Birth control today; 8; What the Churches Say About Birth Control
WB AA presents birth control today. Freedom and responsibility. This is a series of programs about birth control and how it affects us and our society. Today we will discuss what the church is saying about birth control. All religious groups sanction the limitation of family size through one or more procedures. But they disagree sharply on which methods are morally acceptable. Here are some representative positions taken by different religious organizations the Central Conference of American rabbis state they urge recognition of the importance of the control of parenthood is one of the methods of coping with social problems. The committee on Jewish law and standards say there is precedent in Jewish law for sanctioning birth control. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA adopted a general Protestant statement on birth control in February one thousand sixty one which contains these key thoughts
within the purposes of marriage ordained by God. There are a number of considerations concerning Parenthood which need to be taken into account in trying to determine the number and frequency of pregnancies. These include first the right of the child to be wanted loved cared for and educated and trained in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The rights of existing children to parental care have a proper claim. Second the prospect for health of a future child. If medical and eugenic evidence seem negatively conclusive third the health and welfare of the mother wife and the need for the spacing of children to safeguard it. Fourth the social situation when rapid population growth places dangerous pressures on the means of livelihood and endangers the social order. Most of the Protestant churches hold contraception and periodic continents to be morally right when the motives are right. They believe that couples are free to use the gifts of science for conscientious family limitation provided the means are mutually acceptable non injurious to health and
appropriate to the degree of effectiveness required in this specific situation. Here is the official Catholic position on contraception. Pope Paul the sixth in his encyclical Hugh money of human life reaffirmed on July 29 one thousand sixty eight. The traditional Roman Catholic teaching on contraception he stressed that apart from total abstinence from sexual intercourse the only acceptable method of avoiding births is temporary abstinence during the woman's fertile period. The so-called rhythm method you quote directly from the encyclical. We must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and above all directly willed and procured abortion. Even if for therapeutic reasons are to be absolutely excluded as listed means of regulating birth equally to be excluded as the teaching authority of the church is frequently declared his direct sterilization. Whether perpetual or temporary whether of the man or of the woman similarly excluded is every action which either in anticipation of the conjugal act or in its accomplishment
or in the development of its natural consequences proposes whether as an end or as a means to render procreation impossible. These written policies and laws of religious bodies serve as guidelines to the people. It's the people in the end who must make their own decisions. To look further into the religious aspect to birth control we invited to the program the Rev. J Philip Clinger of St. Andrew's Methodist Church. Father Leo Pickett from St. Thomas Aquinas center at Purdue and Rabbi Gerald angle of the B'nai B'rith Hillel foundation on campus. There is no Protestant viewpoint on the question of birth control. It's almost presumptuous to speak on behalf of Protestants though this is what I've been asked to do and I want them to be represented even speaking on the issue and the question as a United Methodist I look to my own tradition and I see what the church has said in its general conference statement and can lift this out. First of all and then refer to other statements that may have been given. There is general agreement however
that birth control is not only permissible but is perhaps almost a necessity in our time. The United Methodist Church Discipline provides in its most recent statement we believe that Planned Parenthood practiced with respect for human life fulfills rather than violates the will of God that it is the duty of each married couple responsibly to seek Parenthood averted or defer it in accordance with the best expression of their Christian love. Families in all parts of the world should have available to them the necessary information and material on birth control through public and private programs. This issue then must be seen in reference to the pressing population crisis that is now before the whole world. In other statements that I have read and trying to encompass a Protestant viewpoint there is a general or universal almost agreement that birth control is not only a possibility for practicing
believers but is encouraged and in some cases is spelled out as a part of their responsibility. So I think a summary of what might be the viewpoint of the Protestant tradition. It would be that in respect for human life in view of the present population crises that are upon the world and also as an expression of their own reality and relationship. Father pagan would you like to comment. I must say that I find it very difficult to be quite as succinct as reverent Clinger although I could say immediately that there is an official position of Roman Catholic position concerning the morality of contraception. And that is that not all methods of contraception are moral. There has emerged within the Roman Catholic Church the teaching very explicit teaching that married people have a responsibility to regulate the
birth of children. And there has emerged within the Roman Catholic Church. I would say within the last generation or so a real respect for the goodness of conjugal love as a reality apart from proc creation. But at the same time the official teaching of the Roman get rich is rather restrictive with regard to methods about everything that Reverend Clinger said quoting from the National Council of Churches in the United Methodist statement would be able to be bought by a Roman Catholic even by the pope. With the possible exception of methodology and I think probably there's a deeper disagreement with regard to what the moral law teaches and what the will of God is and so on. But let me just say very briefly and I know that the time in this program going back to other values and opinions and maybe even some history in the history of changing that married people have a responsibility to love one another.
