Program #0294 for Tuesday, May 8, 2012: Women, Sexuality, and Church teaching

May 8, 2012

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Women, sexuality, and Church teaching

Summary of today’s show: Some say the Church is waging a “war on women”, but in this war, the Church is women’s defender. Dr. Angela Franks discusses with Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor the Church’s often misunderstood teachings on contraception, sexuality, and marriage, as well as the shocking roots of Planned Parenthood’s efforts to solve societal problems by making women the problem.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor

Today’s guest(s): Dr. Angela Franks, Director of Theology Programs, TINE

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: The Church’s teaching on contraception and sexuality

1st segment: Scot and Fr. Chris talked about the quiet period at the seminary as the men prepare for their final exams next week. They also talked about how Bishop Arthur Kennedy is winding down in his service as rector of St. John Seminary as he prepares to take up a grew role as Vicar for the New Evangelization for the Archdiocese. Fr. Chris and Msgr. James Moroney, who’s taking over as rector, have been visiting with vocation directors at various dioceses talking about sending them to St. John’s.

Fr. Chris said the Vatican has asked the US bishops to look at the number of seminaries in the US and combine faculties and resources to make more regional seminaries.

Fr. Chris also went to Cheverus School in Malden as he does every month to be with the young people and hear the wonderful understanding of their faith. The first and fourth grades held a traditional May crowning. He said they represented every continent and many different countries.

Scot mentioned that today’s topic is more for adult audiences. We’ll be discussing the Church’s teaching on contraception and the current myths that are out there.

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcomed Dr. Angela Franks to the show. Scot said Angela’s presentation at a seminar last week on Women, sex, and the Church’s teaching promoted him to ask her to be on the show.

Scot asked her about the connection between Planned Parenthood and the eugenics movement. Angela said there’s a lot of misinformation out there. The eugenics movement was a big part of the contraception movement in the early 20th century. The eugenicists divided the world into the so-called fit and the so-called unfit, the latter of whom are poor, physically disabled, or in otherwise undesirable classes. They believe if you eliminate the number of unfit people, you eliminate the number of world problems. Scot said these same ideas still exist today.

Angela said anytime you hear someone trying to sell you on abortion or contraception as a solution to poverty, that’s a eugenic idea. The same is true of addressing Down syndrome by aborting them. 90% of them are aborted in the womb. Angela said we have learned that you don’t solve poverty by eliminating the poor.

Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood in 1916. She was a eugenicist and admitted in 1920 that birth control was about weeding out the unfit and eliminating “defectives”. She was also married to the belief in sexual promiscuity and an early proponent of the sexual revolution. She believed this would all liberate women. She helped internalize the idea that women are oppressed by their bodies, that fertility is a cause of women’s oppression. This puts the problem on women, rather than on the societal structures.

Angela said Sanger packaged eugenics in a way that was accessible to people and became convincing, partly because she founded an institution. Most eugenicists at the time were embarrassed by her, but she’s the one we know today because she founded Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood today now acknowledges those embarrassing attitudes, but they point to Jefferson owning slaves as analogy. But Jefferson didn’t devote hie entire life to defending and fostering and legalizing slavery, but instead was somewhat embarrassed by it, but wrote the Declaration of Independence. Sanger was the opposite and promoted her embarrassing ideas. Today Planned Parenthood names awards after Margaret Sanger.

Angela said she first started researching Sanger in high school because her textbook had a two-page canonization of her. You’d never see a treatment of a noted racist in a high school textbook in that manner. Angels said her website has many references to what Sanger said.

Scot asked Angela about the Church’s teachings. Angela said in 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae. There was a lot of expectation that the Pope would reverse the teaching, but when he didn’t, people were outraged and confused and since then we’ve had a few generations that don’t understand what the Church teaches.

