ovulation to protect her from attackers who are taking advantage of her inability to freely give herself, although this would be blatant hypocrisy if whoever was dispensing the drug was not trying to protect her from being taken advantage of sexually as well. With Monica, it is different, no? We’re assuming Monica is of sound enough reason to give herself in marriage, but lacks the support structures to raise a child resulting from that marriage. Isn’t it really just the same as if they weren’t disabled–In one case she is being protected from attackers, in the other the unitive and procreative ends of marriage are severed?

    I’m making some assumptions: that she wants the drug, that she cannot be taken out of the home, that there is absolutely no other way to protect her, remove her from the situation, or stop the abuse, that she lacks the mental capacity to be aware that it is abuse. Which doesn’t sound like it would happen in the real world?

    That’s the problem with these ethical dilemmas. They get so thorny so fast, and you never know what the particulars will be in real life.

    I don’t know.

  20. Clare,

    I’m trying to take a step back here and ask myself what I actually know and what I’m assuming.

    The Church’s main teachings on contraception are all within the context of marriage. In Monica’s case, sterilization is an attack on marital love–so that’s clearly wrong. I was wrong to suggest that there’s no morally relevant difference between Monica and the woman in the group home.

    But I’ve been assuming that sterilization is intriniscally wrong for another reasons besides: that it’s an attack on the integrity of the body. Could sterililzation (temporary or permanent) as a means of self-defense be legitimate? Maybe it can. Maybe the direct destruction of one’s fertility isn’t intrinsically wrong, but only wrong if it’s also an attack on marriage, or if it’s not justified by a proportionate end.

    Thanks for the careful discussion.

  21. Yes, I completely agree, and I want to add that at this point I’m just speculating. Especially since I don’t really know how most contraceptives work….do ovulation suppressing drugs speed you up in your cycle? But that could still be construed as destruction of one’s fertility…what constitutes a porportionate end for chemically violating one’s bodily integrity? I would say rape does, but I’m biased.

    At this point I’m so far out of my league, it’s interesting to talk about, but not helpful. Thanks for your clarity and charity.
    And for giving me an excuse to rhyme those two words.

  22. Clare (and anyone else who’s with us so far!)

    The other question is whether attacking one’s bodily integrity is to be viewed differently when the body system in question is reproduction.

    How about weight loss surgery?

    How about my case: my thyroid functions just fine, but my immune system is screwy and keeps attacking it. The treatment is to damage my healthy thyroid. That’s got to be OK, right?

    How about if there’s this kidnapper, and he tells you that if you don’t cut off your own hand…

    Oh, never mind.

    • Well, there are worse fates than being surgically attached to a hilarious writer…but I hope you like the first minute and a half of Don Juan, because you’ll be hearing it a lot. 🙂

  23. Oh, yeah? What if people pods float in your window and attach themselves to your favorite recliner? See how far your moral quietism gets you _then_!

  24. I am late to the party but the reported use of prophylactic contraception for nuns or anyone else in areas where men may rape women just doesn’t have the right smell.

    Why wouldn’t they be ok it for women in the armed forces who go into some pretty tough circumstances?

    Besides seeing it right there in black and white from the moral perspective, feeding a woman’s body with estrogen to fuel cancer cells in their body just in case somebody comes to rape them, is that really helping the women send the right message to the men?

    Forget the pills. Give the women lessons in self-defense, an fid card and a nice can of good police quality pepper spray and the mother superior a stun gun is a much better way of actually slowing down the rapes.

    • It’s not prophylactic, it’s after the fact. The idea is that after a rape, if ovulation can be determined NOT to have happened in the time frame where fertilization is possible imminently, prevention of ovulation can be caused with hormones. Not indefinitely, but for the period of time in which the sperm could still be active. (thus protecting the woman, and her eggs, from this hostile invader.) If ovulation has recently occurred, fertilization is possible and here’s where most would opt for “emergency contraception” which can abort an embryo by not allowing it to implant. In this case prevention of ovulation would have no effect, as the woman has already ovulated. A person concerned about killing an embryo would decline the “emergency contraception” if ovulation had recently occurred. Am I right here? This is how I understand it. I’m pretty sure there’s no certain way to tell that an egg has been fertilized unless it has already implanted, that’s when the hormone changes begin. (Corrections welcome here, again, this is how I understand it.)

      • Actually, I believe the famous (or perhaps mythical?) case of the nuns in the Belgian Congo was about the Pill, or some such oral prophylactic. Whether there was in fact such a permission is notoriously undocumented. Some moral theologians opined that it would be permissible, but I’ve never seen a sourced statement indicating that Vatican permission was truly given.

