Bruno Mars and The Universal Longing

A few weeks ago, while riding in the car with my roommate, the song “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars came on the radio. I made an offhand comment about how the song was “nasty” and made a move to change the station, but my much wiser(and, perhaps,much less jaded) roommate made the comment that she believed Bruno Mars was onto something profound. She and I have both been amateur students of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and she expressed to me that she thought that Mr. Mars, in what might not be deemed as the century’s most subtle or poetic presentation, was brushing elbows with Truth in a major way. Upon arriving home, I did a quick Internet search for the lyrics and, after a time of reflection, came to agree with my holy-sex-savvy housemate. Let’s break it down:

Verse 1

Never had much faith in love or miracles

Never wanna put my heart on the line.

But swimming in your world is something spiritual

I’m born again every time you spend the night

Bruno tells us that he has always been reticent to offer himself to romantic partners due to his lack of belief in love’s veracity, but upon his acknowledgment that sex with the subject of this song is far more than just a physical undertaking, he feels compelled to “put his heart on the line,” that is, to give of himself with more fullness and depth than he previously had. This is consistent with the teachings of our former Pope. True romantic love, and the rightly ordered sexual expression that is the privilege which comes along with it, impels us to make full gifts of ourselves to our partners, both body and soul. Married love, which is meant to be a visible sign of the invisible nature of God, demands that we love one another the way that the Lord loves us: Freely, Faithfully, Fruitfully, and Totally. To do this, we must be willing to risk putting our hearts on the line, to entrust the fullness of our bodies(this includes our fertility) to our lovers, and to live in the the complete faithfulness that can be ensured only by the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

Verse 2

You bring me to my knees

You make me testify

You can make a sinner change his ways

Open up your gates cause I can’t wait to see the light

And right there is where I wanna stay

Bruno is getting real in this verse. The man is about to testify, and I don’t blame him. Contrary to what our increasingly anti-Catholic culture might want you to think, the Church views sexuality as great and glorious good. The pleasure that we humans are blessed to experience in the context of the sexual act is a GIFT from God and a foretaste of the unimaginable bliss that we will (with God’s grace) one day experience in Heaven. The blessing of sex OUGHT to make us testify to the goodness of our loving God and this little taste of Heaven better be getting us seriously pumped up for the hereafter.

“You can make a sinner change his ways,” says Mars. This line reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Fulton Sheen, who says it much better than I ever could:

        “When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

Amen, brother.

This particular verse is just chock-full of theological truth. Maybe he knows it, or maybe he doesn’t, but Bruno Mars is using STRAIGHT UP BIBLICAL LANGUAGE when he asks his lover to open up her gates. I’m serious. Open up to the Song of Songs (one of the most beautiful and, might I say, sexy, parts of the Holy Bible)and check out 4:12 and 5:2. Tell me you don’t see it too.

Bridge and Chorus

Can’t I just stay here?

Spend the rest of my days here?

Cause you make feel like, I’ve been locked out of heaven

For too long

As I mentioned earlier, sex serves the dual purpose of facilitating married relationships (this inherently includes procreation) as well as imaging the relationship between Christ and His Church (His free, faithful, total, and fruitful love) and giving us a sneak preview of the joy of Heaven. God has designed sex to draw us closer to our spouses, to become one flesh with them, but, ultimately, spousal relationships are designed to draw us to our true and eternal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Love makes us desire moments that last forever because, from the very moment of our conception, we have been yearning for forever-ness with the Lord.

Since the commercial release of “Locked Out of Heaven,” the song has charted in the top ten of 20 different countries, has been downloaded hundreds and hundreds of thousands of times, reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for five consecutive weeks, and gets played (from what I can tell, anyway) about every 1.5 seconds on the radio. Why the raging success? Well, besides the catchy melodies and irresistible beats, of course, I think it’s because this song hits home for humanity. Even though I’m fairly certain he didn’t do it on purpose(but, hey, anything’s possible!), Bruno Mars has touched upon the universal longing of every human heart-to be in Heaven- and he has managed to figure out that God uses our sexuality in a powerful way to get us there. Although most people aren’t aware of all these deep theological truths, I believe that truth is written by God in each of our hearts, so that, when we hear the it, it resonates deeply with us, even when we don’t necessarily give our consent to it. God is God of the present day (and every day) and He is willing to use every medium necessary to win the hearts of His people back to Himself, no matter how depraved we may have tried to make them. The Lord, today, is using art, movies, music, yes, sex to take us to Paradise (you know it, Bruno!) with Him. Even though our own sinfulness has often marred the true beauty of these instruments, our God of transformation will continue to use them as an avenue to hand us the keys to His Kingdom, and He will never allow us to remain locked out.

Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist by Rebecca Barclay

From the beginning of the book of Genesis to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, God chose to use the imagery of marriage to show us the relationship He desires to have with His people. Because the human person has been created as a body-soul unity, God uses the physical realities to reveal to us the deeper meaning behind spiritual realities. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” Romans 1:19-20.

I would like to write specifically about the relation between Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist (the Eucharist according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church). This is an inexhaustible subject and all the time in the world would not be enough to penetrate into the depths of this great Mystery.

Like I said, marriage is what God chose to reveal to us the type of relationship He wants with us. So we must begin by asking what is marriage and what does the word of God show us about marriage? Marriage was established ‘in the beginning’ when man was created:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:18-24

In this passage we are given the ‘steps’ of marriage: “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” From this verse we can see 3 chronological steps that occur in the ‘process’ of marriage. The first is a man leaves his father and his mother. The leaving of one’s father and mother shows that there is a certain type of commitment that must take place. Adam did not have a father or a mother, and so this verse has been given for all those after Adam—to us. In the spousal love between a man and a woman there must be a commitment. This committed love is an essential part of spousal love. Leaving one’s own family signifies the commitment to a new family, a new beginning, new life. The second step is ‘cleaves to his wife.’ This is the marriage ceremony. At the marriage ceremony the spouses cleave to each other. They commit themselves to each other by the total and complete gift of self. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The spouses seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives” (paragraph 1621). The third step is “and they become one flesh.” It is only once there has been the act of commitment and the offering of self, that a man and woman ‘become one flesh’ in the marital embrace. The marital embrace is the consummation of this love. From this moment on, each time the couple again embrace each other in the marital embrace, it is a renewal of their wedding vows. The marital embrace is a re-presentation of the total and complete gift of self offered at the wedding ceremony and fulfilled in the “becoming of one flesh.” It makes present again the offering of the bodies. The union that takes place between the man and woman in the bodies signifies the total and complete gift of self to the other.

And this is the type of relationship God desires to have with us. And Jesus Christ, taking the image that God Himself has given us, brought about and fulfilled the marital union between God and His people. He did this through the Incarnation, His Passion and Cross, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Coming down from Heaven, God is now God-with-us. In Jesus Christ, humanity has been wed to a divine Person and now God is with us. Jesus, leaving his Father, became man for us. And 33 years later, He also left his Mother Mary, for us. Can you imagine the dialogue between Christ and Mary before He left for Jerusalem? The trust that Mary had, knowing that her Son has been destined for “the rise and fall of many” and to be a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:33). The depths of Jesus’ love for us, to leave his home, his friends, his family, to embark on a journey of suffering, pain and sin, and death—for us. He who knew not sin came to know sin, for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the free consent and commitment of Christ to us, as He prays only for the Father’s will to be done. Here is the beginning of the wedding ‘process’, the process of total self-giving. Jesus, choosing to give himself to us, unites His will to the Father’s and “moves towards the wedding day and ceremony”. The process of total self-giving reaches its fulfillment on the Cross. When all that could be given had been given, God said “it is consummated”—it is finished. Whenever a man and woman have made this commitment, given themselves to each other, and when the two have become one, God says “it is consummated.” The process of the total giving of self has been finished when the two become one.

When Christ “slept the sleep of death” on the Cross, God brought forth from His side the Church. And this is signified by the blood and water which gushed forth from the pierced heart of Jesus. The water represents the waters of baptism, by which one enters into the Church. And the blood represents the blood of Christ, the blood of the Eucharist, through which we are able to receive Christ’s total gift of self. By Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross, man is able to receive Christ so that the “two may become one.”

