Monday, April 30, 2012

The Couple who made "The Vow"

It's a staple of sappy movies, as well as of psychological dramas: the beautiful heroine (or handsome hero) with amnesia.
The May issue of the Costco warehouse store magazine includes a short write-up about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, the real-life couple behind the movie "The Vow."

In case you missed the trailers (or the fairly decent reviews), the "inspired by a true story" movie portrays the challenges the Carpenters faced after a serious car accident left Krickett with no memory of ever having met her husband, much less of making vows in his regard.

As the couple note, it was a disappointment that the movie downplayed the pivotal role the Carpenters' Christian faith had in renewing their married life, but the book version doesn't hold back. The Carpenters are grateful that the movie, fictional as it is, is drawing readers to the fuller story--and (anecdotally), helping other couples "remember" their vows.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? What Theology of the Body threads do you find in the Carpenters' real-life living of their vow?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Valerie Pokorny (San Antonio) had the opportunity to make the case on CNN that "Contraception denigrates me as a woman": "...I thought the whole moral obligation to fulfill a husband’s sexual needs was a thing of the past... but alas, it’s been repackaged for a new secular generation. Women are still evaluated heavily on the basis of their uninhibited sexual availability, which contraception ensures precisely by severing women from their fertility. (When a woman uses “contraception” for medical reasons other than preventing a pregnancy it's not technically contraception, and the Catholic Church doesn't necessarily prohibit these uses.)..." Read on!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Healthcare and "the" mandate: Testimony from an "unconservative" Catholic

Leave it to the Dutchman to offer a unique perspective on the issues of the day. I wish I had been more faithful to my Google Reader a few months ago, when this post first appeared; alas, it was impossible, as I was studiously avoiding anything that didn't relate to the Lenten presentations I was writing at the time. Now, even though it is less newsworthy, his post is still timely:
In 2008 I was at a Christmas party given my one of my ultra-Catholic friends. These are the kind of people who sing Christmas carols in Latin, say Rosaries for the unborn, and hold prayer vigils outside of Planned Parenthood clinics. These are people who do not use contraception, home-school their kids, and would never wear anything so revealing as a sleeveless dress. This was right after Obama was elected, but before he was inaugurated and, naturally, there was a good deal of speculation about what he would do. Healthcare was obviously on the table and I would say that two-thirds of the people there favored socialized medicine. That’s right; more than half the people in that room, people as culturally conservative as it is possible to be, favored a Single-Payer System – but with one proviso: you had to keep abortion out of it. The next day, I wrote President-elect Obama a letter with this simple message: you can sell a single-payer system to conservative Americans if you keep abortion out of it. (I also sent this same letter to David Axelrod, whom I actually know and have done business with.)
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anonymous Father's Day

What if you didn't really know who to say "Happy Father's Day" to? And there were no laws to allow you to find out who your "other half" was? When conception is separated from the marital embrace, the children "are not alright," no matter what the movies say. "From The Center for Bioethics and Culture, producers of Lines That Divide (2009) and the award-winning Eggsploitation (2010), Anonymous Father’s Day explores the stories of women and men who are the children of sperm donors." Here, donor-conceived adults (including some of the very first "successes") speak of their experience. (You can find related stories on the blog.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Follow enough links, and you come (sometimes) to some excellent resources! Today was one of those days, when I found myself reading the blog of a TOB enthusiast who has a masterful collection of TOB and life-issue related links. Introducing Chelsea.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Former IVF doctor: Why I quit making test-tube babies

Dr Anthony Caruso was President-Elect of the Chicago Association of Reproductive Endocrinologists. He had 15 years of experience doing in-vitro fertilization procedures. And then he quit. A Vatican document helped him understand his profession in a completely different light.
Read his story here, along with his advice for couples struggling with infertility, and comments on the related issues of sex selection, twin "reduction," cloning and embryonic research.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TOB can be fun!

Check this infomercial for a TOB-related product that you can unhesitatingly recommend to young adults and teens.

Conflicting Opinions and Ongoing Struggles over NFP

An article I linked to a few days ago (about better "branding" for NFP) inspired some, well, inspired responses on several blogs. Among the remarks, I have to agree that even though I linked to the article (which highlights something I think important: that NFP not be presented in a dowdy way), I was not comfortable with its portrayal of NFP or the snide way it quoted Jennifer Fulwiler, identifying her first as the mother of five and then adding "who uses NFP."

Darwin weighs in, noting that NFP is hard, but rewarding, "a difficult and commitment heavy process, [in which] success and satisfaction depend on actually learning to embrace the process itself, not just the goals."

Emily Stimpson, author of The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right also commented on the article's implication that NFP is an easy, breezy, natural "birth control" that just happens to be okay for Catholics:
"Like passing up turtle brownies, NFP requires self-control, temperance, and prudence. Only, it requires a heck of a lot more of each—more self-control, more temperance, more prudence, plus a ready knowledge of how to make chastity within marriage work. (I may be single, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that. Besides, I live in Steubenville, and my girlfriends talk about NFP as much as my sister’s friends talk about “Jersey Shore.” So…a lot.) Regardless, temperance, prudence, and chastity aren’t virtues most people possess in spades anymore. Our culture, where instant gratification and over-indulgence are the norm, has seen to that." Read the rest here; it's worth it!

Here's Jennifer Fulwiler (on the National Catholic Register blog, not her own); she had clarified her own position earlier, and includes links to other responses, including the "why are we having this conversation" post on feminist site Jezebel.