        • Ah ha. Thanks, that is helpful. My comment was about the bishops’ guidelines for health care workers regarding care of a rape victim. I don’t know anything about the nuns. I guess there are two questions here, what preventive measures are ok, and what is ok after the fact.

  25. Thanks for posting this, I find it really interesting and informative. We want mothers to keep their baby but we forget their are on-going concerns as these parents raise children who are not as gifted as others.

    We need to discuss these issues as it helps get informed so when we are faced by this issue or in a debate we know how to deal with it.

  26. It is my understanding that the USCCB does not have teaching authority or canonical authority. I would not believe everything that comes out of the USCCB as Catholic teaching.

    • Consider the reasoning of the statement itself. If you don’t trust the bishops check out the link Brooke provides above. The National Catholic Bioethics Center is solid, see their board of directors. The information here is very carefully written and documented. It supports the bishops’ statement.

      The article you link below mentions 2 (or possibly 3, not clear exactly what he’s referring to at one point) errors or scandals. Be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, our bishops are our shepherds and there are so many wonderful bishops in this country. We should be eager to accept their guidance; of course we should always use our own reason and our consciences.

      I have a sister who works in a hospital ER and encounters rape victims. Specifics like this offer Catholic health care workers more opportunity to help. For a rape victim concerned about these issues, how helpful it would be to have an informed nurse or doctor available.

      Interfering with the marital act makes Catholics uncomfortable, and people assume when we talk about ovulation and conception that we are discussing the marital act, but as others have pointed out, this has nothing to do with the marital act.

        • Any consensual sex is a totally different thing from rape. Two people giving themselves, however imperfectly, is different than one person violating another. Someone points out below that the only thing in common is biological. Non-abortifacient contraception in a rape situation (before or after) isn’t harming the marital act, because rape is not the marital act. Contraception in this case is acting to prevent the union of an egg with a sperm that has no business being in the vicinity, sperm that’s there as a result of a terrible violation of a person.

      • My point was that although we have some wonderful bishops, the USCCB is not the Magisterium and therefore everything they say is not necessarily Church teaching. Some of the comments seem to be treating their statement as dogma.

  27. Since the thread was locked, I’ll ask one question to you, because I’m horribly confused about “consistency”, as you call it:

    1) Jason writes a post that I found horribly offensive and lacking in compassion, suggesting that people with genetic disorders (specifically referring to Down’s syndrome but by implication including me) should be sterilized and/or not permitted to marry.

    2) Because he used this situation as a premise, the conversation diverged to “condoms in the case of rape,” which I handled as what I thought it was: an intellectual discussion.

    Then I’m told I’m lacking in compassion, ironically, because I felt the position being discussed was lacking in compassion.

    Why is it OK to discuss sterilizing cripples in a detached and intellectual manner, regardless of who might be offended, but not how rape victims should best defend themselves?

    Tell me that, because I’m dumbfounded. I challenge a premise that’s being used to argue that I shouldn’t have kids, and somehow I’m the one lacking in compassion.

    • I’ve been following the discussion closely on both blogs. I’d like to address your question, but I’m not sure which comments on the Inside Catholic blog are yours. What name were you commenting under there? Thanks.

    • Gadfly/JC: I will have to go through and read the thread again to pick out the specific comments which I thought were offensive.

      I did not realize that you considered that the sterilization scenarios affected you. I’m sorry — apparently I just didn’t read carefully enough, but I just simply wasn’t aware that you were experiencing the conversation that way. Did someone actually mention “sterilizing cripples,” or did you just extend the argument mentally until you felt that it was directed at you? It certainly wasn’t a topic that was discussed overtly over several comments, as rape was.

      Again, I will have to read through the thread (and I just don’t have time right now), but it was by no means obvious that that was even under consideration. It was, however, obvious that there were at least 2 rape victims in the thread, and I did not hear any compassion in your voice, and I thought your apology was paltry.

      I just don’t buy the argument that, after hearing that Clare is a rape victim, you still “thought it was an intellectual conversation.” That’s just not a normal human reaction.

    • OK, thanks. The reasons (I think) you’re being told you’re lacking in compassion is that you seemed to be telling a woman who was raped that she could have defended herself if she had tried harder; that you seemed to be telling a woman who succeeded in talking her attacker into using a condom that women who do that consent to the rape; and that you seemed to be telling a woman who was raped that it is wrong of her to “focus” on the question of how women who are raped can protect themselves, because that question isn’t really important.

      • Thanks, Abby,

        I missed the part where Clare said she succeeded in convincing her attacker to use a condom, since in my original comments, I wasn’t replying to Clare, and then I was replying to the replies.