Every time a husband and wife become one again through the marital embrace this is what is happening: the husband and wife are making present again the gift of themselves and the gift of their bodies (signifying their total gift) that they presented to God and to each other on their wedding day. Every time the husband and wife become one flesh, the bridegroom gives himself completely to the bride—to be received by the bride; and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. When the wife receives the husband into her body, she is receiving his love and his very life into her. And he is implanting the very seeds of life which could very well grow until a life is fully formed in her. The two, husband and wife, have become one, and very often bring forth another, a child. The two have become one have become three…it is here that the family of man most fully mirrors the family of God.

And how does this happen between Christ and His Church? “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church…” (Ephesians 5:31-32). This is where the heart of the Mass, the Eucharistic celebration, comes into play.

Mass is re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It is not a re-sacrificing—the sacrifice is not repeated, rather the celebration of the sacrifice is repeated. That is why it is said that a priest celebrates Mass. During Mass, the priest, along with the whole Church (this includes all the members of the body of Christ, not simply the ones present), brings before the Father the sacrifice of Christ that was made 2000 years ago. The priest presents again to the Father the gift of self that Christ made years ago. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of a past event and this re-presentation makes present the event being recalled—Christ’s gift, our “wedding day”. Each time we receive Jesus Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharist, the two become one. The bridegroom, Christ, gives himself completely to his bride and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. The bridegroom gives to us His life and His love. Christ himself said “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day…” (John 6:54). Christ, through the Eucharist, plants the seeds of eternal life in us.

C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Sexual Appetite by Mark Gonnella

Sex is an odd thing to discuss during war.  Yet it was precisely this topic that was discussed on October 11, 1942—in the midst of the turmoil of World War II.  The discussion was a BBC broadcast given by C.S. Lewis in which he discussed the matter of sexual morality in the Christian tradition.  I highly doubt that a man of his genius would broach a subject he deemed to be irrelevant to the times.  For Lewis, the ongoing physical struggle of World War II did not supersede the ongoing spiritual struggle for the soul of England—a struggle unremitting since the Fall.  Today we lack a systematic physical war, but we most certainly do not lack a spiritual war.  Sex is still important. It is still something that needs to be discussed, only I fear that I may not be the one capable of discussing it.  So, I hope you will allow me to stand upon the shoulders of Lewis and rebroadcast his incisive discussion on sexual morality and what this means for us today.

Lewis is no sanguine Christian; he knows the condition of man, and he knows the difficulty of modern day ‘sex-talk.’  Not a man to typically mince words, Lewis plainly asserts that “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues” (Lewis 95).  The reason for such unpopularity is that it seems substantively contrary to our nature: the most ‘natural’ inclination to modern man is his sexual inclination, and anything to the contrary seems oppressive, counter-intuitive, and Victorian.  Lewis is aware of this disposition and he thus approaches the problem logically—he proposes the only two tenable answers left to this quandary: either Christianity is mistaken in its sexual morality or our instinct has gone amiss.  Clearly, Lewis argues that it is the latter that is in error and he proceeds to delineate his argument by appealing to nature itself:

The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body.  Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much.  One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten.  The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously.  But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village.  This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Lewis is appealing to the Natural Law, the law inscribed on our hearts and which is a reflection of the eternal law.  In other words, Lewis is arguing that we are directed to a particular end and therefore our nature reflects the means by which we obtain that end.  Lewis is essentially saying that just because we have natural appetites does not mean that they are under our whim.  Complex things come with instruction manuals, and there is no doubt that sex is a complex thing.  It has a few purposes, but Lewis just focuses on its biological purpose, which is procreation.  But the question Lewis is concerned with is whether we should indulge in something simply because it is there, and if there is such a thing as too much indulgence.  Lewis affirms that there is such a thing, and modern man’s indulgence in his sexual appetite has reached the level of excessive.