Married people have a responsibility to procreate. Intelligently and in pursuing the goal of procreation. The only method that can be morally used for granted when going to church would be amounting to abstinence. In other words restricting procreating activities to those times when the woman is not able to conceive we will come back to some of these points I pick at Rabbi angles can you explain the position of your faith. Yes I think it's very simple to begin with a traditional point of view which would emphasize why the pick at the basis of marriage is the family and the family would involve having children. So the traditional way this is a responsibility of the couple.
However the rabbis have been able to take the concept of a high behind you shall live with it in terms of the commandments to imply that if the health of the woman is ever at stake then birth control is not only acceptable but it would be considered advisable once we get beyond the health question. We have two points and we have several points of view. Because we are dealing with a modern situation in terms of tradition traditionalists felt that the person simply had to carry out and fulfill the basic idea of having children. The Rabbis might differ as to when this responsibility was fulfilled. Essentially it was that it was a responsibility considered by most upon the male and therefore the male would never be able to practice birth control
although some felt that if the mitzvah the commandment was not upon the woman then she might. But even when the rabbis are very careful to try to guide us and not to have it abused. But this lends itself to a basis of a type of birth control that could also develop from a two additional viewpoint. This would also mean who had maturity standpoint in terms of those who do not feel quite as hand in by the dictates of other generations. That there would be greater room for birth control in the case of the conservative approach in particular. I have a little leaflet in front of me put out by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America dealing with the church's speak up and birth control and under Jewish they're very careful to simply quote two sources one of them conservative and the other liberal.
None of them really traditionally Orthodox as we understand it because the position of the Orthodox would essentially be no birth control except where there is a physical physical hazard for the woman. Van the individual has to understand that he has responsibility and. He has to see that there are a certain number of children and I really becomes an individual's position as to when he feels he has had enough children if you will to have completed the mitzvah. The commandment but in terms of the conservative viewpoint the committee on Jewish law and standards says there is precedent in Jewish law for sanctions sanctioning birth control. The location of parenthood fulfills its God and our mission when it is rendered consistent with the requisites of the life and health of all the constituent members
of the family end quote. This is if you listen carefully you will really hear almost the position I've given as a traditional point of view. However they go beyond it. They talk about the constituent members of the family. They allow a greater flexibility but in essence they too feel a responsibility. And if you notice they emphasize life and health. Because if we're concerned about commandments by which man can live then you can stretch it and say health implies not always physical health but the whole life cycle. So this is a little attempt to move within tradition from a standpoint of the way for one group and this is a Central Conference of American rabbis I like to read their quotations. Parents have the right to determine the number and to space the births of their children in
accordance with what they believe to be the best interests of their families. We hold that apart from as Procrit a function the sex relations and marriage serves positive spiritual values. Sandra quote you noticed you are not quite as worried about the covenant Now this is basically a different position. You have a traditionalist. The Orthodox and the Orthodox feels very bound by tradition. Although they leave room for interpretation you have the conservative point of view which is even more flexible because they feel they've got to make greater accommodations for today and while they look at tradition they also try to emphasize what men in general are facing. And then you have the Reform position such as the one I mentioned which seems to leave tradition out almost completely and emphasize what is best. So you have these three positions and I think the June
depending upon his philosophy picks either of the three. Rabbi Engle I find that the underlying institutional differences in Judaism orthodox conservative and liberal are reform. You know these things are not quite so well. Defined within Roman Catholicism are certainly emerging. You know there is no longer any monolithic Catholicism and we have certain institutions like the pope and we have the bishops and we have their authority. We have the law of God and so on all all these institutions and realities are are important have to be considered and we also have individual couples and their needs. And we have the exigencies of the modern day the overpopulation problem pollution all these things have some sort of a bearing upon the individual decision that many couples are going to make with regard to the
size of of their families. And basically and I think it's important to point out that even though the Roman Catholic Church through the encyclical of of Paul the sixth and 168 July which reaffirmed the traditional position is not the only position which is being is held actually within the Roman Catholic Church today and the practice of Roman Catholic people is certainly not in accord with the official teaching and many of them are able to practice in a way which contradicts the official teaching in good conscience because there are other positions around that to them seem to be just about as Catholic and. Also because they they feel that this is their decision and their church teaches them that they're the ones that have to make the final decision. The pope himself you know pays tribute to the individual conscience. The council Second Vatican Council and I would like to quote this because I think it's streaming important