        I do think women can defend themselves if they try harder, but that society does its best to convince women that they’re weak and helpless.

        The question of defense comes into play in a variety of contexts.

        “that you seemed to be telling a woman who was raped that it is wrong of her to “focus” on the question of how women who are raped can protect themselves, because that question isn’t really important.”
        When I was saying that I think self defense is far more important, and I don’t see how a condom can mitigate the trauma of rape.
        Again, men can be raped. Does the fact that a man can’t get pregnant make the rape of a man less bad than the rape of a woman? Does the rape of a sterile woman make it less bad?

        That’s why I find the condom argument demeaning. If it makes rape “less traumatic” to have a condom, then what about those who can’t get pregnant?
        Or STDs: is rape less traumatic if the victim already has AIDS?

        That’s the problem with arguing compassion instead of arguing facts and principles. When you start arguing compassion, then everyone becomes a sensitive victim, and one person’s “compassionate response” is another person’s offensive comment, depending upon their circumstances.

        • Gadfly,

          You’re right that a condom doesn’t mitigate the trauma of rape. What it does it prevents further traumas that can be caused by the rape, like pregnancy and STDs. But that’s obvious.

          I’m with you, too, when you say that we should argue facts and principles, and not compassion. However, it is possible to argue facts and principles in a careful and compassionate manner. That’s all anyone’s asking.

          • I think it’s better to argue facts and principles in an objective, clinical manner because compassion clouds judgement and derails the conversation.

            Consider Simcha’s response to me below:

            “I am truly sorry for your suffering. I can see that you have a difficult life.”
            To me, that’s highly condescending and insulting. It’s superficially compassionate, but it says, ‘I don’t care what you have to say. You’re obviously being clouded by your emotions, so I’m going to say something compassionate and dismiss the point you were trying to make by using your personal experience as an example.”

            I saw abstract discussions of women in Africa, discussions of emergency contraceptives that are not abortifacient (which technically do not exist, if you listen to Dr. Bruchalski’s explanation of conception), discussions of personal experience and defensive emotional screeds.

            I was, again, originally replying to the *original* discussion, trying to stay on topic, and was told that was irrelevant because that wasn’t being discussed anymore.

            Since my main contention was that the condom thing was unrealistic and stupid, an argument that could not possibly work in practice, all anyone had to say was that it had worked in Clare’s case.

  28. Simcha,

    I have Marfan syndrome. One of the posters, for example, suggested it was OK to “let” people with Down’s syndrome reproduce because they won’t “pass it on.” That’s always a classic for me, given that I have an autosomal dominant disorder.

    I said it in my very first reply.

    Clare’s experience certainly gives her an important perspective, but I thought whether a certain recourse for victims was OK, not how to counsel victims. And when I did suggest counsel for women who’ve been raped, such as St. Augustine’s book of City of God consoling women who’ve been raped, or following the example of Maria Goretti by *forgiving*, I was again told that a) that was irrelevant, and b) I was lacking in compassion.

    Every day I have to live with the psychological abuse I put up with from all levels of society because of my disabilities (including high functioning Asperger’s, which is a minor consideration when one is dealing with basic survival), and I deal with it in a Catholic manner, by offering it up with Christ.

    I deal with constant pain, and I offer it up.

    I look to the saints as my models in how to deal with suffering and persecution and the world in general.

    And I live in constant fear of assault. I may not be at risk of being pregnant, but men can be sexually assaulted, to, and I’ve been sexually molested by a cousin and sexually assaulted by a physician. And in any case I live in constant fear of being physically assaulted, since a “simple punch” would be enough to kill me.

    But I don’t let that fear rule me, and I put my trust in God, and I have found that spiritual protection is amazing when one really entrusts oneself to it.

    So, when it was clear to me that the conversation had shifted, I suggested there should be some discussion of the spirituality of the situation, and was once again charged with lack of compassion.

    • I am truly sorry for your suffering. I can see that you have a difficult life.

      Maybe it’s your Asperger’s that makes it hard for you to see how your words come across. Although I don’t have Asperger’s, I am somewhat tone deaf in conversation, and often offend people without meaning to. When they tell me I have offended them, I apologize, and try to be much more careful in dealing with that person in the future. I assume that I cannot trust my own instincts in dealing with that person, and do what I can not to offend further.

      I guess you will just have to take the word of the rape victims in the thread that you were, because of the reasons Abby outlined above, speaking in a way that many commentors heard as harsh and heartless.

      I believe you when you say that you didn’t hear it that way; but we have to take people seriously when they say, “You’re hurting me.”

      • I guess the thing is I don’t see where anyone said those words, “You’re hurting me.” And again, what the point of discussion is if one person can shut a discussion down with those words, but another can’t.

