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Why Didn\’t Someone Share the Truth with Us?

August 4, AD2013 22 Comments

\"Joel

It was an interesting NFP Awareness week at our blog The Practicing Catholic. We wrote a week-long series about natural family planning, and we lost a few followers. Are we disappointed? Sure, a bit. We felt called to share the beauty of the Church’s teaching about human sexuality through the lens of natural family planning, to charitably put the truth out there as best we can. For many couples with whom we speak, this is the topic they wrestle with most in trying to live their faith outside of Sunday Mass. We understand it all can be a bit difficult to hear as we didn’t always embrace the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, either.

Our journey started in RCIA, a year before we were married. Joel was joining the Church, and Lisa sat in on every class. We were intent on going through the whole process together. The RCIA team was welcoming and the program was decent. However, it largely neglected issues of morality and conscience formation. We heard nothing about Church teaching on human sexuality or the theology of marriage. Issues like cohabitation, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality were never discussed.

Marriage preparation was a similar experience. We took the FOCCUS inventory and met with a deacon and his wife several times. We discussed issues like communication and finances. We touched on fidelity. We read and discussed Genesis 1 and 2. But again, the so-called hot-button issues mentioned earlier didn’t come up. At all. Not once. In fact, out of convenience, we moved in together a couple months before our wedding. We thought our circle of friends was populated by faithful Catholics. Looking back, we’re stunned that nobody said a thing. Nobody cared enough to tell us the truth.

This attitude is exemplified by headlines about Pope Francis’s recent comments about individuals with same-sex attraction. It was widely reported that the Holy Father said, “Who am I to judge?” Indeed he did, but that sound bite was part of a larger discourse in which he affirmed the Church’s teaching that the tendency toward homosexual activity is not a sin. However, the manner in which one responds to such inclinations is another matter altogether.

People seem to have lost interest in such nuances, that something may appear good on the surface but may in fact not be good at all. It’s just easier “not to judge.” We were in love. We were already getting married. We were regular communicants. Why should anybody upset the order we had created for ourselves with something as insignificant as truth? Why indeed. So, we went on our merry way and began our marriage using “The Pill”.

Over the next couple years, bits of the truth started to break through, largely due to our new local Catholic radio station. We’re both suckers for talk radio, so we gave it a try. We credit Fr. John Riccardo and Catholic Answers for finally shattering our ignorance. Free of hormonal birth control for the first time in our marriage, we immediately conceived. Unfortunately, we lost our first child to miscarriage.

In the wake of that, Lisa continued to experience lingering physiological issues. We abstained from sex while sorting those out. Six months later, however, Lisa became pregnant again. We learned at her first ultrasound that she was pregnant with twins, but one had died early on. The other child, our daughter Lucy was born, ironically enough, on Labor Day later that same year.

The next two years were rather turbulent for a number of reasons. Lisa also continued to experience irregular and confusing signs of fertility. With two miscarriages already in our history, we needed some solutions. However, we didn’t really pursue any, since we had other, perhaps more selfish, reasons for not wanting to become pregnant. We spent most of that time abstaining, largely as a form of contraception.

Finally, Lisa began seeing a NFP doctor who required us to start charting her cycles. One might think we had finally become obedient to the Church’s teaching on marital sexuality, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. While charting, we still abstained, because we were afraid to give up control. Our reasons might not all have been good ones, but abstinence actually isn’t as difficult as most people think. After seven months of charting and treatment, we were finally ready. We conceived almost immediately, and our son Jude was born nine months later.

After all that, we might finally be there, ready to embrace new life, come what may. Funny thing, once we gave up control, our marital relations immediately became more intimate and fulfilling. Another child is due to arrive in a few months. We spent years delaying or avoiding pregnancy for a mix of reasons not well-discerned, and we now use natural family planning techniques specifically to achieve pregnancy. We married rather late and delayed starting a family, so our window of opportunity is beginning to close.  We spent far too long detoxifying ourselves from a cultural mindset we had unknowingly absorbed, that children are an optional accessory to marriage, not an integral means of sanctification.

Why do we even listen to what the culture says on this issue? If our culture is so good, then why don’t we want to have more children to share it? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, so many of us totally dismiss the Church’s counter-cultural teachings on human sexuality. We struggle mightily to live them out, and even more to share them with others.

