Well, the so-called Innocent Smith is proving to be, at the very least, a fine writer, who is engaging me for what he takes to be tribalism over at his blog Innocent Smith’s Journal, particulary in his “A Response to Kevin O’Brien”.
One thing I very much admire in him – he is assenting to Church teaching that he doesn’t quite swallow intellectually.
Take, for example, contraception.
I struggled with Church teaching on contraception after I became Catholic – not because of the teaching itself but because the defenders of the teaching make such a poor case for it.
In particular you’ll hear from every corner, “The Catholic Church is opposed to artificial contraception!” This is turned into an apology for “Natural Family Planning”, which is “natural”, even though it involves measuring daily basal temperature and analysing mucus. “Why on earth,” I used to ask myself, “would we oppose artifical contraception but endorse natural contraception? Are we Christian Scientists? Forgive my tribalism, but are we tree hugging Gaia lovers?”
It took a lot of prayer and study for the truth to dawn on me.
And the truth is this. When people tell you the the Church is opposed to artificial contraception, don’t believe them.
The Church is opposed to contraception. Period. “Artificial” or otherwise.
I won’t go into why the Chruch is opposed to contraception here, other than to say that once you permit contraception, no logical case can be made against any sexual activity outside of “the marital act”; in fact once you permit contraception, no logical case can be made against “gay marriage” or divorce.
What I will say is what I’ve said before, but what apparently is not said enough, so that well-intentioned intelligent men like Innocent Smith wander about confused, admiring Andrew Sullivan.
The dichotomy between “natural contraception” and “artificial contraception” is entirely false and wrong. It is a false dichotomy. “Natural Family Planning” is simply “Periodic Continence” – in other words, if you don’t want somebody getting pregnant, DON’T HAVE SEX. It’s not “contraception” at all. It’s refraining from the “marital act” during fertile periods – itself a questionable procedure, but one that is at least not typically material for mortal sin, as the use of a contraceptive agent always is.
If this were made more clear, then the consistency of Catholic teaching would appear, even to those who disagree with it.
For the consistency of Catholic teaching – the seamless garment – the fact that these are not disparate assertions of disconnected moral precepts, but elements of an organic whole – this is among the most astonishing bits of evidence of this all being much more than a merely human thing, a construct of man, a natural and fallible philosophy.
The more a man like “Innocent Smith” examines the ratio behind his fides, the more he will see that this is an encounter not with a series of teachings, but with a Man.