Papal lackey Scott Eric Alt is once again attempting to save the pope's rancid bacon.
Now, perhaps Mr. Hays has heard of a fallacy that goes by the name of argumentum ad verecundiam. It’s the obverse of an appeal to authority, and the gist of it is that someone who has no credentials in some area lacks credibility. The reason it is a fallacy is because you should judge an argument based on its own merits, not any presumed inexpertise in the person who makes the argument.
It's always nice to see a Catholic apologist openly admit that the claims of Rome are logically fallacious. At one stroke, Alt invalidates Catholicism by pointing out that appealing to the Magisterium is an illicit argument from authority.
Actually, all I really meant was that the woman was consciously setting out to get pregnant.
So does he know that? Even if she wanted to get pregnant again, what makes him assume that she was "consciously setting out get pregnant again"?
After all, having regular conjugal relations is good in its own right. And if in the process of having conjugal relations, pregnancy results, so much the better. That's a boon. A windfall.
They do so by deliberately having sex when the woman calculates that she is most fertile.
How does Alt happen to have such intimate knowledge of this couple's sex life? Does he have a hidden camera planted in their bedroom?
What about sexual spontaneity in marriage? Is that a foreign concept to Alt? What about a married couple having conjugal relations whenever the mood strikes–which may or may not coincide with ovulation?
First, he poses this question: “Do fertile couples who engage in regular conjugal relations deliberately seek to achieve pregnancy, or is that simply the natural outcome?”
Well, again, that misses the point.
That hardly misses the point when that is the very point which Alt is laboring to make.
The pope was speaking to a woman who wanted another pregnancy. She was trying to get pregnant. This wasn’t a situation where the woman just became pregnant by chance.
"Pregnant by chance"? Isn't copulation designed to procreate?
His point to her was that she should make an effort to avoid pregnancy. If pregnancy had happened anyway, in spite of her effort to avoid it, there would have been no rebuke.
How should she avoid it? By refusing to have sex if her husband initiates a sexual overture at the "wrong" time? If you're going to abstain from sex, why get married in the first place?
Surely it's easier to practice abstinence if you're not sleeping right next to a member of the opposite sex. Shouldn't you avoid putting yourself in that tempting situation in the first place?
Second, Mr. Hays attempts to apply a sort of Pascal’s wager to another pregnancy for this woman. If she got pregnant again and the baby should die, is that child worse off than if he had never been conceived at all?
Of course, what Mr. Hays neglects to mention here is that Ms. Wahlund does not merely say that there is a grave risk to the baby’s life—there is a grave risk to the mother’s life too. “Her uterus,” she says, “is paper-thin.” Now, think about that. There is a grave risk that her living children will be left without a mother. So the wager that Mr. Hays proposes here is just nonsense, since we’re talking about both lives.
Alt continues to miss the point. How is it a risk to the baby at all given the alternative (i.e. certain nonexistence)?
“Contraception,” he concludes, “is far riskier to the baby than a risky pregnancy.” I frankly don’t know what Mr. Hays means here. How is contraception risky to an unborn child? If a woman has already conceived, presumably she’s not going to be using contraception; she can’t get simultaneously pregnant. If a woman is not pregnant, and is using NFP rather than some illicit form of contraception that, say, prevents implantation only, then there’s no baby in the first place. You can’t put a life at risk that does not exist. So Mr. Hays just makes me scratch my head at this point.
I see that Alt is intellectually challenged. The alternative to a high-risk pregnancy is contraception–in which case (if successful) the existence of the baby is preempted. Therefore, contraception poses a greater threat to the baby than a high-risk pregnancy. How can you save "both lives" if you prevent one from ever existing? One scenario involves total deprivation. A lost opportunity.
To recur to my illustration: take a cancer patient who has a choice between terminal cancer and life-threatening treatment. Considering the alternate to treatment, the cancer is riskier than the treatment. Absent treatment, the patient has everything to lose. With treatment, the patient has a chance to survive.
Third, Mr. Hays shifts the ground of argument and tries to make it a question of risks due to age rather than risks due to poor uterine health. He asks: “Since when has it been church policy to tell Catholic mothers to stop having children above a certain number or above a certain age?”
Well, it’s not, and that’s not the issue here. The issue here is the health of the mother, not the age of the mother or how many children she already has. There may be issues that arise, in this woman or that woman, as a result of the aging process, which also make it fair to discuss whether avoiding pregnancy would be wise. But the real issue is the woman’s health, not the woman’s age.
Is Alt really that clueless? It's a question of consistency. Given increasing risk factors with advancing age or additional children, if it is "irresponsible" and "tempting God" to have a risky pregnancy, then the Vatican should tell Catholic wives to stop after having X number of babies due to mounting risk factors, or to stop having babies after a certain age due to mounting risk factors.
But when in the history of the papacy has that ever been the case? Throughout church history, women kept having babies until they either hit menopause or died in childbirth. Since when did the papacy tell them to stop due to multiplying risk factors?
I will, however, say this. The idea that NFP is something that is just “easy for celibate clergy to say” shows that Mr. Hays is deeply ignorant of the defenses of NFP that have been written by married Catholics. He should take a look at this one. Simcha Fisher is very honest about how difficult NFP is.
To his credit, when Alt is confused, he's consistently confused. I didn't say NFP was easy for couples to practice. Rather, I said it was easy to people who don't have to practice NFP to impose that on others. It's easy for Catholic clergy to say it. The Magisterium is just like the Pharisees who "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Mt 23:4).