Anyone who reads Lewis knows that he has a penchant for images, so it is no surprise that Lewis buttresses his original claim, that our sexual instinct is perverted, by employing a thought-provoking analogy:

Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us? (Lewis 96)

Lewis responds trenchantly to the objection that, perhaps, if such a world existed, it would only reveal a societal state of starvation—that the preoccupation with sex is not due to corruption but to starvation.  However, given the number of abortions each year, the sales revenue for the contraceptive industry, and the degree of sexual saturation in our media, it is quite difficult to argue that we suffer from sexual starvation.  Another invocation that this image renders is the fact that many, I would hope, who came across such a civilization would instantly know that something has gone wrong with the appetite to eat. If not pornography but films of steak and eggs littered our internet, if magazine covers proliferated with photos of sandwiches and salads, if men spent hours each day looking at videos of women making roast-beef sandwiches, there is no doubt that it would become clear to everyone that there is a pandemic of a perverted appetite for food.  If this would be the case, then why is it so difficult to discern that our sexual instincts have suffered the same fate? Lewis’ answer will most undoubtedly perturb the modern mind: “Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before” (Lewis 97).  Perhaps, in addition to spiritual decay, the reason why the sexual instincts perversion is so hard to detect is that we now have means to make such detection difficult. If means were created to mitigate the effects of obesity or, even, eradicate them altogether, and if there were machines that would reproduce food to avoid famine, then the perversion of our instinct to eat would be quite difficult to detect as well.

Another reason for this difficulty, Lewis argues, is the fact that “for the last twenty years, we have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex” (Lewis 97). In contrast, the reason why food obsession is more obvious than sex obsession is because we have not been inundated with lies concerning food, and thus we all know the consequences of food obsession, such as obesity, gluttony, and using up precious resources.  There is no propaganda extolling us to eat as much as we want when we want to, or that it is “natural” to eat profusely.  However, lies about our sexual appetite have been proliferating for centuries, with more complexity and vigor than ever before.  The consequence of such proliferation is inflation.  The sexual appetite, like any other appetite, grows by indulgence, and the underpinnings of such growth, of our actions, is a false ideology—an ideology that says the problem is not active sexual appetites but inactive ones, that the reason for the present mess, if it is indeed still called a mess, is our many years of repression.  Freud wanted to liberate our sexual appetite from its societal coma, but what he really liberated was our ability to reason and our reliance on our conscience, which in turn enslaved us to pop psychology as a means to solve the mystery of human nature.  Lewis responds with the simple observation:

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still a mess.  If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right.  But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess.

The reason why Christianity is not looked to as a repository for sexual instruction and edification is because people, quite falsely, assume that Christianity has nothing to offer to the discussion, that, in fact, Christianity is the cause of such hatred of sex and that the religion is antithetical to one’s sexual appetite.  However, Lewis contends that when people encourage others to not be ashamed of sex because of the act itself or the pleasure that it induces, Christianity follows the same script, and may even have wrote it:

The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is not, would actually have been greater….Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body—which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness..” (98).

However, the problem is when they mean that we should not be ashamed of the present state of the sexual instinct.  As Lewis argues, “If half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips…” then there is something of which we should be ashamed (99).  There is nothing natural about the present manifestation of our sexual instinct; the oddest contradiction in our modern culture is that moderation is encouraged in almost every facet of life except in one’s sexual life.  If the present state of our sexual instinct were what is natural, then the natural course of action would have been gradual decimation of our species: for the sexual appetite is no longer life giving but soul-destroying.

Now the question remains: what are we to do with this mess?  Lewis offers an incremental solution to combating the immense sexual perversion of our society.  First, he wisely asserts that in order to be cured, we must want to be cured.  Physicians, much to their chagrin, must respect our wills.  The Grandest Physician must as well, for God cannot contradict Himself and thus He cannot break his promises.  He cannot grant us free will and then revoke it because we are too foolish to know how to use it.  The difficulty, Lewis argues, is that such a desire cannot rest solely on a verbal commitment, but that it must entail our whole being, for it is our whole being, not our language faculties, that is affected.  Lewis uses the case of St. Augustine to demonstrate this fact: St. Augustine, as you may know, wanted chastity and incessantly asked for it; however, chastity did not come so easily for St. Augustine, and this is because his heart contradicted his mouth.  As Augustine’s mouth begged for chastity, his heart silently asked for more time.

