Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rabbity Catholics

Papal lackey Dave Armstrong has been defending the pope's statement about Catholic who breed like rabbits. What's striking is the pushback from normally loyal Catholics. The pope's remark hit a sore nerve among the faithful:

wfee said...
I appear to be one of those "irresponsible parents". My wife has had 7 c-sections.
I agree with your facebook visitor.

Multiple C-sections are grave matters and should be considered carefully -- but in many cases the "danger" statistics are overhyped.

Examine your wikipedia statistics:
13 per 100k c-sections result in death -- That means that 99,987 did not die. Yes it is mathematically 3x worse chances, but it still a small chance.

On our firstborn, my wife experienced a partial accreta. Thank God we had a very expert OB/GYN who was able to effectively dig it out. We were warned every time that the odds were increasingly worse to have this occur with each subsequent pregnancy -- the likely fix would be a hysterectomy. 6 additional c-sections later... no accretas.

Your Wikipedia statistics say we were up to a "6.74% [chance of accreta] after six or more. " That's still 93% chance of no problems.
The chance of a car accident on the way to the hospital is probably higher. (Maybe not higher than the chance of a deadly accident, but you'd have a pregnant lady in the car...)

Our OB/GYN would portray these statistics in such a manner that would scare my wife all the time -- If I followed the verbal math she gave us, by the 3rd c-section we had a 175% chance of accreta and certain death. Of course we were offered sterilization options with every c-section.

If I told you that I had a financial investment that promised a slow growing return of 20 years that would cause you to lose all of your investment only 3% of the time would that scare you away? What about 7% of the time? If you still invest it at at 7% risk are you financially irresponsible? Of course not, there is still a 93% chance of good return. Those are significantly good odds of everything going well.

I disagree with the appeal to medical knowledge & statistics here. The culture I witnessed going though this scenario for real was that the medical facility wanted to sterilize us so that we couldn't have children after the very first c-section.

I disagree with having multiple c-sections being characterized as a "mistaken perspective". Your facebook friend is correct -- the pregnant woman & her husband's reasoning is very much required to determine "irresponsibility".
JT WIlson said...
If I'm following this reasoning, there is a significant risk of mortality with the woman's c-section, making in it wrong for her to bear another child. What happens when that logic is applied to prior centuries?

In the 1850s, a British woman's chance of death in childbirth (forget limiting to c-section) was 5/1000. Should any woman in prior centuries have risked more than one child? Certainly there was a great risk of orphaning the first. Looks like a population problem to me.

David L Alexander Uh, if that is indeed what he [Pope Francis] did, and given what little he could possibly know of the circumstances … probably not.

Jesus Perez Dave. Interesting article. Is your contention that the simple fact of having 8 C-sections [is] irresponsible parenthood or that plus a number of other factors? I have difficulty with this.

Michael Liccione Even granted that the Pope's view of that particular woman’s choices is correct, I think it was an error to cite a particular individual. Doing that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark.

Jesus Perez This is a tough one Dave. My wife has had three c-sections and we were told not to have more children after our second child. I don't think we're being irresponsible. We want to have more, and we know many faithful couples who've had multiple c-sections.

David L Alexander Dave: "It's not about having eight children, but about having eight c-sections. The two scenarios are vastly different from each other. But …" … but those are medical judgments, not strictly moral ones, and the Holy Father risks being outside his area of competence, much less his authority. Thus it is no surprise if "that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark."

David Palm Scott and Kimberly Hahn have six children and I think all of them were born via c-section.

David Palm Were the Hahns irresponsible to have six children via c-section?

David L Alexander Dave: My son from a prior union was born via c-section, and his mother had three miscarriages (one before, at least two after that we know of), and any subsequent births would most likely be c-section, as she was of small stature. We were in consultation with more doctors than I could shake a stick at. 

I question that such public displays are an appropriate venue for such rebukes, whether it's the Pope, or the pastor who lives down the lane. That it was indelicate and ill-mannered is my argument. I don't need to copy and paste from medical journals, and I don't need schooling from you on the risks involved. I had a ringside seat, and saw lives and a marriage ruined. Including mine.

Brendan Malone Dave, I love your work, but I've got to disagree with you on this one - as others have already said here, the issue is whether or not it was appropriate to actually publicly utilise that woman, and that specific scenario as an example of parental irresponsibility.

Surely her human dignity demands more than to be treated as an object lesson in irresponsibility for all the world's media?

Brendan Malone One other thing - I know of two very responsible and faithful local Catholic families who have been really hurt by the fact that Pope Francis used their specific family situation as an example of parental irresponsibility in front of the world's media.

Earlier today the wife of one of those families posed an important question on Facebook: 

"Everyone talks like NFP works all the time. It doesn't. I'm thankful for that cos I wouldn't have had all my kids if it did! But what if the woman highlighted by the pope HAD used it and was still in the same situation? Irresponsible then too?"

Paul Croarkin "There are many thousands of pro-life doctors". BS. Try finding one who won't prescribe contraception.

Paul Croarkin So, what was our option? Abort? V-bac was out of the question.

Rachel LaPointe I have to disagree with your comment a few up about whether nfp working or not has to do with this. In a way, it has everything to do with it. If NFP is unreliable, then responsible parenthood becomes extremely difficult for those who need to not have more kids. Say a young couple has six kids, by way of csection, can't risk another, but she's only 35. Do they have to abstain completely for the next 15-20 years, due to unreliable NFP? If you can't rely on NFP then you are risking a whole host of other issues.

