I quote an e-mail discussion between former seminary buddies (names have been changed) below regarding the issues of abortion and birth control. I quote Mother Theresa extensively:
responding to George:
Thoughtful reflections on a complex set of related issues. I share and would endorse many of your views, though I might quibble over details. (Here is some of the quibble.)
Two brief comments:
1) It may not just be an issue of 'human beings' but of 'persons'. As others have put it, if we consider not just what it means to be 'a human being' but what is implied in 'being human' -- or alternatively, 'living humanly' as opposed to mere 'human life' -- then our moral views and applicable principles shift. (Some philosophers have argued, interestingly, that the moral issue does not just hinge on whether the fetus is considered human or not, as there are circumstances in which it seems morally WRONG to terminate pregnancy even if the fetus is NOT human and circumstances in which it seems morally RIGHT to terminate pregnancy even if the fetus IS human. In other words, it can't be just a matter of insisting on 'choice' or of insisting on 'life' across the whole spectrum of pregnancy.)
2) Addressing the problem of abortion is already a late response. We should be addressing 'responsible sex' and not just in terms of abstinence but in terms of contraceptive means to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
3) And here we are -- a group of men -- discussing abortion, pregnancy, birth control. We need the views and experience of women on this issue.
(2) My response to Bill,
I agree that we need a woman's viewpoint. I think that Blessed Mother Teresa presented it best at the United Nations in 1985. I quote the pertinent part:
Yes, this is what you and I,
Yes, this is what you and I, today, if we really stand for why we have come here today, to begin that year of peace, we must begin at home, we must begin in our own family. Works of love begin at home and works of love are works of peace. We all want peace, and yet, and yet we are frightened of nuclears, we are frightened of this new disease. But we are not afraid to kill an innocent child, that little unborn child, who has been created for that same purpose: to love God and to love you and me.
This is what is such a contradiction, and today I feel that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace. We are afraid of the nuclears, because it is touching us, but we are not afraid, the mother is not afraid to commit that terrible murder. Even when God Himself speaks of that, He says ďeven if mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand, you are precious to me, I love you.Ē These are Godís own words to you, to me, to that little unborn child. And this is why if we really want peace, if we are sincere in our hearts that we really want peace, today, let us make that strong resolution that in our countries, in our cities, we will not allow a single child to feel unwanted, to feel unloved, to throw away a society. And let us help each other to strengthen that. That in our countries that terrible law of killing the innocents, of destroying life, destroying the presence of God, be removed from our country, from our nation, from our people, from our families.
And so that today, when we are praying, let us bring again and again prayer in our life. For prayer will give us strength. Prayer is something that will help us to see God in each other, to help us to love one another as He loves each one of us. This is something that you and I must bring to the world. The whole world is looking up at you. You have gathered here, from all the nations to find the ways and means of peace. For sure, works of love are works of peace, and they begin in our family. Much suffering, much destruction has come from the home, from the family. By destroying the unborn child, we are destroying the presence of God. We have destroyed love. We have destroyed the most sacred thing that a human being can have: the joy of loving and joy of being loved.
And so today, when we have gathered here together, let us carry in our hearts one strong resolution: I will love. I will be a carrier of Godís love. For that is what Jesus came to teach us: How to love one another. And to bring Him to love at home, in our own family, in our own... to those that are unwanted. Maybe in our own family we have the lowly.
Complete address at: http://www.piercedh earts.org/ purity_heart_ morality/ mother_teresa_ address_united_ nations.htm
I stand with Mother Teresa on this one. We philosophize and theologize while innocent unborn children are aborted. She wanted to see all unborn children protected. I agree with those group members who are very concerned about related social issues: who will adopt, feed, care for these children once they are born. I have worked with Catholic social programs for unwed mothers who chose not to have abortions. We did not adopt their children but we helped house, feed, and clothe them. We also referred them to adoption agencies and job programs when needed. Sadly, as some of you have pointed out, many parishes do not offer these kinds of programs. They do exist in many dioceses if you search them out. I found several in the Sacramento diocese. Our talk about saving the unborn is truly meaningless unless we are willing, like Mother Teresa, to help them to eat once we have helped them to live. We are also called to care for those who hunger no matter what their position on abortion might be.I have found it easier to find programs for the hungry (soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless) than programs for helping those facing an abortion decision. Mother Teresa also addressed the hunger issue when she said:
We all speak of the terrible hunger. What I have seen in Ethiopia, what I have seen in other places, especially these days in terrible places like Ethiopia, but the people in hundreds and thousands are facing death just for a piece of bread, for a glass of water. People have died in my own hands. And yet we forget, why they and not we? Let us love again, so let us share, let us pray that this terrible suffering be removed from our people. Let us share with them the joy of loving, and where does love begin? Again I say in our family, in our home. Let us bring love, peace and joy through prayer. Let us bring prayer, pray together, for prayer will give you a clean heart. I will pray for you that you may grow in this love of God, by loving one another as He loves each one of you, and especially that through this love, you become holy. Holiness is not a luxury of the few. Itís a simple duty for each one of us. For holiness brings love, and love brings peace, and peace brings us together.