        So, just to clarify:
        It was OK to discuss sterilizing people with Down’s syndrome because they aren’t smart enough to pay attention to the conversation?
        It was OK to discuss steriling people with Down’s syndrome because they’re a) mentally handicapped, b) physically handicapped and c) carrying a defective gene, yet it makes no sense that someone who is mentally or physically handicapped or genetically defective should see the conversation as also applying to him/her?
        It is OK to discuss whether rape victims can use condoms so long as one of the participants in the conversation isn’t a past rape victim?
        Sorry, I see a double standard at work.

        • Right, no one said three exact words. Clare did say:

          “Right JC. I am only arguing the permissiblity of contraception in cases of rape because I am a secret heathen who just wants an excuse to set up a love shack and pop them morning-after pills.

          It couldn’t be because, oh I don’t know, I’ve been raped and want to defend and explain a woman’s right to protect herself? If you go to your local hospital the minute you can pick yourself up off the ground and get tested for STDs, ask for a non-abortive contraceptive (as per the reccomendations of the bishops) it’s just because you are trying to scaffold arguments for unlimited birth control, you Margaret Sanger you.
          And after you beg him to get off you, scream, punch, sob, kick and finally, miraculously have the presence of mind to beg him to at least put on a condom, and he complies because he doesn’t want STDs, or to leave a DNA sample, or because he gets a kick out of your helplessness, that just proves you’re consenting and wanted it all along, you whore.

          When you get tired of making snarky comments at the expense of rape survivors and want to actually discuss the Church’s beautfiul and consistent teaching on human sexuality, let me know. And by the way, I’m a member of the National Rifle Association. Weird for a flaming liberal dissenter, no? ”

          and you took that as an invitation to continue an abstract, intellectual conversation. I’m trying really hard to believe that you just don’t get it, but you’re not making this easy.

          I thought that most of the commenters were trying hard to use tact and care while discussing the original point of sterilizing disabled. If you were offended, you should have said something.

          And Clare did say, by the way, that her attack would have been even more painful if her attacker hadn’t been wearing a condom, because then in addition to the physical and emotional violence she suffered, she would have had to worry about disease and pregnancy. If you think that woudln’t make a difference, then I guess maybe you should, gee, maybe listen to what someone in that situation is saying actually happened to her.

          Of course you can discuss whether victims can use condoms, if a rape victim is present. Plenty of people on that thread were doing it. You were the only one doing it in a cruel and churlish way.

          • I still don’t see why you think I was being cruel and churlish by trying to remain objective. It’s like when my students write overly emotive argument papers based upon personal experience, and I challenge their lack of objectivity, and they say, “You just say that because you disagree with me.”

            And since my point was that I think the condom thing is unrealistic and impractical, if someone had pointed out, point blank, that Clare had *done* it, that would have been a different conversation.

            • You are an offensive buffoon who has NO idea what you are talking about. Talk to anyone who works at a rape crisis center, I have. Rapists commonly use condoms to eliminate DNA evidence.

              The next time you decide to taunt rape victims with abstractions, do it somewhere else.

              Hope that was not condescending.

            • Abby explained specifically why you were being cruel; you disagree. Fine. I don’t have any particular desire to spend more time trying to convince you that you’re being offensive.

              As a teacher, though, you might want to get in the habit of reading more carefully, and not depending on other people to remind you to reread statements that have already been made. Maybe that’s why your students feel so misunderstood: maybe you really are missing their point, as you did in the IC thread, and are unjustly accusing them of being inaccurate, when you’re actually just a careless reader.

            • Now we’re getting somewhere! When you said that the condom thing is unrealistic and impractical, Clare had _already_ told her story. But you had missed it.

              So it went like this:

              Person A: I used a condom to avoid conception during rape.

              Person B: Condom use during rape is unrealistic and impractical.

              That’s why everyone thought you were treating her badly.

              • At which the decent thing to do would be for Gadfly to say, “Holy cow, I’m sorry I missed that. My fault – I take back what I said.” Rather than, “Well, why didn’t someone just tell me what Clare already said?”

  29. I know I’m going to get in trouble for suggesting this… but I guess the part I don’t get is the premise that rape is not sex. It’s been said over and over again that it is “just violence”.

    The reason why rape is so horrible is because of its very nature of the corruption of something so private and so sacred. I would say that being beaten up 1,000 times is not nearly as horrible as 1 rape. In fact, it is so horrible that we can’t even really discuss it without everyone being extremely sensitive – rightly or wrongly.

    And in regards to NFP… Clare wrote:

    Do you believe that married couples can use licit means to avoid the end of pregnancy? Or do you believe that a couple must try to have as many children as they can, and if God does not will them to have more, he will not send them?

