At long last, I'm going to try to summarize some of the differences that remain. As I say at the end of this post, I think there are really two major differences here which I don't think we are going to reconcile between the two of us. However, I broke down my response into three somewhat interlapping categories. Go figure.
1. Philosophy/theology of sexuality
First, as I think our recent exchange shows, you and I have a different approach to the Christian tradition. I do not agree that the ban on contraception is necessarily corrupt just because much of the theology behind sexuality was corrupt. I suppose another way to put is that I don't believe that the theology of sexuality was completely corrupt; thus, I don't believe that all of its ethical consequences can be rejected out of hand. It initially seemed that what you were saying was "Augustine and co. warped Christian sexuality, the prohibition on artificial contraception is a remnant of that old warped Christian sexuality, so we can assume it's wrong." This seems to me to be a form of the genetic fallacy: a belief is not inherently corrupt because its origins are faulty.
However, even your position is nuanced as it has been in the recent discussion about the lack of /current development of non-Catholic theologies of sexuality (which I appreciated, by the way), we still differ on how much caution is necessary in forging out into new territory. You may feel comfortable accepting the use of the pill, condoms, etc. based on your own working theology. I, obviously, am more comfortable in taking a conservative approach. Some of our differences on the authority of the church probably enter into this point as well, but I don't think that that's the sole difference: there are other Christians who are not Catholic who, though not bound by the authority of the Catholic Church, feel called to follow classical sexual teaching in this matter.
It's probably also the case that I don't see artificial contraception as a NEED. Those who need to limit their families can do so through using NFP to avoid conception. As a result, I don't see that people would be deeply harmed by taking the attitude: "well, we have some reliable means of birth control now, but no one seems to have worked out a thorough theology behind the acceptability of condom use/hormonal contraceptives/etc., so why don't we play it conservatively and not use them." This too is probably something we fundamentally disagree about.
2. NFP: invitation analogies
I think that part of our disagreement here is that I see a greater moral distinction between passive and active avoidance of conception than you do. I do see a real difference between the couple who refrains from sex when they know that conception is likely and a couple who takes action, rather than refraining from action, to make their sexual acts sterile. So, I disagree with your assessment of the invitation analogy:
Snuggle Muffin wrote:Sending out invitations to an event that has virtually no chance of happening ? that one has tried to make sure doesn't happen ? is not very nice. Neither is sending invitations to God asking Him for new life when one has taken extremely effective steps (sterilized the sexual relationship) to make sure He won't ? talk about sending mixed messages. It's like facing someone who is standing there ready to hand you a present and saying to them, "Thank you! I'd love to receive your gift" while refusing to bring your hands and arms our from behind your back. That's what NFP is doing according to these analogies.
Where I differ from you is that I think that the fact that the steps you take are passive or negative rather than positive does play a large difference in the morality of the action. May I substitute a different analogy for the "invitation" one? Perhaps it's not like a wedding, but more like someone offering: "If you come to my place on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I'll be handing out presents and I'll have one for you, but if you come on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, we'll just be having coffee and dessert. Come whenever you want! " If my apartment is already overflowing with knickcknacks and I don't have room for more gifts, I may choose not to go to my friend's place at the right time to pick up said gift, though I go there other times for the coffee and brandy. If the gift-giver really wanted to give me the gift, he could show up at my door with it --or bring it out unexpectedly at an hour when he normally offers only dessert-- and, because of our friendship, I'd take it even if I weren't expecting it. In this case, I know that it is not the usual nature of the gift-giver to do that if I don't seek him out at a specific place and specific time; therefore as long as I don't want the gift, I avoid seeking him out at the designated gift-giving times. This, to me, seems different from going to his house at the designated gift-giving time and saying: "I want some of your chocolate delight, but please don't give me the gift that you normally give out at this time." The issue isn't just that you're having your cake without the responsibility of taking the gift that goes with it-- after all, the gift-give already sets up times that are for cake only! The issue is that you are taking the cake and actively REFUSING the gift offered at that time. Of course, I could simply never visit the gift-giver at all (total abstinence, which chaste unmarried people practice). But if I want the cake, given that the gift-giver has already appointed times when he passes out the gifts, and given that it is his nature and his desire to give gifts to those who visit at those times, it seems more polite to refrain from approaching him during his gift-giving times unless I'm willing to accept the gift.
Analogies aside, I'd sum up my point this way: you may be right that the line between abstinence during the fertile period and use of barriers to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg is a fine one, but I would maintain that it is still a clear line with moral implications. The importance we give to this line is one of the fundamental differences between us, I think.
3. Openness to Life
Snuggle Muffin wrote: And regardless, sexual intercourse is 'naturally' oriented to conception less than half the time? the idea that the act of intercourse is intended to include the possibility of procreation 100% is foreign (I think) to God's design. I realize that here is where 'open to life' gets differentiated from procreation (or its possibility), but ultimately, it seems like a word game.