Lewis acknowledges the difficultly of praying for and seeking chastity, for he knows that everything in culture urges you to give up the inane quest and to stop resisting what is “natural.”  The issue, Lewis asserts, is not that Christianity’s demand for chastity outside of marriage is unnatural, but that it is perfectly in accord with what is natural and it is other principles which attempt to control nature that are artificial.  For example, the principle to indulge in one’s sexual appetites whenever one feels inclined is an artificial principle; it is influential because it is based on truth—the truth that the sexual act, in and of itself, is good and natural.  This truth becomes falsified when one adds, “whenever and however one wants.”  Lewis, however, is not unrealistic and is fully aware of the extent of our natural ability to overcome falsehood.  He knows the propagandistic culture, the fecundity of exposure to it, and the burnishing market for its display:

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural’, so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour (100). 

With this in mind, Lewis remains consistent with his Christian realism: he does not pretend that we are capable of achieving chastity on our own, but that it is only with God’s help that this virtue may be realized.  Realizing still the difficultly of this, Lewis offers some consolation in the reality of our failure: “After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again” (101).  Trying for chastity, when one realizes the essential nature of it, is not voluntary—rather it is necessitated by our very nature and by the world we live in. One cannot remain moderately chaste, for there is no such thing, and to attempt a middle ground approach in this world will result in a groundless approach; the ground upon which we stand is ever shifting and moving to perdition—to stand idly on it will only move you in the same direction.  Lewis is aware of what imprudence posing an ‘optional question’ to a self-disparaging student would be, namely, that faced with an optional question, one does not consider how one does it but whether one can even do it at all.  Faced with a compulsory question, the student is forced to answer it: the answer may be wrong, but the attempt alone will procure some points; you will doubtlessly get no points for leaving the question blank.  Lewis profoundly contends that “virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog” (102).

Thus, as a Catholic, we cannot avoid the tension of attempting to be who we were created to be while attempting it in such an aversive and counter-virtuous world.  We must remember, “the Lord God is my strength; he will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (Hab 3:19).  The temptation to do otherwise may seem stronger, much stronger than your will, but it must always be remembered that being is stronger than non-being, life is stronger than death, and truth is stronger than falsehood.  The fact that temptations seem so immensely tempting is part of the lie that it is built upon.  St. Paul reminds us that God will never allow temptation to fully crush your will (1 Cor. 10:13), and that God will always provide the means by which we resist the temptation. The Church teaches that “human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance  ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace” (CCC 1810).  Lewis’ wisdom reflects the wisdom of the Church in this regard.  Attempting virtue is always preferential to not attempting inasmuch as swimming to the coast is always preferential to allowing yourself to drown because the coastline seems too far.  We must not worry about our failure either, for failure in attempting to be like Christ will only remind us how much we need Him: “the only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection,” Lewis writes (102).  Perfection may seem like a foolish mark at which to aim, but this very mark is not a mark set by man but by God (Lev. 20:26), and God never breaks His promises.

“Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying”

Here is a link to an interesting book review, Sexual Economics, that explores the “sexual script” that young Americans act out and how it affects the “sexual economy” of America. Worth the read!  Has anyone read Premarital Sex in America? Please share your thoughts on the book and the review.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/07/sexual-economics

Things Your Doctor may not Have Told you About Your birth Control

April, from the blog My Feminine Mind, recently wrote a thorough post on the various types of contraception and the side effects that your doctor may not have warned you about. These facts are not to scare you, but to provide an honest look at the physical damage that contraception can do to your body. Click on the link to her blog to read the post.

And thanks to April for sharing her knowledge and using her time to write this piece!