    Yes, of course I accept the Church’s teaching on NFP. However, I don’t think that there is a dichotomy as you set up here. There’s a difference between not using NFP and “trying to have as many children as physically possible”. I do think that NFP can contribute to the birth control mentality which separates life from sex. Does that make NFP bad? No, it makes the way that some people use it bad. Its not a matter of WHAT means, its a matter of WHEN to use those means – (and by the way, I think that this decision is extremely private – so private in fact that I’m not willing to debate any circumstances where NFP may or may not be used validly because no one can determine that except the couple themselves). Everyone seems to forget that NFP is to be used only in grave circumstances – it is NOT Catholic birth control.

    • JHarvey said:

      I know I’m going to get in trouble for suggesting this… but I guess the part I don’t get is the premise that rape is not sex. It’s been said over and over again that it is “just violence”.

      The reason why rape is so horrible is because of its very nature of the corruption of something so private and so sacred.


      I can’t agree with this. Obviously that’s part of it, but if corrupting something private and sacred were enough to make rape not sex, then I’d also be arguing that contraceptive sex is not sex, since it corrupts an act which is private and sacred. But of course I’m not arguing that.

      Rape is both intended and suffered as violence and assault. It is not intended by the rapist to be unitive or procreative. It looks like sex, but has only a physical resemblance in common.

      I think we have to defer to the judgment of people who have suffered rape or who care for people who have. They are the ones who can tell us the nature of what happened.

    • I agree with you about the privacy of couple’s decisions about whether to avoid pregnancy or not. But when you say “everyone seems to forget that NFP is to be used only in grave circumstances” you seem to be saying that only life-or-death reasons justify avoiding conception.

      This is not what the Church teaches. I think you’re getting the word “grave” from Humanae Vitae, but it’s a bad translation. The phrase is better rendered “serious reasons.”

      If you read the other Church documents that speak of the use of periodic continence to avoid conception (the Catechism, Casti Connubii, Familiaris Consortio, and Gaudium et Spes, for example) you will see that nowhere does the Church teach that NFP is “only for emergencies.”

      Here’s a sample, from Gaudium et Spes no. 50, about how spouses should decide whether to have another baby:

      “Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself.”

      • Abby – I never said that NFP is only for “emergencies” and neither did I say “only for life and death” – this is where discussions about NFP become emotional and personal. Grave might be serious, it might be thoughtfully considered… frankly, I’m not willing to say what it means because I don’t know what “grave” might be for any other couple other than within my own marriage. I think the best that we can say is that when a couple decides to use NFP, it should be for a good reason and not – I want to go to vegas and I won’t look good in that evening gown if I have another baby.

        • OK, great. Sorry for jumping to conclusions.

          I understand that it’s possible to use NFP for frivolous reasons. I just never met any couple who were serious enough about their faith to obey the Church in this matter–which is foolishness in the eyes of the world!–but who were that clueless about the Church’s command to us to be open to life.

          Maybe they’re out there. I don’t know.

    • As for the NFP part of your comment, you said:
      Its not a matter of WHAT means, its a matter of WHEN to use those means …. Everyone seems to forget that NFP is to be used only in grave circumstances

      Yeah, that’s kind of the point. If it’s okay to try and avoid conception with NFP in certain circumstances while married, then it’s clearly okay to avoid conception when you are being raped. That’s why the points are related.

      That’s what we’re talking about: avoiding conception.

      • “Yeah, that’s kind of the point. If it’s okay to try and avoid conception with NFP in certain circumstances while married, then it’s clearly okay to avoid conception when you are being raped. That’s why the points are related.

        That’s what we’re talking about: avoiding conception.”

        That makes sense to me.

    • Rape may biologically be sex. However, as a moral act, most moral or theological statements I’ve read seem to differenciate between rape and sex. Sex implies mutual consent of the couple, even if other aspects of the union may be disordered, i.e. the couple is unmarried or contracepting. However, in rape there is no mutual consent. One party is simply using biological instruments of sex to dominate over another. Without this consent, sex is no longer an accurate emotional, moral, or spiritual description of the act, though it may be biologically accurate.

    • What I always thought was the particular horror of rape is that it makes one feel (not that I know from personal experience, I am imagining) so unsafe in one’s own body. The way we were formed, which we didn’t have any say in, appears to become a serious liability and there’s nowhere one can go to escape or hide from it. I’d feel differently if someone tried to break into my house but didn’t succeed in getting in, than if they did, and how much more when the ‘house’ is oneself?

      Don’t forget, rape victims sometimes are assaulted with objects like bottles, too. It’s not sex in either case. It’s violence.