Mother's Teresa's combination of praying and getting involved at the grass roots level makes the most sense to me.
This has been a great discussion. I am encouraged about how many are honestly concerned and are helping in this and other pressing social issues.
(3) Billís response to me:
Thanks for the reminder of Mother Teresa's comments back in 1985.
And the initiatives you mention to assure that all born children are wanted children, cared for and loved, if not by their biological parents than by others, are indeed commendable.
But in addition to addressing the issue of abortion after the fact, so to speak, of unwanted pregnancies, why not also consider a better response before the fact, so to speak, namely, appropriate means of birth control?
(4) My response to Bill
I also follow Mother Teresa's lead on the issue of birth control:
Mother Teresa refused to entrust a child for adoption to a couple which uses contraception, for she esteemed that the child would be in a climate of death. Sometimes people object that natural methods are neither sure nor efficacious. This is inexact. Serious medical studies have shown that the Billings method (natural method), for example, is a very efficacious means to avoid an undesired birth. Most women can determine their period of fecundity without any notable risk of error. Here is Mother Teresa's testimony: "At Calcutta, we now run 102 centers where we teach families how to control birth in respect for mutual love and children. Last year, thousands of Christian, Muslim and Hindu families came to our centers and have thus avoided the births of 70,000 children, but without killing a single one, simply by taking support on the three pillars of love, life and fatherland" (Letter to India's Prime Minister, March 26, 1979).
Mother Teresa adds a word for the people of "rich" countries: "Since our poor people can avoid destroying the life God has created in us, how much easier it should be for you (`the rich') who know the means" (December 11, 1979). However, if the poor often have valid reasons for spacing the births of their children, spouses of well-to-do countries, where the birth rate is lowering, must make certain that their desire to avoid a new conception, "is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood" (CCC, 2368).
Source: http://www.clairval .com/lettres/ en/98/u809982504 98.htm
My wife and I struggled with various birth control messages and methods early in our marriage. After a few years we settled on the Billings Method which brought us closer as a couple and helped us plan our family together with the Good Lord.
(5) Billís response to me:
With all due respect to Mother Teresa and her work, as well as those who use NFP (Billings Method), all of which is commendable, I beg to differ, as I do with some of my own academic colleagues -- regarding the morality of some artificial means of contraception. It is not at all obvious to me -- except in a very abstract, theological sense far removed from the actual experience of many deeply committed and faith-filled couples -- that the very values promoted by the Church's teaching on love, intimacy, respect for life, children are absent when artificial means of birth control are used. Nor is it the case that it engenders a mentality of death. The moral difference the Church teaches theologically between natural and artificial means of birth control is questionable -- and I would say, just not there -- on philosophical and experiential considerations.
True, the view (that morally permits artificial means) focuses more on the unitive aspect of sexuality together with a personal or interpersonal understanding of human beings and their sexuality, than the procreative focus and physicalist view of sexuality that underlies NFP and the Church's teaching. And those are exactly the issues of contention in this debate -- scripturally, theologically, philosophically and experientially.
We are just on different sides of this issue -- and probably on others as well.
However, I do appreciate your views.
(6) My response to Bill:
Thank you for your thoughtful response. It looks
like we have combined faith and reason to arrive at different conclusions.
I have pondered your thoughts, but still fundamentally disagree (along with
Mother Teresa and some of your academic colleagues) with your position. I
appreciate your views and sincerity of heart, Jim