Crimeny, it’s Friday again already.
There are a lot of important conversations which Catholics and people at large engage in rather frequently. I want to address some aspects of the conversations that usually don’t get brought up at all.
1. In modesty discussions: Among the other burning important issues such as pants versus skirts, ankle versus knee, elbow versus shoulder, collarbone versus “as long as nothing chasm-y or rounded shows”, there is the side discussion of where to find modest clothes. Oh yeah, just go to Shabby Apple. Oh yeah, just go to Land’s End, Coldwater Creek, Christopher and Banks, LL Bean, or Blair. Oh yeah, just go to the J. Peterman Company. Oh yeah, just go to Boden or Shade or Nordstrom’s.
Oh yeah? You know what they all have in common? THEY’RE EXPENSIVE. Out of my league. I went to Target yesterday and spent almost $80 for two dresses and two nursing bras. That’s “only” about $20 per piece, and I guess women who are able to shop at the above listed retailers would JUMP at such a price and declare it an amazing deal. I don’t. I think it’s uncomfortably close to my upper limit, if not over it. $45-145 dollars for a single dress? Not a chance.
Then there are consignment stores and places like Goodwill. Consignment stores are very picky about that they take and give a pittance for whatever they do, then charge slightly-lower-than-“average” prices for stuff I would never wear because it’s either not modest or it’s hideous. (Buffalo Exchange is a particular offender in this vein.) Goodwill has great prices but it has an extremely high miss-to-hit ratio. People are getting rid of clothing they don’t want, and a lot of it is clothing nobody should want.
So when women criticize other women, especially the younger set in college or just getting started after graduating, for not dressing modestly, maybe it’s because they can’t afford it.
2. In NFP discussions: Simcha Fisher wrote an article about a week ago about the tiresome arguments between some Catholics who practice NFP and some Catholics who don’t. I completely agree with the bulk and theme of her statements as I find the arguments ridiculous as well. It’s as though neither side allows itself to listen to and comprehend what the other side is actually trying to say, so in order to defend their own position, they create strawman arguments which only serve to discredit their own positions, thereby inflating the issues and arguing about stuff that no one really thinks.
However, I object to her label, characterization, and advice to those whom she calls “providentialists” for a few reasons.
— “Providentialist” is a loaded term as they are an actual category of people who embrace certain beliefs about reproduction, among other things. A Providentialist believes that any attempt by married couples to prevent the conception of a child – including artificial birth control, periodic abstinence (NFP), and total abstinence – is tantamount to distrusting in God’s ability and willingness to provide for the material needs of His people, frustrating God’s plan for families (as they believe He will “open and close the womb” as He sees fit), and therefore is a sin. Groups affiliated with this mindset – also called the “Quiverfull” mindset, referencing the Old Testament verses in Proverbs about how children are like arrows in the quiver of a warrior; blessed is he whose quiver is full (not a direct quote by any means) – include some VERY sketchy religious organizations (cults, really) like the Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, Vision Forum, and Institute of Basic Life Principles/Advanced Training Institute. Calling someone who doesn’t happen to practice NFP at the moment a “providentialist” is like calling someone who believes that fathers are important role models and should be the head of the household a “patriarchalist” or someone who wants to get down to brass tacks a “fundamentalist”.
— Perhaps I am reading too much into her words – and if I am, I apologize – but there is an undercurrent of “NFP teaches self-control in the sexual arena; therefore those who do not practice NFP do not learn or practice self-control in the sexual arena.” Where am I getting that? From these two paragraphs:
Here’s a handy example: Here I am with nine kids, with another ten years of likely fertility. For me and my husband, learning how to reach the fabled marriage-building aspects of NFP was a slow and tortured process. You’d think that a couple who practices NFP would grow more and more entrenched in an attitude of control — that learning self-control and prudence would, almost by definition, make a couple less and less willing to accept and be at peace with the unexpected. You’d think a couple using NFP are all about saying no, to each other and to God. That’s how the then-me imagined the now-me, fifteen years ago, when I thought about learning to use NFP.