in the pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world talks about married couples and the problems they have and it's very interesting that they talk for a long time about the beauty of conjugal love and and how you know it's humanity it's so good and so pleasing God and how married people are faced with all kinds of problems with regard to numbers of children and how they must stay this way the parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God namely the number of showing they're going to have. So birth regulation by the teaching that I'm going to church is the responsibility of the individual couple and the holy father's teaching and you know money day comes through as part and a very important part one which they're obliged to actually consider and submit to if they possibly can of the decision making process process those who would decide in some other way you know find themselves in a real serious position they find themselves maybe in a position of having to leave the church. I think the majority however
find themselves in a position where they say you know with all the bishops reacting the way they did. With the problems that we have now even if I consider this wrong it's impossible to live this way and so I'm just going to have to live the best way I know how in opera choose between the lesser of the two evils. Others say it's good. So we find in the church today many many divisions about this even though the pope has spoken. And that brings up a lot of other theological problems about collegiality and the role of the bishops in decision making and the authority of the pope and how it's going to have to be changed and how and how it's being resisted by traditional force in the church but these don't have that much to do with with our question today. But I would like to conclude my remarks here if you don't mind and give Reverend Clinger a chance to respond I'd like to quote just one paragraph from a current article in a magazine called The lamp which is put out by some Catholic people but it's an ecumenically oriented publication and this is a very clever article by a rather. A man who's working within the church institution
he's the editor of a Boston newspaper in Cannes New Jersey father Adama in the article sometimes if I were pope and it goes like this as pope I also re-examine the question of artificial contraception. Probably I'd end up in substantial agreement with former popes. One vital difference however would emerge. I propose a traditional view simply as a people guide line together with that I'd emphasize that absolute theological views were tenable even though I and others disagreed with them. In short I'd ask people to make their own conscious decision on birth control after carefully considering my arguments and those of dissenting theologians and I say unquote and I say that this is the way people are really operating right now in local peasant taking that position. And I would respond by saying I think we're here. There are more agreements and there are disagreements because at this very root of the question people make the decision themselves. Nobody makes decisions for them. Everyone makes their own decision and in the Protestant tradition we may offer alternatives we may lift up guidelines as you say here and present them in premarital counseling we make it a part.
Many of Protestants do. To list the viable alternatives find out what they already have decided and talk with them about these. The guidelines are given but the individuals make the decision. You see individuals make the decision and we do not make the decision for them. And so I think in reference to that article I think we would probably be in more agreement in terms of the way things are being practiced. One further comment I'd like to make is that I didn't say at the beginning we do operate from the philosophy that every child be a wanted child. And I think this has a lot to do with the whole issue of birth control. One of our churches in the community at one time. A few years ago he sponsored the Planned Parenthood clinic before it became an educational organization and it was able to give out not only information but also devices for those who were unable to get them or who didn't have enough education or information. So the church in a Protestant tradition has taken a pretty firm stand on the individual
conscience and the right of the individual to practice as they choose according to the information they have. I think that the promised Messiah you have noted from the developing position suggested by far the picket for the Catholic position is also reflected in today's Jewish view as well. They were all caught up in the society we live in and were probably essentially more honest in recognizing that no matter what oppositions may be theologically the society in which we're in is such there's such an emphasis upon democratic choice that it is reflected in the way we expect our Congress to act. I would essentially tend to think the difference between within the Jewish group itself between the two of the Orthodox. I mean conservative reform is more a
matter of emphasis that the traditional is to die argues get more facts of it your decision will be based more upon tradition. And this is really the difference and within. I can't speak for the Catholic Church or for the partisan movement itself but within the Jewish situation in the sense those who study sufficiently in the background see that birth control has been used. Then as they notice its use in past generations they can adapt the procedure in terms of their own names for today and act out of their own conscience. It under a democratic tradition in America and developing I hope throughout the entire world does make the individual responsible It also puts a tremendous burden upon him because he has to go out and learn. Rabbi angle may I interject here that one of the things that I find distressing as a Roman Catholic priest is that so many of the principles laid down in money
positive principles relating to human life and its dignity were lost because the pope came through and this was the big answer the controversy that raged for five years and he said no you know we're going to still be restrictive. And I I'm afraid that as we concentrate here on contraception today which for most people is pretty much solved. You know I don't think it's really a live issue in the consciousness of very many people married or unmarried they sort of take everything pretty much for granted. But there's still basic human values with regard to man's freedom with regard to who makes the decision. That I think are really threatened today and these go beyond current contraception. You know with the pressure of overpopulation the kind of control that is going to be effective there which is probably going to trample human freedom with regard to and to mock democratic procedures and individual decision making and these are all at stake and they're really critical and they relate to the question of contraception but I like to throw up to you because I think there's some We're going to face in the very near future as young people respond to the
