Category Archives: Birth Control

Becoming One Flesh: Eucharist And Marriage

Dr. Scott Hahn recently posted an excellent Facebook response to a question about the Eucharist being closed to non-Catholics.  His answer reflected on his own spiritual journey from Evangelical Christian to Presbyterian minister to Catholic.  Each step in his journey brought him closer to understanding the sacramental aspect of both marriage and the Eucharist.  Each relationship is a “one flesh” union requiring fidelity and integrity.

As I reflected on Dr. Hahn’s answer, it occurred to me that perhaps a lack of understanding about the Eucharist and marriage contributes to the wide acceptance of contraception.  For example, if marriage is not viewed as a sacrament, it becomes only a symbol and loses integrity.  It can be manipulated according to the will of anyone desiring to make use of its symbolism.  If Holy Communion is only a symbol, it loses any need for fidelity.  Anyone can “join in.”  There is no need for full union between participants.  The Eucharist becomes merely a symbol of common feelings rather than a reality of a “one flesh” union.  Since everyone “feels good” about Jesus, they should all be allowed to partake of the Eucharist, right?

Ironically, few married people would be comfortable becoming one flesh with someone they were not fully united to in marriage.  That’s called infidelity and it is rightfully frowned upon by most married people.  We don’t let everyone “join in.”  So, why should we be ok letting people “join in” the one flesh union of the Eucharist if those people are not fully united with Christ’s Church?

And why should we let people partake of the Eucharist if they don’t even believe that what they are participating in is an actual, “one flesh” union?  That’s like being in a contraception marriage.  There are lots of “good feelings” that feel like bonding, but there is not a one flesh union taking place in the marriage.  It is a lack of integrity.  The marriage is only symbolic of the feelings they have about each other.  They do not take the marriage to its full realization of a one flesh, life giving union.

One of the best ways for the devil to mess up our relationship with Christ is to promote the following errors:

–          The Holy Communion is only symbolic.  The bread and wine are not transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  We don’t need to become one flesh with Christ at Communion.  All we need is our good feelings about Jesus and the Bible.

–          Contraception is fine and even preferable.  Sex and marriage are mostly about bonding and “good feelings,” not primarily about becoming one flesh and creating new life.

–          Anyone that believes in Jesus should be allowed to participate in Holy Communion.  No fidelity to the Church or her Christ-given authority is necessary.

The two Sacraments of Eucharist and Marriage are intimately connected in such a way that an attack on one serves as an attack on the other.  A deeper understanding of one leads to a deeper understanding of the other.  “Becoming one flesh” is a critical theme that connects the two Sacraments in a unique way.

Catholics are not mean, snobbish “elitists” that refuse to let other Christians “join in.”  We simply hold to the understanding of Jesus and the Church Fathers who saw the need for covenantal integrity and marital fidelity within marriage and within the Church.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

It took me a long time to see the light about the Church’s teaching on birth control.  Like so many other aspects of the Faith, the teaching holds both a simple beauty and a profound complexity.  There is still much I need to learn regarding the Theology of the Body.

If I had to sum up my thoughts on what the Church teaches about human sexuality, I suppose I might use the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  God knew very well what He was doing when He created our reproductive systems.  Healthy men and women don’t require medications, prophylactics or surgeries to fix or prevent anything.  Our reproductive systems need to be respected and managed, but not broken by being “fixed.”

The idea of natural family planning (NFP) was confusing to me for a long time because I did not grasp the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” concept.  Why not use chemicals or devices?  These are just various ways of managing the body.  We do all sorts of medical things to manage our bodies.  What’s the big deal?  The big deal turned out to be that artificial birth control “breaks” something that is already operating in a healthy and normal way.  It repairs or enhances nothing.  When else would we go to a doctor and ask for a drug or device to break that which is healthy?  “Gee, Doc, my legs are working so well!  Can you put one of them in a cast for me, please?”  “I have 20/20 vision?  Hey, Doc, can I have some glasses to blur my eyesight and really give me some good headaches?”  NFP does not “break,” or interfere with, a healthy, normal human system.

Artificial birth control does not teach people responsibility.  It teaches people to try and have their cake and eat it, too.  It teaches people that the primary purpose of the reproductive system is pleasure, when in fact, it is procreation.  God was nice enough to make sex pleasurable.  He could have made it as stimulating as shaking hands.  Let’s not forget that those “feel good” nerve endings have lots of other equipment attached to them.  Those nerve endings are part of an entire system, not just “accessories” for us to bat around like cat toys whenever we want.  NFP keeps this in mind by respecting both the pleasurable and the procreative aspects of sexual design.  Everything remains intact, unobstructed and chemical free.  It all works like God designed it to work, baby or no baby.

Incidentally, some people argue that since post menopausal women can no longer conceive, then they should not be having sex if sex is all about procreation.  Again, menopause is perfectly in line with the natural design of human sexuality.  No pills have been taken, no condoms have been put on, and nothing has been unnaturally altered.  So, of course, post menopausal women are allowed to enjoy the natural pleasure of sex.  It’s only natural!  (There are also women that have had hysterectomies or other medically necessary procedures that have rendered them sterile without choice).  And, of course, there are the stories of Sarah and Elizabeth.  God can surprise us.

Much more could be said, but I think the primary motivator is fear.  People are afraid of the responsibility that comes with new life.  That is why we now exist in a culture of death.  People want to have lots of fun without “fearing” the responsibility.  The entitlement mentality and the contraceptive mentality are very close cousins.  Look at it this way: we are not likely to see NFP being used among the promiscuous population.  Not because it is ineffective, but because it requires responsibility, communication, commitment, self control and respect by both partners.  Artificial birth control does not require those qualities in partners.  It only requires a willingness to break a normal, working system by “fixing” it.

I’m not trying to lay a big guilt trip on folks.  I’m just trying to help expose the lies we have swallowed for decades.  Christians in particular should be concerned about whether or not they are actually becoming “one flesh” within their marriages, and whether or not their sex lives are in keeping with God’s natural law.

This is not just a “Catholic” issue.  It’s not true “because the Catholic Church teaches it’s true.”  The Catholic Church (like a voice in the wilderness) still teaches it because it is true and always has been true!  Catholicism refuses to allow society to dictate God’s truth.  Catholic reproductive systems and non-Catholic reproductive systems were all created and designed by the same God.  Artificial birth control affects us all the same.  The truth hits everybody.  The question is, “Are we responsibly honoring God’s creative design, or are we trying to play God with our bodies just to have some pleasure?”

Here’s an interesting website I found recently about NPF.

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