But in fact, the opposite has happened: as we learn self-control, we are both a thousandfold more at peace with the idea of giving up control to God — accepting the unexpected, adapting, being grateful. This is what self-control has taught us. That was unexpected! You never know.
That undercurrent is totally wrong in so many ways. If that is NOT what she was implying at all, then I’ll be content to let it go without a fuss.
— Her advice to “providentialists” is directed at their attitudes towards NFP-practitioners, and reads like scolding, while her advice to NFP-practitioners is gentle encouragement for themselves and does not address at all how they ought to behave towards those who do not practice NFP:
So if you are a providentialist, please be a providentialist right now. Don’t assume you know the first thing about couples who use NFP, because you may be one some day, and you might even like it.
And if you practice NFP and are satisfied that you have good reasons for doing so, don’t assume you’ll be in this situation forever. Don’t think about how now-you will handle all those potential then-kids if you stopped charting: just think about what to do now.
I think this is a very unfair double-standard, as though “providentialists” are the naughty children who need to clean up their act because “yoooooooooou’ll see-eeeeeee,” one day they’ll have to practice NFP too, and the NFP people are the good children who just need a tiny pep talk to reassure their flagging spirits. NFP practitioners can be just as cruel, assumptive, ignorant, and name-calling to those who do not use it, and those who do not use NFP can be just as needing of a gentle reminder that things will be ok and they don’t have to be faced with having 10 children in 5 years (counting possible Irish twins and multiples).
Full disclosure: We attended the full Sympto-Thermal NFP course as part of our marriage prep, and I charted faithfully and accurately for about 4 months. Then we got married. We decided that we neither needed to postpone having a child, nor did we need to have a child right away, so practicing NFP for the time being was unnecessary. We simply engaged in intercourse when we wanted to and could, and refrained when we didn’t want to or couldn’t (there’s that self-control part; we never had bad blood because one wanted to and the other didn’t. It was simply accepted out of concern for the other person’s well-being). It took us almost six months to get pregnant, and that is not a problem. We both see NFP as a tool to use when you need to use it for either avoiding or specifically achieving pregnancy. A shovel is useful for both digging and filling in holes, but we don’t use it every day because we don’t need to use it every day. Calling us “providentialists”, which has incorrect connotations about what our sexual beliefs are and lumps us with the above-mentioned cults, is inaccurate and darn close to insulting.
3. In abortion discussions: Women who are “pro-choice” because of hard cases never talk about what the real problem is. Let’s look at the Guttmacher Institute’s list of reasons women say they have abortions. The list was complied in 1987 and 2004. The numbers will probably have shifted since then but since we’re just talking about reasons and not numbers, I think using an older study still works.
Having a baby would dramatically change my life
—Would interfere with education
—Would interfere with job/employment/career
—Have other children or dependents
Can’t afford a baby now
—Student or planning to study
—Can’t afford a baby and child care
—Can’t afford the basic needs of life
—Can’t leave job to take care of a baby
—Would have to find a new place to live
—Not enough support from husband or partner
—Husband or partner is unemployed
—Currently or temporarily on welfare or public assistance
Don’t want to be a single mother or having relationship problems
—Not sure about relationship
—Partner and I can’t or don’t want to get married
—Not in a relationship right now
—Relationship or marriage may break up soon
—Husband or partner is abusive to me or my children
Have completed my childbearing
Not ready for a(nother) child
Don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant
Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child
Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion
Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus
Physical problem with my health
Parents want me to have an abortion
Was a victim of rape
Became pregnant as a result of incest
So. What’s the real problem in these cases? I’ll pull out a few to get started and then the rest can be food for your own thought, since these are supposed to be Quick Takes.
—“Having a baby would dramatically change my life.”
It would interfere with school? Then maintaining a productive, manageable education routine and long-term plan is the issue. Solve that issue. Advisers and other support personnel are there for a reason, and the reason ain’t twiddling their thumbs.