  30. All I can say is- I think it is amazing that we are discussing such sensitive topics and not having a total flame war.

    Compassion is the order of the day- Godsgadfly- I am offering my Mass for you and your suffering- The fact that you can be in such pain and still give glory to God is beautiful

  31. Gadfly said:
    I think it’s better to argue facts and principles in an objective, clinical manner because compassion clouds judgement and derails the conversation.
    [end of quote]-

    Better for whom? Do you feel that your style of argument made things clearer for anyone?

    I think it WOULD be better, in a perfect world, if we could discuss such things in an objective manner. What I’m trying to say is that we CANNOT. When you answer pain with clinical objectivity, you’re not helping, you’re making things worse. That’s how it happens in the real world when you’re dealing with real people. It doesn’t matter if it OUGHT to be better — it just doesn’t work that way.

    Gadfly said:

    Consider Simcha’s response to me below:

    “I am truly sorry for your suffering. I can see that you have a difficult life.”
    To me, that’s highly condescending and insulting. It’s superficially compassionate, but it says, ‘I don’t care what you have to say. You’re obviously being clouded by your emotions, so I’m going to say something compassionate and dismiss the point you were trying to make by using your personal experience as an example.”
    [end of quote]

    See, this is why I’m annoyed with you. When someone else’s feelings get hurt, you say that you were just trying to be abstract and intellectual. When your own feelings get hurt, though, you impugn my motives and try and garner pity for yourself.

    Actually, I didn’t mean it that way, and I am genuinely sorry that it came across that way. I can even see how it sounded that way, and — I don’t know what else to say, I’m sorry. I was pissed off, but was making an effort to at least acknowledge that there is a human being reading what I wrote.

    But seriously, I guess by the standards you’ve been campaigning for, I should have just launched into a highly detatched analysis of why people with your disabilities tend to be overly cold an analytical toward other people, and how if they just tried harder, they could overcome their problems. I mean, aren’t there exercises you can do or something? If society stopped encouraging you to be so weak and helpless, maybe you wouldn’t have these problems.

    Okay? It sucks to have someone talk to you like that.

  32. Simcha,

    Again, you’re totally misrepresenting me. I was using that as an example of how injecting “compassionate” comments into an academic discussion is unfair, so I don’t do it.

    I wasn’t particularly offended by what you said–but I’m using it as an example of another way of looking at it.

    “My way of arguing” is the way Westerners have argued up until the 1960s. But feminism, Vatican II, and the destruction of our educational system have changed all that.

    What happened in the past wasn’t the issue: the issue was how to prevent things for the future, and whether a particular approach is permissible or prudent.

    Clare certainly has something to offer on that, but she was offering

    I missed *One* comment she made before I joined that part of the conversation, a comment that would have totally changed my perspective, which no one pointed out she made (except Clare herself, in an abstracted way that made it sound like she was being theoretical).

    Had she said, simply, “it worked in my case,” I’d have said, “OK. Wow.”
    How is it cruel of me to argue that I don’t think it would work, when I had no idea it worked in her case?

    How is it cruel of me to argue a point, on which Clare was agreeing with me, that it’s better to spend future resources on self-defense.

    That is the problem with combox discussions of dozes of 300+ word posts in length. Someone skimming the conversation can miss a key point that leads to a situation like this.

    The past is the past . I thought we were talking about the future, not the past.

    • Okay, I guess I’m just not capable of seeing things from your point of view. I’m not being sarcastic — I really have tried, and you just seem like a different species to me, so I don’t know what to say. As baffled and frustrated as you are, I am too.

      Clare is 18, and is a product not only of “our educational system” but of a post-feminism and Vatican II world. And yet somehow her argument was more clear, consistent, well-reasoned and persuasive than anyone else on that entire thread. – and she had more reason than anyone else to be overemotional about the topic.

      You seem to think that I’m asking you to weep crocodile tears and make sure that everyone’s feeling okay before your proceed to point B, but I’m not. All I’m saying is that when you’re talking to human beings, you should act like you’re talking to human beings, even if you have a logical point to make. If only because it helps get your point across better.

      Can I just ask, do you often get accused of being cold or unkind? Or is this a novel experience for you?