Angela said the Church pretty much stands alone saying that contraception is not allowed. What Paul VI says is that sex has two meanings: procreation and unity or babies and bonding. Not every sex act has to end in a baby or that you must have as many babies as you’re physically able to have. We’re to have responsible parenthood, which means generously accepting all the children God sends us and discerning when we might choose to avoid pregnancy at a particular time,. But that can’t be by deliberately removing the possibility of procreation because when God made sex he made it for this physiological purpose of procreation as well as the emotional and spiritual purpose of unity. We need both because they reinforce each other. Sex has its own reality we must conform to.

Fr. Chris pointed out that there is a naturalness to it. The sex act is about what it is, not what we make of it. Angela said eating is an enjoyable activity, but the purpose of food isn’t just enjoying it; it’s provide nutrition, although we also want it to be enjoyable. Sex is enjoyable because God wants us to want to do it to perpetuate the race.

Scot asked how to respond to atheists. Angela said the design of the human body includes a reproductive system, that this is its natural function, its end and purpose. That is its intention.

Scot said a common misconception is that natural family planning is Catholic birth control. Angela said NFP is not the rhythm method. It’s a scientific method to determine whether a woman would be fertile on a particular day. It’s not Catholic birth control. People assume that only intention matters. Abstaining and sterilizing the conjugal act are different things. Abstaining is not having sex. It is moral to not have sex. People don’t want to use NFP because they don’t want to abstain from sex. Those who use NFP are stepping back from act rather than changing the act.

Fr. Chris asked why contraception is wrong. Angela said if you deliberately sever the procreative possibilities with the pill, then you are tinkering with the sexual act rather than respecting it. That affects the whole tenor of the relationship. Statistics show that couples who contracept divorce at a much higher rather than those who use NFP. Fr. Chris said we become gods, determining when life begins.

She said people look at her five kids and say it doesn’t work. She said it works because it opens you up to welcoming more children. You become willing to turn your life over to God and trust that his plan for fertility is better than my plan.

Angela said NFP makes the couples’ decision based on the woman’s body and her cycles as opposed to the male desire. Right now for most the male desire is the dominant force in sex. But in NFP, the woman’s body and dignity is being respected. It also very much promotes communication. With the Pill, there’s no stopping to ask if this is still what they want to do, whereas NFP couples address it nearly every month.

Scot said Humanae Vitae came out in 1968 and he had many predictions about what would happen if artificial birth control grew in this country and around the world. Angela said he predicted husbands would lose respect for their wives. He also predicted that human sexuality would become cheap and degraded. Husbands would be tempted to use their wives as instruments to serve their own desires. Countries would use population control programs to control their people. There would be an increase in divorce. All of this has come true.

Instead of procreation and bonding, it’s now just recreation. It’s just a tool.

Angela said it makes women think that the cause of their problems is their own body. Women are at war with themselves and constantly fighting who they area.

Scot said contraception cheapens the way men look at women. Women can’t demand a certain kind of commitment between men and women. Angela said economists looking at the causes of steep increase of divorce in the 70s was due to contraception because everything became negotiable and marriages without children are easier to divide. She also noted that contraception fails all the time, which leads to more abortion when they’ve already decided that children are the problem.

Contraception was supposed to solve child abuse, but there’s no evidence that child abuse has gone down. If anything all of these problems have increased. Teen pregnancies and abortion were supposed to have become better, but children have become seen as disposable.

3rd segment: Scot said the Health and Human Services mandate controversy has resulted in stats like the fact that 98% of Catholic women are contracepting. Angela said that’s impossible, of course, since 98% of Catholic women are having sex! The study that it comes from debunks that myth itself because it acknowledges that it’s listing women who are not trying to get pregnant, who are between 15 and 44, self-identifies as Catholic (not necessarily practicing Catholic). That doesn’t mean that all Catholic women agree. We do still need to educate many Catholics.

Scot said many Catholics do still practice contraception and have pre-marital or extramarital sex. Angela said there was a general breakdown in comfort in talking about the Church’s teaching because they were scared of making people angry. We live in a culture saturated with bad sex. The Church is a witness on how to live happily. It’s not a matter of a guilt trip. It’s a call to live a better way because it might be more difficult at first, but is more fulfilling.