If only someone had bothered to share the truth with us so many years ago. We might not have been receptive to it at the time, but at least we would have been accountable to it. So often truth is not lived because it has not been proclaimed. In the face of the sexual revolution, the Church was largely silent, and the fruit of that silence is decidedly rotten. So many Catholics either don’t know what the Church teaches or they think her wisdom is optional. We are in serious need of sanctification; we need to raise up the next generation of saints.

Bring on the children.

© 2013. Joel and Lisa Schmidt. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author:

Joel and Lisa Schmidt co-founded The Practicing Catholic, an antidote to the perception that piety is boring or that the Church is filled with “sour-faced saints”. In their writings, the Schmidts provide witness to the adventure of living an integrated Catholic life ... not just on Sundays. For more about the Schmidts, please see their individual bios (Joel's bio; Lisa's bio).

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  • Lydia

    I think a lot of people don’t say anything when couples move into together, etc. for possibly a variety of reasons: they don’t want to break off the relationship, which they think will happen; they themselves lived together and they don’t want to be hypocrites; they think perhaps someone else has said something; they don’t know the teachings themselves; or they just don’t care.

    I think so many Catholics are either ignorant or so poorly catechized that people don’t really even see the sin. And you can probably find enough priests who won’t teach the truth that you could even sin and have the priest condone it. We had one deacon tell us several years ago, without our asking about it, that contraception was OK because not all the bishops are in agreement with the Pope, so it is a matter of conscience and you can use it if you want! Education is what we need the most – and a sense of sin.

    • james

      If you stopped using the word sin and replaced it with consequences you
      might catch more fish. Contraception has serious physical potentials and
      effects marital relations. Only science will turn heads not a finger wagging church denouncing it as grievious and mortal. Same with cohabitation.
      Explain all the social and emotional risks – once taught as corporeal and temporal risks – and maybe the advice will fall on open minds. Tell them
      they will go to hell for eternity and you’ve lost the audience – and for good reason. Same for pre-marital relations. If you teach them how their lives
      will be changed in many unforgiving ways ( and it becomes true ) you can
      say, I told you so. And then reference the church. It’s only when you get
      burned that you realize something is hot. And then for the few who break
      all the rules and come up smelling roses … you better have a good answer
      for that too.

    • FGA

      “If you stopped using the work sin…”

      So, in other words, appeal to their narcissism? If only God, His Apostles, and prophets had been so forward looking we would not have had so many utterly useless martyrdoms. No need to repent, just find a way to have fun with less consequences. But, I guess God is just not as enlightened as the elite of this age.

    • james

      Were you absent the day your third grade class learned about synonyms ?

    • FGA

      No I was not, and having double-checked I can assure you that “sin” and “consequences” are not synonyms. Hell is a consequence of sin, but not a synonym for the same.
      Sin, regardless of which particular sin, is an offense against God.
      Sin does indeed have consequences, and I am not against expressing this, however if presented alone it is only a part of the truth and thus does a great disservice to those with whom we share, and more importantly to God who desires nothing more than the salvation of souls. Doing the right “thing” (or avoiding the wrong) means absolutely nothing if not done for the right reasons.
      Their is no way someone like myself can find the words to adequately express the goodness, the love, the majesty and the mercy of God – but I do know that he deserves our love and filial obedience for His own sake – not because my days here will be less complicated. And, if he has, through His Apostles and Prophets, and indeed by His own mouth proclaimed the reality of Hell we do him dishonor if we by our obfuscating words attempt to hide this reality.

    • james

      True, FGA. Maybe I should have used simile or metaphor.
      So, am I to assume that doing the right thing alone will still
      result in sin ?

    • KathleenBasi

      Like it or not, focusing on sin gets us nowhere with people. James is right; sin isn’t sin for arbitrary reasons, but because it hurts us, even when we don’t see it as such up front. It’s far better to catch the fish than to hold the “sin” rod and catch nothing. (That’s a mixed metaphor, I think, but my kids want to go outside, and I’m out of time! Sorry!)