  33. Small issue first: As for nuns taking birth control I believe that it is an unfortunate question for all concerned including us. Unfortunate not because contraception is ineffective in dealing with rape nor even because contraceptive is intrinsically evil when used with the end of frustrating the procreative aspect of the sexual act. It is unfortunate because it displays how little we understand and value the religious life. The essence of the value of celibacy is that one’s whole identity is given to God. The vow of celibacy is not simply a means to serve God effectively without the hindrance of worldly concerns(kids etc.) it is the sacramental sign of a divine nuptial union. God has effected our salvation because a professed virgin left nothing in the way of her reproductive power.
    A nun is more than capable of raising a child as is evidenced by centuries of orphanages and schools and if God should allow that a rape should occur than in His divine Providence He will bring a great blessing upon the community and the nun through an adoption or whatever path is taken.
    As far as accountability, would we as catholics not all feel uncomfortable if we thought that nuns were allowed to contracept given that they would have removed a great natural aid to their vow to remain chaste? I say that we let nuns react to this question and you will likely find that they would be more repulsed by the thought than we ever imagined…They know what they have given to Christ and He is serious about the totality of their gift.

    Bigger issue: Voluntary Sterilization…Jason, Jason, Jason …come on! Does not the Church require a couple to be capable of the responsibilities of marriage before they can be validly married? So if a Down Syndrome couple is married then the Church is satisfied that the children resulting from the union will be cared for. Besides a Down Syndrome couple as with any handicapped people are usually very close to a network of caring individuals who accepted them, nurtured and supported them up to that point and more than likely realize a greater value in the mentally handicapped than you(who has not even met a Down Syndrome person!!!)
    What is that value? Well other than the obvious human dignities which we all share there is a divine role which is the unique and sacred birthright of the handicapped. They are indispensable to our understanding of God’s love for us. They allow us the unique privilege of seeing and loving another as God sees and loves us. The difference between us and the handicapped is negligible considering that all the capabilities that we consider the marks of “normality” are relatively infantile and more often distracting than the real purpose for which we were made. Why did we need Christ to teach us anything except that we are severely mentally handicapped when it comes to reality. He came to the handicapped(us), the blind, the hardened. Why don’t we catagorize disabilities here according to severity? Are we so worried about a cycle of down Syndrome when society all around us is cursed with cycles that “normal” people perpetuate. (verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse(I hope I’m not the only one who thinks that Pedophiles should accept voluntary sterilization as a condition for parole!!)).
    Maybe God wants a break from us “normal” families. Can we expect much more than innocence from a Down Syndrome couple? And God forbid if such a “handicapped” couple requires our support and the child grows up seeing that he lives in a world of people who care!!! Christ came to us BECAUSE WE WERE AND ARE SEVEReLY HANDICAPPED, even the best of us can only figure out minor material problems while we basically live and die as SPIRITUAL FOETUSES. The nature God gave us all is a gift(there was no “mental soundness” in that gift). He came that we might have life, that we all might have life IN ABUNDANCE. Jason, may he who is without handicap make the first incision.

  34. Hi, the infamous Clare here.
    I rest secure in the truth of the point I was arguing. I rest secure in the teaching of the church, the light my own reason sheds on how to apply that teaching, and in whatever wisdom I have garnered from my own experiences. I have made my case, and will not defend it any longer.

    I work with children with high-functioning Asperger’s. I know that many of them have the best of intentions in relating to others, but simply lack tools that others take for granted. Please do not take this as condescending; I only mean to acknowledge the particular cross you carry. I extend my forgiveness for any time you have hurt me. I humbly ask the same pardon from you.

    I offer you my sincere friendship. God bless,

  35. To the many who have shared their stories, who have been kind and protective towards me, or disagreed in a charitable manner: You are a grace to me and the Church. Thank you!!!

    JC, in the witness you give through life as a disabled person, and simply by being alive, you too are a grace to the Church and the world. I know nothing stings more than a half-assed apology, so let me say it again from the bottom of my heart: I forgive you for hurting me, and I beg you to do the same where I hurt you.

  36. I am sorry to read people’s feelings got hurt in this conversation.

    I was disturbed to see the editors at IC make the last word Jason’s assertion that a site claiming to be Catholic should post their contributors spiritually unsound ideas.

    Catholics should pay closer attention to how many times a blogger over there will say post something scandalous and ask how people feel about it. In the comments section heresy and malice for truth is given a pulpit. They are losing respect and credibility.

    I will be surrised Simcha if your defense of truth des not cost you good will as it has so many others. I will be interested to see how it plays out.

    God bless all who read and participated in this thread.

    • You know, BC, the funny thing is that the last, like, six times an Inside Catholic blogger was accused of causing scandal, the blogger was me – mostly because of my taste in movies and music, and my sense of humor, which I stole from a five-year-old boy. So it was odd for me to be the one reprimanding someone.

      I would defend Jason (or anyone) if, in writing that post, he acknowledged the Church’s teaching, but asked for clarification or discussion. He says that’s what he was doing — just putting it up for discussion. We have to take him at his word that he merely phrased his concern carelessly.