And on yet another blog, this post from some months back generated so many comments it should be required reading in all NFP teacher-formation programs, as well as seminary programs. It shows the anguish of many couples who struggle with NFP, but remain heroic in their efforts to live their sacrament of marriage in full communion with the Church, and others whose struggles are not always successful, but whose efforts deserve so much recognition and support.

TOB related insights

I am coming to recognize that for too many Catholics "Theology of the Body" means anything having to do with Catholics and sex, and "Natural Family Planning" (NFP) is understood as the "official" family planning method of the Catholic Church or of the Theology of the Body. In my naivete (and my ardent desire to help Catholics who are struggling with or poorly informed about the issues), I have been contributing to the confusion by posting NFP-friendly news items and articles about human sexuality that are consistent with the vision of the human person that Pope John Paul offered in the context of his master-work, the Theology of the Body.
From now on, I will now be curating this blog somewhat differently, especially during this hiatus of our TOB classes.
In future posts, I will indicate in the title or in an opening sentence how the post or article or link is related to the Theology of the Body, the main concern of this blog. If it presents Pope John Paul's teachings in a direct manner, it will be marked as "TOB"; if it supports the Pope's vision of the human person and pivotal human relationships (like that of marriage), it will be marked "TOB-related"; it if is refers to the science or psychology of family planning and related issues, I will attempt to simply express that in the title. However, my "labels" for the post may continue to read TOB, Theology of the Body, NFP, etc. because these are the terms people will most likely use on search engines, and people who are looking for those terms are probably going to be interested in the content of the post even if the label is inaccurate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Young Catholic women help "rebrand" authentic Church teachings

The conventional wisdom says that the Catholic Church's teachings in the area of birth control alienates women. But many appreciative young women say it's not the teachings (which can be extremely attractive): it's the packaging. It's so lame. Read more here. And admire the women who "came out of the (NFP) closet" for this article. That they open themselves to ridicule and scorn can be gathered by a glance at the comments that follow the post.

"just living together"

It is sad that so many hearts are broken in reinventing a wheel that so many cultures already got pretty right thousands of years ago. Even the NY Times is letting writers admit in public what the statistics people already know: living together is a really bad way to start a marriage you want to last. Sr Helena always includes this tidbit in her presentations on Theology of the Body, because for young people today it is so counterintuitive. Among other things, though, it says a lot about the way men and women enter into apartment-sharing: for the woman, it is a kind of incremental approach to marriage, and the very agreement to live together is an implicit commitment. But according to books like Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (not recommended in all respects, but a helpful resource nonetheless), commitment on a man's part is never something implicit. That is probably why couples who are already engaged to each other when they start living together have a better chance of a lasting marriage than those who just drift into a shared living arrangement.
Living together without the very real benefit of marriage is only one issue in the panorama of human relationships that await the Gospel of the Theology of the Body.
Holy Name Cathedral here in Chicago has been offering a kind of "Theology of the Body" page in the weekly bulletin. This page doesn't only offer bare-bones repetition of Church teachings in the hot-button areas of marriage, birth control and so on, but a look behind the headlines: a deeper context for the teachings of the Church, and at the same time, a look at society's assumptions and the often-ignored effects of things like chemical contraceptives on a couple's relationship itself. Here is a recent article which the Holy Name bulletin reprinted from Dr. Janet Smith.

Listen up!

Here's an interview of TOB popularizer, Christopher West, done by Bishop Michael Sheridan (Colorado Springs. Plug it into your mp3 player and listen to it on your commute! The bishop also refers to West's latest book, which in some ways is a short-form, updated version of his understanding of the Theology of the Body and its connection to the New Evangelization, At the Heart of the Gospel

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The neglected Catholic teachings on same-sex attraction

Written by a woman who for years identified herself as lesbian, this is a very helpful article from Our Sunday Visitor on issues involving same-sex attraction, and the little-known teachings of the Catholic Church in this regard. "Cures"? The Church doesn't require any attempt to re-orient the person with same-sex attraction. Ostracism? Suspicion? These are unworthy of Christians (besides, how many persons with SSA are living pure and holy lives, unknown to all but God?). And yet the Church insists that calling homosexuals and others who identify along the GLBT spectrum to live chaste lives is completely consistent with respect for them as persons loved by God.
Read more here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Manufacturing Multiples

"The core problem with the fertility industry: the removal of the procreation of human life from the context of the marital embrace" (Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University).
Read more about the multiplication of multiples (and the destruction of the undesirable) here.
Got questions or concerns? Struggling with infertility? This book might be a place to start: The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples

The fertility market

"It is ironic that many of these buyers [of human ova, or eggs] probably seek hormone-free meat and eggs for their dinner table yet have no compunction about treating a woman like an industrial farm chicken and pumping her full of hormones to make her produce more eggs." Read more here.

More trailers here.

Monasticism and Marriage

From a Romanian Orthodox writer: "Marriage and monasticism matter because people matter, because love matters..." This is also the heart of the Theology of the Body, which Pope John Paul subtitled "Human Love in the Divine Plan." 
In Orthodoxy, monasticism has a "stronger" image than it does in the West, where active religious life has historically been more visible. But in East and West, the people in the pews have been tempted to see celibacy in an idealized light that seems to put marriage on the shadow side. 
Read more here: Fr. Peter-Michael Preble: Monasticism and Marriage