  • Julie

    A couple of years ago our Pastor revamped our Pre-Cana classes at our Parish. I was asked to give an hour presentation on Natural Family Planning. I tell the couples the same thing: Why didn’t they tell me and my fiancé this information 27 years ago before we were married? I try to show them how the culture tells us how great our marriage will be with the Pill and one or two kids, and contrast it with how the Church tells us married life should be lived: in trusting God and being open to the beauty of new life. I share how my husband and I contracepted off and on through four children and then discovered the truth during our unplanned fifth pregnancy and how we went on to embrace the NFP/ open to life teaching of the Church and eventually had 10 children. I show them the effects of the Pill on marriages, a woman’s health, and society, and how the Pill opened the door to abortion and the 50% divorce rate. I do think that showing them how our society is worse off from contraception is a big key in getting them to understand the evils of contraception. I try to emphasize what a joy it is to be open to the Will of God for their marriage and what an adventure it can be. I tell them that God has a special plan for each of their marriages and future families and the future blessings they will have. I share how in our family, we are blessed with three grand daughters, our second son is a seminarian, and our youngest son has Down Syndrome, all wonderful blessings unknown to us but part of God’s plan. I end by leaving it up to them to decide how they want to live out their marriage, either trusting God, or choosing the way of the world with its known detrimental affects. There is also a DVD presentation on how NFP works and the experiences of three couples who use NFP.

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  • BriannaHeldt

    Thank you both for writing such a powerful article. I can relate, as my husband and I (both of us Protestant at the time and thus comPLEtely ignorant to the teachings of the Catholic Church) used the pill when we got married. Due to physical and emotional side-effects I thankfully stopped using it only a few months into our marriage, but once I discovered the truth about the pill (and later the Catholic view of marriage), I felt incredibly frustrated that we hadn’t known. We would never have used it had we known the truth. All I can say is that I am ever so grateful to God for opening our eyes and leading us into the Catholic Church (nearly two years ago now), and I believe we MUST openly share God’s design for marriage so that others may avoid this mistake altogether and experience the beauty of a marriage rightly ordered to love and openness to life.

  • Marie Meints

    I have said the same thing so many times: why didn’t anyone tell me? We need to tell our 10 year olds, our 13 year olds, our 16 year olds… And we need to tell them WHY and not just WHAT the Church teaches. I could go on, but I’m running out the door. Thanks for all you shared last week!

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  • KathleenBasi

    Did you hear the news story this morning in which a study has come out saying that those who have more siblings are less likely to divorce?
    I teach NFP and the self-censorship of the local Church on this issue is maddening to me. Positively maddening.

    • Vanessa

      This is interesting to me because I thought EVERYONE knew the Church’s stand on contraception, even non-Catholics and non-believers. It’s the topic of many jokes, it’s often in the newspapers (especially now because of the HHS mandate), and is something that is part of “general knowledge”.
      The fact that any adult would be ignorant of this position is total news to me.

    • Vanessa

      The above comment is in regard to the article, not to Kathleen’s staement.

    • DJ Hesselius

      I must confess to shaking my head any time someone says “Why didn’t anyone tell us…” I grew up in an Episcopal family (who rarely attended Church) and have always known the Catholic Church forbade contraception (and of course, that was the reason for world poverty). But a cute Catholic guy asked me to marry him, so I researched “Vatican roulette,” and discovered a Scott Hahn tape series on the subject (“Life Giving Love” I think was the title.) It was convincing. This was back in the 90s before WiFi hot spots and Smartphones. All I can think of is that modern day education has totally squelched any intellectual curiosity among the younger set.

    • James

      As a cradle Catholic raised in the 1980s and 1990s, I thought that all changed with Vatican II and was rather annoyed that non-Catholics thought we still believed that. Not using contraception was something for those Catholics who missed the memo and thought God only spoke Latin, or something like that.

      I remember being extremely angry that a Catholic pro-life group was posting anti-contraception material at my college. I didn’t want people associating my nice and modern Church with those “medieval extremists”.

  • KnocksGrad

    And then you have all the posts by people who have never used contraception and have only used NFP and/or abstinence to space children, and many of them are just as miserably asking, “Why didn’t anybody tell us how stressful NFP was going to be on our marriage?? We thought it was going to be oh-so-beautiful for our marriages, and instead our relationship is in shambles!”
    Isn’t it human nature for us to listen to what we want to believe and ignore the rest, until life slaps us upside the head with reality, and then we wonder why nobody told us about the consequences of our choices?
    The bottom line is that some people just don’t learn without going through the School of Hard Knocks themselves.

  • enness

    This was also the experience of someone I know who went through our diocese’s marriage prep.

  • moterhead

    The truth the way and the life

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