      I understand struggling with difficult or complicated Church teachings, and I think it’s useful and helpful to have open conversations about it.

      I wish I had made my post less personal, and just focused on the idea he presented. What do you think, folks – do I owe him an apology for making it personal? This is a sincere question.

      • I just re-read your reaction to his post, and to me it seems very focused on the ideas. (I’m aware that my first comment here regarding his post was a personal attack and I owe him an apology–sorry Jason Negri.)

        Writing for Inside Catholic gives the impression that one is a faithful Catholic, and showing a disregard for the dignity of human life calls that into question. The content of his post shows that disregard, not something in his personal life. You’re basically saying, you can’t believe this or advocate for this AND be a faithful Catholic.

        Readers of that site should know if they’re getting something other than Catholic viewpoints, and if an author wants to really dissect a difficult teaching, he should make that clear.

      • No, you don’t owe him an apology. His initial post just wasn’t thought through at all. And then his second post which used the instance of violent rape as a justification for questioning whether married DS adults should be bound by the same rules as the rest of us when it comes to marital intimacy – well, that post was just bizarre.

        Of course, I’m the Eileen who as much as called him stupid and then went on to say I wanted to punch him in the face so I probably wouldn’t put too much stock in my opinion.

        Eileen M.

      • Simcha,

        There have been many scandals over the years about people writing there. They probably weren’t giving you the heads up when it was happening but it was happening. And, there were some pretty heavy-hitting Catholics involved.

        I am not saying that struggling with Church teaching isn’t useful. I am saying that leaders and professionals who know better have the duty to use their resources correctly. Responsible professionals do not engage somebody with immature faith to post their struggle without any moral content or conclusion and then put it out there for it to be figured out in the com boxes. Watch them duke it out and be glad to see your numbers go up in com boxes?

        It isn’t just Jason that does this – haven’t you ever noticed the others who periodically will post some screwball idea Hitchens or somebody else had and say ‘what do you think’?

        Would you pluck somebody out of the internet whom you barely know and invite them to start co-authoring posts on your blog?

        Has this been a useful exercise? Hasn’t it caused people to get confused and hurt? It may be useful to talk about this in a small group setting but when you are in a teaching and sanctifying role, it is irresponsible.

        It isn’t even the immaturity that is the most appalling thing about the way they conduct their affairs — it is how they respond to righteousness. They get their back up against the wall and draw their swords against you – or stab you in the back.

        I’ve read things of Jason’s that have been awesome. I like him. But somebody over there should be mentoring him in the faith. I think the people who are solid in their faith writing over there have a lot of pans on the fire.

        Frustration at the irresponsibility and scandal is righteous. You gave him warning that he needed to clean up his act. I didn’t see anything you wrote that gave me the impression you were attacking him. How does anyone address something somebody else wrote without having it make them mad or embarrassed. We have to be big boys and girls. Learn about ourselves and take ownership of our mistakes. And if we have an audience, we have a whole other set of duties.

  37. I’m surprised too that Jason Negri got the last word on that website. I’m also perplexed as to why he would even write the post if he doesn’t know any people with DS- I suppose it is all an intellectual exercise with him

    I recently posted about 4 people with DS that I know- should they get married? I don’t know- but they are HUMAN and worthy of DIGNITY

    • Typical Outside Catholic behavior. The comments had been closed for at least 24 hours before Negri’s excuse appeared. But he’s the right sort of dissenting Catholic, so he’s allowed to have the final say. Imagine if he didn’t vote Republican. The Outside Catholic goons would have hounded him. Blah.

      • “The comments had been closed for at least 24 hours before Negri’s excuse appeared.”


        But the final say says that though Jason believes all the teachings of the Church, he struggles with contraception and he believes, while keeping himself in a state of grace Inside Catholic should permit him to post scandalous ideas that may mislead readers whose faith is not as strong as Jason’s.

        The editors let something like that be posted 24 hours after the thread closed?

        Their whole site is devoted to pointing out the theological errors of the Catholic left but if they make an error and you feel the need to correct it so that people don’t get misled, you better be prepared to have your wagons circled, the error fortified, no matter how much loyalty you have given them over the years.

        I really enjoy IC. They are doing some great work, they have some great writers, but every time this immature and unprofessional conduct presents itself, my enthusiasm wanes.

        Good luck in the post-mortem.

  38. Good heavens. There is no way I’m going to be able to get through ONE HUNDRED AND NINE comments to see what the other side says — but, having read your comments and knowing my Church and understanding its consistency, I stand by you and don’t need to read the ONE HUNDRED AND NINE comments. She is a rock. And in my book, you speak well for her. Thanks.

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