Monday, January 26, 2015

"Pregnant by chance"

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).

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