Is NFP Effective? by Ashlie Dill

Question 1: Does Natural Family Planning actually work to prevent pregnancy?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: I understand why people may feel skeptical about the effectiveness of preventing pregnancy with NFP. Really, I do – because up until I started reading about it 2 years ago (and practicing it about 1 year ago), I thought NFP was just a lot of guesswork and rolling the dice. Since my cycles fluctuate in length, I thought this meant that I would not be able to use NFP.  I didn’t know that NFP did not rely on counting days (I was confusing NFP with the outdated Rhythm Method). I didn’t know that my body could produce consistent signs that would tell me if I was fertile or not. When I found out about fertile signs, I still was hesitant to believe that my body would actually give me readable clues to my fertility. I mean, come on. It does sound pretty crazy right? I also doubted my ability to understand the signs, even if they were there. Why?

With the rise of The Pill, we have received an increase of direct and indirect conditioning to believe that our bodies are not trustworthy; we’ve been told that our bodies do not possess a reliable capability to space out pregnancy without any chemicals or latex. Think about it. Think of all the messages you’ve received in health classes, from commercials, billboards, websites, the health center at your college: Use a condom. Be on the pill. You will get pregnant, so you NEED to practice “safe-sex.” Indirectly, these statements send a few messages –  one of which is that you are not capable of preventing pregnancy without these products. (And not to mention bigpharma companies are making a killing off of society’s dependency on their products.)

But it’s not true. You can prevent pregnancy with NFP and it’s highly effective. However, understanding and believing its efficacy depends on a thorough and accurate understanding of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Until you have a grasp of that, you will continue to possess doubts. After studying the menstrual cycle, you can learn how NFP works in conjunction with the natural fluctuations of a woman’s body in order to prevent or achieve pregnancy.

But don’t take my word for it. Before you launch into a comment-leaving rage, check out these other sites that discuss the effectiveness of NFP.

http://www.naturalfamilyplanning.ie/nfp-effectiveness/how-effective/

http://iusenfp.com/home/does-nfp-work/

http://www.lady-comp.com/en/page/effectiveness (this organization’s fertility monitor boasts a 99.3% effectiveness rate.)

Stay tuned for the next most frequent question on NFP.

Why do the Bishops and Other Catholics Oppose the HHS Mandate? by Ashlie Dill

On July 19th the Huffington Post published an article entitled Catholic Bishops Promote ‘Natural’ Family Planning Amid Battle Over Contraception Mandate.”  While I certainly have issues with the content of this article, I will choose to focus on the title because I believe that the title is misleading. It is true that the Bishops and many Catholic writers have taken the opportunity to write about and discuss Natural Family Planning (NFP). However, this is not simply a battle between NFP and contraception. While that conversation is one worth having, the Bishops’ (and other religious) opposition to the HHS Mandate goes far beyond the immorality contraception.

Targeting the Bishops’ stance on contraception is a way to distract Americans from the real problem that the Bishops have with the mandate. The true issue here is that our government is requiring that all employers provide health plans that include hormonal contraception, early abortifacient drugs and sterilization. These services must be provided by employers even if they have a religious objection to these services. Requiring that they provide these services violates their First Amendment right to the freedom of religion. Those who are opposed to the mandate are not trying to diminish existing access to contraception, even if they are morally opposed to the use of contraception.

In addition to having their religious liberty violated, the institutions that do not comply with the mandate will be subjected to heavy fines. These fines are not simply the coverage cost for birth control and other services, but an exorbitant amount. Here are the words directly from the CRS Report:

A group health plan that fails to comply with the pertinent requirements in the IRC may be subject to a tax of $100 for each day in the noncompliance period with respect to each individual to whom such failure relates. However, if failures are not corrected before a notice of examination for tax liability is sent to the employer, and these failures occur or continue during the period under examination, the penalty will not be less than $2,500. Where violations are considered to be more than de minimis, the amount will not be less than $15,000.

Yes. You read that right. That’s $100, per day per employee (from my understanding this only applies to women, since these “preventative services” are for women). That’s alot of money. Say you have 25 employees. Violation of the Mandate for just ONE day would cost $2,500. That’s not the end of it… There’s more in the press release from the Energy and Commerce Committee:

 Consequently, for example, if a self-insured religious charity or hospital with 100 employees chooses to exercise its religious rights instead of complying with the Obamacare mandate, it could be subject to a $3.65 million annual fine.