First of all, I think the problem is that it seems "openness to life" should refer to statistical likelyhood of pregnancy, or to a couple having a consciously-accepted reasonable chance of getting pregnant, and it does not. This issue, for those who use NFP to avoid pregnancy, is not whether a method is 80% accurate vs. 99.5% successful. The issue is with HOW the method works to prevent pregnancy. Since NFP'ers see a difference between refraining from an action that is likely to cause conception and changing an action to prevent it (see above), they perceive NFP to be open to life in that it doesn't openly reject the possibility of conception in the same way that artificial contraceptives do. You may reject that distinction and feel that the term "openness to life" is out of place in the discussion. But even if we were to jettison the term openness to life on the grounds that it isn't helpful and may just be confusing --and those may be good reasons for leaving it out of the debate-- I think the basic arguments for NFP would remain the same. Still, you may be highlighting a real need for better/less vague terminology. NFP proponants may just be confusing matters when they fling the phrase "openness to life" around.
Snuggle Muffin wrote: I think the marriage relationship should be open to having kids, but not every sexual act, and I think the NFP method agrees with me. NFP violates this RC prescription for what the sex act should speak just as BCPs and FAM does.
I think that some of the discussion about the theology of the body applies here. I think that as you define "open to having kids", you are right NFP does not mean that every sexual act is open to having children. But the way NFP'ers use openness, the question really is: has the couple altered the sexual act so that it -- the individual sexual act-- overtly REJECTS the possibility of having children? If one's body has been sterilized chemically, the answer is yes. If one is using a condom to prevent the egg from meeting sperm, the answer is yes. If one is using NFP, the answer is no: the sexual act is not oriented towards having children not because the couple has altered it itself, but because it occurs at a time that is naturally unsuitable for conception. If this act is sterile it is God (or nature) who makes this individual act sterile, not the couple.
What I'm saying here is not new, of course, and you've already addressed it. In a previous post, yout say that though we agree that it might be all right for the marraige relationship as a whole to be sterile, the couple is still acting to ensure that the relationship is sterile through charting, but as you say
Snuggle Muffin wrote:. . . I can't accept "by using God's patches" as a morally relevant distinction.
As I've reiterated above, I do see this as a relevant moral distinction. Given that this issue keeps coming up, this may be THE largest basic difference between our positions.
One final note on terminology. In an earlier post, you said:
Snuggle Muffin wrote:If NFP dropped the lines of argument like "more open to life," "renewing the marriage covenant," the invitation analogies, etc., and just stuck with "respect the body/don't mess with people's biology" it might have a potentially stronger case, albeit harder to sell to non-RC's with most of the profound/nice-sounding rhetoric removed.
Aside: I use the various invitation and gift-giving analogies not so much because they constitute "proof" as because sometimes it is the only way I personally can articulate what I see to be different. Other NFP'ers may argue quite well without using analogies at all: more power to them, but that's just not how I work. I guess I just like stories.
As you can see above, I am somewhat sympathetic to the idea of setting aside the language of being "more open to life." It is not so much that I disagree that NFP is open to life in a way ABC isn't as that I think the phrase is just too easy to misunderstand, and perhaps too vague in general. With regard to renewing the marriage covenant, I do disagree. I think that each sexual act is a repeated consummation of a couple's marriage; like the Passover meal or the Lord's Supper, it is an act that renews the covenant between two parties. I do not think that talking about in these terms is just fluff or mystical nonsense. Whether that means that a convincing argument against artificial contraception can be sustained ONLY on this view of sexuality is a different question. (And hard to answer because, as I think this discussion reveals, different people are convinced by different things! What is a convincing argument to one person may not be convincing to another.)
I think the "respect the body" concept is implicit in the teaching. The difficulty of using only that a defense is that one may ask why piercing the ears doesn't violate the need to respect the body-- and this opens up the issues of the theology fo the body, of sex as sacramental act, and so on. I don't mean to say "you need other defenses to shore that up." Rather, what I mean is that the reason respecting biology _is_ so important in this act as opposed to other acts like ear piercing or the application of cosmetics is that the marital act DOES have sacramental significance, that it is part of the language of the body, that is a renewal of the marriage covenant, that is an act capable of imaging the trinity, and so on. In other words, I don't see the "respect biology" argument as a distinct one from the "renewal of marriage covenant" so much as part of that understanding of sexuality.
And that's it. You raised many points that I didn't address. . . had I world enough and time! But I think we are both at the point where we are just trying to rephrase what we've already said. When I look at this post, I don't feel that I've added anything NEW: just maybe condensed and reiterated some key points which I already know you disagree about.
Basically, I think what our discussion has uncovered is that there are two main differences between us:
1) how we view the past teachings on sexuality: is the prohibition on contraception intrinsically bound up in the admitted errors of dualism? Or are there other issues at work? Do we know enough about Christian sexuality to chuck this doctrine by the wayside? This may be connected to, but is not (I argue) wholly dependant on differing views on teaching authority. In other words, you wouldn't have to be Catholic to take my side, but (given that the teaching on contraception is not necessarily infallible) you wouldn't have to be "non-Catholic" to be sympathetic to your side.
In this area I have to admit to not having enough knowledge about Church history to argue very competently.
2) The sexual act: is there a MORAL difference between postponing or avoiding pregnancy only by avoiding intercourse during the naturally fertile times so that the acts of intercourse that do occur won't lead to conception, as opposed to avoiding pregnancy by somehow changing the body or the sexual act itself so that the couple's acts of intercourse won't lead to conception? I see such a moral distinction; you don't. This is not something where additionally arguing will change either of our minds, I suspect.
You may see other fundamental areas of disagreement, of course, but these seem like the two big "we're not going to agree on this" issues.