Fr. Chris said it’s important that the beauty of the sexual act be talked about. He then asked Angela about Dr. Janet Smith, whom she’s referred to. She’s a professor of philosophy who’s been very influential in talking about the Church’s teaching.

Fr. Chris asked how to help someone trying to figure out how to do natural family planning. Angela said the Archdiocese of Boston has a Natural Family Planning office that offers classes.

On the current topic in the news that the Church is waging a “War on Women”, Angela says she’s agree there’s a war on women, but it’s by the contraceptive culture. It’s the idea that women are the problem and we have to fix their bodies. The Church is the only one that’s fighting on behalf of women and their bodies.

Scot said a lot of people want to speak for women who advocate for things the majority of women don’t support. For example, the National Organization for Women promotes abortion and contraception, whereas in many places abortion is inordinately biased against baby girls. He noted that in the Obama administration, there are plenty of people who come from this viewpoint. Angela said many of these groups aren’t speaking for women, so much as speaking for the sexual revolution, which doesn’t advance the cause of women. Some argue that it advances the cause of some men.

Scot said there’s been a movement toward a New Feminism. Angela said John Paul II used this phrase. He recognized that these “pro-woman” movements are not, so we need to offer an alternative.

Angela said at TINE they are forming people to make a case that the Church’s teachings are indeed pro-woman and that they help us to flourish as human beings. Fr. Chris said John Paul talks about the complementarity of the sexes and some find fault with it. Angela said the Church affirms the equality of the sexes, but yet they are different. God made us man and woman, and these bodily differences are real and help us understand the differences in the sexes that can complement each other rather than have an antagonistic approach. Ultimately each sex is called to give of themselves in complementary ways, rather than compete or act selfishly.

Scot said sometimes gets boiled down to sexual freedom or abortion. He asked what are the attributes of the New Feminism. Angela said women are called to receive love and to give, according to John Paul’s teaching. In some way, we all receive God’s love and give it, but because women nurture children in their own bodies, they have a concrete understanding of this truth. He calls it the feminine genius. She said ability to receive love is not prized today.

Scot said New Feminists would never support abortion, contraception, infanticide. Angela said they don’t see children or their fertility as the enemy. Why do women have to change? If society doesn’t appreciate children or fertility, maybe society is the one that needs to change.

Scot said Angela also spoke about marriage, including the decrease in the number being married sacramentally. Angela said this is connected to contraception. When you have the breakdown of the ability to give of themselves, then people become afraid to make a lifelong commitment. We see that in epidemic proportions. Fr. Chris asked about the vocation of marriage. Angela said Cardinal Sean the crisis in the vocation of marriage is as severe as the crisis in the vocation of the priesthood. It is connected to this idea that we have to give of ourselves in a definitive way. If we’re never committing, we’re never setting out into the unknown to something we can’t control. In marriage, we set out with this other person and commit to doing it gather no matter how hard it gets.

Scot said the increase of cohabitation leads to decrease of ability to commit. Angela said people do it to prevent divorce, but the irony might be the best way to set yourself up for divorce. They’re 50% more likely to divorce if they marry. To be a good preparation for marriage, it’s more than just living together. You have to be able to give of yourself. Yet, they can’t give fully because they keep one foot out the door: they have two sets of silverware, two television sets, and so on, all in the possibility that they might break up and move out. They develop the habit of not giving of themselves, which is the worst habit to develop for marriage.

Fr. Chris said when he’s preparing a cohabiting couple for marriage, he leaves them dumbfounded when he asks what changes when they marry. There’s no sense of any further commitment or the sacramental bond uniting them. In their mind nothing has changed, but everything has changed because God is becoming a part of this.

Scot said sometimes the church becomes better known for what we’re against, rather than what we’re for. Angela and her husband led an initiative to help strengthen marriage a few years ago.

Scot said there are a lot great websites for couples preparing for marriage.

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