You have another child or more? Then being able to care for one more child in a probably already hectic lifestyle is the issue. That’s solvable too. Re-evaluate the home routine, time commitments and priorities, and your stress coping mechanisms, among other things. It’s a lot more intensive and involved than scheduling an abortion, but taking a step back and tidying up the day-to-day activities will help out a lot more in the long run, regardless of having a new baby or not.
—“Can’t afford a baby now.”
The issue: financial circumstances. There are resources available to help people work through and solve all the problems listed under this heading. Seriously. Major help is out there. You just have to seek it out and use it.
—“Having relationship problems.”
Not sure about relationship? Husband or partner is abusive to you or your children?? Good grief, do these women listen to themselves? An undefined relationship is the issue! An abusive husband or partner is the issue! The baby is NOT the issue! Do the hard work of figuring out where your relationship is at. If your husband or partner is abusive, GET OUT! An abortion will not fix the problem. It will just allow it to continue getting worse. If your husband is raging at you because of your dogs, your mother, or yourself, would you offer to kill your dogs, your mother, or yourself to pacify him? No. (At least, I really hope the answer would be no.) Then why would you offer to kill your baby?
—“Parents want me to have an abortion.”
The problem is your unsupportive, coercive, bullying parents. Get support, get help, and GET OUT. There are many resources at your disposal.
Pregnancy and babies often cause underlying problems to surface and become more important. That does not make the pregnancy or the baby the problem, and getting rid of the pregnancy or the baby will not solve the problem. The problem will still be there, and since nothing has been done to address it, it will probably only get worse. Identify the real problem. Search for a viable solution to that problem. Implement the solution. Cleaning up your life is a lot harder than sweeping it under the rug, but it’ll never get better until you do.
4. More in abortion discussions: The claim that pro-lifers care only about the baby and not the mother, and once the mother decides not to have an abortion, pro-lifers drop her like a hot rock and she is on her own. Dude. You have to be seventeen shades of stupid to believe this.
National Crisis Pregnancy Helpline 1-800-852-5683
National Life Center (24-hour international hotline) 1-800-848-5683
Birthright International (24-hour international hotline) 1-800-550-4900
This is just a tiny list from about 30 minutes of using Google.
5. In Confirmation discussions: Some people argue that we should lower the age of Confirmation to around the age of First Holy Communion. They say that it will solve the problem of teens and parents seeing Confirmation as the end of the line for catechism classes and ending their attendance. I say, How? The problem exists right now because Confirmation is the last “routine” milestone sacrament before “you’re on your own” to forge ahead and eventually decide between Holy Orders or Matrimony. It doesn’t matter which sacrament is the last one in line or when it takes place; it will still be the end of the line and kids will stop going to classes. Do we want them to stop going to classes at 16/17 years old, or do we want them to stop going to classes at 7/8 years old?
Another quick thing here: People keep saying that we should switch the order of sacraments so that Confirmation comes before First Holy Communion. They say it we should do that because that is what the Eastern Churches do. Well, I say, Who cares? We’re Latin Rite Roman Catholics. There are lots of things we do differently. Why can’t we have our way of doing things and they can have their way of doing things? If I wanted to do things exactly the way some Eastern Rite or other does things, I’d change rites to theirs. Should we also change the Mass to the Divine Liturgy? Should we trade our birettas for skufias? Should we abandon receiving the Blessed Sacrament kneeling with our hands folded for receiving It standing with our arms crossed? Should we junk all our art and statues in favor of icons? We do things the Roman way. Why is that so bad?
6. I have been writing this darn thing all day. Do other people experience this too? Also I know I’m having some crazy formatting errors but I need to leave about 5 minutes ago.
7. In political discussions: Not going to vote because all the candidates are nasty and icky? Congratulations, you just helped Obama win. I hope you’re happy under the reign of terror that man is going to bring down upon this nations. You can aid and abet evil just as much by doing nothing than by doing something.