Rachel LaPointe Paul, I know several people who have tried every modern method, and all have failed to correctly identify the fertile window. For most women, one method will work at least, whether creighton, Marquette, sympto thermal or billings (or any of the others). But I know at least one person, who right now is considering leaving the church because no method works and she can't justify using contraceptives or being sterilized and remaining in the church.

Rachel LaPointe And diocese support is crap in so many places. Excuse my language, but I've known too many people to get zero support. Some areas may be good, but many are not.

Rachel LaPointe Dave you can have unreliable signs. Constant mucus screws up lots of methods. Unreliable temps is easy to obtain for any mom if there's a sick kid or any other disturbance. And methods that rely on hormones can miss peak leaving you in unending highs and never ending abstinence if you struggle with cycles of varying lengths. 

This isn't the norm that I'm talking about. But never-ending abstinence when constantly hoping you might get one or two days every month or two is destroying marriages and faiths. The church teaches us that sex is important for marriage right? Celibate marriage is NOT the norm.

Rachel LaPointe Her husband is involved. It's a big burden for both of them.

Mary Ellen Wilhelm DeLong The pope chose a poor example to to make his point.. He should have chosen a woman with cancer who ABSTAINS as an example of responsible parenthood or an impoverished family with no means to sustain themselves or a mother with a serious heart condition etc. The example he used was subjective and poorly chosen.

Rachel LaPointe What if the woman in the example was perfectly following an NFP method, and had a method failure?

Rachel LaPointe I'm going to point out some hurdles to the advice given (all of which she's heard before, and I won't be pointing out again). 1. Money. NFP doctors aren't cheap, and insurance coverage can vary. 2. Every method has a method failure rate. It is possible that a woman could have such varying signs, without major underlying health issues, where she would fall into the category of none of the current methods working. 3. At some point, after numerous methods have failed to be accurate, there is a distinct lack of trust. Part of this stems from what I consider to be a normal response to nothing working. Another large part stems from a general vibe in the NFP community that something will just work or you aren't doing it right, or you aren't holy enough, or whatever. I doubt that those vibes are intentional, but the people who have issues ARE shot down and told they are imagining or it's otherwise their fault. That's "gaslighting" and is an abuse tactic. I'm part of a fairly large group of friends who have experienced these things, it's not an isolated experience of just a small handful of people.

I'm also only saying all this in an effort to bring our stories to light. We're all in the minority of people who do practice NFP. We don't want church teaching to change, because we see the wisdom in it. We love JP2 and the theology of the body. But that doesn't discount the trials, and I think when we are just told "suck it up" it's not enough, because that could mean life or death, or a baby coming that we can't afford or any number of very serious things. Not everyone is able to be like St Gianna. 

For this group, we were excited with the pope's remarks.. to us it was a pat on the back of "You are doing the right things by being prudent and avoiding pregnancy". It wasn't a "Well, if you get pregnant in life or death circumstances, you'll be happy anyway because NFP makes you open to life" (a common common thing to hear on certain very large NFP groups here on facebook). The NFP offices seem to put an emphasis on the "rainbows and butterflies", which makes anyone who experiences major struggles feel abnormal. Most of us probably don't look like the happy couples on the brochures. And combine that with experiences of people who get shot down when they ask for help, well, there's an issue. It's much larger than what I could put in a facebook comment, and it is something dear to my heart.

Benjamin Baxter Part of the problem is that this explanations adds suppositions which, while plausible, Pope Francis isn't mentioning. He's leaving a lot to guess at. It is certainly a failure of communication (as a remark made to everyone.) Pope Francis is not a good public speaker. He's a personal communicator, one-on-one. Trouble is, he's speaking publicly. 

Now, being a good communicator is not a requirement for sanctity. However, being a good communicator has been a quality of the papacy for the last thirty years. People listening to the pope and expecting that are understandably distressed. 

Bottom line: The role of someone who "gets the Pope" is not to condescend or assume hostile motives but first to recognize that someone is angry and, more likely than not, has a very understandable reason for it. 

Someone I know talked about these remarks as brilliant. They aren't. They're likely interpersonally effective in the moment but they are publicly scandalous because they are shared around the world. If someone is going to speak to "the little ones" about Pope Francis, recognizing the genuine distress is a huge first step, and recognizing it as a legitimate distress is the most important second step.

Kathy Jones When I was growing up , our family doctor (a wonderful Catholic guy) and his wife had 11 children......all by c-section. All healthy, beautiful etc. I can see the Holy Father's point....still he picks his spots to say "Who am I to judge."

John D. Lewis How many c-sections is responsible then?

John D. Lewis How many natural births is responsible then? (I ask this because I think the same logic can be obtained perhaps; for example, as teacher of NFP, my wife and I would usually flippantly say something like "The Church calls us to 'responsible parenthood' which means, most likely, God does not want us to have 0 or 1.3 children nor 25 children." But having just thrown that big 25 number out there, now I'm wondering what a truly "irresponsible" number would be? And how would one distinguish between "irresponsibility" and "providentialism" I wonder? I would think that having 0 children due to selfishness would be the worse sin than having 25 children due to irresponsibility. Am I wrong there? In conclusion, one thing I think we can all agree upon is that whether it's the 3rd or 13th c-section, when one looks at that precious new LIFE smiling at ya, you'd have to say "Oh happy fault!!!!"

1 comment:

  1. The "Holy Father" doesn't approve of all them chillens. The irony! Poor Romanists.

    Somebody please have a Marian apparition to counter Papa...please!