Patrick Craine

New York Times article attacks natural family planning

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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NASHVILLE, Tennessee, July 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The New York Times launched what one prominent Catholic professor has called a “peculiar” attack on natural family planning (NFP) last week by sharing the tale of a young Evangelical couple that had championed the practice and then recanted, only to get divorced three years later.

Prof. Janet Smith, a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family and a famed opponent of contraception, told LifeSiteNews that she found the Times’ article “very peculiar” and “completely uninformative” as it “reports one couple’s experience as though it were universal.”

The article chronicles the experiences of Sam and Bethany Torode, who got married in 2000 at 23 and 19, and promptly created waves in 2001 when they published their book, “Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception.”  In the short volume, they argued that contraception violates God’s plan for creation and that its acceptance paved the way for abortion.  “When we should be saying ‘I do,’ contraception says, ‘I do not,’” they wrote.

Sam even published a four-part series on the theology of the body, which was pioneered by the late Pope John Paul II, with an introduction by renowned theology of the body expert Christopher West.

But five years after the first book, as they prepared for the birth of their fourth child, the Torodes published an open letter claiming NFP had a “dark side we weren’t aware of.”  They admitted that they had not anticipated the month-long periods of abstinence that NFP sometimes necessitated, and claimed that the resultant stress can be “more harmful for a marriage than good.”  As a result, they endorsed “barrier methods” and “sensual massage.”

NFP is a “theological attack on women,” they wrote, because it requires “abstinence during the time of the wife’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.”

They discounted claims that contraception “leads to the slippery slope of relativism or divorce.”

On Friday, however, the New York Times reported that the couple divorced in 2009, and are now attending liberal Protestant churches.

“Where I’m at now, it’s confusing,” Bethany, now going by her maiden name of Patchin, told NYT.  “One day I am like, ‘Sure, God exists and loves all of us,’ and the next day I am like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ I think that’s healthy. Agnosticism is a healthy part of any good faith.

“I feel like I’m a secular Christian the way you can be a secular Jew,” she added.

“It’s unfortunate that I went through this serious period of trying to write theological works,” said Sam.  “I am out of the business of trying to tell people what they should do.  I am out of that business for good.”

Sam told LifeSiteNews by e-mail that it has been “a difficult few years” and he does not give interviews.  He said the NYT piece was fair, but that he did not want it published.  “I no longer agree with all the [theology of the body], but I retain a great respect for John Paul II, and believe his theology has been beneficial for many Catholics,” he explained.

In her remarks to LifeSiteNews.com, Prof. Janet Smith emphasized that NFP – which helps couples avoid or attain pregnancy by monitoring the woman’s cycle and fertility signs – has strengthened and even saved countless marriages, while the use of contraceptives has been linked to divorce.

The NYTimes article “made no attempt to get the testimony of those whose marriages have been saved and whose intimacy has been radically deepened by the use of NFP.  They are legion,” explained Smith, who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.  “Clearly the Torodes do not attribute all their marital problems to the use of NFP, nor should any reader of the article conclude that it was the use of NFP that led to their divorce.”

“It may well have been the recourse to contraceptives that led to the disintegration of the marriage,” she added.

In her popular talk, “Contraception: Why Not?,” Prof. Smith explains, citing research by Stanford demographer Robert Michael, that there is a clear link between the rise of contraceptive availability and divorce in the 20th century. 

“[Robert Michael] actually discovered that as the contraceptive pill became more and more available, that line was parallel to the divorce line,” she explains.  “In about 1975-1976 when every woman who wanted access to the Pill had it, that’s when the divorce rate leveled off.”

Couples using NFP, on the other hand, have vastly lower divorce rates than the general population, she said.  In general, couples report better communication, mutual respect, and intimacy, and when used properly according to a reliable method, such as Billings or Creighton, NFP has been shown to be as effective at avoiding pregnancy as contraceptives.

NFP has also opened the door to advanced fertility care methods that solve infertility and other reproductive issues by treating the underlying causes.  NaProTechnology, as the leading method is called, is not only more successful than artificial procreation, but also cost-effective and morally acceptable.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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