So, the reason the HHS department wants this Mandate is because they believe that a woman should have access to free birth control regardless of who her employer is. But if her employer chooses to exercise his/her religious freedom and does not comply with mandate, women (and men) will be losing their jobs because these institutions do not have the annual 3.65 million dollars to pay the government.  How is this really helping and protecting women? How is this bringing more jobs to the American economy?

Some people may say, “Well, women NEED birth control.” I disagree with such sentiments, but regardless of what I think on the subject the fact is that contraception is already widely available. State and federal governments devote hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funds to provide free or low-cost contraception to American women. 4,000 Title X clinics have provided contraceptives since 1970— 69% of clients fall below the poverty line. Over $300 million is annually given to PlannedParenthood and community health centers that provide contraceptives at low costs or free (Elise Kulik, presentation at the University of Michigan). Contraception is not scarce, and one who needs financial assistance can get it for very cheap, if not free. Why strip religious individuals and groups of their rights – rights that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution of the United States of America – to provide women these services that are easily accessible? In the video below, Representative Gowdy challenges Kathleen Sebelius (lady in charge of the Mandate) on whether she actually used the Constitutional Balance while drafting this Mandate and the ensuing “compromises” made for religious individuals and groups.

 

As the Bishops and others oppose the Mandate, please keep in mind that they are not necessarily seeking to reduce the access described above. They are not trying to make birth control illegal. They are begging the Administration to create an exemption that allows religious employers to act according to the beliefs of their faith – and in this case, that means not purchasing and providing birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations.

Many Catholics support universal healthcare, even some of the Bishops. But we cannot support this piece of it because it is in violation of our conscience and our Church’s teaching (a well known and well documented teaching, at that). When the government asks us to choose between our religion and the law, we will choose to obey God and the Church. Unfortunately, this likely means the closing of many Catholic and other religious charities, adoption agencies, hospitals and non-profit organizations. And as mentioned, this means the loss of jobs for both American men and women.

Please do more reading as I have only provided a very brief summary on this issue. Here are some links to helpful websites. Also, check out this video in which Helen Alvare addresses some of the issues regarding contraception, the government, religious liberty and the well-being of women.

Having a Minor Freak Out Moment by Ashlie Dill

Today is the day. The day that I have long awaited. It is the day (that the Lord has made and) that iusenfp.com launches! Give this site a look if you are at all interested in natural methods of family planning. And if you’re a little nervous about it, I think their information will help sooth your nerves.

This definitely ain’t your high school health class. The (awesome) stuff you can and should know about your cycle (or about your wife’s cycle) is explained throughout the website. Check out The Science of the Mucus for starters (and learn to love the word mucus. or fluid. take your pick). You can also find descriptions of the various types of fertility awareness and the science that goes behind it. They even have a quiz to help you figure out which method may be the best for you! Super sweet.

As you meander through the website, take some time to read the blog posts about people’s personal thoughts on NFP…including my absolute all-time most favorite piece by Simcha Fisher “How to Ruin Your Marriage with NFP” – and now you’re like whaaaaat? Ruin my marriage with NFP? Ashlie, I thought you said NFP is good for marriages? Read the article and find out what the heck Simcha is talkin bout…

Onto my favorite part: the store. I love the store because it has great products that promote environmentally friendly feminine hygiene and some awesome NFP tools (shopping + NFP = these are a few of my favorite things). I personally would love to invest in a LadyComp. Another plus about the store is that iusenfp.com will get 4% of the proceeds if you buy the products on their site (without raising the price for the buyer, mind you!). This money will go towards the mission and continuation of iusenfp.com. So you get cool stuff and support the site. Win-Win.

Follow @iusenfp on Twitter for updates.

1flesh.org Comments on Melinda Gates’ “No Controversy” Campaign

Photo Credit: 1flesh.org

Do yourself a favor and give yourself a tour of the 1flesh.org website, and while you’re at it, read up on the whole Melinda Gates issue. 1flesh gives a thorough response to why Melinda Gates’ campaign is ineffective – check it out by clicking on the photo! Also, give a looksy the video posted yesterday about why teaching people the Billings Method is better than handing out contraception.