crisis of today overpopulation. They don't say birth control for somebody else they say birth control for me. Just last spring as a matter of fact in a class I had where I was talking about marriage there was a young girl there who had mimeographed little pledges for people to fill out you know pledging that when they get married they'll have no more than two children and then they'll duck. You know I think that what's going to happen and we're going to be running into it very soon if we're already running into it that young people are going to marry and plan to have no children. If they have any children they will adopt and they're going to therefore have to use contraceptive methods as is already happening. I expect this to be a response to the exigencies of our time because I'm really overwhelmed by pollution and population and all that goes with that and in the Jewish background for instance as an Roman Catholic we're going in Protestant where we consider having children to be pretty much an integral part of marriage. How do we respond to that. It's going to be reality. Reverend I would tend to say that I thought you were a stand point of view. We
really would not see a marriage which was undertaken with the thought of having no children. It would represent a very selfish marriage even though the participants might claim they were doing this for the welfare of the world. And we already are getting some of this. I think Reverend Quinn has indicated that he is seeing people on this level and I I know I have as well where a person decides they want to have one children two children or no children. They're one of two children at least represents an awareness of their personal responsibility to the development of the world. Other than that I would say that I would frown a pound personally and feel that within the Jewish tradition it would make the marriage not one void if there are no children coming out of a marriage because the partners are incapable of having children. This is one thing. But other than that they begin with a type of fraud.
And I'm I'm sure that people who marry are supposed to not only share their bed but share the joy of raising a family as well. I would like to say you know as Roman Catholic that I personally would not be quite so strict and I I don't think we've really faced this yet but I could see marriages where people would choose not to have children. I think we have to make a place for those people. Even though. You know we run the risk of violating a principle that's very very clear and you know money beat today that we must not separate conjugal love and procreation. Well I think if you do Reverend plague if you create the separation that you're going to make for some pretty miserable and selfish couples so that sometimes we have an obligation to see through. Now there is one thing between allowing people to make a decision based
upon knowledge. But if we feel that they're getting themselves in hot water we have a right to speak up. Now we don't rule anybody out of a synagogue as such but certainly you want to indicate to them that if they take such a move. It is outside the bounds of respectability in terms of tradition. I think this would be our obligation. We don't rule people out because I would as a Protestant respond here to this point by turning the argument around and saying that there are some cases where it may be even more selfish for people to want more children. In the case of those who have some and are seeking more. I do know and I was trying to read a little review on a book by David Feldman on birth control and Jewish law that in Judaism the three duties concerning sexuality are one to marry the other and secondly to procreate and the third to fulfill the sexual needs of one's wife. Are those the traditional orthodox views.
You know as a matter of fact these are the positions that are numerate in the marriage contract. Now I will miss on very safe grounds I've enjoyed reading him because he has somebody with a conservative position. But based upon a great deal of study I would say that a man and woman who are living together in a state of marriage and make a conscious decision to have no children that are compatible with one another and have mutual love and companionship this constitutes from the Protestant point of view a valid marriage but not from a Jewish point to be right. I think this way there would be a real distinction because we would not consider a marriage entered into without the thought of having children as a valid one. One other viewpoint needs to be mentioned Dr. Charles Gita Carian professor and chairman of the department of church and community at McCormick Theological Seminary gives this viewpoint in an article called The population crisis conception control and Christian response. He says the complexity and magnitude of the population crisis require that there be a
re-examination of fundamental religious values related to the sacredness of human personality the preciousness of life and the love ideal in the Gospel. It is urgently necessary that Catholics Protestants Orthodox and Jews cooperate in the removal of conception control from the arenas of political and religious conflict. The concept of the dignity of man so close to the heart of the Jewish and Christian religions suggests that the concern of Christians must be with a quality rather than the quantity of peoples. The Admonitions of the Scripture were for the replenishing of the earth not its overcrowding and overflowing. This has been birth control today. Freedom and responsibility. The next programme in the series will look into legal aspects of contraception. Today's special guests were the Rev. J Philip Clinger of St. Andrews Methodist Church. Father Leo Pickett from St. Thomas Aquinas center at Purdue and Rabbi Gerald Engle of the Hillel foundation on campus. The series was written and produced by counting Gary narrated by
- Birth control today
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Identifier: 71-16-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- APA: Birth control today; 8; What the Churches Say About Birth Control. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-gt5fgj6m